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Sanders answers: Will US help Caribbean Energy Woes?

Inter-American Dialouge's Latin American Advisor -Energy                                                                                                      April 20-24, 2015

Will U.S. Efforts Help Address the Caribbean's Energy Woes?
U.S. President Barack Obama announced this month in Jamaica that the United States will offer $20 million in funding for clean energy investments in the Caribbean, a region that has become increasingly dependent on oil from economically troubled Venezuela and where high power costs have curtailed growth. One of the aims of Obama's trip, during which the U.S. Department of Energy also signed a statement of intent with Jamaica's Science and Energy Ministry to cooperate on infrastructure, storage and diversification of fuels, was to deepen U.S. energy ties with the region. What's driving the Obama administration's push for Caribbean energy cooperation? Is it a commitment the United States will continue after Obama leaves office? Are U.S. efforts focused on the right areas to make a difference in the Caribbean's energy problems? What potential issues could cause plans to fall short of expectations?
Sir Ronald Sanders, consultant, former Caribbean ambassador and senior fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies:
"Twenty million dollars is a very small sum to fund clean energy investments in the Caribbean in any serious way. The enormous cost of building the infrastructure to transition from fossil fuels requires Caribbean governments to have access to concessionary financing from international financial institutions (IFI’s).   The US government has undertaken to support change in the criteria for concessional financing so as to allow qualification for Caribbean countries that up to now are “graduated” because (apart from Haiti) they are not low-income countries. The change, if it occurs, will not do so with the required immediacy. The majority of Caribbean countries also now confront high debt. With oil prices now substantially lower than they have been for decades, there is little incentive to incur the huge capital cost of moving to clean energy sources. 
What appears to be driving this belated US interest in the Caribbean’s energy sector are two things: a desire to neutralise the reliance of many Caribbean countries on Venezuela which supplies petroleum and petroleum products under a payment scheme that incorporates long term loans at low interest rates; and the wish to sell US natural gas and clean energy technology to the region.   The latter will not be achieved unless the US provides (a) direct funding on a concessionary basis; and (b) inducements to its private sector to invest. On the matter of Venezuela, Caribbean governments that now benefit from the advantageous payment scheme will not turn away from it while it continues.
If any US government is seriously concerned with improving conditions in the Caribbean to achieve higher levels of prosperity that discourage refugees and illegal migration as well as reduces crime and promotes greater political stability, it needs to develop a comprehensive plan for the area.   It would best do so by consulting with regional governments on such a plan. 

Latest Commentaries

A new commentary has been posted. It is entitled:  Orphans of Obama's policies?  It argues that normalisation of US-Cuba relations has implications for Caribbean countries. Cuba is already a major competitor in the vital tourism industry. The number of Canadian, European and Latin American visitors to Cuba is greater than that of tourists to any CARICOM country.   In part, the larger number of visitors to Cuba is due to the fact that its prices are cheaper because of lower wages for workers. Now, with Cuba off the SSOT list, the country will benefit from a number of things, including access to financing from International Financial Institutions.   This will increase Cuba's competitiveness and other Caribbean countries may become the orphans of US President Obama's policies.

Cuban President Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama - making Cuba no longer an orphan.

The previous commentary is:US-Caribbean: Brief Summits not enough.  The commentary looks at the meeting between US President Barack Obama and leaders of 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries and concludes that it is doubtful that much came of that, primarily because the entire encounter was scheduled to last only 90 minutes. The effectiveness of a 90-minute dialogue by 15 leaders would have required extensive, comprehensive and detailed preparation by officials such that only ratification would be required. But, there appears to have been no such preparation.The value of the meeting, therefore, seems to have been no more than an opportunity for leaders to raise issues in the hope of addressing them fully at a later time.  Such brief summits are not enough.

US President Barack Obama and CARICOM leaders in Jamaica on April 9

The previous commentary is:A changing tide in Nigeria's fortunes?.  The commentary considers the recent Presidential election and argues that by conceding defeat in the manner that he did the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan spared Nigeria widespread violence and unrest that many observers had feared might be a consequence of the elections. Had that unrest occurred it would have further set back Nigeria’s economy which has been reeling from the falling prices for oil, the main money earner for its economy.   It would also have complicated even more the battle the country’s military forces are fighting against Boko Haram, an insurgent and violent group that has now publicly associated itself with ISIS (or ISIL as it is sometimes called) in the Middle-East. Boko Haram has killed thousands of Nigerians, displaced millions internally and externally, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, and at one time held portions of the country that amounted to the size of Belgium.

Outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan and incoming President Buhari

Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) for Sir Ronald

On Friday October 24th, Sir Ronald was conferred with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) by the University of the West Indies at its St Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago.  Sir Ronald also delivered an address to the graduating class of 2014.   His address and the citation appear in the "Lectures and Interviews" section of this website.

Sir Ronald Sanders addressing 2014 UWI graduating Social Sciences Faculty at St Augustine, Trinidad

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Portrait of Sir Ronald Sanders

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat who publishes widely on Small States in the global community.



Welcome to this website. I have created it in response to many requests for access to commentaries I have written, lectures I have given and interviews that have been broadcast or printed in the media on matters related to the political economy of the Caribbean and the Commonwealth.

These requests have come from university students, publications, academics, government officials and business people in many parts of the world. In the course of responding to these requests, I have been pleased to build up a network of global contacts who now receive my commentaries weekly.

From a career that encompassed broadcast and print journalism, development and commercial banking, diplomacy and international negotiations in both the public and private sectors, I am privileged to draw on wide and varied experiences to write, lecture and undertake consultancies. I have taken the greatest pleasure in receiving comments and criticism from people all over the world that the Internet has made a “village”. I have learned from many of the comments I received. They have caused me to reflect on my own thinking. Through this website, I hope to communicate regularly with all who write to me.

The website is now a permanent repository of the weekly commentaries going back several years. Anyone is free to access them here, and to cite them provided my permission is sought in advance through the “Contact me” mechanism. A few of the lectures I have given in Britain and in the Caribbean are also posted on the site in a PDF format which can be easily downloaded. Again, I would make the same request to seek my permission before citing the material.

From time to time, where it is possible, the site will also reflect consultancies that I undertake that may have an interested audience beyond the companies and organizations with which I work.

I invite responses to my writings, and inquiries about the experience and knowledge I can bring to achieving the objectives of companies and organizations that do business related to the Caribbean and the Commonwealth.

My consulting work includes: country investment advice; negotiations with governments and international organizations; structuring and implementing public affairs programmes; designing public relations and information strategies; negotiations with financial institutions and organizing and participating in seminars for interest groups such as journalists, diplomats, and specialized academics.

Kind regards

Ronald Sanders