No high expectations
It is hard not to like United States President Barack Obama.
People all over the world cannot seem to get enough of him. Women think he is handsome and that his wife Michelle is a lucky woman.
Men admire his smooth, effortless delivery of speeches with the style and substance some suggest has not been heard since the days of Martin Luther King Jr.
Children see him as an uncle they wished they had, the coolest guy around, a rock star. Even his political foes would admit, albeit reluctantly, that this 51-year-old of black African and American Caucasian ancestry has a charisma and magnetism few have ever come close to, much less match or surpass.
Ever since Obama delivered keynote remarks at his Democratic Party convention, in support of then 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, he has been the political darling of many.
Then came his unprecedented election victory in November 2008 and even more historic inauguration as the 44th US president in January 2009.
Fast forward to 2013 and the excitement and euphoria associated with this so called leader of the free world has not waned, as evidenced by the pride felt on Monday when he was officially installed for a second and final term as the American head.
Historians will still have to wait some time before they are able to fairly and accurately chronicle his contribution to domestic and international affairs, but as Obama returns to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the US capital it’s not too early to ponder what it mean for us in Barbados and the Caribbean.
Is it enough to be happy that someone, who more than any other previous occupant of the White House, is arguably the most powerful man in the world?
Should we be satisfied with his conciliatory tone and stated effort to focus more on peace than war in the world?
In his first term between 2008 and now Barbados and its CARICOM neighbours were buoyed that three members of Obama’s Cabinet, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and now former Secretary of Defence Robert Gates visited Barbados for regional talks.
Dialogue was reportedly meaningful and more offers of assistance from the US were made.
It would be disingenuous of us if we did not acknowledged the important partnership we have with the Americans and the assistance, financial and otherwise, they have provided in various fora, including economic development, trade, and the fight against illicit drugs, guns and related activities.
As far as the future holds, what should Barbados and the region expect?
Having secured a second term, it is clear that the US president’s major focus will primarily be fixing the American economy’s persistent problems, many of which predated him.
Any turnaround in that regard would be good news for Barbados and by consequence an indirect form of assistance from Obama.
The US leader also seems to have a more progressive and humanitarian view about immigration, something which if he manages to achieve would be good news for the millions of West Indians who journeyed there years ago, but who in large measure do not have citizenship status.
But with his administration’s stated goal to have American jobs, thereby investments, that are overseas repatriated home, the potentially crippling subsidies to the rum industry in the US Virgin Islands, and the effort led by the Treasury Department and feared Internal Revenue Service to identify American taxpayers with accounts here and recoup tax revenue from them it is clear that there are some measures that will hinder and perhaps harm the Caribbean’s cause.
Then there is the current administration’s American far from concealed support for efforts like those led by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to bring international business and financial service jurisdictions in line with their tax information exchange provisions.
And how could we forget the continued vexing problem of criminal deportees being sent to the region without warning.
That said, having completed one term and just started another we will reserve judgment on the Obama administration and its engagement with this part of the world.
Time will tell if his time in office influence a resurgence in US-Caribbean relations for the benefit of the people of this region, a lot of whom truly see that country as the personification of Uncle Sam. At this juncture, however, we think it is best not to raise expectations too high.