The Impact Of The Crisis On Women In The Caribbean
The global financial crisis received world-wide attention in mid-2008, amidst signs of increasing distress.
The sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States - induced by insider trading and profiteering7 and facilitated by the virtual collapse of effective regulation – served as the tipping point.8 This crisis marks the collapse of a period of neo-liberalism - known, at times, as “The Washington Consensus”9 - that contributed to increased inequality within and between countries. Neo-liberalism is an economic and ideological system characterised by the prominence of a self-regulating market and belief in a “trickle down” notion of wealth distribution. Neo-liberalism has resulted in the removal of impediments (i.e. regulations) to capital mobility, the weakening of trade unions, and a reduction in public expenditure for social services.
Neo-liberal policies, introduced in the Caribbean as Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) in the 1980s, had, by the 1990s, almost fully destroyed the agriculture sector10 throughout the region and the industrial production sector in a few specific countries. Caribbean feminists Joan French (1994) and Peggy Antrobus (2004:70-76) critiqued these policies, documenting their specific impacts on poor women. For example, Antrobus and French specifically underscore the impact of the decline in spending on health and social welfare on women.
Developed countries - including the US, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom -have experienced varying impacts of the crisis. These have included major job losses, decreased access to loans/credit, home foreclosures, and a decline in global trade. In response, they have adopted stimulus packages, an option the majority of countries in the economic South, including the Caribbean (with the exception of oil and gas producing Trinidad and Tobago), do not have. Governments therefore head recovery plans.
These developments, however, have serious consequences for Caribbean economies. Over the last two decades, Caribbean economies have increased their dependence on northern markets: Trinidad and Tobago relies on the North for energy markets, for example,11 while many of the islands rely on clients and investors from the North for tourism12 and offshore financial services. Caribbean economies also rely on northern countries as importers of primary raw materials13 and manufactured goods. The dominance of the service sector –including tourism, offshore banking, and informatics - follows the decline of their production sectors (see Table 1 below for data on Caribbean economies).