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ISSN 0008- 6495
Volume 40, No.2
, June 1994
VOLUME 40, No2
Q UAR T, R LY
(Copyright reserved and reproduction with at perm sTictlyAP dden.--
FOREWORD iii /
A Time to Close Ranks .
Sir Shirdath Ramphal SE
Small Islands, Big Media;: Challenges of Foreign Media
in Covering the Caribbean 8
Questions of Identity, Democracy and Broadcasting-
The Case of Jamaica 17
Caribbean Telecommunications Policy: Fashioned by Debt,
Dependency, and Underdevelopment 33
An Approach to Public Communications Methodology for
BOOK REVIEWS 74
Books Received 83
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS 87
INFORMATION FOR CONTRIBUTORS 88
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The lion. R.M.Nettleford, O.M.., Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor of
Continuing Studies, Mona.( Editor)
(.M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Professor of History, Mona, Jamaica
Sir Keithl lunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, Cave Hill.
Neville McNorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Veronica Salter, School of Continuing Studies, Mona (Managing Editor)
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
School of Continuing Studies,
University of the West Indies,
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects whicli
they would like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles and book reviews of
relevance to the Caribbean will be gratefully received. Authors should refer to the
guidelines at the end of this issue. Articles submitted are not returned. Contributors are
asked not to send international postal coupons for this purpose.
Jamaica J$150.00 (1993) J$200.00 (1994)
Eastern Caribbean J$ 200.00 (1993) J$300.00 (1994)
United Kingdom UKf 15.00 UK 20 (1994)
Canada, U.S.A., and other countries US$30.00 US$40 (1994)
Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section, Library University of the
West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Back Issues and Microfilm
Information for back volumes supplied on request. Caribbean Quarterly
is available on microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms and in book form from
Kraus-Thompson Reprint Ltd.
Abstract and Index
1949-90 Author, Keyword and Subject Index now available.
This journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI
Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or the Resident
Tutor at the University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this Univer-
This issue of Caribbean Quarterly is being published in the wake of a new realisation of
the tremendous impact of the communications technology revolution not only on the
Caribbean but on the entire world. The onset of new modes of perceiving self, society and
the wider world against the background of cyberspace, internet, e-mail and the expanding
world of computer intelligence constitutes a new challenge for Caribbean development
strategies and particularly for the regional integration still hankered after by a society that
must hang together or hang separately, if its tenants of some six to thirty million souls are
to enter the third millennium with more than a promise of civil society. Sir Shridath
Ramphal "A Time to Close Ranks" brings the reader closely to this challenge.
How the Caribbean perceives itself, how the foreign media see the region is another.
The power of the communications media is such that any lack of understanding of the
internal realities of a region of small island-communities is likely to distort, misinform and
confuse the global village that is Planet Earth that now has direct access to instant
information from every crevice and corner of the globe. Matthew Roberts's study of the
coverage of events in small-island states by the media of the developed world focuses on
the problems related to such coverage.
How the media within the Caribbean cover the region itself, is itself not free of
problems. Wycliffe Bennett looks at the case of a Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation,
originally modeled on the BBC, and of which he was twice the General-Manager. Central
to these problems have been questions of independence from political control and the
tension between the search for national identity and the commitment to free expression via
frank and open discussion of issues of moment.
The globalisation of telecommunications technology drives the orientation of public
policy beyod narrow national concerns and Hopeton Dunn examines the complex nature of
Caribbean Telecommunications policy within the context of the debt trap, the continuing
dependency of the region on metropolitan multinational enterprises, both of which
phenomena are a function of a chronic under-development "Determination of network
development policies, including expansion into rural areas and farming communities,
technology usage and obsolescence and even tariff levels are often mainly in the hands of
the external service provider influenced little by national or regional policy objectives",
argues Dr. Dunn.
All, however, is not lost, suggests Roderick Sanatan in his article "An Approach to
Public Communications Methodology for Agriculture." The Caribbean experience in
communications has lessons to teach and he leads the reader to a number of possibilities
despite the limitations of that experience which is fairly recent and without the
geneaological pedigree that teaches wisdom. Focusing on the use of modem theories on
agricultural communication Mr. Sanatan recommends more action research, continuing
evaluation of facilities on the ground and their operations, and continuous training in the
field for the growing cadre of media practitioners.
Caribbean Quarterly plans to continue its own participation in the discourse on commu-
nications, beginning with Volume 41 No 3 in 1995.
A TIME TO CLOSE RANKS
SIR SHRIDATH RAMPHAL
Opening address to Trincom/92: Caribbean Media and Telecommunications in the Information Age Port of
This Inaugural Session of TRINCOM/92 has been billed to be followed by "cocktails".
I suspect that is studied programming. Certainly, as we enter this new year, which has
almost become symbolic of the decade of the '90s, we shall all need, in simple West Indian
terms, a 'stiff drink'.
It is something of an irony that 500 years after Columbus was found wandering on the
shores of San Salvador uncertain where he was it is West Indians who should be
wandering, in danger of being lost even within our region, much less in the wider world.
The challenges are formidable and you will not be surprised, that, at the opening of
TRINCOM/92 devoted to "Caribbean media and Telecommunications in the Information
Age", I speak to the wider theme of where we all are in this significant year and where we
should be going. Yet that theme is not really so wide; it is consonant with the focus of this
Meeting which is "self- reliance, integration, and the search for excellence".
In those well chosen words you have both crystallised the challenge facing the region's
media and telecommunications and identified the path and the purpose that our own
countries as a whole must pursue. But you have done more; you have elevated "challenge"
to "ambition", and offered hope the promise of fulfilment. For who can doubt that all three
are within our reach and therefore ours to grasp?
Fifty years after the Report of the Moyne Commission set the West Indies on the road
to political self-determination, and established benchmarks of equity in the social and
economic spheres, self-reliance, integration and a search for excellence must be attainable
goals. And it is only if our societies reach those goals, or reach purposefully after them, that
your own efforts in the Media and Telecommunications sectors can fully flower. You
cannot be self-reliant in a social, economic and political climate characterized by depen-
dency. You cannot integrate your activities and maximise the benefits of working together
in an environment in which several parts of the region pull in different directions, defying
the compulsions of the 21st Century heeding, instead, the siren songs of a history of
separateness bequeathed by colonialism. You cannot pursue the search for excellence in the
media in such areas as improving the quality of professional services through training, of
enlarging employment opportunities, or capturing the gains of technology; you cannot
bring telecommunications within the reach of ordinary people unless at another level, at the
regional level, the search for excellence upgrades the quality of our human resources and
allows regional standards to lift the level the region's parts must strive to attain.
So, it is all one. Just as the human species has grown from family to tribe, to nation, and
reaches to new horizons of supranationality, so we have to grow from our island clans into
a regional society and eventually beyond it if we are to grow at all. As 1992 dawns, it
should be easier to understand that to remain huddled in our separate island or mainland
communities is to opt for stagnation or worse. This may seem a harsh judgement after 300
years of separatism and the many achievements of the Caribbean in that time, but we are
living in a different world and those achievements, particularly those in this century, were
in times that were more benign, even indulgent, to us.
One of those areas of achievement was education. We are today one of the most literate
societies (or have been) in the developing world. Wisdom, admittedly, is not the same as
literacy but, it is much assisted by it. We should be wise enough in 1992; we should be
informed enough, perceptive enough, politically aware and astute enough, skilled enough
in the ways of the world, confident enough of our entrepreneurial and professional re-
sources, talented enough to know that it is a time for self-reliance, for integration, for a
search for excellence, if we are to position ourselves for a place of some worth in a 21st
Century world that will have changed all around us and almost in every conceivable way
that bears upon us.
The fact of change is inescapable; the speed of change is bewildering; yet I suspect that
there is some temptation to believe that those powerful currents of change need not touch
our Caribbean lives. They will; they are doing so already. As the cold War shaped our
destinies, so will its aftermath; in different ways, of course, and certainly not all by way of
IT is fashionable to assert for example that, with the Cold War over, we are moving to
a uni-polar world. The West has been triumphant, the United States in particular; there is
now only one super-power. The grass need not fear being trampled by the elephants either
fighting or making love. Would that it were as simple as that!
There are few in the Third World who should shed any fears for the demise of
Communism in either its Stalinist or its centrally planned economic garb. Neither was good
for us; one or other, authoritarianism or state planning sometimes both held attraction for
countries new to independence. Fortunately, most developing countries discovered that
they were flawed models well before the Berlin Wall came down. But that does not mean
that we have entered a brave new world of possibilities. As I have said already, for much of
the developing world, it looks like an era of powerlessness that has dawned.
The Cold War is over. So is the post-war era. The challenge for us as part of the
developing world is to ensure that the era that succeeds is not an era of dominion but of
democracy in our global state. At the moment, despite all the emphasis on democracy
within nations, there is not much sign of democratic instincts prevailing among the power
brokers of our world society. More and more the G7 looks and acts like a self-anointed
presidium. We have to convince these leaders of major Western democracies that the
democratic ideal has a longer reach than national frontiers. Democracy at the national level
but feudalism in the global homeland are contradictions in terms. Espousing the former is
right; making it a masquerade for sustaining the latter is massively wrong.
One of the most dangerous of these new realities is that in the 1990s the democracies of
the West have learnt that there are large political gains in military and ideological
'triumphs'. Serious dangers arise from this. The West may easily assume that its ideologi-
cal, political and economic victories over its Cold War adversaries give it the right to police
the entire world. The temptation to do so should be heady, and there will be many
supremacists to urge 'the democracies' on. But the strength of democracy lies in its values
and in staying true to them, and any attempt to embark on a new imperialism would present
massive contradictions. Resistance from within Western societies themselves can therefore
be expected to be vigorous; but an arrogation of authority by some governments cannot be
ruled out; and can resistance from our weakened societies be relied on?
I mention all this to make the particular point that we need to do a good deal of
intellectual work ourselves to be sure that we don't become just hapless spectators, and
eventually naive victims, of these tumultuous events; continuing to shape our policies and
our politics as if nothing much had happened in our world. Our options may lie on the
margins of possibility; but we have to do hard thinking on those margins, for in truth, we
are vulnerable in the extreme. All together in the West Indies, we are only 5 1/2 million;
that is less than the amount by which the world's population increases every three weeks.
I referred earlier to our achievements. We should not take them so much for granted that
we ignore them as achievements. In education, in health, in social services generally, in
economic development, in the growth of our political institutions, including the record of
democracy in the region (with aberrations here and there, but blessedly either behind us or
in the course of being corrected) in our standing in our Latin American region, in the
Hemisphere, in the Third World generally, and in the international community at large; in
all these areas we have much of which we can be proud. But we are in danger as a region
of suffering the fate that has befallen some of the best people. The fate of becoming burnt
We cannot rest on the achievements of the past. They are not self-sustaining; they have
to be preserved and strengthened if they are to be sustained. Alas, there are too many signs
around us in the social, economic and political spheres that we are not on an upward curve;
that instead we are into a downward spiral. Nothing justifies acquiescence in decline.
Decline demands a renewal of effort and a replenishment of resolve. We have to make up
by our regional efforts for what we are losing through developments beyond the region and
our own failures and the very first requirement is an understanding of that reality of
Take the question of sovereignty for example. As a West Indian Commission, it has not
taken us long to recognize that certainly at the level of West Indian people there are no great
'hang-ups' about integration getting in the way of sovereignty. That is not because there is
any lack of understanding of what sovereignty is. It is because they have a close under-
standing that in the condition of the Caribbean today sovereignty seems meaningless to
many lives. That is true not only of us, but of all countries. It is just that its implications are
more severe for us, since our options are so limited and our inertia so large. We simply have
to find ways in the years ahead to empower ourselves and the will to pursue them. That is
what self-reliance, integration and search for excellence means. It is through success in
being more self-reliant, depending on our own considerable talents and resources, as a
region, integrating our societies, not just our economies, far less just our own trading
systems, and doing all this on the basis of the excellence of which we are capable that we
can make up for that level of powerlessness to which we have been reduced largely
(thought not entirely) by external factors.
Time was when the struggle was for freedom from external forces. In 1992 and beyond
the struggle is as great to empower ourselves as free people to be achievers in a world that
has little time to languish on us and absolutely no sense of obligation. We have to do better
in everything we do; and all our instincts tell us that we can do them better if we do them
together. But time is short. In many, many parts of the region, there is a sense of despair,
bordering on fright. The plea a few days ago by the Prime Minister of Grenada for a
meeting of Caribbean leaders, even in advance of the Inter-sessional Meeting scheduled for
February, is an indication of that sense of emergency. The statement by the Prime Minister
of Barbados here in Trinidad a week ago that it was time to put integration on the political
front-burner is symptomatic of the seriousness with which the political leadership views the
regional situation. And I can assure you from the standpoint of the West Indian Commis-
sion that the people of the Caribbean West Indians from Guyana to Bahamas, from Belize
to Barbados understand very well that we are in a condition of crisis.
I cannot echo too strongly the words of Prime Minister Sandiford that there really is no
time to wait or waste. We cannot face 1992 with the attitudes of 1962, when we began to
chart our separatist paths as independent countries, full of expectation and hope in the
empowerment that we falsely believed came with the flag and the anthem and, of course,
the Central Bank's printing press. Too many countries of CARICOM are in serious
economic straits, and too many economic dangers loom for the rest, for us to greet 1992
with anything but stern resolve to close ranks and mobilise collective strengths. The West
Indian Commission will be reporting in July this year. We will not lack for candour in
conveying our own conclusions, informed as they will by the views of the people of the
region. But, even more important, I hope we will not lack imagination in urging on the
region the agenda of unity which has to be the agenda of the '90s. At the heart of that
agenda has to be the machinery that will allow us to act not just to talk about acting; to
perform not just to plan; to fulfill not just to promise.
I am becoming an old timer now in the halls and the councils of regional integration but
some of you here will perhaps recall with me those plaintive, and somewhat angry, words
of a great regionalist Paul Southwell when in utter frustration he turned to a trilogy of
Shakespearean epithets and strung them together to depict our regional processes:
"Promises, promises, promises
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Forever and forever and forever".
That would have been all of 20 years ago. He might, even then, have been talking of the
Common External Tariff. Southwell's anger should possess us all. I assure you it possesses
the people of the region who, if we are not careful, will be tempted metaphorically to put
the politicians on the front burner so tired are they of unfilfilled promises, so anxious are
they for a new tomorrow, so determined are they, that their hope for betterment should not
be postponed forever.
The West Indian Commission is now in the final stage of its work. Last July at the half
way point we submitted to CARICOM Heads at their Summit Meeting in Bassetere our
Progress Report. They accepted our recommendations for 'immediate action' on a cluster
of issues. We shall be holding them to that commitment whose fulfilment could be a tonic
to a region that simply has to get out of a mode of thinking which takes it for granted that
all our ills can be cured by the passage of time in a leisurely Caribbean way. It was Voltaire,
I believe, who said that 'the art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature
cures the disease'. That is an assertion I am sure doctors will contest. It certainly is a false
description of the art of politics which teaches the harsh lesson that merely amusing the
patient will neither cure the disease nor ensure the doctor's survival. It certainly has no
validity in terms of Caribbean recovery; at the very least, we need to help nature a good
deal. The Caribbean patient is not amused. The failure, for example, after all these years -
and solemn commitments to establish the Common External Tariff is not only negative in
itself; its absence now means that we never benefited from a CET when it has mattered
most, and do not have it now when in the era of liberalisation we need to argue for retaining
common tariffs in a process of adjustment. It calls into question our seriousness about
integration indeed about CARICOM itself.
The time has passed when we can afford to be dilettante courtiers of regionalism. We
have espoused that fashion for too long without changing our clothes. In the process, we
have become not a model of unified action in regional affairs but the most fragmented and
over-governed people in the world. Is there any other group of 5 1/2 million anywhere who
would not just permit, but sometimes appear to be proud of a governmental super- structure
of 13 Heads of Government, 13 Heads of State, and flags and national anthems, 13
Parliaments, many with two chambers, 7 currencies, 13 passports, 4 international airlines -
all for 5 1/2 million people less than the city of Philadelphia or the state of Virginia?
What are we proving in the process? Our capacity to produce a political, administrative
and managerial class of sophistication and quality? If so, we have more than proved the
point over 100 general elections since 1944, won by 27 political parties. There is much in
that record that is worthy; but it has a less worthy side.
If we can bring ourselves to admit it, we need to do fewer things in the Caribbean by a
process of multiplication. We do well to see what is happening in Europe and I counsel
you, despite all the arguments you hear about, have no doubt that Europe is coming
together. That single European home is being built and it will be a home to house
Europeans from Iceland to Vladivostok, from the Barents Sea to the Mediterranean. When
we parade our petty island rivalries, let us remember that we are mimicking our European
masters of yesteryear in their rivalries of yesteryear. They have moved on, colonialism has
indeed; but we are where they were when they fought for primacy in this region centuries
We need to come together for another reason. The World (in its coming together) is not
prepared to deal with us separately neither Europe of the Single Market nor the United
States of the North American Free Trade Area or even of the Enterprise of the Americas). I
do not complain about that; it is perhaps good for us; but, in the result, we have to be sure
that we have a regional strategy of response; that we know where we are going. Failure to
have such a strategy of response could easily make us, for example, prisoners of one set of
relations and not even one of our choosing.
History has endowed us with some blessings from the past: one is the fact that we have
multiple entry points to international relations: entry points to Europe from our colonial
past; entry points to Africa and Asia from our cultural heritage; entry points to Latin
America from our post-independence hemispheric realities; and entry points to North
America from our geo- political situation in the Americas. Together, they are a kind of
regional patrimony which we must sustain and nurture so it helps in turn to sustain and
strengthen us. But I suggest to you that we can only do so as a region. If some of us go off
to Europe, and some to Latin America, and some to North America and others still to
Africa and Asia, we will have destroyed that patrimony and lost those entry points. We
have to preserve them all and develop their collective potential for the future of the
Let me make it clear that, in developing such responses, 1 do not envisage action by
governments alone. It is time we recognize that democracy is not only two minutes in the
polling booth every 4 or 5 years, that 'empowerment' of the people means loosening the
reigns of government. 'Less government and better governance' is a new year resolution
the people of CARICOM will heartily endorse. There has to be greater space for social
partnership. The partners have to be allowed room in policy formulation in those economic
areas where they can make practical contributions. Deregulation does not only mean
relaxed financial and monetary controls; it means opening up the pathways to policy
formulation and decision-making at both national and regional levels. CARICOM, for
example, with the social partners kept on the periphery is a contradiction in terms. Social
partnership will be illusory if it begins only after the decisions are made. In the context of
structural adjustment with all its attendant burdens, such sidelining will also be counter-
All this is true as well of those areas in which the cultural community of the region and
our non-governmental sectors can contribute to the strengthening of civil society. We have
to devise means of involving people in a genuine partnership for progress. Let us recognize,
before it is too late, that civil society is under threat in the Caribbean everywhere in the
region. Few will doubt, I believe, that prison conditions, for example, in many parts of the
region are not a credit to civil society; nor, in all respects, is policing. The quality of justice
and of education and of health care is deteriorating in many territories. Some of these
defects are matters we can rectify by doing more together like through a Caribbean Court
of Appeal constantly calling us to the highest standards of a relevant jurisprudence, and
why not to developing the machinery of a regional Prison and Police Service, at least at the
highest levels of personnel. And these are only some examples.
In innumerable areas of life we shall find, if we apply our talents to it, that as West
Indians we will do it better if we do it together, as we have done in the University of the
West Indies and, of course, in West Indian cricket. And as we should have done a long
time ago in making BWIA our regional carrier. I remember so well the late Errol Barrow of
Barbados many years ago proposing to fellow CARICOM Heads of Government that the
time had come for us not just to integrate our economies but to integrate some aspects of
our administration like justice and audit and customs and police so that we attract to
regional services the very best of the human resources available to us as a region: human
resources put to work for the region at higher levels of dispassionate service in parts of the
region beyond island homes. We might do ourselves a favour in terms of the quality of civil
society in our separate countries of the region if we were to follow the instincts of this wise
and very practical West Indian leader of yesteryear. He too was talking about self-reliance,
integration and the search for excellence.
SMALL ISLANDS, BIG MEDIA
Challenges of Foreign Media in Covering the Caribbean
During the last decade, groups of journalists, community development workers and
scholars used various fora to publicly express dissatisfaction with the level and quality of
coverage which foreign news media provided of the Caribbean region. This had the effect
of bringing the UNESCO-inspired New International Information and Communication
Order into sharp regional focus, and of creating the basis for extensive discussion as to the
possible cause of such generally limited and unsatisfactory coverage.
Most of the discussions seemed to suggest that the 1980s was an important period for
the region because it was at that time that Caribbean States began, in a serious and
deliberate way, to embrace the interdependence model of International Relations as a
means of securing benefits from the international community, for developments in Agricul-
ture, Trade, tourism and Manufacturing, as well as for the general growth of national
enterprises, through the involvement of multinational agencies. The international media
could, it was argued, help to create favorable images of Caribbean States that were
necessary for the region to gain acceptance in the metropolitan centres of the world.
To many observers, however, this did not happen; and while criticism was levelled at
the American Press for the way they tended to cover the region only when it was in
America's strategic interest to do so, great disappointment was expressed over the compar-
ative lack of interest on the part of Britain in its former colonies, as evidenced by the way
in which British national newspapers tended to ignore the Caribbean region.
This review is not intended to make out a case for Britain but rather to point out some
major difficulties and limitations which foreign journalists face in covering the region, and
thereby place what is still an on-going discussion in its proper perspective.
"Some foreign journalists who visited Grenada at the time of the american intervention
in 1983 thought Grenada had a white British Governor. They had not realized that the
island had a Black Governor-General as the Queen's representative. This is unbelievable,
but true. I got that straight from the [US] State Department who admitted that even US
Secretary of State Casper Weinberger himself actually thought so too and said so in a
broadcast. so you have to educate these guys....."
The above revelation by Guardian's former diplomatic correspondent, Patrick Keatley,
exposes the relative ignorance of foreign journalists and diplomats of Caribbean affairs and
underscores the fundamental lack of interest that exists on the part of advanced nations in
relation to developments in developing regions of the world.
This relative ignorance of Caribbean affairs is one limitation that foreign journalists
have faced when covering the Caribbean. But the ignorance is not confined to foreign
journalists only. Caribbean journalists themselves have very little knowledge of what is
happening outside their home countries and as such, there are very few journalists in the
region who can truly be described as "Caribbean journalists" in a total sense. The ramifica-
tions of this lack of comprehensive knowledge of the caribbean will be discussed here,
together with other factors that limit coverage of the Caribbean and create difficulties that
impact on the quality of that coverage. Before doing so, however, it is necessary to clear up
a general misunderstanding in terms of the political and technological environment in
which foreign journalists and correspondents have to operate, so far as the Caribbean is
During the 1970s certain Caribbean states were considered unsafe for foreign journal-
ists and even locally-based correspondents. At that time, for example, Reuters news agency
ran into problems with the Burnham government in Guyana for carrying stories that then
Prime Minister Forbes Burnham considered detrimental tot he peace and stability of his
country. Consequently, Reuters' Georgetown-based correspondent was ordered out of the
country and Reuters was forced to terminate its coverage out of Guyana. Similarly, in
Grenada, under Eric Matthew Gairy, foreign Correspondents remained under constant
threat for their lives, for uncovering and reporting on corruption and repression in Gairy's
government, central to which was Gairy's own hand-picked police squad known as the
"mongoose gang". Patrick Keatly recalls being followed at nights by members of the gang,
following certain reports that he made on the state of affairs in Grenada. The psychological
pressure of Gairy's "mongoose gang" was enough to force him out of Grenada and to stay
out for quite some time.
Since the 1970s, however, things have changed considerably in the Caribbean to the
extent that there are now no domestic political difficulties within the CARICOM area as a
whole that would inhibit local journalists from writing for foreign newspapers. Most
certainly in the 1980s, such a condition did not exist. Furthermore, the technological
inadequacies of Caribbean states up to the late 1970s, have largely been resolved so that
throughout the 1980s, CARICOM countries had fairly dependable telecommunications
infrastructures that facilitated the filing of stories from the region.
Despite these improvements in the working environments of foreign correspondents,
several British newspapers covered the Caribbean quite rarely during the 1980s and even
those newspapers that regarded themselves as serious and did provide some coverage of the
region, did so irregularly and without maintaining a great deal of continuity of the stories
they covered. Generally, these newspapers tended only to react to crises, like those of
Grenada and Jamaica. Periodically, there were features written by foreign journalists who
happened to be visiting the region, but invariably this meant that a lot of space was taken
up in these features with background materials, to bring readers up-to-date or give them
some impression of what the story was going to be about. As a result, anyone relying on
British newspapers for their knowledge of the Caribbean would not have got a very
comprehensive view at all.
The factors that could have contributed to the overall poor coverage of Caribbean
affairs by British foreign journalists and their Caribbean colleagues are discussed briefly in
the following sections.
1. The Political Factor
We have already said that so far as the Caribbean is concerned, there was not in the
1980s any major domestic political problems to prevent foreign journalists from operating
within the individual states of the region. In a broad sense, however, there has been a
political problem in terms of the psychology of British newspaper editors who have not
regarded the Caribbean as an important area. This has been in-keeping with the general
neglect of third world issues by foreign editors. There have been specific areas of the world
The United States, Europe, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent and even larger
countries of the Third World, for example, which have received far greater coverage than
the Caribbean. Principally, the amount of column space which has been given to foreign
news and features in British newspapers has been overwhelmingly focused on the devel-
At the same time, British newspapers generally have become more insular over the
post-way years. There is a school of thought within Fleet Street that suggests that this
should come as no great surprise, since the global picture of the world in the 1950s is not
the same in the 1990s, nor was it the same in the 1980s. The world has become quite a
different place and britain's place in its is quite different now. Since the 1980s, britain has
been becoming a European country in a way that it was not in the 1950s. Consequently, the
world view of British national newspapers has itself changed.
Another school of thought suggests that during the 1980s, British newspapers were
replicating "little Englander attitudes" in overestimating England's influence in world
affairs while at the same time becoming more parochial. This suggestion can be placed in a
financial context in the sense that the first half of the 1980s was a period in which Fleet
Street's profits not only shrank, but went into reverse. Most newspapers lost money so that
up to 1986 foreign coverage, among other things, suffered. The only publications that
managed to seriously expand their international scope were the business publications like
the Economist and the Financial Times.
Since 1986, however, profit margins have risen again, although some newspapers were
still shrinking their foreign coverage up until the late 1980s. The Guardian did so slightly
while the Telegraph, for a period of time, cut back on foreign coverage significantly, the
Independent forges ahead of its competitors with widespread foreign coverage and the
Financial Times and the Guardian have both maintained a steady and relatively high level
of coverage. The Times actually expanded its foreign coverage in 1989, adding twenty-five
percent to the average daily foreign space in the paper and increasing the number of foreign
correspondents. It is worthy of note that the Financial Times has over 30 foreign correspon-
dents, although some of these are essentially financial or economic specialists.
But these expansions have had little or nothing to do with affairs in the Caribbean. It is
what is happening in Europe and other metropolitan regions of perceived importance that
has underscored this ecpansionist trend on the part of British newspapers; and it is these
events that will guarantee that foreign affairs remain a major preoccupation of british
national newspapers for the medium term at least.
2. The 'Hard News' Factor
Many Fleet Street editors will argue that if the Caribbean is not paid much attention by
their newspapers, it is only because the hard news coming out of the region is so limited.
These editors are therefore constantly on the look-out for when a story of major conse-
quence breaks in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, many of these news-making events are of
the disaster or crisis type, like grenada in 1983, and the occasional passage of hurricanes in
the region. In the course of this review, several newspaper editors were asked what it was
that could make the Caribbean a more attractive source of news for Fleet Street. all of them
responded in a somewhat rehearsed manner: "You should have another Grenada or another
terrible hurricane". Clearly, it is stories of this type that move foreign correspondents
without much prompting.
Apart from the Financial Times, not many British newspapers set out to probe beneath
the ordinary events that occur in the Caribbean with a view to provide British audiences as
well as Caribbean people living in the UK with an overview of developments in the region.
To a large extent, the features that correspondents write on situations or issues in the region
are of the type that is news-drive, thus reinforcing the traditional belief that it is hard news,
not features, that sell newspapers. It would appear that the only time foreign news editors
or correspodents are prepared to depart from this position is when they come across news
that is so offbeat that is cannot be ignored. Thus, to quote a diplomatic source in London,
news from the Caribbean must first be able to make Fleet Street editors cry or laugh, before
these editors can select them for inclusion in their papers.
3 The Cost factor
The Caribbean is by no means the easiest region to cover, in terms of its geography. Not
only are the Caribbean states spread out over a very large area, but also each state has its
own peculiarities which must be taken into account in any serious coverage of the region.
Hugh O'Shaughnessy and R. Whitaker found out something about the complexities of the
Caribbean region in May, 1980, when together they reported on US economic initiatives in
the region for the Financial Times. Both O'Shaughessy and Whitaker observed that "the
islands of the Caribbean are difficult to lump together although most have fragile econo-
The Economist was more explicit. Looking at the problems that arose in aviation as a
result of the scattered nature of Caribbean states, Michael Elliot, writing in a special survey
on theCaribbean, said as follows.
"Air travel throughout the Caribbean acts as a meta-
phor for a larger truth. From Europe, New York or
Miami, flights descend on the islands in clustered
curves; the long-distance traveller is well served by the
international airlines. [But] try to fly from one island to
another, and you are at the mercy of strange schedules
and unconscious symbolism. The easiest route from
Jamaica to Dominican Republic is through Miami. A
St. Lucian needs a visa to take the short flight to
Martinique....Even for travel between countries of the
Commonwealth Caribbean, passport controls and cus-
toms checks are required for all."2
Even without such difficult flight schedules, distances among the different Caribbean
islands can be great. True, it is a short run from St. Lucia to Martinique, St. Vincent,
Barbados or Dominica, for example, but it can take up to four hours to fly from St. Lucia to
Jamaica and much more time to fly from Jamaica to Trinidad and Tobago, or Guyana.
In these circumstances, where to base foreign correspondents has always been a critical
question for British newspapers. A correspondent may be based in Jamaica, but a combina-
tion of poor flight schedules and long distances will prevent him from being on top of
developments taking place in, say, Trinidad or Guyana.
When the Guardian newspaper implemented its "experiment" a few years ago by basing
Nick Worrall (who later went to the BBC) in one of the islands and having him travel to the
other islands to provide coverage, the paper discovered how difficult and costly it was to do
so. The Guardian found that the cost, in terms of air fares and hotel accommodation for
what was most of the time, feature material, was too high. The Guardian could not afford
the cost, Worrall could not afford it either, and after about eighteen months the arrangement
came to an end. The Guardian simply could not pay Worrall enough to cover his expenses
and, at the same time give him a reasonable income.
The alternative to having one's own correspondent in the area and having him or her
travel throughout the islands, is to employ a wide array of island correspondents. The
problem here, however, is that although there are some outstanding journalists in the
Caribbean, these journalists tend to be very busy people. They often do well in the
profession rather quickly and so the availability of young, bright journalists from the region
who are interested in making "a little bit of money" out of British newspapers is not very
high, even in the larger islands of the region. Thus, you find that putting one's own
correspondent in the region turns out to be too expensive and trying to depend on stringers
does not work, because the kind of people the newspapers are looking for to perform this
role are often drawn into government services, or move into diplomacy.
There is a third alternative which the Americans pursue and that is to base a correspon-
dent in Florida and use him or her to cover both Central America and the Spanish, French
and English-speaking Caribbean. Not many British newspapers have tried this method,
since it has been regarded as pretty much an American solution to the problem of coverage
of Central America and the Caribbean. But from all accounts coming out of the American
experience, this method, too, has many drawbacks, particularly those related to basing costs
in Miami. There is also the problem of flights out of Miami and also a certain dichotomy in
covering both Central America and the Caribbean. The difficulty here arises from the fact
that although Central America and the Caribbean are geographically contiguous, there is a
vast difference in terms of the kind of politics that is going on in these two regions.
This political dichotomy means that foreign corep6ndents have to deal with two very
different sets of stories occurring at very different paces and tending, therefore, to get in the
way of each other. The American way, therefore, does not appear to be an ideal solution.
The Caribbean has often been referred to in political and economic terms as a shatter zone.
Indeed, it is a shatter zone in the context of journalism as well.
To take coverage of the Caribbean seriously, then, British National newspapers must
balance the high costs involved with the relatively limited amount of hard news stories the
region generates. The decision by these newspapers to locate their own correspondents in
the region must take account of which island is the best on which to base the correspon-
dents, both in terms of the ability of these correspondents to access the news in as wide a
number of islands as possible, and the costs involved. During the 1980s an ideal solution
was not found and to date the situation generally has remained the same.
4. Finding the Right Correspondnet
It has not always been easy for British national newspapers to find "the right man"
within the Caribbean willing to "string" for the UK press. In general, stringers and
correspondents must be able to fit into the overall style of the particular newspapers for
which they are working. Some newspapers, like the Financial Times for example, have
been successful in identifying and employing persons who are capable of turning out copy
that fits neatly into the news structure of the papers for which they correspond. Others find
it more difficult to do so.
It is nevertheless desirable for British papers to have journalists from the Caribbean
countries reporting for these papers from various Caribbean localities. For many years,
British newspapers have recognized what they regard as the "good and honourable tradi-
tion" of excellent journalism in the Caribbean, but these newspapers recognize, too, that
much of this excellence is internally directed. Undoubtedly, there are good Caribbean
journalists who write good Caribbean stories, but only for a Caribbean market.
The challenge for any British national newspaper wishing to cover the Caribbean,
therefore, would be to find a good "local" journalist who is able to write with the right
perspective for an audience which would not necessarily know much about the details of a
particular story from a particular country or region. It is giving that sense of perspective that
it so important. Employing such an indigenous journalist is crucial, but should not be at the
expense of lowering the standards of the particular newspaper concerned. What must be
borne in mind is that writing for a British national newspaper is, essentially, writing for a
vast foreign market.
One British national newspaper that thinks it has managed to overcome the difficulty in
terms of recruitment of a suitable Caribbean national as its correspondent in the region is
the Financial Times. The Financial Times has employed Canute James who is based in
Jamaica and has the latitude to cover the region as he thinks necessary for the Financial
Times. By all accounts, James is an ideal candidate for the job because not only has he lived
in England and is therefore familiar with the British way of life, but also he has been quite
familiar with the Financial Times' "house style" and is able to fit easily into the Financial
Times' news structure. From the point of view of the smaller islands of the Caribbean,
however, Canute James's appointment as the principal stringer for the region has not
satisfied the expectations of "small island" people. The reason for this will be made clearer
in the next section.
On the whole, however, the situations appears to be one where most Caribbean journal-
ists are happier and most effective working for their own market rather than writing for a
foreign market. The vastness of the UK market tends to make Caribbean nationals uninter-
ested in undertaking to write for British national newspapers on a sustained basis.
5. A Caribbean Dilemma?
The Financial Times may have been lucky to find a Caribbea national like Canute
James to correspond for it from the Caribbean, but there are some general considerations
that tends to reduce the effectiveness of "local" journalists as British newspaper correspon-
dents. In the first place, Caribbean journalists seldom travel around the region to get some
sense of what is happening in neighboring states. There is therefore a fair amount of
ignorance of the region on the part of these journalists. Simple, but significant, qualitative
elements of news, like accuracy, to give one example, are continually undermined by this
The celebrated Canute James, for instance, wrote a peice for the Financial Times of
May 19, 1980, on an overseas trip made by OECS leaders from St. Lucia, St. Vincent and
Antigua to secure aid for their island states. In that article, James referred to St. Lucia's
Prime Minister as "Mr. Jack Compton".3 The Prime Minister's first name is John and it
seems clear that had James been totally familiar with St. Lucia's politics, he would have
known that. After all, Mr. Compton has been head of the St. Lucia Government since 1964,
with only a brief two-and-a half year break between 1979 and 1982. Canute James's error,
therefore, must not be regarded as "a slip of the pen" since James would never slip in
referring to Britain's Prime Minister or the President of the United States.
From a Caribbean standpoint, errors of this kind and other signs of ignorance in foreign
coverage are more forgivable when they appear in stories on the region written by foreign
journalists. The situation is less pardonable where Caribbean journalists are concerned.
Yet, this attitude has persisted for reasons that only Caribbean journalists perhaps may
understand. Within the Caribbean, a "big island small island" syndrome has been perpet-
uated by Caribbean journalists and even Canute James himself would be more inclined to
focus his coverage on the region's more developed states in Jamaica, his home country
base, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and Barbados. It may be that James is taking his cue
from the paper for which he works, but there is nothing preventing him from making the
Financial Times interested in the smaller states. This is an initiative that he must exercise
and generally is free to exercise; but he chooses his area of focus selectively.
Within the smaller states of the region, there is a measure of anger and resentment over
the attitude of "big island" correspondents, because the "small islanders" are convinced
that, notwithstanding their physical size and large populations, the more developed states
have done much worse than the smaller states economically and socially, and therefore are
not in any position to boast about their status as "big islands". It is an empty boast, so far
as the small states are concerned. The currencies of these more developed states, with the
exception of that of Barbados, have not only been seriously devalued, but are not accepted
anywhere in the Caribbean. These states are facing serious economic declines. Yet foreign
correspondents based in these "big islands" continue to file reports that give readers outside
the region the impression that life really exists only in these "big islands".
Foreign journalists covering the Caribbean can face many frustrations when preparing
their reports, because of the often large amount of background material they must provide
before they can get into the actual story. In the context of hard news, this reduces the
effectiveness of the story because background information, especially that of geographical,
social or political nature, can take away from the "urgency" of the report. To minimise the
incidence of having a great amount of background information in their stories, foreign
correspondents could work in collaboration with a "man on the spot" who would provide
them with only the salient points that, from a Caribbean perspective, are considered to be
important. The problem arises, however, when this "man on the spot' is himself unfamiliar
with the background information.
In the years following the establishment of CANA Radio4 in the mid 1980s, Caribbean
journalists had started to travel around the islands a little more in order to undertake
assignments of one kind or other for CANA. Most of them experienced "culture shocks"
when they visited neighboring states for the first time because before then, they had no
real idea of how people lived in these states. Perhaps after these "shocks"..these journalists
will truly be able to earn their title as "Caribbean journalists".
Another difficulty stemming from within the Caribbean relates to the perspectives of
Caribbean journalists, especially those considered to be senior journalists, in terms of the
politics of the region. What is in question here is, again, the basic values which should
generally be followed by journalists with regard to the elements of news quality. Balance
and fairness constitute one such element and, in general, journalists strive to ensure that
their stories reflect all sides of the situation in question. The experience in the Caribbean,
however, is that most of the senior journalists support the governments of the day and, to a
large extent have been "cultured" in the art of government propaganda. Stories written by
these journalists, therefore, invariably support particular government lines and can give a
rather distorted picture of life in the region, to readers overseas.
In St. Lucia where the OECS headquarters are based, for example, Radio St. Lucia's
news editor Ernie Seon, who also strings for CANA and a number of international agencies,
at one time became known among his colleagues as the personal "mouthpiece' of Prime
Minister John Compton. At the time it seemed to have been Mr. Compton's personal policy
not to talk to any media representative but Seon. And whereas the Prime Minister hardly
met the press in the last decade, he regularly contacted Seon whenever he wished to make
a statement or report on some overseas trip. This has been the reality in St. Lucia, but
similar experiences can be found throughout the OECS region. In these circumstances, one
would question Ernie Seon's legitimacy to correspond for overseas media, if balance and
fairness in reporting is to be observed and maintained.
The level of support that Caribbean journalists have for their governments results
largely from the structure of ownership and control of the mass media in the islands. To a
large extent the media, especially the electronic media in the islands, are owned and
controlled by the governments of the islands. Radio St. Lucia, for example, is government-
owned and is controlled by a Board handipicked by the Minister responsible for Broadcast-
ing. It is from this base that Ernie Seon operates. The print media are generally more
independent than the electronic media because many newspapers are privately owned. But
even here, government influence cannot be dismissed, since most of the private newspaper
owners are aligned to the ruling political party.
The state of affairs in the Caribbean so far as ownership and control of the media is
concerned, has been outlined by Aggrey Brown and Roderick Sanatan as follows:
"There is a lot of governmental power in the media. In
Barbados there are state and conglomerate private in-
terests. There is a strong private sector backing the
government in Dominica. Antigua is government
owned. St. Kitts/Nevis has its newspaper allied to po-
litical parties one being the party in power and
government ownership of both television and radio. In
the Case of Belize it is the governments and private
sector. Jamaica is similar to Belize [and] the govern-
ment and private sector have ownership in St.
Lucia...Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada."5
Given that situation, Brown and Sanatan rightly point out that "the notion of ownership
of the media raises issues of access and participation outside of the corridors of either
private economic power of governmental control [or both]." The question is not only one of
representing the popular views of Caribbean people in the media, but also one of providing
consumers outside the region with an accurate picture of life in the islands.
6. The Wire Copy
The governmental slant to which we have alluded in the case of Caribbean journalists is
also a consideration with regard to reports and features that come via wire service agencies
like Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France Presse. The experience has been that
most agency copies are usually top-heavy with the points of view of governments of the
day. Minority and opposition groups always have more difficulty in getting their views
represented. Therefore, the picture of a foreign region provided by the wire service is quite
often not comprehensive and even distorted at times.
One general exception to this is Reuters, which tries to provide full and unbiased
coverage from all parts of the world in which the agency operates. But Reuters has not kept
a resident correspondent in the English-speaking Caribbean for some time since closing
down its Barbados office in 1979. Whenever there is a story which the agency believes
warrants inclusion in its world news file, it sends in a correspondent from one of Reuters'
bureaus nearby, usually Miami or Caracas. Of course, Reuters has access to the Caribbean
News Agency (CANA) service, and stringers in a number of the islands, for example
Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica and St. Lucia. Stringers
function mainly during the breaking of stories, at which time the Reuters head office is
notified and can send one or more of its journalists to the scene to handle in-depth coverage.
It would be fair to say that British newspapers rely quite heavily on Reuters and other
agencies for routine coverage of the entire Caribbean region. In fact, in recent years,
Reuters has considerably improved its editorial control of the region. For various reasons
having to do with the agency's structure, the Caribbean had, for many years been the
responsibility of Reuters' Latin America desk in Buenos Aires. However, partly because of
the long distance between Buenos Aires and the Caribbean, this arrangement was not
entirely satisfactory. Reuters now runs its Caribbean coverage from Miami which is a far
more logical "jumping-off' points. The agency monitors the CANA wire service regularly
and has two senior, full-time correspondents who are able to travel throughout the region if
The criticism levelled at Reuters, however, is that even though it is not as top-heavy
with governmental views as perhaps the other wire services are, there is nevertheless a very
distinct North American perspective in most of the stories that it disseminates to non-Car-
ibbea media and this, in itself, shows a degree of bias. In any case, Reuters is not totally
immune from the attitude we described earlier, since many of its "local" stringers in the
various islands are inclined to favour a governmental viewpoint when compiling their
stories. It would therefore take a great effort on the part of Reuters' editors at head office to
minimnise this incidence.
On the whole, however, wire copy has not always been the most dependable source of
news from foreign regions, either because of the lack of adequate attention paid to these
regions by head office staff, or as a result of the pro-government slant that it is invariably
given by writers operating from within these foreign regions.
7. The U.S. Sphere of Influence
Not only do foreign news agencies and correspondents generally reflect a North
American perspective in their writings on the Caribbean, but also they have continued to
regard the region as falling within the sphere of influence of the United States of America.
Among many British newspapers, the perception has been that Britain can no longer
influence events in its former colonies, let along control these events. It is important to
appreciate that coverage does relate, to some extent, to a country's feelings about how
much it can influence affairs in another country and how much responsibility it continues
to have for that other country's affairs. The more this sense of responsibility diminishes, the
less inclined journalists in one country will be to cover events in the other country.
American interest in the Caribbean has not only been manifest for quite some time, but has
also been the subject of discussion among foreign journalists. Michael Elliot, for example,
in his review of the region for the Economist, makes the following observation:
"America has a strategic interest in the Region and has
had for as long as it has known the meaning of the
term. The Monroe Doctrine, warning European pow-
ers away from the continent, dates from 1823; the
Spanish-American war was fought in 1898 mainly in
and about Cuba and in 1940 America swapped a fleet
of clapped-out warships for long leases at British naval
stations in the [Caribbean] islands...."6
From all accounts, and in reality, the United States is well entrenched in the Caribbean,
in a way that Britain can never be. Former President Reagan's Caribbean Basin Initiative
(CBI) programme was initiated in the aftermath of the Grenada crisis as a means by which
the US could consolidate its influence and authority in the region, through the revitalisation
of the economies of Caribbean states. Britian played little part in this, preferring instead to
preserve the "special relationship" that exists between Washington and London.
The implication of US initiative in the Caribbean, therefore, is that there is a tendency
on the part of British newspapers either to ignore the region as a whole or to project their
stories on the region as an extension of American affairs. It is almost as though the
Caribbean does not stand by itself as a group of sovereign nations that are capable of
charting their own common destiny. There are several American journalists who would like
to perpetuate that image of the region and who would concur with any British report that
reinforces that idea.
On the whole, British newspapers have used the issue of American influence in the
Caribbean to shift between positions of high attention and low attention with regard to
Caribbean affairs. On occasions when it suits their purposes, Fleet Street editors have
focused attention on the region as part of their general coverage of the "Americas", while at
other times they have shunned the islands as not being their concern, but that of America.
Caribbean coverage, in these circumstances, has been subject to the idiosyncrasies of Fleet
8. The Question of Space
Every newspaper has a finite amount of space so in that sense, discussing the question
of space in terms of newspapers' coverage of particular regions of the world may not seem
entirely necessary. It may simply be assumed that if a particular newspaper fails to provide
an expected amount of foreign news, this is due to a lack of physical space when the general
composition of the paper is considered for a particular edition.
Unfortunately, this is not always a simple matter. What we are discussing here is the
question of space in terms of the relative importance of the Caribbean region as a factor in
the competition with other regions of the world for space in British national newspapers.
During the 1980s, this competition was generated by developments in Europe, the Middle
East and South Africa, to mention a few regions. The question of space, therefore, is
intrinsically linked to the selectivity of British newspaper editors and the real point here is
what these editors want to include in their content.
Clearly, notwithstanding the physical constraints of space that exist in reality, a news-
paper editor would find the space to include stories he or she considered to be important at
any particular time. The crisis in Grenada in 1983 brought this out to the full. Granted that
Grenada provided the world media with an extraordinary set of circumstances as a tiny
Caribbean island; but the fact still remains that Fleet Street editors found the space, over a
sustained period of time, to focus on the island and related matters.
Space in itself, therefore, is not a limiting factor. It is when space considerations are
combined with the selectivity and perceptions of newspaper editors that they can become
constraints. The Caribbean region will, in these circumstances, continue to find itself at a
considerable disadvantage since in any normal news day, the region will never find itself
very high up on Fleet Street's agenda.
All of the factors discussed have contributed, in one way or another, to a less than
satisfactory level of coverage of the Caribbean region by British national newspapers.
Where foreign correspondents have paid attention to and written about developments in the
region, their analyses have generally left much to be desired and have left many people
dissatisfied. One gets the impression that one is dealing with journalists who simply go out
to the Caribbean, quickly have to gather together a story but do not have any real percep-
tions of what faces the Caribbean at any one point in time. Coverage is therefore largely
superficial. The unsatisfactory level of the press in the Caribbean has not helped matters.
The fact that many of the Caribbean newspapers are not really independent but instead are
aligned to one political party or another, but usually to the governing party, has created a
culture in which senior Caribbean journalists are generally inclined to be pro-government.
Those senior journalists, by and large, are the individuals who are most likely to become
correspondents for foreign newspapers and as such the qualitative value of their reports and
features remains in question. The pro-government leanings of Caribbean journalists are
underscored by the general structure, ownership and control of the mass media in the
region, in which the governments of the different states play a leading role.
Furthermore, the level of insularity that has existed among the so called developed
states of the Caribbean in terms of their relationship with the smaller states of the region has
resulted both in "big island" correspondents being ignorant of the range of issues relevant
to the people of these small states and to mistrust on the part of "small islanders" of the
reports filed by "big island" correspondents on developments in small states. In that sense,
not even Caribbean journalists themselves can provide a totally acceptable "back-up"
system of coverage for foreign newspapers.
In any event, the Caribbean has not been considered a lucrative area for foreign
correspondents, largely because of the costs involved in providing such coverage, when
weighed against such considerations as hard news value and the likelihood of the region
generating news of sustained interest to an international market. Some critics may argue
that newspapers now make enough money to be able to provide regular coverage of the
region, despite the high costs involved. But this has not always been the case, as we have
noted in the period between 1980 and 1986. At any rate, foreign correspondents have had
to face both confusing and time-consuming flight schedules from whatever their base of
operation, so that regional coverage has remained largely unattractive because of the
frustrations it can generate where air travel is concerned.
In general, therefore, the Caribbean region has not benefitted from increases in the
foreign staff complements of British newspapers, principally because these resources have
been channelled to more "news-making" and, presumably, less frustrating regions of the
world. The Guardian, for instance had three more foreign correspondents at the time this
review was being written than it had ten years ago, but this increase was due mainly to
developments in Europe. The same is true of The Times. The only newspaper which had
more foreign correspondents ten years ago than it has now is The Telegraph. That newspa-
per once boasted of an array of between twenty-five correspondents but now employs about
half that number. The Financial Times, of course, with a complement of some thirty
correspondents, is one of the most heavily staffed foreign coverage operations in the world,
certainly outside of the United States. In all of the cases where newspapers have either
increased or retained the number of foreign correspondents, the impetus to do so has come,
not from the Caribbean, but from the metropolitan centres of the world.
Finally, it is necessary to recognize that a combination of physical, attitudinal and
cultural factors have for a long time affected the coverage of the Caribbean by foreign
journalists. Foreign news editors have often used the excuse of competition for space to
deal with the difficulty this combination can create, as if this can, in itself, exonerate them
from their responsibility to "relect the world" despite the odds. The Caribbean, as the
largest, single bloc of stable democracies in the world, outside Western Europe, must
therefore qualify for a regular place on the agenda of the foreign press. That this should be
so, should be even more important to British newspapers.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. See "Financial Times" of May 9, 1980, entitled "Washington Hawks eye the Caribbean ", p. 5.
2. See Michael Elliott's survey on the Caribbean in The Economist of August 6, 1988, entitled
"Columbus's Islands", p. 4.
3. St. Lucia was the focus of that article entitled "Caribbean leaders head for Tobago" because that
island's Prime Minister was the main spokesman for the touring party.
4. CANA is the Caribbean News Agency which started off as a wire service that fed the interna-
tional press with news from a Caribbean perspective. Its radio unit, based in Barbados, was
part of the agency's expansion programme.
5. See Brown and Sanatan's Talking With Whom A Report on the state of the Media in the Carib-
bean, section entitled "Ownership and Control", p. 23.
6. Op Cit, MJichael Elliott, p. 4.
QUESTIONS OF IDENTITY, DEMOCRACY AND
BROADCASTING THE CASE OF JAMAICA*
This paper was fathered by a project which began some years ago under the title
Democracy and Broadcasting in a Third World Country: the Jamaica Broadcasting Cor-
poration A Test Case. I shall begin by describing the project in some detail, in order to
introduce you without delay to its universe of complexities, and to familarize you with the
several layers of investigation which have proved necessary.
The project sets out to create a national public service broadcasting model, which can
help to place democracy in Jamaica on a more secure foundation and can be replicated
elsewhere. It calls attention to the danger to democracy when the national station becomes
a political prize. Normative practices of the BBC (England) the CBC (Canada) and PBS
(Hartford, Boston, New York and Washington in the USA) as well as those of developing
countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, provide a frame of reference for a case study
of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. This study fills a gap in broadcasting literature
and should prove to be of interest to scholars, administrators and practitioners in Third
World and other media. Moreover, it brings into sharper focus some of the issues in the
ongoing UNESCO debate on the New World Information and Communication Order.
Overall three distinct phases have emerged:
1. The Search for Questions (the International Perspective)
2. The Search for answers (the rigorous examination of the history of the JBC)
3. The creation of a model and a body of criteria by means of which state-owned
media in the Third World can be analysed.
A number of institutions have helped to develop international and other aspects of the
study: (1) the Ford Foundation, (2) Freedom House, (3) the Woodrow Wilson International
Centre for Scholars and (4) ISER. Grants from the Ford Foundation in 1984 and 1986
enabled me to to go to London for talks with the BBC, and to Hong Kong for the
Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's conference, where I had dialogue with the
Chief Executives of the Broadcasting systems of some 50 countries. On a fellowship from
Freedom House I undertook two tours between March and August, 1985. These tours
* Research completed with funding from Freedom House and
Ford Foundation. Paper presented, 28/11/90, ISER,UWI,Mona
assisted me to develop a sense of place, and of the status of democracy and media in each
country. The first took me to Sri Lanka and India; to Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya and to
Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. The second concentrated on the Caribbean,
especially Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. During these tours I interviewed a
wide range of scholars, media practitioners, men and women bf public affairs (including
Presidents and Prime Ministers) members of the judiciary, and so forth. My attachment at
ISER since 1987 has enabled me to interact with a further number of outstanding scholars,
from the West Indies and from elsewhere. Finally, I was able to test some of my assump-
tions about statism, economic democracy or the lack of it, by a visit to the then Soviet
Union in December, 1989, at the invitation of the Soviet-Latin American Committee for
Peace and Friendship. I have assembled over 200 hours of interviews on audio tape (the
equivalent of possibly 1400 pages of typescript). They contain eye witness accounts of the
practice of democracy and the media from persons, whose involvement, at critical levels,
enables them to make authentic contributions to our study.
It is proposed to do a pull together of this priceless material for companion volumes to
be entitled "Discussions in Democracy and media." In addition to the central study there
should be at least two such volumes, one global and the other Caribbean- specific.
The project developed considerably with my appointment as a Fellow of the Wilson
Centre. In particular, activities there led me to conclude that in my original Outline of
Research I had given insufficient attention to questions of "geopolitics" and "the public
interest". Nor had I, it also dawned upon me, given sufficient weight to questions of
"identity" and the central role this should play in Democracy and the Media. It became clear
that a combination of political and geographic factors introduced concerns that impinged
not only upon national security, but upon almost every other aspect of Jamaican life. To
give one important example, how does the researcher put into perspective the horrendous
murders of the 1980 Jamaican election campaign without recognizing them as being in part
a by-product of East-West rivalry?
In the several areas of national life, the public interest was frequently invoked in
balancing competing interests and to turn back the encroachments of special interests. One
had to recognize that the public interest varied with circumstances and with time, and to
consider the impact upon both the collective and the individual. In accommodating the
Universal declaration of Human Rights, the Jamaican Constitution permitted the govern-
ment, in the public interest, to legislate in such a way as to cut down the protection of the
fundamental rights provisions. Nevertheless, the public interest was not exclusively a
majoritarian concept. Ideally, national public service broadcasting stations should hold a
mirror up to the national life, and be at the same time a repository of the national
conscience. The primacy of the public interest was, therefore, at the very heart of the study.
I usually begin an interview by inviting the interviewee to identify himself/herself, and
to encapsulate his career: to say when he was born, and list his achievements leading up to
his present post. This is to help what follows to proceed from the centre of the interviewee's
being. If he/she is a Jamaican, I then ask: In what consists your Jamaicanity? What makes
any of us a Jamaican? What so special about being a Jamaican? And what distinguishes the
Jamaican from any other nationality American, Nigerian, Englishman etc.? In a word,
what identifies the Jamaican? It has occurred to me that a mission of democracy is to
nurture this identity and enable it to find fulfilment, and that it is the process of fulfilling
this identity that gives a sense of having a stake in the sovereignty of our country.
The JBC's history is being comprehensively assembled for the first time. Unfortunate-
ly, the Corporation's records are deficient in critical information during certain administra-
tions, and in any event, subsequent to my departure from the station, on 31 March 1981, the
Library/Documentation Centre was disbanded and archival material I am told destroyed.
There have been times when the Corporation has been embroiled in controversy regarding
its own performance, but even when there have been reports of such events in the other
media, and decisions affecting future developments have had to be taken, Boards have
deliberately avoided giving reasons for such decisions in the minutes. A number of
principal actors, both inside and outside the Corporation have died, but there are others still
living. Getting the true story has required an approach ranging from straightforward
enquiry in some cases to delicate diplomacy and detective work in others.
Fortunately, during my tenure as General Manager, I had assembled a collection of
seminal papers for the guidance of an incoming Board. But the non-existence, at some
critical periods, of what should have been substantial internal documentation, and the
reluctance of some principal actors to give the facts even after decades have passed, have
emphasized the need to seek elsewhere also for clues. What should have been a routine
check of the print media has, for example, become a matter of the greatest importance. In
examining the pages of the Jamaican press for relevant information, I have gone back to
1939, when broadcasting began in Jamaica. This is a period of 50 years and since it has not
proven possible, carefully, to go through each page and log the references in more than one
year's issues in a week, this exercise alone has taken almost a year.
All the necessary research would have been completed years ago, had not significant
changes altered both the international and the national perspectives. In a baccalaureate
address to this year's seniors entitled "A New World" President Schmidt of Yale sum-
moned up a picture of uncompromising truth.
For more than forty years, America's vision of its
place in the world has been a reflection of the ideologi-
cal and military threat of the Soviet Union. We are
losing the enemy against which we have measured
ourselves. In your time in Yale college, the dark glass
of the communist threat in which we have found our
image has fallen to pieces. As the Cold War melts
under our feet, we are at sea, orphans of policies of
mutual enmity that are losing their purchase on reality.
Then, on the local scene in 1987, the then Government announced a programme of
divestment. According to the then Prime Minister, the plan was to divest parts of JBC radio
and TV, as well as the Government's shares in the rival station, RJR, into private hands,
while retaining one component as a Public Broadcasting Service.
The PNP Government, which came to office in February 1989, decided to take the
policy of divestment even further; increasing the number of radio stations, planned or
operating, from seven to ten, and introducing two new TV stations, while preserving the
integrity of JBC-TV and JBC Radios 1 and 2 as the national station.
Thus, in spite of certain aberrations which I shall document in due course, JBC remains
on a clear trajectory of development since the enabling act of 1959. It seems to me that what
Minister Robertson is seeking to do in his forthcoming act will provide further institutional
form for the honourable intentions of National Hero, Norman Manley, who founded the
On the 31st of March, 1981 the day before I demitted office for the second time as
General Manager of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, I reported to the then Prime
Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Edward Seaga, as follows:-
There were dramatic developments at the JBC during
1980. The listenership survey showed that Radio One,
which had climbed from 12 1/2% in 1976 to 25% in
1977 had now acquired an average of 40% of the
listenership by the time of the last survey in August
1979 and that the graph was rising vis-a-vis [RJR] the
Appropriately during the month of June of that same year, the Jamaica Broadcasting
Corporation celebrated its 21st year of Radio Broadcasting.
The Corporation substantially improved its transmission capability in television. New
and more powerful transmitters were installed at Half Way Tree, Coopers Hill, Spur Tree,
Flower Hill, Oracabessa, Port Antonio and Yallahs and an acceptable signal now reaches at
least 90% of Jamaica's populated land area.
The accelerated training programme continued....
The most violent election campaign in the history of Jamaica took place..
In addressing a meeting in this very room on the 19th March, 1987, I said:
Nationwide, the time was out of joint. Divisions in the
society became harsh and increasingly menacing. It
seemed obvious, during the final weeks leading up to
election day on November 30, that the Government in
office was no longer fully in control of the state ap-
paratus. The situation appeared even more bizarre
when Ministers of Government were constrained to
lead large crowds to the office of the JBC to complain
of police brutality. Perhaps the most alarming event on
TV was when a few nights before election day, Prime
Minister Michael Manley had to be escorted by the
police from the stage of a meeting in Spanish Town
Square, which he had been unable to address, because
of a barrage of gunfire coming from all directions out
of the dark.
The JBC is covering these and other events and in performing its duties in traditional
manner, found itself in a more than usually controversial situation. The station became, so it
seemed, a political battlefield. Some people wondered whether Jamaica would be able to
retain its democratic form of government.
The country is highly politicised and has had a history of violence at election time. In
1980 over 800 people were killed during the long campaign. Most people either belong to
one or other of the two major political parties: the Jamaica Labour party which became the
government for the seventh time in 1983, and the PNP which began its fifth term in 1989.
Until recently I could make the following statement with confidence:
Who runs Jamaica or constitute the government has
become a matter of concern not only within the
geographical borders of this little state, but beyond.
What is at stake seems to be of more than passing
interest to other countries, both great and small. And
especially at election time, a great deal of world atten-
tion is usually focused on Jamaica to a degree that
would belie the size of the country.
Reports of deaths and whether they were organized
with assistance from abroad have provided grist for
discussion and speculation. "Regional volatility and
Soviet American rivalry have created conditions that
invite tensions and conflict", so stated a report
prepared in 1985 for the Committee on Foreign Af-
fairs, U.S. House of Representatives.
It is predicted, the Report noted, that the less developed countries "will be the principal
battleground for many years to come". The Report explained that:
A central idea, indeed the driving force, in the Soviet-
American rivalry in the Third World, as seen from the
West's perspective, is the matter of the Third World's
future social organization. Simply stated, the power
factor aside, the issue is the ideological struggle be-
tween the principles of Marxism-Leninism as inter-
preted and proselytized by the Soviet Union pitted
against the principles and democratic capitalism advo-
cated by the United States and democratic socialism,
an acceptable compromise with Marxism based on
political pluralism prevalent in Western Europe,
TheReport recognized however, that "neither of the contesting forms may ultimately be
accepted by Third World nations who bring their own interests and perspectives to bear.
From the opposing camp, Dr. Alexey Kireev of the International Department of the
CPSU Central Committee virtually echoes the American Report, and helps to document the
passing of the Cold War. Earlier this year in a reappraisal of USSR Third World Policy he
The course for Perestroika was proclaimed five years
ago. Its foreign policy aspect was based on new politi-
cal thinking, which presumed a considerable re-ex-
amination of our view of the world and our country's
place in this world. The Chief element here is a
repudiation of the vision of the world divided into two
conflicting camps, and an explaining away of practi-
cally all the processes taking place in international
affairs by the struggle between these camps. The
priority of universal values and realisation of inter-
dependence as a characteristic feature of today was
As to the policy in the Third World, it was believed
that peaceful coexistence could not apply to this part of
the globe, that it was there that the antagonistic contest
between the two systems was being decided, that it
was there that the centre of the military rivalry with the
United States was located. The focal point of policy in
the Third World was the desire to put as many
countries as possible under our control and do as much
damage as possible to the other side's interests. On the
other side, this was veiled by the philosophy of
solidarity with progressive regimes and support for
social transformation, although in reality the ideologi-
cal motives, and all the more so a real assessment of
the nature of the regime and its policy vis- a-vis its
people did not have substantial meaning.
The combined services of radio and television have made the JBC potentially the single
most powerful and effective media house in Jamaica. During the the past 31 years the
station has become perhaps the most Jamaican of public institutions. From time to time the
station provided a forum for the great issues of the nation. All major protests, demonstra-
tions, marches, etc. wind up at the gates and in any event on radio and on the television
screen. The JBC is the institution to which most people have turned in times of national
stress or disaster for immediate, accurate information and comfort.
But the JBC has had an eventful and at times turbulent past. Traditionally, the station
supports the programmes and policies of the duly elected government, JLP or PNP. The
JBC has been abused as a "PNP station" by the JLP when the PNP is in office, and as a "JLP
station" by the PNP when the JLP forms the government. These attitudes inform the
proceedings of the Finance Committee of Parliament, when budgetary allocations for the
station are being considered. Adherents of the two parties, when they are out of office, do
not hesitate to march to the station in large numbers, replete with banners, placards and
loudspeakers, to get the Corporation to broadcast their respective brands of condemnation
on radio and on television. This see-saw movement of resentment is of a piece with thp
Jamaican rhythm of politics. But when, rightly or wrongly members of the general public
increasingly believe that the JBC seldom does anything significant, except at the bidding of
some higher authority, clearly there is a crisis of confidence. When this happens in
well-honed democracies, broadcasting degenerates into an act of futility; and when
politicians of both parties begin to see the station as a political prize, indeed as an apanage
of office, note should be taken that the democracy under consideration is in serious trouble.
These problems are endemic in the structure of the organization, but most Jamaicans would
now be surprised to learn that the seeds of this unhealthy growth were there from the very
In this significant respect there is a clear trajectory from 1959, when operations started,
to the new JBC Act which was described by the Minister of Information & Culture in his
State of the Nation presentation in the Senate earlier this month, and which will come into
effect in 1991. The JBC was set up by Norman Manley in 1959. "The father of the nation",
Norman Manley was a Rhodes Scholar, a Fabian socialist, a lawyer. He founded the
People's National Party( PNP) in 1938. He appointed to the Board a number of gentlemen
- people of independence whom he respected and trusted and who were loyal to him. With
the change of government just before Independence in 1962, Norman Manley was suc-
ceeded by his cousin, sir Alexander Bustamante, who founded the Jamaica Labour Party
(JLP) in 1943 and became the first Prime Minister of independent Jamaica. The JLP
dismissed the old Board and named new members, who they felt would be loyal to the JLP.
Until the new JBC Act comes into force, it has now become the accepted norm that when
the government changes, members of the Board will resign or be invited to resign, in order
to place the new Minister in charge of broadcasting in a position to make his own
The New Board, following the general elections of 30th November, 1980, announced
that consequent upon steps being taken to restructure and reorganize the Corporation,
thirteen (13) members of the News Department staff would be fired.They had all been
trained at considerable expense by the JBC, and most had both first degrees and post-
graduate trainingThe workers acquired an understanding that the powers that be felt that
they were too loyal to the PNP, and that under no circumstances would any of them be
re-employed in their old jobs as long as the JLP remained in office. They sued for unlawful
dismissal; and the JBC, with the support of the JLP government agreed to pay compensa-
tion. A sum approaching J$1M was given to the workers in settlement.
What was the upshot of all this? We had now reached a stage in Jamaica's political
evolution, whereby consequent upon each change of government, there could also be a
change not only of Board but also of members of staff of the News and Current Affairs
"The question which arises", noted Alva Clarke, Secretary General of the Common-
wealth Broadcasting Association, "is whether broadcasting is allowed to serve the public in
the fullest sense of whether, for example, the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation is manipu-
lated by whichever party is in power at any given time."
I said at that time:
There is nothing now to stop the alternative govern-
ment from behaving in a similar fashion when the
opportunity presents itself. The unvarnished fact is that
the JBC has become a political prize.
Other questions come into view:
(1) When governments sack broadcasters, appointed by previous political administra-
tions, how much is their motive (a) to make jobs for their friends, or (b) to ensure that only
the "right things" are said on the air, or (c) both?
(2) Under what conditions in the past were the opposition's views, if any allowed air
time? What were the circumstances that made or began to make opposition coverage
(3) Is it possible in theory or in practice to draw a line between criticism of the
government and subversion of the national order? Can there be operational, if not absolute,
criteria, of does it depend on the terms in which political conflict is conducted (whether the
opposition sticks to slanging matches or provokes shooting matches too)?
(4) Under what conditions are independent broadcasting stations possible? In societies
where the political competition is relatively peaceful and politicians confine themselves to
abusing each other, and do not ruthlessly put each other in jail or assassinate their op-
(5) How is balance achieved when there is (a) a single party government and (b) a
(single) party state?
(6) If there is no consensus between the political parties on national goals and objectives
and on the nature of the public interest, what should a PBS do? Confine its advocacy to
those issues on which there is consensus? Provide a forum for debate on issues on which
there is no consensus? Seek actively to create a consensus?
(7) What is the position of the national broadcasting service vis-a-vis other media? How
much autonomy do they have?
(8) Why is it that one of the first acts of any coup is the seizure of the broadcasting
system to proclaim that a new group has taken over state power?
(9) What are the checks and the balances in the social and political structure? How much
pluralism is allowed, politically and journalistically? And is there any independent
(10) How democratic is the country in political, social and economic terms?
(11) Does the society nurture the fulfilment of personal and national identity?
The JBC has had over 16 General Managers and Acting General Managers in its 31
years history. I believe the majority of dismissals are related to attempts by chief executives
to give fair coverage to opposition parties. That was certainly the bottom line reason for my
own departure from the JBC in 1971. The turn-over rate of chief executives of national
stations in Third World countries is one of the scandals of the broadcasting profession.
I approach the project from the vantage point of having been general manager of the
Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation for eight years, from 1968 to 1971 during the JLP
administration, and 1976 to 1981 under both PNP and JLP administrations. I resigned my
position in 1981 in order to pursue further career objectives. In addition I served for several
years as a member of the Standing Committee of the Commonwealth Broadcasting As-
sociation (CBA), and for two years, from 1968 to 1970, as Chairman of its Standing
As a prelude to presiding over the CBA's biennial conference held in Jamaica in 1970,
I had pioneered the founding of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union.
These connections have placed me in a unique position to undertake the present study.
The possibility each time of having to change not only the Board but also the personnel of
the news and current affairs department and other marked individuals to match the political
complexion of the day, has had serious implications for the credibility of the station and
ultimately the survival of democracy. Happily, the PNP Government has set out to
depoliticize the JBC, and to make it a truly national instrument serving the public interest,
and the public interest only.
CARIBBEAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS POLICY: FASHIONED
BY DEBT, DEPENDENCY AND UNDER-DEVELOPMENT
The historical continuity of external British dominance of telecommunications in the
English-speaking Caribbean spans over 120 years. The leading instrument of this
dominance in the modern era is the transnational corporation Cable and Wireless PLC. This
paper examines some of the major contributory factors to the continued British dominance
of both the operating companies and the transmission networks into and out of the Carib-
bean. It also looks at some of the implications of this for the delivery of basic telecom-
munications services, and the use of the network for regional development.
The study concludes that a major consequence of British imperialism on the existing
policy and network structure of Caribbean telecommunications is the region's increasing
reliance on external capital, technology and management expertise. This situation has been
reinforced within the last decade by the wider, structurally-based economic dependence
and indebtedness of many Caribbean countries, and the response to this crisis by global
multilateral agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
But the difficulties in Caribbean telecommunications policy are not entirely structural
and external in nature. Economic and technological dependence have been facilitated by
the failure of regional policy-making, planning and regulatory authorities to shape common
telecommunications policies and joint bargaining strategies to deal with external interests.
Determination of network development policies, including expansion into rural areas and
farming communities, technology usage and obsolescence and even tariff levels are often
mainly in the hands of the external service provider influenced little by national or
regional policy objectives.
Profile of the Region
The independent, English-speaking territories of the Caribbean number twelve
countries, which, together with Montserrat, form the membership of the Caribbean Com-
mon Market and Community (CARICOM). As can be seen on the regional map at Figure I,
the membership of this grouping is dispersed across some two thousand miles ranging from
Guyana on the northern coast of South America through the state of Trinidad and Tobago
in the southern Caribbean Sea, northward through an arc of smaller islands.
The four economically more advanced countries are Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago,
Barbados, and Guyana. These are officially referred to as the MDCs or More Developed
Countries. Among these, Jamaica is the largest in population terms, with its 2.4 million
people accounting for over half of the total population of the entire region. Trinidad is next
with a population of 1.3 million, followed by Guyana with a population just over 700,000,
and Barbados with some 260,000. The Bahamas, with a population of 241,000, is also
among the more advanced economies of the region. But while being a member of the
Caribbean Community, it does not participate in the Common Market aspect. Table 1
outlines the basic demographic statistics of the region, indicating a high level of population
density, and showing the relatively small size of most of the territories.
The wider region also consists of numerous non English-speaking territories, with
heritages derived from history of European rivalries, conquest and political balkanization
of the area. Like the anglophone region, these territories also constitute the peripheries of
other European power centres. In line with the analytical models of Johan Galtung,
describing a 'feudal Centre- Periphery structure' [1981:307], there is little or no contact
between the British, French, Dutch, Spanish or American colonial peripheries. Although
geographically close, the newly emerging countries of the region are artificially separated
by the colonial heritage of language, telecommunications channels and cultural traditions,
all attuned predominantly to their respective Centre nations.
DEMOGRAPHICS OF CARICOM MEMBER COUNTRIES
Country Ind. date Population (1985) Area (sq/km) Destiny per s/km
Jamaica 1962 2,357,900* 10,992 213
Trinidad 1962 1,235,400* 5,128 230
Guyana 1966 788,000 214,970 4
Barbados 1966 250,000 430 581
Bahamas 1973 230,000 13,935 17
Belize 1981 170,000 22,963 7
St. Vincent 1979 110,000 389 283
St. Lucia 1979 137,000 616 222
Grenada 1974 110,000 311 309
Antigua 1981 80,000 440 183
Dominica 1978 84,000 750 112
St. Kitts 1983 44,000 269 161
Montserrat 12,000 104 115
Sources: Government Statistics 1988* Commonwealth Secretariat 1985
The Political System
The independent countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean are all multi-party par-
liamentary democracies modelled on the Westminster system. This is in keeping with the
fact that they are all former British colonies. Of the 12 independent CARICOM member
states, ten retain the British monarch as the titular head of state, represented by a local
Governor General, with a Prime Minister as the head of government. Two, Guyana and
Trinidad and Tobago, have adopted a republican status with a President as head of state and
a Prime Minister as head of government. Both, however, remain members of the Common-
The process of decolonization, which began in the 1940s, led to the achievement of
political independence first in the largest of these territories, Jamaica, in August 1962. This
was followed in the same year by Trinidad and Tobago, and four years later by Guyana and
Barbados both in 1966. Despite the end of formal colonialism as a prevalent practice in
international relations, it is clear that the process remains incomplete in the wider Carib-
bean region, and its effects are still very pervasive even within those states which have
gained political independence. In the English-speaking part of the region, forming the focus
of this paper, these effects of colonialism combine with physical fragmentation and small
size to contribute to the maintenance of an environment of continued dependency and
A major significance of smallness in global relations is the vulnerability which it may
accord in the economic, political and military spheres. At the economic level Caribbean
countries, as small open economies are particularly vulnerable to the financial strength and
private decision-making machinery of individual multinational corporations whose global
budgets often dwarf the national budgets of many of these states. While pointing out that
TNCs can make an important contribution to small states in providing much needed capital,
technology and market outlets, a study by the Commonwealth consultative Group also
drew special attention to the potential inequality in relations:
"In general, Third World states tend to be in a disadvantageous position in relations with
transnational corporations through inadequacies in negotiating skills and access to informa-
tion; and with their slender human resources, small states are in an even weaker position
than other developing countries. In many cases, the agreements transnational corporations
draw up may be said to resemble those 'unequal treaties' that imperialist powers used to
impose in earlier centuries upon weaker nations. The crucial issue for small states is to
avoid inequitable contractual arrangements and political interference." [1985:56]
This assessment has a particular implication in telecommunications and other technol-
ogy-based sectors. The small technical and economic base of the individual countries or the
region as a whole severely limits the prospect of indigenous research and development into
the core technology and bias scientific fields. This in turn leads to a sometimes uncritical
acceptance of foreign technology and capital, which is usually accompanied by foreign
expertise and stipulations about the countries from which equipment should be procured.
Given this situation, there is within the region itself an inadequate base for the adaptation
of imported technology to suit the requirements of the Caribbean.
Debt and Economic Bondage
Over the last decade, economic conditions in the Caribbean have been exacerbated by
the accumulation of massive external debts. These debts began to build up following
increases in the price of oil introduced by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) in 1973. By 1975, the price of this critical resource had increased four
times over and with it the foreign exchange requirements both to buy the commodity and to
import the many oil-based raw materials and consumer products. While this external
development was a major factor in the accumulation of the foreign debt, the extensive
public sector expenditure on social programmes within the countries of the region also
contributed to high levels of borrowing.
According to Girvan et al (1989 ii),total CARICOM debt by 1980 was US$4002 million
requiring an annual debt servicing of US$672.3 million. By 1988, however, this level of
indebtedness had more than doubled to US$9802 million. This meant a debt per capital in
the Caribbean of US$1634 million and an annual debt service of US$1161.8 million.
Within the English-speaking region, the debt owed by Jamaica looms largest, totalling 4.5
billion, or more than half the regional total in 1990. While in absolute terms these figures
may not appear dramatic on a global scale, they meant, for countries like Jamaica, annual
debt repayment of over forty percent of export earnings. This level of indebtedness
translates into a national per capital debt of some US$1,800 in Jamaica where most of the
employed population earns less than US$1100 a year and where there is an official
unemployment level well in excess of 15%.
This precarious situation for the Commonwealth Caribbean occurs in the context of the
overall debt crisis facing countries of the global south. In Latin America alone, foreign
indebtedness exceeds US$430-billion, of which the single country of Brazil accounts for
US$115-billion, or just under a quarter of the Latin American total. Girvan et al (1989:iii)
have pointed out, however that there are important structural differences between the debt
owed by the larger Latin American countries and that owed by the smaller countries of the
Caribbean and Central America. Unlike the situation in South America, the greater propor-
tion of Caribbean external debt is owed to official agencies and governments, like the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID).
A major implication of this situation is that the repayment and rescheduling arrange-
ments for the majority of Caribbean debt economies as far more inflexible than for the
major South American economies. This is because whereas the bi-lateral credit arrange-
ments between debtor countries and commercial banks are open to re-scheduling, the
multilateral sources such as the IMF and World bank are statutorily prohibited from
entering into any significant re-scheduling arrangements. The small countries of the Carib-
bean and Central American, for whom these agencies are the primary creditors, often have
to negotiate additional loans rather than re-structure or re-schedule existing ones. This leads
to further indebtedness and an increasingly high outflow on debt servicing. It also leads to
increasing dependence on transnational tax revenues or new investment to finance budget
gaps and meet borrowing conditions set by the multilateral lending agencies.
According to a 1989 global survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD), repayments on past IMF international lending exceeded disburse-
ments by some US$3 billion, although IMF concessional lending, which reached US$1.2-
billion in 1989, had improved sharply. The survey pointed out further that political and
economic changes in the former Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe could lead to even
more difficulties in access to concessional credit for the debt-ridden countries of Latin
America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. [OECD 1989 Survey: Financing and
External Debt of Developing Countries, Paris, 1989]. One net effect of these developments
is a strengthening of the role of multinational corporations and private capital in the
economies of the Caribbean region.
At a global level, the enforced debt repayment to multilateral agencies is effected by
the use of a range of 'conditionalities' and penalties, including withdrawal of scheduled
loan trenches if pre-set performance targets and repayment arrangements are not met. In the
case of the World Bank, demands have included divestment of state-run enterprises,
including telecommunications and other public utilities, and the employment of foreign
expertise for the implementation of certain Bank-aided projects. [Worrell 1989: 71, Jeffer-
son 1989: 53]. The philosophical justification advanced by these agencies is that the growth
in debt is rooted in the structural deficiencies in the regional economies. And the con-
ditionalities are designed to correct these structural weaknesses and allow for self-sustain-
ing growth. This rationale and the universality of the prescriptions have repeatedly been
called into question. (See Girvan, Bernal and Hughes 1980: 113, and Budhoo 1990).
Response in Telecoms Sector
Because existing policy in the industrialized countries now favours private operation of
telecommunications and other public utilities, lending levels to the state sector for these
industries have remained very low. This current approach by both the bi-lateral and
multilateral partners contrasts with the tendency in the 1960s and 1970s for World Bank
and government to government support for telecommunications expansion. Domestic
policy changes in the United States, Britain and Japan have created policy shifts in the
multilateral agencies as well. Recent World Bank support for telecoms has been to the
extent of only about 1% of total commitments. Where regional countries such as Jamaica
or Trinidad and Tobago are faced with infrastructural deterioration in the network, they are
left to resort to the sale of telecommunications assets and equity to multinational partners
such as Cable and Wireless. Discussing this dilemma in its wider macro-economic context,
"One tactic among several forced on countries in such
straits is to try and transform external debt into
foreign-owned equity by selling national assets at cut
prices, providing golden opportunities for TNCs to
expand in debt-ridden developing countries. In addi-
tion, a number of formerly more reluctant Third World
(and other) countries are now abolishing many of their
remaining restrictions and controls on foreign invest-
ment, at the same time increasing other incentives to
attract TNCs" [Frobel 1988: 641].
In the field of communications, the disposal of such assets to overseas interests repre-
sents the surrender of a major element of sovereign control over key instruments of
autonomous national and regional development.
SELECTED ECONOMIC INDICATORS (MDCs)
Country Per Capita Per Capita Unemployment
Debt 1988 GDP 1988* Rate s 1988
US$ Mn. US$ Mn.
Jamaica 839 1,351 15.7% (1992)
Trinidad, 782 3,699 21%
Barbados 2,945 5,740 17%
Guyana 2,244 547 20% (1980)
Compiled from ACE, CDB and Caricom statistics *Current prices
Telecommunications and Development
Although telecommunications is widely accepted as a catalyst to economic growth and
an important interactive link within and between societies and groups, it is not universally
regarded as automatically deserving of high priority in the allocation of investment resour-
ces in developing countries. In the Caribbean governments appear to remain sceptical about
how far telecommunications should receive priority attention. But as Leff (1984), Hudson
(1984) and others indicate, the choice is not simply between telecommunications and other
sectors, since telecommunications is not an end in itself. Greater resource allocation to
telecommunications can yield beneficial returns in other sectors of social need, such as
education or transportation, agricultural extension work or in the high foreign exchange
earning sector of tourism.
In the CARICOM region, where the average telephone penetration rate is 12.16 lines
per 100 of population compared with 78.4 in the United States, there remains extensive
scope for network growth and improved service delivery. (See Table 3).
At the same time, the nature of the telecommunications technology and services will
need to be approrpiate to the conditions facing the countries and the region as a whole, and
not just the commercial interests of the supplier or external carrier. According to Girvan,
"the adequacy of the relationship between technology
and development is measured as a function of the
degree of local resource use and economic develop-
ment and the event of local needs satisfaction." [1983:
But whereas with telecommunications in the Caribbean, the cost of indigenous research
and development (R & D) is prohibitive, there is all the more need for explicit technology
policies including the methods and terms for technology transfer.
In addressing this issue, the Commonwealth Working Group on Technological Change
points out that for policies and technologies to be appropriate, they need to fit with the size
and technology base of the economy concerned. "Small states, the islands of the Pacific, the
Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, have a high degree of dependence on imported technol-
ogy. For them, technology policy involves the selection of a small number of high priority
areas for technology development where the acquisition of local competence is crucial,
possible and inexpensive, with a strong emphasis on regional collaboration to spread the
overhead costs of R & D, training and education. Where there is reliance on foreign
technology, small states can develop a capacity for gathering information, forecasting
major technology changes which affect principal export products, selecting appropriate
technology imports, bargaining and absorbing technical knowledge." [1985: 81].
The strategic importance of telecommunications to the Caribbean would recommend it
as a suitable industry for treatment in the latter category (see Dunn 1990, 1991 and CANTO
1989). But the implications for the labour market will also need to be carefully taken into
account. While Computer Based Message Systems (CBMS) and Electronic Funds Transfer
[EFTs] networks, for example, may facilitate the large urban business users such as
multinational banks and major corporations, the effect on job-loss in unemployment-ridden
economies could offset any gains involved.
TELEPHONE PENETRATION RATES IN CARICOM 1990
Trinidad & Tobago
USA AVERAGE (1982)*
Lines/100 of pop
Sources: Compiled from Cable and Wireless Statistics and Interviews,
December 1989-90. AT&T The World's Telephones, 1982
While the infrastructure for these advanced facilities is multiplied in the developed
parts of the region, the very low levels of penetration of the ordinary telephone in rural
areas and in some less developed territories often means exclusion of large sections of the
population from the network or their reliance on the century old telegram service technol-
ogy. The duality of such resource allocation could result in telecommunications undermin-
ing rather than enhancing regional integration and balanced development.
In 1992, Cable and Wireless (West Indies) Limited maintained operations under
franchise from the governments of 15 regional territories. The specific levels of the
company's involvement in different Caribbean countries vary, as set out in Table 4. This
shows that in nine of these territories, Cable and Wireless had a 100% ownership which
was reflected in a monopoly of both domestic and overseas telecom services in these
countries. In five other territories it is the majority shareholder or managing partner, and in
the remaining country, which operates its own local telephone company, Cable and Wire-
less is the monopoly owner of the overseas service.
In addition, the company owns the transmission network linking the territories of the
region, and the main links between the region and the rest of the world. Cable and Wireless
also now holds majority control of the data-processing and teleport facility called Jamaica
Digiport International (JDI), based in Montego Bay, Jamaica and is sole owner of a similar
but small facility in St. Lucia. The company originally held 35% equity in the JDI
consortium, in which the American telecommunications giant AT&T also held 35%.
Telecommunications of Jamaica (TOJ), then a majority-owned government company, held
the remaining 30% of the shares. However, since JDI's establishment in 1988, Cable and
Wireless has secured majority ownership in TOJ, thereby effectively also acquiring
majority control of JDI.
Ironically, the original idea of a high technology data processing and transmission
facility in Jamaica, the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, neither
originated with nor involved Cable and Wireless. The original project involved Teleport
International, a consortium of United States and Japanese companies. These included the
former Continental Telephone Company, now CONTEL; American Satellite Corporation
(ASC), Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, and C. Itoh. The project collapsed in 1988,
however, after an appeal court in the United States overruled a Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) permission for the consortium to use U.S. domestic satellite services
provided by ASC.
According to Demac and Morrison "the Court noted that 1981 State Department
guidelines for international use of U.S. domsats established two criteria for authorising
These were that the INTELSAT system be unable to provide the services at issue; or
that use of the INTELSAT system would be 'clearly uneconomical or impractical'. It held
that the FCC decision had not adequately met these criteria." [Demac and Morrison 1989:
C&W CARIBBEAN OWNERSHIP OF TELECOMS
Percentage of C&W Ownership in
Country Local Tel.Co Overseas Carrier
Anguilla 100 100
Antigua 0 100
Barbados 60 65
Bermuda 100 100
Br. Virgin Is. 100 100
Cayman Is. 100 100
Dominica 100 100
Grenada 49* 49*
Jamaica 79* 79*
Montserrat 100 100
St. Kitts 80* 80*
St. Lucia 100 100
St. Vincent 100 100
Trinidad & Tobago 49 49
Turks Is. 100 100
Sources: Compiled from Interviews: Nov-Jan 1989-90 and Company Records, Companies
House 1990. Single merged company.
Before the Teleport crisis flowing from this ruling emerged, however, Cable and
Wireless began to take its own defensive action to secure an independent presence in the
potentially lucrative data-processing business in a region where the company otherwise
dominated. In late 1988, Cable and Wireless opened its own teleport facility in St. Lucia,
"in advance of the overall transmission plan" [Cable and Wireless 1989: 6]. However, the
collapse of the Teleport project opened the way for Cable and Wireless involvement in the
Montego Bay facility, in a new consortium with TOJ and AT&T.
This situation has left Cable and Wireless with control not only of the traditional voice
telephony of the region but also over the data transmission business. Competition from
teleport facilities in the Dominican republic and the Dutch Antilles for the processing of
coupons and directories, for reservation and telemarketing services, computer aided map-
ping (CAD), programming and text editing from the U.S. market will determine the rate of
growth of the Cable and Wireless controlled data facilities in both Montego Bay and
The Transmission Network
The chain of islands in the Eastern Caribbean are linked by a Cable and Wireless-owned
Digital Eastern Caribbean Microwave System (DECOMS) spanning 1200 kilometres from
the British Virgin Islands in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south. This modern
digital system has an ultimate capacity of the equivalent of 10,000 voice channels. The new
system was completed in April 1989, and replaced the initial analogue microwave radio
system introduced in 1977. The old system carried 960 voice channels and also provided
the Eastern Caribbean with the broadband capacity to receive international television
transmissions. The microwave relay was itself preceded by a tropospheric scatter system
capable of providing some 80 voice circuits. Throughout these successive changes, the
technology, equipment and routes had remained in the same ownership, that of Cable and
Wireless, and its antecedent British companies since 1877, when the West India and
Panama Telegraph Company was first launched.
The telecommunication traffic into and out of the modern Caribbean now proceeds by
way of at least three routes. The northern end of the Digital Eastern Caribbean Microwave
System (DECMS) in Tortola joins the Bermuda-Tortola Fibre Optic Cable to Bermuda. At
Bermuda, linkage to both North America and Europe is effected through the recently-built
Private TransAtlantic Telecommunications Systems, Inc. (PTAT), owned by Cable and
Wireless and operated by its U.K. subsidiary Mercury. This route via Bermuda and North
America to Europe was initially charted to the now obsolete low capacity submarine cables
of the colonially inspired Atlantic Telegraph company and the West Indian and Panama
An alternative cable routing out of the region is via Jamaica, using the predominantly
American engineered Trans Caribbean System (TCS-1). The system's fibre optic cable
extends from Florida in the United States to Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic,
where it branches west to Jamaica and south to Colombia. The network, which was
completed in 1990, represents the first significant modem alternative to the historical
dominance of Cable and Wireless overseas transmission facilities in the region. However it
particularly covers that non English-speaking part of the region which is most closely
associated with United States dominance or corporate priority.
In this regard, as with the initial submarine cables of the British, TCS-1 not only
by-passes but actually circumvents Cuba, which, under the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative
(CBI) classifications, is politically unacceptable. The TCS-1, therefore, perpetuates the
long-standing political criteria for the configuration of Caribbean telecommunications
infrastructure. And by not extending the TCS-1 link into the south eastern Caribbean, the
American policy-makers also appear to be unwilling to challenge the historical and con-
temporary control of Cable and Wireless over the transmission facilities linking the
English- speaking Caribbean to the rest of the world.
The TCS-1 System, as Demac and Morrison suggest, is aimed at providing infra-struc-
tural support for American economic objectives articulated in the Caribbean Basin Initia-
tive (CBI) of 1983. Despite the provision of preferential access to certain US products and
"the CBI has not generated the expected growth in
commercial ventures, partly due to corporate concerns
regarding unreliable and otherwise insufficient chan-
nels in the Caribbean for transmitting voice and data."
[Demac and Morrison 1989:52].
The response to this situation, in the form of TCS-1, bears close parallel with the
objectives which motivated the British, nearly a century and quarter earlier to establish
their communication network in the English-speaking region. It is the dominance of this
older European-oriented telecommunications system which has itself given rise to such
corporate concerns in the United States.
However, the ownership of TCS-1 suggests that a wider range of extra-regional
telecommunications interests are in the vanguard of this new American led investment, and
not the monopoly thrust of the earlier British colonial venture. Among TCS-1 owners are
AT&T, U.S. Sprint, MCI International and its two associated companies RCA Global
Transoceanic and Western Union. At the same time, Cable and Wireless itself, and its
major subsidiaries in the region, (JAMINTEL, TEXTEL and BET), have also secured
minority equity participation in the venture based on the need for interconnectivity between
the networks which they operate and the new TCS-I system.
For the majority of Caribbean governments and PITs, however, the policy procedure
by which TCS-I was established, was, as in the colonial past, externally imposed and
"Little formal attempt was made during the transcarib-
bean cable proceedings (before the FCC-HD) to obtain
information directly from Caribbean agencies, al-
though national telecommunications officials could
have provided valuable data on existing facilities and
on the importance different countries were giving to
telecommunications in the broader scope of national
economic planning." [Demac and Morrison 1989: 54].
Despite increasing American and other challenges, it is clear that Cable and Wireless'
control over the main submarine cable and microwave transmission routes into and out of
the Caribbean remain secure. In addition, the company also dominates in the ownership of
the regional satellite transservicing facilities which form a third means of external telecom-
munications in the region. Satellite earth stations in Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua are part
of the assets of Cable and Wireless subsidiaries, and one in Trinidad is part of an associate
company of which C&W is now the managing partner. With the exception of the purpose-
built teleport facilities, the regional earth stations were built as part of the analogue system,
but are being upgraded for digital transmission. They carry traffic into and out of the region
via the INTELSAT system, in which all the national carriers are investors. But before the
messages reach the national systems they must pass through a satellite receiving network
predominantly owned by Cable and Wireless.
Externally Imposed Policy
As the foregoing sections demonstrates, Caribbean states do not have formal regional
telecommunications policies in operation. Instead, their unstated policy involves individual
reliance on Cable and Wireless for leadership in network planning, investment and
development, in the expectation that what is in the regional and global corporate interest of
the company, will also rebound to the benefit of the Caribbean. Despite the existence of a
Telecommunications Desk in the CARICOM headquarters in guyana, the company was
until recently the sole operating entity with a region-wide scope for strategic planning and
In announcing, for example, a US $200-million investment programme in digital
technology for the Caribbean area, the company stated:
"As the Group operates in so many locations, it has
been possible to co-ordinate centrally all the improve-
ments on a regional basis, so that network flexibility
and compatibility are assured. The digitalization of the
region will lay the groundwork for the introduction of
ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network). By the
time the group (my emphasis) introduces ISDN, the
Caribbean will have leap-frogged a whole epoch in the
evolution of telecommunications technology into the
age of information." [C&W 1988: 1].
This scheme, while well intentioned on the part of the company, had not been subject to
any long-term evaluation of its overall implications for the region. The system configura-
tion was not derived from any regional planning objectives. Its introduction into the region
was not policy-directed, in Caribbean terms, but technology led and integrated only into the
global corporate strategy of the external multinational corporation. As we noted earlier,
similar external economic and geo-political factors also determined in 1989, the introduc-
tion and configuration of the Trans Caribbean (TCS-1) System led by AT&T and other
American, British and Japanese investors. It appears that policy-making and implementa-
tion in modern Caribbean telecommunications, varies little from the previous era when
fulfillment of British strategic and colonial objectives was paramount.
Rates of Return
The setting of rates of return on investment as well as the level of tariffs for telecom-
munications services are also areas in which a vacuum in collective regional planning
permits Cable and Wireless to negotiate separate commercial deals with individual govern-
ments. In the case of Barbados, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of
Telecommunications and Transport, Mr. C.M. Thompson indicates that while applications
for increases in local telephone rates are considered by a Public Utilities Board (PUB), no
such procedure is applied for increases in tariffs charged for external telecommunications.
Overseas rate increases are approved at ministerial level [Thompson, Interview 5/10/89].
This arrangement, subject to no public scrutiny and hence reduced likelihood of controver-
sy, is favoured by the company. Accordingly, Cable and Wireless has managed to negotiate
an extension of this approach to the setting of local rates to the arrangements in their
Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago operations.
Besides demonstrating the power and control of Cable and Wireless in the region, these
arrangements are consistent with our argument that telecommunications policy is often a
secret process, inhibiting public participation and re-inforcing elite control over policy.
Such approaches are likely to increase with the growth of privatization and the attendant
justification of secrecy on the basis of safeguarding corporate information against the
competition. But in the process, important groups affected by these decisions are excluded
from direct input, participation and access to relevant information. The situation of secrecy
and separate negotiations militates against rational collective policy making in the region.
The company's rate of return on its investment is not subject to market conditions, as
privatization would suggest. Nor is it indexed to the movement of costs or specific
economic indicators. Instead, the rate of return is negotiated with individual governments
and the agreed level inserted as a legal guarantee in the overall bi-lateral contractual
arrangements. In its shareholders agreement with the government of Trinidad and Tobago
it is provided that "The company shall be permitted to earn on its Domestic Operations an
annual return of fifteen percent (15%) on the rate base." [Trinidad Guardian, January 19,
1990: 1] This 15%, according to the Agreement will be derived from domestic revenues
after meeting all operating and maintenance expenses, all annual depreciation allowances
and after meeting all taxes other than Trinidad and Tobago Corporation tax. The rate base
itself is calculated on the value of fixed assets less depreciation provisions and a contribu-
tion towards construction costs.
Under the Agreement, the provision on rate of return was required to be converted into
law. The exact wording of the legislation was drafted and included as Schedule 6 of the
Agreement, which issues "Instructions to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel to prepare a Bill
of amend the Trinidad and Tobago Telephone Act." Among the amendments will be
provisions that "the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will be obliged to fix the tariffs
chargeable by the company for its domestic operations at such rates that will result in a 15%
return on the rate base..
In addition, under the agreement "The Chief Par-
liamentary counsel will present the proposed legisla-
tion in draft form to the company and CWWI (Cable
and Wireless West Indies Limited HD) for their
consent prior to presentation to Parliament." [Schedule
6 ofAgreement, quoted in Trinidad Guardian 19-1-90:
The occasion for this apparent dictation of terms to government was the company's
acquisition of 49% of the shares of the Trinidad and Tobago Telephone Company
(TELCO), at a cost of US$85-million. The first installment of US$50-million was to go
directly to government revenues as a repayment for an earlier loan to TELCO. Part of this
was to be paid in U.S. dollars to the account of the Government at the Federal Reserve Bank
of New York. Of the remainder, a sum of US$15-million was also to be paid to the
Government in advance of its due date, in the form of a loan. This deal with Cable and
Wireless was agreed in the wake of a foreign exchange shortage in Trinidad, where part of
the money was urgently required to meet external payments in advance of International
Monetary Fund (IMF) performance evaluations of the Trinidad economy.
In these circumstances, it is difficult to discern policy from economic necessity, but the
Trinidad government maintains that its sale of 49% of the previously wholly government-
owned TELCO was a deliberate shift in policy towards partial divestment. Numerous bids
from foreign investors were considered, but the Cabinet agreed to the sale to Cable and
Wireless as the most suitable applicant. The company's success in gaining a hold on
TELCO was consistent with similar successes in Jamaica and Grenada where it increased
its equity in restructured holding companies which incorporate both the local telephone and
the overseas telecommunications companies.
In Jamaica, moves aimed at a merger between the largely state-owned telephone
company, JATELCO, and the overseas carrier JAMINTEL were initiated "as a result of
negotiations in 1987 between the government and C&W." [Telecommunications of
Jamaica 1988: 6]. At that time, Cable and Wireless had a 49% stake in Jamintel and no
equity participation in the larger JATELLO. The negotiations concluded in July 1987 with
the formation of Telecommunications of Jamaica Limited (TOJ), in which government
retained 53.1%. Cable and Wireless obtained a 39% equity holding in the merged company,
thereby extending its investment beyond the overseas operating company and into the local
telephone service. The remaining 7.9% of TOJ shares were owned by employees and
members of the public. A legally guaranteed rate of return was also fixed, but at the higher
level of "between 17 and 20 percent" of the rate base. [Interview, Noel Rickards, President,
Jamaica Telephone Company, 26/10/90.]
In 1989, government sold a further 20% of its holding in TOJ to Cable and Wireless, as
a result of which the company became the majority shareholder with 59% of the TOJ
equity. This decision by the Jamaican government restored to the British multinational firm
both legal and operational control of the region's largest telecommunications network, and
over one of the largest companies in the English-speaking Caribbean. In an attempt to
establish the basis of this equity transfer, I asked the Jamaican Minister of Telecommunica-
tions and Transport what factors accounted for the government's decision. The following
was his reply:
"I think it was moreso economic. It had to do with
foreign exchange constraints and of course the whole
question of these companies being on the budget. The
IMF watches these things very zealously. However, if
the company is owned 51% otherwise than govern-
ment, it is not regarded as a government entity, al-
though you could wield some amount of influence in
terms of policy and other things. That was a considera-
tion. So I think it was a mixture of economics and
policy. Policy in the sense that you are trying to give
yourself more room to do what you want to do, without
being a burden on the budget, or without having to
answer too many questions to the IMF." [Interview
with Mr. Robert Pickersgill 26/10/89].
The Minister's frank explanation of the major factors then motivating Jamaica's
telecommunications decisions, makes it clear that external pressure from western multi-
lateral lending agencies such as the IMF wasthe decisive influences on policy. And, in line
with similar developments in Trinidad and Tobago, it also appears clear that foreign
exchange deficiencies derived from the dependent character of regional economies, help to
create the conditions for this external control. Indeed, within a year of gaining its majority
control of TOJ, the company acquired the remaining 20% of the shares held by govern-
ment, thereby controlling an overwhelming 79% of the merged company by January 1990.
These contemporary developments support our contention that the dominating in-
fluence of the British imperial state on Caribbean telecommunications policies during
colonialism, are now effectively being substituted by the equally dominant external in-
fluence of western lending agencies like the IMF. They also support our argument that now,
as then, the leading beneficiary of such policies is the foreign multinational company,
Cable and Wireless.
Among the extra-regional factors contributing to this was the historical allocation of the
region's telecoms to British hegemony and its control over the cable routes and legal
entitlements. In addition, the apparent reluctance of other external operators to directly
challenge this dominance may be rooted in concerns about market size and geographical
complexity. Inside of the region itself, the company has built up substantial loyalties which
flow from over 120 years of continuous association with the region.
Besides also benefitting from the factors of internal foreign exchange shortage, debt and
IMF economic hegemony, the resurgence of Cable and Wireless control of the regional
telecommunications industry can also be accounted for by its control over the technology.
The company's Regional Marketing Manager for the Bermuda and Caribbean area, A.E.
Fyfe, speaking in 1989, pointed to the pattern of technological growth experienced by the
"Cable & Wireless has been in the Caribbean for 120
years. During the first 80 years there was only one
service (Telegrams). Here we are after all that time
with only three or four basic services (Telegrams,
Telex, Telephony & Data). The next couple of years
will see us mov into some ten services, albeit some are
(adaptations of) the old services. [Fyfe, in Trincom
In the period when the telecommunications technology was mature and familiar, na-
tional Post and Telegraph administrations in the larger territories were able to acquire and
easily manage their networks, with only a contracted involvement by Cable and Wireless
"The history of this period has been that, as emergent
countries have reached a particular stage in their
development and have acquired the necessary techni-
cal and financial resources to do so, they have pur-
chased the company's assets and taken over the
operation of their own telecommunications services.
In some cases the company has retained an interest as
minority shareholder in joint companies formed with
the governments concerned, which may continue for
several years. Today the geographical spread of the
company's activities is much reduced" [Selected Com-
mittee Report, C&W, 1976: xiii].
As Fyfe noted, however, the 1980s saw rapid technological changes which multiplied
the range of services and the very scope of telecommunications management. In addition to
traditional services, Cable and Wireless was able to take advantage of advances in micro-
electronics, digitalization and new services. These include regional voice mail, package
switched data services, charging calls to credit cards, regional toll free calling, cardphones,
information access and resale, cellular radio and paging services, among others. The
government-owned operating companies were individually unable to keep up with either
the technology or the investment costs involved in these innovations.
Regional policy-makers were nonetheless, unwilling to forego this new technological
phase, but were equally unable, for a lack of the required technical evaluative institutions,
to assess what elements of the new technologies were relevant to the basic requirements for
regional development. In this situation, and faced with IMF pressures and mounting fiscal
and foreign exchange difficulties, the governments of the MDCs opted, to varying degrees,
to release their equity control over the state-owned or partially nationalised operating
companies. The response of the Jamaican Telecommunications Minister reflects this resig-
nation, and is not untypical of policy-makers elsewhere in the region:
"Cable and Wireless, as you know, are all over the
Caribbean and it's a company of world renown...They
deal in the technology and as such are advantageous. I
don't want to come across as promoting Cable and
Wireless, but really, telecommunications moves at
such a rate. I mean, today you think you have made
strides, tomorrow it's obsolete. "[Pickersgill, Inter-
The evidence further suggests that, faced with this situation, individual national govern-
ments in the region were severely constrained in their ability to achieve policy self-deter-
mination in this sector. Although Trinidad and Tobago had by 1990 conceded only 49% of
both local and overseas service companies to Cable and Wireless, the shareholders agree-
ment granted executive management and financial control to the minority partner. Even
more markedly, the company enjoys a 100% monopoly in most of the Eastern Caribbean
LDC territories. And, in Jamaica, although the Minister points out that
"we have representatives on the Board, plus the Chair-
man, who has to be a Jamaican"
,He admits that this offers a minimal level of real input:
"We have a sufficient amount of...I don't want to say
influence, but a certain amount of connection, and
would know what is happening. But apart from that, in
the final analysis, the government deals with the
licence. And we have found that our views are treated
with great courtesy and with respect and that's really
all we ask."
While supporting, in principle, the use of telecommunications for national develop-
ment, therefore, many Caribbean authorities were unable to retain the technical capacity
and bureaucratic infrastructure to give effect to their aspirations or to exercise real control.
The privately-owned multinational structure in the region's telecommunications system
limits the flexibility and scope for development-oriented and locally derived policies. This
is especially the case while the constituent territories of the Caribbean remain un-coor-
dinated in policy planning and bargaining with the major external interests. It was not until
1988/89 that the CARICOM governments officially recognized and accepted that the
consequence of their continued fragmentation was an increasing marginalization within
their own domain. An emboldened Cable and Wireless was reported to be making it clear
that unless it had majority or operational control, it would not be willing to continue its
programme of investment in the region. [Interview, C.M.Thompson, Barbados 5/10/89]
With the assistance of the CARICOM Secretariat, a draft agreement for the estab-
lishment of a regional telecommunication organization was circulated in March 1988, but
was only ratified by ministers responsible for telecommunications in 1989. The organiza-
tion, named the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), began operation from
permanent offices in Trinidad in 1990. The preamble of its charter recognizes "the
sovereign right of each state to regulate its telecommunication system", "the growing
importance of telecommunications for the social and economic development of all states",
and "the need to foster international co-operation and economic and social development
among peoples by means of efficient telecommunication services."
It would appear, however, that the CTU by itself and as currently structured, is unlikely
to provide an adequate long term response to the challenges facing Caribbean telecom-
munications. Both its limited staffing and financing are inconsistent with its wide ranging
remit and objectives. It is proving already to be severely constrained by inadequate
resources. The extensive scale of foreign control over the transmission systems and operat-
ing companies in the region's telecommunications sector requires a stronger and more well
resource regional regulatory and co-ordinative institution.
Our study has shown that despite verbal acknowledgement by governments of the
importance of telecommunications in the process of Caribbean Development, it continues
to receive low governmental and intergovernmental priority in relation to other social and
economic sectors. The severely limited resources allocated for the establishment and
running of the CTU is an example of this approach.
In addition, a number of regional projects aimed at harnessing the advantages of
telecommunications for enhanced Caribbean interaction, education and development have
encountered similar severe financial constraints. The University Distance Teaching Ex-
periment (UWIDITE), the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) and the CARIBVISION
Television Programmes Exchange Project all have in common both a heavy reliance on
telecommunications as well as difficulties of adequate regional resourcing. Projects in-
come-generating remit of the private multinational regional carrier, Cable and Wireless, a
fact which underlines an important disadvantage of such dominant private external control
of the regional operating companies and the transmission network.
Divestment of government's majority equity interest in the national operating company
in Jamaica, the granting of additional equity and management control in Trinidad &
Tobago and increased holdings in St. Lucia and Grenada have all recently contributed to
the strengthening of the monoploy position of Cable and Wireless in the Caribbean region.
Telecommunications liberalization programmes in the United States, as well as in Britain
and Japan created new space for multinational corporations operating in the Third World to
renew their drive for take-over of state telecommunications enterprises which were
nationalised in the immediate aftermath of political de-colonization.
The countries of the global south, including those in the Caribbean should also have
used this opportunity of global restructuring of the telecoms sector to review existing
monopoly arrangements and to broaden their range of international partners. The resulting
increased competition and strengthened regulatory regimes would enhance the scope for
the pursuit of specified development goals for the sector. Instead, the global re-structuring
has been to the greater advantage of such monoploy operators as Cable and Wireless in the
The course of events in the last five years represents a significant reversal of gains made
earlier. During the first two decades of political independence in the Caribbean, the
governments of the more developed territories, in response to the pressure of popular
expectation, began to strengthen regional control over national resources. These measures
included majority takeover of foreign-owned telecommunications systems, which meant
state and local private sector acquisition of a part of the monoploy shareholdings of Cable
The company was entirely nationalised in Guyana, and in Jamaica, Barbados and
Trinidad, equity acquisitions in the profitable overseas networks ranged from 40% in
Barbados to 51% in Trinidad and in Jamaica, where regulatory provisions were made for a
programmed increase in national ownership. Such acquisitions and provisions were
feasible propositions in the early 1970s when the basic technology of telecommunications
was still a relatively stable body of knowledge which could be easily acquired and
It is these initiatives which have encountered major reversals over the last few years, as
dramatised in the case of Jamaica, where Cable and Wireless moved from a shareholding in
TOJ of 9% in the period before 1987 to 79% share-holding the region's largest telecom-
munications company in 1993.
We have outlined a similar set of circumstances in Trinidad and Tobago, where, in a
single negotiation in 1989, 49% of thewholly owned government telephone company was
transferred to Cable and Wireless to complement a similar shareholding already held by
the British company in the overseas carrier. Management and financial control to the
loss-making local TELCO was also conceded, in the face of mounting national debt,
foreign exchange shortage, and pressures for divestment from the International Monetary
This pattern is consistent with the analysis by Petras and Brill . They argue that
intervention by the Fund and its accompanying incentives and constraints have altered the
economic behaviour of social actors in favour of local and international finance capital at
the expense of the local productive classes.
"As an integral part of Western capitalism, the IMF
has contributed toward re-structuring Third World
economies, opening them to exports and flows of capi-
tal in periods of world expansion; extraction and trans-
fer of surplus from the Third World to the West in
times of declining income and worldwide economic
contraction. "[Petras and Brill 1986: 425].
It was clear that in both the Jamaican and Trinidadian cases, the policies of the western
multilateral lending agencies, in particular the IMF and the World Bank, have imposed loan
agreements tied to programmes of divestment and privitization.We conclude that in Carib-
bean telecommunications, these policies have favoured existing foreign interests, par-
ticularly Cable and Wireless with its long record of involvement in the region. The
facilitative function which was historically performed by Britain in the era of colonialism
is regarded in our analysis as being taken over in the modern period by these westernmul-
tilateral agencies, in their mediating role on behalf of private capital between the centre and
"The IMF does not act independently, nor does its
symbolic representation as an international body sig-
nify anything less than a political economic instrument
for Western capital. The IMF is a significant actor, but
its effectiveness is based on the economic interests it
represents and its capacity to fashion a policy which
effectively defends those interests. "[Petras and Brill
In Caribbean telecommunications, the IMF and its counterpart, the World Bank, have
performed exactly this role in the interest of foreign capital.
However, in addition to the pervasive consequences of such modern as well as more
traditional forms of imperialism, we argue that a series of internal factors have also
contributed to the situation of increasing external dominance over the region's telecom-
munications structures and policies. These factors include the absence of an adequately
staffed regional institution for the co-ordination of telecommunications policy planning.
Such institutional forms of regional co-operation and self reliance in telecommunications
could have served to collectively mitigate some of the more unacceptable demands of the
international capitalist system. The absence of established national and regional policies
has contributed to pragmatic decisions which are uninformed by multi-sectoral analyses of
the benefits and costs of telecommunications in Caribbean development, and of the need to
retain national control while regulating the flow of foreign direct investment in the sector.
In addition, limited appreciation of the relevant technical and industry issues by both
the wider public and the elected political leadership contributes to a strengthening of the
local bureaucratic elites and the mostly expatriate technical personnel on whom govern-
ments rely for policy-making. The situation is compounded by an absence of a sufficient
number of local personnel with the authority and expertise for bargaining in the areas of
international technology transfer, equipment acquisition and trade in services. In addition,
the failure to re-examine and revise out-dated regulatory policies and institutions, also
number among the internal issues having a critical bearing on the regional telecommunica-
tions policy environment.
The corporate beneficiary of these internal deficiencies in planning, negotiation and
policy regulation, as well as of the external policy imposition has, once again, been Cable
and Wireless, which profited from similar circumstances during the era of colonialism.
During the last decade, increasing investment focus by American strategic planners
associated with the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) has encouraged competition from
leading U.S. communications multinationals in the form of alternative transmission links
such as the Trans Caribbean (TCS 1) fibre optic cable into and out of the region. In addition,
British Telecom International (BTI) has begun to take an active interest in the region,
wrestling away from Cable and Wireless its age-old monopoly in Belize in 1988 and
contesting, though unsuccessfully, Cable and Wireless' franchise in Trinidad and Tobago
These recent developments could represent important threats to the protracted monopo-
ly control by Cable and Wireless over the region's telecommunications. But, such interven-
tions and impending actions, while holding out the prospect of increased diversity within
the region, would be nonetheless, a quantitative increase in external control. Without a
regionally-based common strategy for the incorporation of telecommunications in Carib-
bean development planning, such initiatives could further enmesh the region in a wider net
Amir, Samir Imperialism and Unequal Development, Harvester Press, Sussex England, 1977.
Barty-King, Hugh Girdle Round the Earth The Story of Cable and Wireless, London, 1979.
Budhoo, Davidson L. Enough is Enough New Horizon Press, New York, 1990.
Cable and Wireless PLC Communications for the Caribbean, London, 1988.
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Port of Spain, Trinidad, (mimeo), 1987.
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Proceedings, CANTO, Dominican Republic, 1989.
Cardoso, F.H. and Faletto E. Dependency and Development in Latin America, University of
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Caribbean Telecommunications Union Draft Agreement for the Establishment of the CTU,
mimeo, Georgetown, Guyana, 1988.
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a Commonwealth Working Group, Commonwealth Secretariat, London, 1985.
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Commonwealth Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana, 1988.
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Strides in Development Telecommunications Policy, March, 1989, pp.51-59
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London, February, 1990, pp28-30
Dunn, H.S. Monopoly or Competition in Communications: The Case of the Caribbean -Intermedia
Vol 19 No 1,Jan-Feb IIC, London, 1991, pp. 29-32.
Fifth Report from the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries Session 1975-76: Cable and
Wireless Limited, HMSO, London, 1976.
Frobel, Folker Perspectives on the International Division of Labour In: The Future of the Carib-
bean in the World System: Two Contributions FES/UWI, Kingston 1988, pp. 47-67.
Galtung, Johan A Structural Theory of Imperialism In: Smith, M; Little, R. and Shackleton, M. -
Perspectives on World Development, Croom Helm, London, 1981, pp. 301-303.
Girvan, Norman Technology Policiesfor Small Developing Economies UWI-ISER, Kingston,
Girvan, Norman The Debt Problem of Small Peripheral Economies Association of Caribbean
Economists (ACE), Kingston, 1989.
Hills, Jill The Telecommunications Rich and Poor Third World Quarterly, Vol 12 No. 2, April
1990, pp. 71-90.
Hudson, H.E. When Telephones Reach the Village: The Role of Telecommunications in Rural
Development, Norwood, Ablex, 1984.
International Commission for Worldwide Telecommunications Development (ICWTD, Maitland
Commission), ITU, Geneva, 1985.
Leff, Nathaniel Social Benefit Cost Analysis and Telecommunications Investment in Developing
Countries Information Economics and Policy Vol 1, 1984, pp. 217-227.
Trincom 89 Caribbean Media and Telecommunications in the Information Age January 1989,
Inprint Caribbean Limited, Trinidad, 1989.
World Bank Caribbean Region: Current Economic Situation 1992 World Bank, Washington,
AN APPROACH TO A PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS
METHODOLOGY FOR AGRICULTURE
Lessons from the Caribbean Experience
1. What can we learn and apply from theories of modern communications?
2. What are the challenges of the current media? What are the structures of the media?
What are the resources for Agriculture Communications? What are the constraints and
3. What are the cultural variables in our environment which may enrich our approach to
develop an effective public communications methodology for agriculture? Are there
suggestions for further communications innovation?
I should like tQ recall from yesterday's experience in the Seminar some key elements,
which I think have enriched my own understanding of what I could present today. The first
comment came from the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, when he asked whether there
was 'information' coming from the media, but not necessarily 'communication'. The
important challenge that comes through to us from that is that there is a clear disjuncture.
We were getting things to affect our cognition, but not things to affect our behaviour. It
seems to be a theme that we need to grapple with, if we want to talk about media whatever
that may be defined as doing something about agricultural transformation.
Earlier on, Dr. Wallace raised for us an interesting question what picture are we
getting, or what picture would we like to see? By the end of today's discussion, we need to
ask a further question who are the 'we' in this?
A third theme came from Professor Spence, when he talked about the absence of a
farmers' lobby to come to centre stage and therefore inform the media and, in a sense, to
assist public opinion by including the points of view of the farmers. We need to ask a
further question that is implicit in that comment from Professor Spence What is that media
process in which we may situate the farmers as an interest group?
Lastly, Mr. Estefanell pointed to the haunting spectre of something bandied about in the
literature as the 'global village' through media. It is true that the studies are showing that
there are certain kinds of homogeneity in news that we all receive, that perhaps our hours
of relaxation and the working day seem to be standardized across the world. More recent
studies are showing that the generalities of the global village are true, but the specifics are
different. In fact, there was a very recent study, Alvin Toffler's "Power Shift", that points
to an under-class developing, for example, in the United States. A parallel television study
on the global village concept showed sports being very popular all over the world; the
Soviets were watching European football; the Caribbeans were watching basketball from
the United States. I think that we have to somehow look at the specifics within the global
Applying Modern Communications Theory
Having said that, I should like to go back to the theme of the three questions we posed.
Firstly, we need to face up to the theoretical problem. Communications, as a discipline,
certainly in the Caribbean and certainly around the world, has been new in terms of
generating its own ideas as to what is possible and where change can be had, through the
format of what we call communications media. In fact, that area has borrowed from several
other disciplines. It is remarkable that it was in agriculture and through a lot of work done
by people like Everett Rogers, showing how we can effect change in farmers' practice that
has informed much of modern communications theory about behavioral change.
One of the key things that Mr. Rogers himself has recently reversed is very much of the
theory we have been accepting as the diffusion of innovations. The critical point he makes
is that there is a process by which we create awareness, and can have, by trial and error,
some successes. But it's a process that omits a number of people from participating because
they are 'resident' to change; for many years in the literature, especially in the developing
world, they were considered cultural residues or 'laggards'. We now know in the Third
World that that's an impossible condition. Development is a long term, sustained struggle,
over which people with different kinds of background have to grow to accept consensus. In
other words, we have to review our own notions of what shapes public opinion.
Therefore, the one-shot approach of the information media cannot meet the complete
challenge of addressing the long-term, sustained transformation of people's attitudes. The
second thing we have learnt, more recenlty from the literature, is that campaign theory -
where we believe we can intervene with a blitz of media may have some very useful
elements. But they, too, do not sustain an entire approach of looking at what brings people
from different backgrounds and different cultural habits to share a certain kind of consen-
sus. Essentially, I am making two points that we can benefit from other literature around
us, that an approach to communications in agriculture, as anywhere else, has to be long
term and sustained, with clear target groups, and has to be rooted in certain cultural
How can we have the agriculture sector transformed? Implicit in that is that the subject
matter itself is a structure that has to be changed. What follows as a consequence is that we
are really saying that people's relationship to that structure has to change. It is from that
point of view that their behaviour itself this is what we are talking about in communica-
tions is in need of change. That's the diagram here: (Diagram I)
PUBLIC OPINION OF AGRICULTURE
SECTOR SUBJECT MATTER
Agriculture Transformation Structure
MEDIA PEOPLE'S BEHAVIOUR/RELATIONS
TARGET GROUPS PUBLIC OPINION OF AGRICULTURE
Formal and non-formal
Implied Agriculture Structure Change
implications for people's relations and behaviour
1. Media one of the ingredients
2. Other Formal Institutions impacting
3. Long-term public communications sustained
public information limited
Campaign time-fixed and interventionist
some elements useful.
There is a big gap there. We are saying that the media is shaping public opinion will do
all of that; you can see the gaps in it. What we can see from the literature is that media are
merely part of the picture which would modify the set of behaviours for the new structure.
The whole range of key target groups we called it very abstractly the whole agricultural
chain the consumers, the farmers, the youth and the leaders. There is a whole set of other
institutions whose jobs will be to impact on the new set of behaviours. The suggestion is
that perhaps we are a little improper in simply saying there is a role for the media, an all-
pervasive role to impact on this structural change for agriculture.
There is a whole range of other things we need to look at, and essentially that's what the
diagram is saying. I've added one other dimension here which I think we need to explore -
what are those cultural experiences? If we can develop them from the Caribbean, not
necessarily from one country, perhaps we may get a more global picture of what goes into
that mix of public communications as a method for engaging people in transforming
themselves, towards whatever structure we need to put in place.
From a point of view of media, we have been looking at formal techniques that we have
known: face to face and interpersonal forms, formatted information of the mass media or
we can combine them in a programme in order to impact on people. We can use official
information and other kinds of information from 'helping' institutions that are formal and
non-formal. We make an assumption that these will be the mix to have this great impact for
agriculture. My submission is that perhaps those things need to be infused with another
dimension, drawing on a certain kind of experience or reality within which we might situate
them. In other words, there is a tendency to describe media infrastructure as an assumed
process of communication and to say that people are engaged in a process, in which
institutions and structures might play a part. Therefore media structure is a necessary, but
not a sufficient, condition for the transformation. (Diagram II)
ELEMENTS OF PUBLIC BEHAVIOUR
1. Face to Face
3. Formatted Information/Mass Media
Combination of 1-3
Work of Other Institutions Formal and Non-Formal
"Laggards" or different development
Education & Information functions to combine
Cultural variables at base for people changes
Techniques of media process other than mass
The second point I wish to make, by way of introduction, is that the Caribbean has had
a relatively short history with any kind of social engineering using mass communication or
media. There are very few experiences for us to draw on. From my own memory, there are
really two key ones that have been useful and well-documented. One is the early 1970s,
when the Bahamas wanted to promote tourism as one of the main planks of its economy. It
put in place a whole range of infrastructure, from telephone lines to lines with the banking
system abroad. The Government initiated a tremendous amount of programming with the
media and with people on the ground in order to transform attitudes towards the tourist. The
message was that the tourist is somebody who comes here and supports your taxi, and
therefore supports the family income. This media effort went on for about tow or three
years. That is one area of successful social engineering, using the media for a structural
The other was Trinidad and Tobago, pioneering long before we had talked about
environment as a global issue to be addressed in the early 70s Solid Waste Disposal and
coming up ingeniously with some cultural ideas for engineering social change and correct
attitudes towards the environment. We'll come back to that as a specific example. But the
point I am making is that we are fairly new in the game. Therefore, we cannot be too
complete in any discussion, saying this is the way forward.
Media Structures in the Caribbean
Let us, first of all, describe the formal structures of media in the Caribbean and see
whether in fact there are any cues from those things that have gone wrong, things that are
going right and see where they fit in with this subject of agriculture (Diagram III).
PRINT MEDIA STRUCTURE
2 St. Lucia
2 St. Vincent
1 Antigua X
Use of Partisan,
weeklies "specific" issues
Newspapers Best mix of formal information
Photographic images of agriculture,
That's something like the print media structure. In these so- called MDCs or big
countries Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, the Bahamas and Guyana we have formal
national newspapers, and they virtually come out daily, in some cases two, in some cases
one. In the smaller countries of the Caribbean what we call the LDCs which would be
Belize and all the others in the Eastern Caribbean we tend not to have daily newspapers.
so if we are thinking about a message that would be on agriculture, and we are thinking
about the use of newspapers, it's a different focus between the two 'parts' of the Caribbean.
What is an interesting phenomenon in the LDCs is that the weekly newspapers one
particularly in Belize, two in Saint Lucia, one in Grenada, two in St. Vincent, one particular
in Antigua and Montserrat are broadening their own interests and coverage to look at more
national issues. Even though they are 'weeklies' they are really becoming national in scope.
That's separate now from the partisan 'weeklies', which either come from political parties
or trade unions which might be important focal points when the issue is specific, like a
problem of agro processing and the question of, say, health might be important for them.
But we are mis-focusing an agricultural project to look at one of the 'weeklies', say, in
St. Kitts, which really comes out of a political party. So it seems that when we are talking
about using the formal print media in the Caribbean for the LDC's, we have to talk about
the broader 'weeklies' that are available and, clearly, we have a lot of coverage from
national 'weeklies' here. In fairness to the 'dailies' in the five countries mentioned here, we
should say that they do a lot of formal coverage in terms of editorial content, pure columns,
good photography, good interaction with the farming community and consumers. They do
a fair spread on it. Of course, we have to ask a question Is that enough? Or why is it that
that doesn't seem to be making the big difference?
Regionally, there are some areas that we can utilize, and this is not well done. Once a
month, the 'Caribbean Contact' comes out. I think these days things are bad. it is heavily
under-utilized in terms of a focus on agriculture, unless it is something on Haiti or
something like that. And that's a little weakness on our part. The 'EC News', defunct for a
couple months, has an important news function. It sells all over the Eastern Caribbean, and
is certainly not utilised at all to talk about agriculture.
CANA Wire becomes a service that we use insufficiently, but we use. It feeds in
through the computer links to all the newspapers in the Region. 'Caribbean Business'
which comes out of Puerto Rico is certainly not used at all; so there are a couple things
happening in the formal print structure that can give us a little more visibility, but they are
certainly not done.
If we look at the structure of radio in the CARICOM Member States (Diagram IV), we
see a very sharp difference. Virtually, in all the countries, government has controlled the
electronic media. This has to do with the post-war instruments like radio and TV in their
hands. Governments virtually control in some way the electronic media, and certainly radio
in virtually all the Caribbean countries. That means that there is the possibility of allocating
time on each one of these stations for a focus on agriculture. It works well in some
countries. It doesn't work completely.
RADIO MEDIA STRUCTURE
MDCs X All J'ca
LDCs X All T&T
- Bds All
Antigua St. L
- Bds Miami
NOTE: Call-In Programmes
LDC Listenership 1:3
MDC Listenership 1:4
Call-In Programmes telephone
A second point is very interesting. In recent times, two countries have undergone a
process of widening participation in the electronic media Jamaica and Trinidad and
Tobago by granting licences. That means that there is participation, wider than the
Government, and it's raising a haunting question we'll come back to. Perhaps, we need to
do a little more home work on who are the persons really getting these licences? There is a
world picture that finds a parallel in the Caribbean. There are monopolies and con-
glomerates in business albeit local who are linked outside as well, and may be the ones
who are sharing these licences.
Therefore we have to face a question down the road: if it is that we didn't get too much
success or visibility in the Government- controlled media to talk about agriculture, shall we
get it, if a certain interest group which has a view of agriculture now controls this new
participatory model? It's a question we'll have to look at in the Caribbean.
The FM stations are interesting. In every country of the Caribbean, FM is available on
all national stations and sometimes solely. That has a lot to do with the terrain of the
Caribbean countries mountainous, using boosters across places. The key possibility in that
is that we can impact on the agricultural problems of the geographical locale. FM is a very
under-utilised facility for radio around the Caribbean.
Regionally, we can see two stations standing out: one from within the Caribbean,
Barbados. The Voice of Barbados does virtually daily coverage of regional news. It is
perhaps the single station that focuses heavily around the Caribbean on news. It has also a
very powerful transmitter that gets up to the Eastern Caribbean. Our own evidence has not
shown that there has been any agricultural focus on that station. ZDK in Antigua is a
privately-owned station. What is very interesting is that it's the only station in the Carib-
bean which pulls in a 60-minute news cast daily, a whole range of world news from,
especially countries of the South, all of the Caribbean, including CANA. It does not focus
on anything like regional agriculture. So we have some untapped radio facilities around us.
CANA Radio, heavily used, is centred in Barbados, from which it feeds out a daily service
to everyone in the Region. The CBU, again by bicycling its tapes around, gets some stuff
out on radio. Radio Antilles will soon be back. It has the most powerful transmitter in the
heights of Montserrat, and it does have in fact the most important reach, at the best listening
hour for people six o'clock in the afternoon around the Eastern Caribbean. That's an
But we have to watch another factor in the Caribbean. That's the external linkages for
radio. The BBC not only has powerful relays around the Caribbean but there is also a
special Caribbean Report done by expert Caribbean radio broadcasters, who operate out of
the UK. That's an important focal point to penetrate, in terms of feeding back to ourselves
news and issues on agriculture. RCI, which is a Martinique-based station, operates from
Saint Lucia. The transmitter is powerful, and it does get around to four or five countries in
the part of the Caribbean. That's another under-utilised facility. There is the RCI Canada,
which takes in the issues of the migrant cultures there, particularly West Indian, and it is
relayed to about four or five countries in parts of the Caribbean. That's one place that we
can feed stuff out to.
Voice of America focuses very heavily through its transmitters in Puerto Rico and
Antigua as a relay station, on short wave to the Caribbean, virtually every evening. It covers
heavily foreign policy matters impacting on the Caribbean. Radio Deutscheweller, out of
West Germany, is linked with Radio Antilles and has some ten hours of broadcast per week
- heavily under-utilised in terms of what we can get out of it.
There are some other things about radio that we should focus on:
1. The listenership pattern in the LDCs is much higher than in the MDCs: About one
in every three persons would listen to audio in any of the OECS countries, and one in four
in the MDCs. This tells us it is possible to regionalise agricultural messages by radio rather
than, say, the print media.
2. There is the possibility therefore to extend more regional coverage and program-
ming though radio for the LDCs, as against the print area in the MDCs. By the way,
advertising costs are also higher it he MDCs.
3. The third thing that's interesting is that with the rise in telephone penetration and
arrangements for increased infrastructure through the Caribbean, we now have the greater
possibility of call-in programmes all over the region. That's one focal point for dealing with
Very similar to radio, television is Government-controlled in all the MDCs (Diagram B)
and all of the LDCs, except Montserrat, which has no television in that sense. But there are
two other important phenomena in the Caribbean. Without being rude, since most of our
television stations are reduced to being transmitters, with little capital and therefore little
capability of producing low cost programmes, it is people who are outside of the system,
many of them ex-television programmers, who are doing the production; they are now
called independent production houses. They feed, in fact, the stations with most of the local
content except the news programmes. Such persons are very strong in Trinidad, Jamaica,
Barbados, Saint Lucia and Belize. So it seems that we have two alternatives for using TV
in the Caribbean: the people who do the production work outside of the formal structure,
and access to the government network to give some allocation for agriculture by way of the
The fourth point is the regional CBU news system, that uses a satellite switch linked
from Trinidad to the countries with the uplink stations that is, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados
and Curacao (which is outside our system). But that's very limited, because most of our
countries merely have the TVRO that's the one way receive-transmission only. CBU
features in fact are then bicycled to them on a forthnightly basis by airplane. So that's the
modality for television.
What is interesting is in the other things happening in television in the Region, especial-
ly in the LDCs. There, we don't have the earth stations; it is Cable TV that is really taking
over. But it's raising a question there what is the potential of using Cable TV, piped from
somewhere else, linked to satellite transponders, especially from the United States, entering
the Caribbean? Is there not a possibility, since they all have local operators in each one of
these countries to locate a point to enter the homes or households of our people?
TELEVISION MEDIA STRUCTURE
MDCs: Trinidad & Tobago,
Trinidad & Tobago,
CBU News (Sattellite)
NOTE: Cable Channels especially in LDCs and
Guyana Satellite Dishes in MDCs (except Guyana)
Areas of Weakness Overall:
Syndicated Agriculture News Service
Role of Foreign Correspondents
Telephone & Computer data links IPS for South-
A second issue arising is that there is enough media material around on agriculture and
enough room therefore for an employment opportunity. Perhaps a syndicated news service
- either coming through an agency like the IICA vehicle or a group of journalists themsel-
ves can bring together that area of specilisation and special focus, which can then be
regionalised and marketed, and therefore can provide income.
The third area is the change in foreign correspondents. Many years ago we'd hear about
Messrs. Cronkite and Rather. A foreign correspondent was really somebody 'foreign', who
would tell us from outside what is happening. But if you listen to the news or look at the
relays or stuff out of the Caribbean, the foreign correspondent is now a well-trained
Caribbean broadcaster, who is feeding the stuff outside. It seems there is a whole area of
opportunity for bringing in the foreign correspondents and grooming them and virtually
feeding them on a regular basis a Caribbean point of view on agriculture, (writer's
emphasis) in this instance. That would be part of the consumption that goes first outside,
gets laundered a little bit and then gets back inside as the official news.
There is a whole area of the infrastructure for telecommunications in the Caribbean. All
through the Eastern Caribbean now that we have a digital link, which means an upgrade
in the telephone arrangements that possibility has immediately moved forward. It is linked
to computers, which ensures that we are on line with a number of data bases outside. There
are a couple of people, in fact, who have been linked to that sort of system from outside in
terms of bringing to farmers' local information as well as other relevant data. That's a
possibility which is not well-utilised throughout each Caribbean country, although the
infrastructure is in place.
The follow-up to that is the role of an international news service which will ferret out
our news outside and inside. There is a career on the ground already using the south-South
arrangement, the Inter-Press Service, which is heavily linked in Costa Rica, (also IICA's
headquarters), that is under-utilised in terms of bringing news around to us.
Insertions for an Effective Methodology
Because we have recognized the shortcomings and the incapacity for the media as
infrastructure to do much more than they are doing, we shall focus on other kinds of data
that are available for us in the Caribbean. I have a bit on the video here that you will see.
Video Clip I The use of Official sources of information Ministry Documents,
Agricultural Statistics, etc.
Let me go down to a clip that is showing another suggestion:
Video Clip II Other Agencies with agricultural information CFNI, CARDI, NGO
Bulletins, Pamphlets, Extension Newsletters, Resource Units of Agriculture Ministries, the
Farm Record Book, Data Bases ACT, CARTIS, etc.
Quite apart from the formal infrastructure that we call media in the Caribbean, there is
a more timely interactive phenomenon of media process. Communications interaction takes
place at the street vendor, in the mini-bus, where urban clusters of people shuttle from work
to home. Of course, the DJ music and dub reach everyone; it is where we learn everything
- school children, et al. It is perhaps the key new medium for reaching people on a daily
basis with quick information. There is nothing wrong with thinking through what agricul-
tural message in dub we should get.
What are these elements of the Caribbean experience that we may infuse in the media
or which themselves are media, in order to move agricultural information and to have an
engagement with people about new attitudes to this new structure which we call the
transformation of agriculture? The first example I want to draw, as a response to Professor
Spence, is credibility. We can move forward by having the farmer himself talking, giving
his own views. We, too, have our notion of a farmer, somebody in very unshoddy clothes,
not speaking 'well'. But there is the capability of moving that farmer centre stage in his own
interest: What happens in his household? How he analyses the problem? He can in a sense
be developing that lobby at the centre stage. (Video Clip III- agricultural messages)
We have our artistes and our local heroes who can couch whatever messages they wish,
talking about agriculture in a sense, making the applications and finding them very accept-
able to us because of the cultural link we make with them. I would play you an excerpt from
Louise Bennett from Jamaica in her own style, with humour and with a nice audience,
really talking about her love for her local food and how she was pleased in the cold of
Canada to get a pot of soup. This is what this kind of medium can do by way of
transforming agriculture in the small scale communities of the Caribbean (Video Clip IV).
The style of popular advertisements uses influential marketing of canned agricultural
foods as in "Cock Soup" (Video Clip V).
The format of teaching agriculture information in the school system comes alive in this
video using some classical music in a School Broadcasting programme, excellent photog-
raphy and a step by step approach to understanding the mating of the Queen Bee. Let's look
at this video called "The Castes of Colony" (Video Clip VI).
Story telling is part of the oral tradition, one of the cultural strengths of Caribbean
people. Listen to a humorous story of Anasnsi's admonition: work the land if you want to
eat food (Video Clip VII).
The Environment public information programme made "Charlie" a household charac-
ter, contradictory and lovable, who nags at the dirty environment.
This successful programme of socially marketing solid waste disposal is worthy of
emulation in agriculture promotion: borrowing advertising tastes, giving a positive image
to a negative cognition and identifying and correcting the real problem (Video Clip VIII).
What is the role of the Disc Jockey? Can he not assist us with intervention messages,
data, warning, sold enjoyably? In the new music video industry, interactivity comes alive.
Look at General Trees' example of "Dog Meat" where he cautions us about the laws of the
Government, hygiene, health and good agricultural practices. (Video Clip IX).
A powerful new medium is in use in the Caribbean popular theatre, a methodology of
education at the local community level, which animates the community on an issue,
dramatises its conflicts and consequences, and seeks community action. This form of
alternative media is well utilised in this example from Dominica, where there is a problem
of pesticide use. (Video Clip X.
There is another approach that is being used in the Caribbean. As a people, we are
accustomed to satire, sharp humour, whether we are looking at politicians or the church.
Cartoon work has been developing through an NGP group out of St. Vincent
(CARIPEDA), linking media people, graphic artists, and really challenging people to come
up with images in comic form that would be very popular and can be passed on. I have an
example with me, a cartoon not yet on video. It's costly. But it's looking for a home, with
a number of contributions in comic form about the birds being lost and being destroyed in
the Region. Very inexpensive as a tool, since children like comics; but, yet, it is an
important indigenous medium for communication around the Caribbean.
It's somehow strange that in Trinidad and Tobago where carnival is a major event,
every year there is some band playing something about agriculture. They might 'play' some
food or something like that, and somehow we have not yet captured this as a technique of
communication. Maybe it is time we have a street band with a very purposeful approach,
looking at some area of agriculture. The elements are there, incipiently. We have not
Essentially, without trying to be theoretical, my examples are asking how to infuse this
formal information function that we describe as media, using certain cultural variables and
elements that are around us? What is this communication system, if you like, for the subject
matter of agriculture? This little diagram (Diagram VI) spells it out, the dynamics of that
process. The subject matter we saw is Transformation of a new structure, and the implica-
tion of that is that we have to have a new social process or a new relationship of a whole set
of target groups in the country through agriculture. What does that mean?
DYNAMICS OF THE COMMUNICATIONS PROCESS
Subject matter of Agriculture:
Transformation as new Structure
Implied New Social Process
People's Relations and
Behaviour to the subject
Format Media Other Sources
normal Structures Other Dat
- A package of elements
Public Communications Methodology
- Evolving dynamic impacts on forms
and formats of communications
including the media.
This relationship to the structure would come through the formats that we see here, the
reporting function in the media; that's one side of the process; the very formal structures.
But there are other people who feed into the media, and from other non-formal sources we
get inputs as well. What are they built on? They are built on these two tentacles here. For
communications to do it, these targets must be sustainable and long term. Not simply
interventionist or campaign directed, or one way as the information function. More critical-
ly, they must draw attention to the second lever here, the new methodologies that we can
pull out of our ordinary interactive communication patterns in our culture. And it seems that
these things are at work, feeding backwards into a process of that new awareness and
relationship in the social structure. And I submit to you that this is a way in which we can
approach the public communications methodology.
Some Further Suggestions
There are a couple small suggestions that follow, in terms of further examples we may
want to pay attention to. There are other resource bases we might want to tap into. One is
perhaps to offer journalists a media award annually for the best report on agriculture. What
this does is not only stimulate awareness and knowledge, but also we'll really have real
Another is perhaps listing all the persons and addresses and interest groups in agricul-
ture that will be fed out to all of our media people as a tool; when something comes out,
they don't simply say "I'm calling Dr. Wallace. I know that on pesticides I must call this
person." That kind of tool. There is a Directory published by NGO groups in the Caribbean
Network for Integrated Rural Development (CNIRD) that has gone a very significant way
in developing that kind of compendium; but it needs to be complete.
A third element is developing a training module on agriculture communications, within
the University itself, where people are being trained in mass media. That also gives us the
substance of a module of training which we don't have to put back in the Institute, but we
can use wherever there are media people around.
A fourth area is the role of the dissemination of information. I have seen the daily
notices coming out of the headquarters of IICA in San Jose, Costa Rica; it seems there is a
little role here to be played between the IICA representatives in the countries and those bits
of data, as to what elements in that information piece or bulletin should be shared back to
key media people and say, "Cue us on this. It is important." In other words, the tool is
hanging somewhere, loosely.
There is the need to evaluate the demand side of information, which is to bring back the
people at the University and at agricultural extension to do the work. What is that demand
for information? In other words, we must evaluate all of this so- called process.
Finally, perhaps somehow we have been able to develop elements in the model. We
have no fast answers to what seems to be a wider, long-term pattern of communications for
We hope we have contributed in some meaningful way to an understanding of the
specifics of our own situation and have drawn up the outlines, in an incipient way, of a
Public Communications Methodology, based on the lessons of the Caribbean experience.
We need to say special thanks to social action groups in countries of the Caribbean,
whose materials we have demonstrated to make our case:
Jamaica: The Government Agricultural Training
The work of the artists on videos.
Dominica: Small Projects Assistance Team.
St. Vincent: Caribbean Peoples' Development
Trinidad & Tobago: The Solid Waste Management
The Department of Agric Extension, UWI.
Edouard Glissant, The Indies, trans. Dominique O'Neill, Toronto: Editions de Gref,
Edgar Allen Poe in "The Poetic Principle" was adamant in his view that... "a long poem
is simply a flat contradiction in terms". For Poe, the emotional charge of the poem was
thinned out if the text was sustained too long. This view has dominated modern French
poetry in particular. From the Baudelairean spleen poem to the Surrealist cult or convulsive
beauty the emphasis was on the brief, densely suggestive poem.
This is one feature that Caribbean poetry in general and French Caribbean poetry in
particular do not share with European modernism. From Martinique's, Aime Cesaire to St.
Lucia's Derek Walcott, from Guadeloupe's St. John Perse to Barbados' Kamau Brathwaite
it is the long poem and invariably the subject of journeys that dominate the region's poetic
imagination. We now have an English translation of Edouard Glissant's early long poem
"Les Indies". Written in 1955, it is an important work in Glissant's remarkable oeuvre of
poems, novels, plays and essays.
What is significant about this poem is its non-polemical nature despite its subject and
the ideological context of its creation. Written in the heyday of negritude, of anti-colonial
protest poetry and of Sartrean 'engagement', Glissant's poem is anything but narrowly
political. This is particularly surprising since the theme of this work is Columbus' voyage
of discovery to the New World. Glissant resists the temptation of Columbus bashing.
Rather, the navigator from Genoa emerges as a depressingly exemplary figure who pursues
the object of his only desire to destroy it.
The importance of Columbus' dream to his quest is made clear from the title of the
poem. 'The Indies' is the elusive goal pursued by Columbus. The lure of these obscure
objects of desire is explained in the following way...."Imagination creates for man an Indies
which man disputes with the world". Furthermore Glissant makes the link between the
dream of the Indies of the fifteenth Century to a contemporary fascination with the
conquest of space. Man still yearns for.... "the last coveted star... in the corer of the moon
the oasis of the infinite."
This is not to say that Columbus' quest and the brutal beginnings of the New World are
presented in terms of a bland evocation of universal values. The Indies is divided into six
Cantos which trace the nightmarish progress of the conquest of the Americas. The subjects
of the first five Cantos are the wild visionary impulses of early European adventures; the
risks they took; the corrosive power of greed; the horrors of the Slave Trade and the
struggle for freedom in the Caribbean. In some of his most direct images of sexual
domination, Glissant re-enacts the rape of the Indies. A leering Conquistador whispers to
Do not be so mysterious as to hide the wonders of your
body I want to descend within you as far as life can
Enough laughter! I cry your tattered sex where the
mines of fresh metal are
So beautiful, you were by dream, you are before me;
no longer does a temple hide the star.
Marked by the Conqueror's physical desire, the Indies forever bear the stigma of his
corrupted dream..."India I will call you. India from the West: so that I can regain my
Despite the explicit evocation of this horror, Glissant's poem is neither moralising nor
preachy. His sustained emphasis in this poem is "the knowing sea". The latter represents a
context of mystery, ambiguity and is an accomplice in the cruel twists of historical
circumstance. The sea lures the Discoverers with the promise of riches. It allows for the
transportation of slaves and seems to feed on the bodies of slaves thrown overboard. It
ultimately mocks those who succumbed to its seductions. The sea represents the complex,
paradoxical past of the Caribbean and the Americas. The past can neither be expunged nor
avenged. Rather the Caribbean is projected as the first stirring of modernity, as whole
cultures break down and are drawn towards other cultures; as new archipelagoes of culture
emerge charged with a new diversity and mystery. Glissant's sense of the past is always
conditioned by an acute awareness of the present. The major changes in the post war world
of the Fifties are the future echoes of early Caribbean history.
The sixth Canto of The Indies elaborates a vision of history which, as Wilson Harris
recommends, is shaped by "the arts of the imagination". History here is neither reassuringly
progressive nor linear nor even predictably cyclical. It is anything but a totality. It is
chaotic, as unpredictable and everchanging as the sea itself. This final episode of the poem
is entitled "La Relation" which is Glissant's earliest evocation of a major subject in his
The notion of interrelating, of the cross-cultural process is what sets Glissant apart from
other French writers who have attempted to assert modern visions of history. The universal
all- embracing truth that is promoted by poets such as Leopold Senghor, St. John Perse and
Paul Glaudel is not shared by Glissant. The poet for Glissant cannot have a demiurgic role.
He can at best chart the conflicting and interrelating paths of the historical process. The
poet is not unlike Columbus himself who sets out on a journey into the unknown, driven by
desire and who returns, forever transformed by the sobering failure of his dream.
The introduction to the last Canto declares that "the sea is eternal". Because of this the
self can no longer be walled off from the other. The other is an inevitable dialectical
partner. Seduced by a desire for his "Indies", Columbus becomes a ghost of journeys to
come. Here Glissant is suggesting that the Indies and by extension the Americas are an
incomplete work of the imagination. Columbus is an early, tragic precursor to anyone who
is pursued by the dream of discovering new worlds. That a work of such enormous
importance to Caribbean literature is available in English is a welcome event. Glissant has
been ably served by his translator who has attempted a faithful rendering of the original
text. Even if some of the poetry is lost the massive thrust of Glissant's poetic imagination is
still impressively present.
J. MICHAEL DASH
Wilson Harris: The Uncompromising Imagination
Wilson Harris: the Uncompromising Imagination, is an ambitious work which has been
lovingly shaped by editor, Hene Maes-Jelinek, in tribute to Guyanese novelist, Wilson
Harris (WH). Such have been the contributions to this publication that there is no escaping
the sincere admiration and esteem with which WH is held in the literary world Maes-
Jelinek has added to the collection of literary criticisms of WHs works, an invaluable
resource for scholars and enthusiasts who, in addition to illuminating critiques will obtain
glimpses of WH's life experiences in refreshing, intimate ways reflective of the writer's
interaction with colleagues and friends in the literary field. It is because readers are able to
engage in a personal interchange with the text to share intimate moments, experiences and
thoughts with WH, that the book :- Wilson Harris: The Uncompromising Imagination
assumes speciality and significance equal to WH, himself.
In the foreword of this volume, it is made clear that the intention of the editor is to
celebrate the life and work of WH. To this end, Maes-Jelinek arranges the volume in three
main sections comprising poems in honour of WH's literary contribution, "Conversation
Pieces" which provide information from interviews or conversations the contributors have
held with WH, and "Critical Dialogues" which form the major contribution of this volume,
presenting critical commentaries on a range of WH's novels.
The poems written by Margaret Harris, wife to WH, present a curious tapestry of ideas
and emotions, interlocking love, culture, religion with such warmth that inspires and stirs
the reader to share in the nostalgia Margaret feels over the loss of cultural relevance that
artefacts, once important to the Amerindian civilization in that region, have undergone in
Kathleen Raine pays tribute to the persistence of WH's meanings which he has not
allowed to be silenced; whilst David Dabydeen's poetry focuses upon WH's literary
struggle and the culture which nurtured that creative pilgrimage.
Michael Thorpe pays homage in poetry to WH's technological currency, wisdom, and
freedom from magic or creative delusions. In Fred d'Aguilar's poems, themes such as
technology, culture, the artist and the spirituality in man, are revisited.
"Conversation Pieces" provide fertile landscape for the mind inquiring into WH, his
life and work. Journey across this landscape will reveal to the reader the prominence of
nature, its undulations, and effervescence to the works of WH. In his interview with
Michael Gilkes, WH recreates the animacy of landscape presenting it as an influential
organism in dialogue with man. His reconstruction of space as a concrete element of the
landscape violates the customary nothingness with which space is perceived. This con-
cretization is achieved through language that is itself reconstructive and supplies dimen-
sions to space which is interwoven into the total landscape by WH's expertise as surveyor
and wordsmith. One aspect of landscape, prominent in the novels of WH and highlighted
by Gilkes, is the River a symbol of continuity, or progression or regression, cutting across
cultures and possessing a language which encases tales of its own, yet to be tapped. Of
significance too is Gilke's reference to Palace of the Peacock as the concretization of WH's
own philosophy which forms the foundation upon which much of his work is rooted. WH's
search and rediscovery of his primordial past is conducted in language that looms large
with the energy and potency of life. Those contributions by Petersen and Rutherford reflect
WH's perception of civilization and post-modernism whilst Fabre presents readers a
snapshot of WH's "undisclosed self'.
Of the 19 selections which comprise the section sub-titled Critical Dialogues only a few
will be singled out for special mention. In general, the order in which these contributions
are placed, represent a genaeology of contextual development beginning with the vision
and philosophy of WH, progressing through his exploration of colonial traditions in a
post-colonial era, examining how they affect the Garivean peoples dimensions of reality;
whether historical, political, scientific or literary. WH's vision of the ideal is mirrored in the
multiple points of reference in his fiction suggestive of variable and shifting dimensions to
reality. The contributor, Riach, reminds readers of Scottish literary traditions which have
influenced the work of WH as reflected in Black Marsden, which embodies the com-
plimentarity of the author's Scottish and South American legacy. Jagessar reviews WH's
works from a thrological perspective illuminating the parallels between theology which he
describes as an "activity of imaginative construction" and WH's fiction which he classifies
as re-visionary, liberating and revolutionary.
The final selection focuses on The Four Banks of the River of Space. Written by the
editor, Maes-Jelinek, it highlights WH's plea to arrest the present crisis of civilization. For
the sake of our own survival, WH suggests that humanity recognize, acknowledge and
facilitate the regenerative cycle of life. Importantly, Maes-Jelinek's article which is the last
selection of this publication does not possess an air of finality, but is left suspended in the
"unfinished genesis" of WH's art.
Readers will find the notes on each contributor of interest and in particular, scholars will
note the authenticity of the contributions. The editor has also provided a comprehensive
bibliography of the original works of WH as well as corresponding criticisms.
Just as WH trandscends the ordinary, treating the familiar with an indomitable imagina-
tion, revisionary in spirit, mind, and will to convey the complexity inherent in the human
condition, so too, does this publication. Indeed, Wilson Harris: The Uncompromising
Imagination is as liberating as the untamed mind responsible for the literary configurations
which inspired this publication; a publication which engages the intellect as it delights the
YASMIN C. STEWART
"Review of: Haiti: Letters et I 'etre by Leon-Francois Hoffmann, Toronto: Collection
Lieux dits No. 1 Editions du Gref, 1992, hard cover, 372 pages. Index. Bibliography."
A literal translation of the title of this book (Haiti: Letters and Being) would have very
little impact on the english speaking reader since the pun would necessarily be lost. In an
attempt to recapture its meaning and convey what the text is all about, I would like to offer
this provisional translation: Haiti: Existing through Writing. The potential buyer is likely to
find its attractive presentation very striking, but Hoffmann's usual readership will be
disappointed, since its content is just a collection of articles already published in various
scholarly journals as the foreword honestly informs them. For this reason, there is a
discomforting lack of unity in the volume despite an attempt to create a semblance of
structure by grouping these articles into sections: "Themes" (Themes), "Oeuvres" (Works),
"Haiti et les Francais" (Haiti and the Frenchmen), "Histoire" (History). There are two very
useful bibliographies; One at the end of chapter 8, "Le roman haitien des dix dernieres
annees.", devoted to the Haitian novel of the 1980s, gives a list of novels published
between 1979 and 1988; the second one, at the end of the book, enumerates all the works
consulted by the author. Because of the lack of unity mentioned earlier, there is an
unevenness in the book which is one of its major weaknesses since we are presented with
texts of unequal value and interest. Indeed, Hoffmann must be praised for his seriousness
and dedication to research, and there is great evidence of this in the book. Archival
exploration has always been his particular strength (Cf. Romantique Espagne... (Romantic
Spain...), 1961; Le negre romantique (The Romantic Negro), 1976; Le Roman haitien...,
(The Haitian Novel...), 1982). His painstaking work which in invaluable for the diffusion of
unknown and very ancient documents, reveals however Hoffmann's weaknesses as an
historian 1 (cf. sections "Haiti et les Francais" ("Haiti and the Frenchmen') pp. 215-241,
and "Histoire" (History) pp. 235- 318). These flaws are even more striking (in chapter 13
especially, "Un Negociant americain aux Gonaives en 1806 et 1807" / An American Trader
in Gonaives between 1806 and 1807, pp. 303- 318) when compared with chapters dealing
with literary topics. In the latter, we can appreciate fully Hoffmann's great talents as a
literary critic, for the abundance of his documentation as well as the perceptive and
thoughtful insight of his comments. In this regard, it is regrettable that he did not take
advantage of the full-length book format to extend his introductory comments to his
translation into French of the diary of an American trader, who lived in Gonaives during
the early post-independence period and witnessed an episode of the first Haitian civil war
(Chapter 13). In addition Hoffmann offers a revised version of a controversial article about
the Bois-Caiman Ceremony (Chapter 12, "Histoire, myth et ideologie: le Serment du Bois-
Caiman "'History, Myth and Ideology: the Oath at Bois-Caiman") which no longer seems
to justify the insults hurled at him in a Haitian newspaper by someone who apparently had
merely heard about the paper.2 Be that as it may, this chapter is very significant at another
level: it indicates, as do many others in the book, Hoffmann's overzealous preoccupation
with a certain concept of Haiti which he created for himself as he became immersed in
Haitian culture and literature. Some articles show a genuine but paternalistic concern on the
author's part: the fear of witnessing the death of Haitian literary production in French.
Maybe one day, French will not be spoken any more in Haiti, but Hoffmann should not
worry: he will always be able to find his way through Haitian culture as long as there are
Haitian artists to create.
1. Compare with an historical study on The Bois-Caiman Ceremony by Pr. David Geggus,
(French Version of a Conference paper published in Chemins Critiques vol. 2, No. 3 (Mai
1992). pp. 59- 78. Port-au-Prince).
2. Le Nouvelliste. Port-au-Prince. 1991.
Whispers from the Caribbean, I Going Away, I Going Home, by Wilfred Cartey,
Center for Afro-American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles. 1991.
I was going to Trinidad in January 1994 to spend five months teaching sociology at the
University of the West Indies and to learn about the people who inhabit the two Islands
which make up the country Trinidad and Tobago. So when I saw the book, Whispers from
the Caribbean: I Going Away, I going Home by Wilfred Cartey, on the shelf of the
Schweitzer International Resource Center, not yet out of its plastic wrap, I asked to borrow
Cartey, a Trinidadian who died last year, had a long and distinguished career teaching
comparative literature at many prestigious universities. He was a poet and a scholar. The
bulk of the book is a serious and detailed analysis of a mass of literature written during the
mid-20th Century by twenty-six Caribbean novelists. Cartey chooses quotes from ap-
proximately 70 different novels to reveal what sociologists might call the modal personality
type of the Caribbean. For the reader who wants to become acquainted with West Indian
literature relatively quickly, or for those who already know the literature, this book is a
treasure both for its analysis and the the themes and samples of writing given.
Cartey's powerful paradigm for analysis depends on his sense that outside forces shape
personality out his transformative vision is in the struggle for a Caribbean self, or I would
add any authentic self. Cartey uses the term "personality" to equal those traits that reflect a
history of slavery, colonialism, oppression, arrogant hierarchy, racism and violence what
V.S. Naipaul called, "the mimic men" to describe people validating self through others,
outsiders, cartey's term "presence selfhood as bestowed by one's own people, one's own
good and landscape, and one's own energy and nature. He says, "we must root ourselves/
within the singing blue mists/of our mountains, indigenizing/all our waters..." (Embroys).
One indigenizing force according to Cartey has been music, dance and song which relieve
pain, soften harsh social reality, evoke both sorrow and joy. Music in the main that requires
co-operative sharing of spirit and harmony.
Cartey's transformative vision reflected in his poem, "Embryos," and in the phrases, "I
Going Away, I Going Home," is a movement from personality to presence away from the
impact of historical forces such as colonialism, economics and world power politics on
personality and self dignity.
Thus to achieve professional success a Caribbean person has had to excel academically
in a highly stratified and tracked system, then go to England or to North America to become
I am not sure if Cartey believes presence is an underlying layer of personality waiting
to be released or discovered or if it is an entity that must be created. Nevertheless, the goal
is to indigenize, to become oneself as a people and as individuals.
The Caribbean people must find their own way, he says, "... we must sing beholden to
the singing/ of our lands/ our rivers/ beholden to our flowing dreams/ beholden not to
mastodons/ and finding our way/ to cross the rivers/ we must find that ultimate geology..."
Cartey uses the term "presence" to describe a deeper layer of identity, a term that
suggest spiritual depth and selfhood, something to be striven for and attained, something in
constant tension with personality.
Cartey's vision for the future reminded me of Frantz Fanon's, Black Skin, White Masks,
in which Fanon agreed that "the black man is in a zone of non-being because he needs to
prove at all cost to whites that he is their equal." Both works contain a psychological
analysis of personality based on social and economic realities of the past and present. Fanon
believed that with courage to "recapture the self and to scrutinize the self...men [people]
will be able to create the ideal conditions of existence for a human world." (p. 231 Fanon,
1967); and Cartey shows through his analysis of some West Indian novels the capacity of
Caribbeans "to become."
Cartey succeeds in his intention to analyze consciousness and identity set in the
political, historical and cultural context of the Caribbean area. He shows that the "world
intersects" these islands; that "one cannot speak meaningfully without speaking at once of
Africa, Asia, Europe, and America." In one sense he completely justifies the need for a
global perspective, making clear that we must see everything in context historical,
cultural, sociological. In another sense, though, he may be suggesting that his people should
turn inward rather than outward to the world; global forces not withstanding. Perhaps he is
suggesting as the late Clinton Jean did in his book, Behind the Eurocentric Veils the Search
for African Realities, 1991, that to indigenize is to reinterpret the meanings of African
civilizations in such away as to reemphasize the communal and the possibility of stratified
societies that are not exploitative and violent; that we must turn away not from the world
but from the European traditions of imperialism, cruelty, racism and "Anglo- Saxon
techno-logic style" in the name of progress. (Clinton Jean ,p. 106)
I recommend Cartey's book for anyone who would understand not only Caribbean
people but the connection between biography and history, between self and society.
Whispers from the Caribbean is a major endeavour of sociology through literature, in
which Wilfred Cartey explores a wide range of topics: the class system and colour,
education and alienation, violence toward women and children, loneliness and madness.
Cartey also expresses a powerful, heart-rending hope for the future of the Caribbean and the
world, a world where divided selves can become whole and healed.
The book is difficult only in the sense that it is so rich, so detailed and moving a book
that needs to be studied and contemplated over a period of time. It gave me a new way of
seeing beyond the dark faces, British accents and manners, through the decade of friendli-
ness and propriety that during my previous two visits to Trinidad I had felt was extended
towards my white face.
In Other Words....The Cultural Dimension of Communication for Development,
Ad. Boeren, The Hague, CESO, 1994, ISBN 90-6443-140-X
Communication came to be accepted as one of the contributing factors of development
in the 1960s. At first, a random dissemination of information via the mass media was
expected to pave the way for modernisation in Third World countries. Over the years, the
insight was gained that communication for development is a social process in which the
social and cultural interests of intended beneficiaries play a decisive role. In fact, people's
culture has to be mobilized to let development succeed, and communication for develop-
ment needs to reinforce the cultural identity, local values, and knowledge of people as an
avenue to their active participation.
In practical terms, communication for development is concerned with sharing informa-
tion through channels of education, extension, training, and community action. Information
is exchanged between development workers and beneficiaries, between teachers and
pupils, between community members themselves, between rural farmers and politicians.
The aim of this information-sharing, and that of development, is to improve the quality of
life of people, in an economical, and a social, as well as a human sense.
Although the need for communication support in development programmes is fairly
widely accepted nowadays, successful use of communication strategies and media still
seems to be the exception rather than the rule. There are not many examples of com-
munication messages which are content-relevant, educationally sound, culturally ap-
propriate and socially empowering.
In Other words... looks at the cultural and educational aspects of communication for
development. It is partly based on literature research, and partly on practical experiences
in the field. The many pitfalls of communication are discussed and attention is paid to
factors that have an influence on the effectiveness of communication. Also discussed are
the steps involved in the planning, and implementation of a communication event, regard-
less of whether they concern a group meeting, a personal talk or a radio programme.
In Other Words.. is not a manual or a guide, although it no doubt will contain ideas of
practical relevance to some readers. It is an account of a particular view of communication
for development as a result of a personal learning process. The contents should be of
interest to a variety of readers- from communication students, to development agents and
communication planners. Lastly it may be interesting for communication scholars because
it discusses communication for development from a cultural perspective.
Centre for Study of Education in Development Countries. (CESO)
(Reviews of these books are invited. Interested persons should write to the editor
quoting the titles) of the books) concerned, prior to reviewing them.)
France's Overseas Frontier, R. Aldrich, J.Connell, US$69.95 (H/b) 0521 39061 3
March 1992, Camb. University Press.
Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles: An Annotated English- Language Bibliography,
Enid Brown, 293pp, 1992, $US 32.50, Scarecrow Press, NJ.
Guyana at the Crossroads, D.Watson, C.Craig (eds), 95pp,US$14.95, (paper) Dec.
1992, Transaction Publishers, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey.
The Caribbean in the Wider World, 1492-1992, Bonham Richardson, US$49.95 (H/b)
US$16.95 (P/b) Jan. 1992, Camb. University Press.
Stains on my Name, War in My Veins: Guyana and the Politics of Cultural Struggle,
BWilliams, $US 18.50 (P), US$34.95 (Cloth) Duke University Press.
Caribbean Poetry Now, S.Brown, UK15.99, July 1992, Edward Arnold, Hodder &
The Military and Society in Haiti, M.LaGuerre, US$29.95 (Cloth), University of Ten-
nessee Press.March 1993.
The Premise and Promise: Free Trade in the Americas, US Third World Policy
Perspectives No. 18, 282pp, US$15.95 (p) US$29.95(c) Feb. 1993, Transaction Publishers,
Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey.
Economic Development and Social Change : United States Latin American Relations in
the 1990s, A.Jorge(ed) US$15.95(P) 142pp. Jan. 1993
The Civil Wars in Nicaragua: Inside the Sandinistas, R.Miranda, W.Ratliff, US$32.95
Philanthropy in the Americas:New Directions and Partnerships, Bruce Henderson
(Ed.) US$18.45 (P) Jan.1993,Transaction Publishers, Rutgers-The State University of New
On the Margins of the Art of Exile in V.S.Naipaul,Timothy Weiss, 256pp,US$29.95
(soft), Jan. 1993, University of Massachusetts Press.
Myth and History in Caribbean Fiction Alejo Carpentier, Wilson Harris, Edouard
Glissant, Barbara Webb, 176pp. US$25(Soft) Dec.1992. University of Massachusetts
Ideology and Pre-Columbian Civilizations, (Eds) Arthur Demarest, Geoffery Conrad,
278pp. US$35(c),US$15.95(P) Dec.1992 University of Washington Press.
The Early Years of Native American Art History: The Politics of Scholarship and
Collecting (Ed.) Janet Berlo, 256pp. US$30.00 Nov.1992, University of Washington Press.
Double Passage: The Lives of Caribbean Migrants Abroad and Back Home, G.Gmelch,
352pp. US$45.00(C),US$16.95(P) March 1993, University of Michigan Press.
Political Constraints on Brazil's Economic Development (ed. S.Marks)Rio de Janerio
Conference Proceedings and Papers North- South Center, University of Miami, Transac-
tion Publishers, New Brunswick, USA,1993.
The Independence Papers: Readings on a New Political Status for St.Maarten Vol.1.
Ed. Lasana Sekou House of Neheshi, St. Maarten,pp.233 1990.
Love Songs Make You Cry, Poems by Lasana Sekou House of Neheshi, St.
Quimbe: Poetics of Sound Poems by Lasana Sekou House of Neheshi, St.
Global Culture, Island Identity: Community and Change in the Afro-Caribbean Com-
munity ofNevis, Karen Olwig, Harwood Academic Publishers.
Illegal Truth: Poetry by Ras Changa, House of Neheshi, St. Maarten,pp.93 1991
Mother Nation: Poems from 1984-1987 Lasana Sekou House of Neheshi, St.
Images of Me: Poetry by Ingrid Zagers, House of Neheshi, St. Maarten, pp.107, 1991.
Searching for Panama: The US-Panama Relationship and Democratisation, by Mark
Falcoff and Richard Millett, Center for Strategic and Development Studies, Wash.
Caribbean Economic Policy and South -South Cooperation, ed. R. Ramsaran, pp.305,
Warwich University Caribbean studies, Macmillan Press 1993.
The Fractured Blockade: West European Cuban Relations During the Revolution, Ed.
A. Hennessy and G.LambieWarwich University Caribbean studies, Macmillan Press,1993.
Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, Kai Schoenhals Compiler World Bibliographical
Series, Clio Press, Oxford, UK, ppl60, 1993.
Trends in Linguistics, Documentation 7 Dictionary of St.Lucian Creole, Jones
E.Mondesir L.D. Carrington (ed), Mouton DeGruyter, Belin, NY,1991,HB, pp.621.
The Caribbean in the Wider World, 1492-1992 A Regional Geography, Bonham C.
Richardson, (paper) 0 521 35977 5, 1992, Cambridge University Press.
The Challenge of Integration Europe and the Americas,edited by Peter H. Smith,
(paper) 1-56000-687-0, 1993, University of Miami, North- South Centre
The Fractured Blockade West European-Cuban Relations During the Revolu-
tion,edited by Alistair Hennessy and George Lambie, (paper) 0-333-58365-5, 1993, The
Macmillan Press Ltd.
Caribbean Economic Policy and South-South Co-operation, Ramesh Ramsaran, (paper)
0-333-58677-8, 1993, The Macmillan Press Ltd.
Global Culture, Island Identity Continuity ans Change in the Afro-Caribbean Com-
munity of Nevis, Karen Fog Olwig, (H/b) 3-7186- 5329-X,1993, Harwood Academic
Poverty, Natural Resources and Public Policy in Central America, Sheldon Annis and
Contributors, (paper) 1-56000-577-7, 1992, Transaction Publishers.
Critical Perspectives on Derek Walcott, Robert D. Hammer, (paper) 0-89410-142-0,
1993, (US$18.00) Three Continents Press
Law and Religion in Marxist Cuba A Human Rights Inquiry, Margaret I. Short,
(paper), 1-56000-682-X, 1993, University of Miami, North-South Centre
Coolie Odyssey, David Dabydeen, (paper) 1 870518 01 2, 1988, (L3.95), Hansib
Printing Ltd. and Dangaroo Press
Difficult Liaison Trade and the Environment in the Americas, Heraldo Munoz and
Robin Rosenberg, (paper) 1-56000-679-X, 1993, North-South Centre, University of Miami
Democracy in the Caribbean-Political, Economic, and Social Perspectives, Jorge I.
Dominguez, Robert A. Pastor, R. Delisle Worrell, (paper) 0-8018-4451-7, 1993, John
Hopkins University Press
From Kingston to Kenya The Making of a Pan-Africanist Lawyer, Dudley Thompson,
(paper) 0-912469-29-3,1993, The Majority Press
The Independence Papers: Readings on a New Political Status for St. Maarten/St.
Martin, Lasana M. Sekou, (paper) 0-913441-09-0, 1990, House of Nehesi Publishers.
Illegal Truth, Ras Changa, (paper) 0-913441-11-2, 1991, House of Neshi Publishers
Deferring a Dream: Literary Sub-Versions of the American Columbaid, Gert
Buelens/Ernst Rudin, (paper) 0-8176-5022-9, 1994,Birkhauser verlag Basel
Buelens/Ernst Rudin, (paper) 0-8176-5022-9, 1994,Birkhauser verlag Basel
Montserrat: History of a Caribbean Colony, Howard A. Fergus, (paper) 0-333-61217-5,
1994, The Macmillan Press Ltd.
The United States and Argentina, 1945-47: A Case Study in Diplomatic Practice,
Constantine Leonard Richardson, (H/b) 0-533- 10495-5, 1994, Vantage Press, Inc.
Bondmen and Rebels: A Study of Master-Slave Relations in Antigua, David Barry
Gasper, (paper) 0-8223-1336-7, 1993, Duke University Press.
Political Constraints on Brazil's Economic Development, Siegfried Marks, (paper)
1-56000-683-8, 1993, University of Miami, North- South Centre
Calabash of Gold: Selected Poems, by Howard Fergus pp.110, Linda Lee Books,
London and Plymouth, Montserrat, 1993.
Law and Religion in Marrist Cuba Margaret Short, North- South Center, University of
Miami, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA, 1993, pp207.
The Challenge of Integration: Europe and the Americas, Ed. Peter Smith North- South
Center, University of Miami, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA,1993, pp207.
Philantrophy in the /Americas : New Directions and Partnerships, Proceedings of
Symposium Sessions, Ed. Bruce Henderson, North- South Center, University of Miami.
Transaction Publishers. New Brunswick, USA, 1993, ppl62.
The Caribbean in the Wider World 1492-1992 A Regional Geography. Bonham
Richarsdson pp.235. Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Poverty, Natural Resources and Public Policy in Central America: US- Third World
Poverty Perspectives No.17, Sheldon Annis and Contributors, North- South Center, Uni-
versity of Miami, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA,1993, pp 199.
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Sir Shridath Ramphal
is a media consultant and Executive Director, Creative
Productions Training Centre (CPTC), Kingston, Jamaica
is a lecturer at CARIMAC, University of the West Indies,
is Chancellor of the University of the West Indies
is Resident Tutor, University Centre- St.Lucia,UWI
is Head of the Communications Unit, CARICOM
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