Rough seas and safe seats: Caribbean elections
Hello and welcome to the intelligence on economist. Radio I'm your host Jason Palmer. Every weekday we provide a fresh perspective on the events shaping your world. For months North Korea's leadership insisted, the country didn't have a single case of covid nineteen. At last Kim Jong UN has come out with a shocking admission that things aren't going well with the pandemic or the economy. That is a huge understatement. Be and last year Sierra Leone put out one, thousand, five, hundred and sixty six different sets of stamps mostly featuring dead white guys. For African countries, it's a tidy way to raise a bit of money from online buyers, but it's irking serious collectors. I up though. Today voters head to the polls for a general election in Jamaica. Last weekend, the two candidates appeared in a television debate to put their cases to the nation. And wholeness the incumbent prime minister accused his opponent of working to knock down progress. Could you come here? No. Manifesto. In twenty twenty that would destroy what we have worked for. The last decade. The opposition candidate Peter Phillips pushed back through eight years after independence Jamaica can. It's been a tough time for the region. In general, Island nations have fared well during the pandemic. So the Caribbean has been spared the worst. There have been recent infection spikes including in Jamaica since the beginning of the week Jamaica has recorded a huge spike in the nineteen nineties. Add to that the looming peak of hurricane season. Whoever takes the reins? In Jamaica as elsewhere in the region, we'll be navigating extremely choppy waters. The incumbent is Andrew Holness. He won in February twenty sixteen by the narrowest of margins but Caribbean elections these days than not about policy. They're certainly not about ideology Mark Wilson writes about the Carribean for the economist there about were you can actually achieve and carried out his major promise last time, which was to cut income tax and he seems to be seen as a good. SAFE pair of hands for difficult situation and who is he up against WHO's the opposition candidate? The other side we've got Peter Phillips. He's a lot older than wholeness. He's seventy as against forty, eight, fifty guard prime minister, and he's had a really tough year. He had to fight off cancer and he had to fight off two challenges to his leadership from within his own party. On the opinion polls, he is way behind barring a huge upset. It looks like a strong wind for the government and we've sort of checked in with election campaigns around the world during the time of the pandemic what has what has Jamaica's been like? Well it's completely shadowed the campaign Caribbean election campaigns and normally almost like a street carnival is huge rallies and motorcades and with the constituencies being small the candidates really trying meet every single voter in person if they can. There's been no big rallies it's been much more impersonal. There's been little spike who quite a big spike in the infection rate, which started a few days into the campaign on August in one, thousand, nine hundred, and that's put a dampener on procedures. It's kind of lowered the mood in Jamaica quite a lot as well, and so has that played into the campaign itself is is that a campaign issue? It hasn't really been a campaign issue. There's no kind of major over the government's handling it. Wrong. The government's handling it right But it's just something that has dictated the atmosphere of the campaign in thrown it right off guard you. The. Rate of infection is still way lower than for example numerical it's about one quarter of the US rate of infection. So it's not actually a particularly unsafe place to go just got very much worse than the last couple of weeks is that to say that the pandemic hasn't had much effect on the economy either no, it's had a huge effect on the economy the economy's heavily dependent on tourism and tourism. Just went out like a light in the middle of March. They reopened the island to tourists from June but people have not been coming in their normal numbers. So the arrivals figures have been about maybe twenty percent of the normal rate since mid June and not all of those arrivals have been what you'd normally think covers tourists many of them have been returning Jamaicans coming home family occasions that sort of stuff. That people who do come as tourists they've mostly been confined to the hotel property which in a big all inclusive like sandals resorts isn't too much hardship. But. They have not been going out to restaurants. They have not been going out to other attractions. So the whole industry is really really down at the moment. And what about the economic picture beyond tourism the other sectors of the economy have not been doing. Well, the second foreign exchange earner has been remittances from Jamaicans overseas mainly in America also in Britain Canada Cayman Islands. The latest figures on those in for a pro and they were down about ten percent on a year ago. The book industry, which I suppose number three earner is not doing very very well and the traditional agricultural sectors like sugar and bananas pretty much on shutdown. So the economic outlook is really very, very bleak at the moment although there's a certain amount of construction activity going on particularly around Kingston, it's not completely dead, but the foreign exchange sections of the economy are just. Pretty much out of it. And it is that a similar story across the Caribbean economies have been hit by tourism by dropping remittances. It's a story rights across Sicily, the tourism dependent economists, which is almost all of the islands. Thank Thomas. We weren't allowed to leave the room so we weren't able to obviously enjoy that or and then from there on out. Against Saint Kitts Barbados canceled US Martinique some of them have started to reopen to that back in tourists. They haven't all had the recent corona virus spike. So a lot of the smaller ones, Antigua's Lucia Grenada and few of those. There's about ten islands which have literally had just one or two new infections over the last two weeks, which is really not too bad. But the infection numbers have really spiked in the Bahamas in Belize and then guyana-suriname and Trinidad which not really tourist economists. So as far as the island that are very tourism base that have been hit very hard economically by by the pandemic, how do you see things playing out now? A big threat at the moment is the hurricane season. We already seen the devastating impact left behind in parts of the Caribbean, at least ten people are dead in the Dominican Republic and Haiti we're just going into the most active period of the season which runs through September into the beginning of October. And we see more storms so far though luckily there's been no major direct hit on any of the island so far. But if there is it's going to be very, very, very bad news with pandemic going on on one consideration is you can't possibly keep social distancing going in hurricane shelters you can troy, but it's not going to be easy and then after the hurricane. If. It's about one. You've got a long period with no electricity no water no phone connections supplies running short, and that is going to be a complete enough nightmare event happens and in the absence of of a devastating hurricane though how do you think that these these tourist based economy can can get kickstarted again. Where we're going is really a question for the medical research people nobody in the Caribbean knows the answer. Nobody in the tourism industry knows the answer. It depends how soon we get a vaccine and how soon the virus comes under control in the major market countries in North America and Europe, and also was in the car being itself. That's really what's going to count. Mark Thank you very much for joining us. It's been a pleasure. The August meeting of North Korea's Workers Party began as it usually does with rapturous applause for Kim Jong. But then the Supreme Leader told the party faithful the due to unexpected difficulties government had failed to improve the lives of the people or to meet its economic goals. And so a new party congress would be convened early next year to come up with a new five year plan. That raised eyebrows countries dictators aren't given to self-deprecation. It's very unusual for the North Korean regime to make Mrs about failure whether about the economy about anything else. Is The economists Seoul Bureau chief. So the fact that Kim Jong Pass these ads. Failed, to improve people's livelihoods alliott s very unusual indeed. and. The failure to improve people's lives as is largely economic in nature I mean, how bad is the economy North Korea? The North Korean economy was never particularly healthy to start off with, and then over the past few years has been made worse by economic sanctions. That are designed to stop the nuclear weapons program, but also have kind of knock on effects on the economy, and this year has been hit by a double whammy of the wettest rainy season years over the past couple of months, a terrible monsoon rains flooding devastated crops everywhere, and obviously on top of that, we've had the pandemic with North Korea. By seeing itself awfulness entirely. So one of the strictest quarantine regimes in the entire world at has that has that worked as it's managed to keep over nineteen under control. So north. Korea was one of the best countries and the entire well to shut down the bordon very soon after the initial outbreak in China and for months, the regime insisted the North Korea was entirely covered free those widespread skepticism about that claim in the outside world we don't know Fischel but in July that was the repentant defector who returned from South Korea across the border between the two. Countries and North Korea's us the opportunity and said, well, he's a suspected case of covert and the tests that conducted him was inconclusive Manson's then they've stopped claiming quite. So violently that the anti covid freeze, but they still have not it that they have any cases of that they've tested some people on the quarantining many. But what about those strict and swift border closures? How how's that looking now? With a few points over the past few months where it kind of looked like it was easing a bit. We got reports of trucks getting through Gannett trains getting through again, see where it's reopened. But recently time again until we know the board remains logic closed trade with China, which is the main trading partner North Korea hassle, but ceased during the fast soft the value four, the trade conducted between the countries was four, hundred, million dollars, which is a reduction of two adds approximately compared with last year. So essentially went from Berry to vet shooting nothing. So a a weak economy weakened further by by natural disasters of. One sort. What does that look like on the ground? When spring, we saw the fast results in Piang and the capsule, which is quite unusual because they tend to make sure all the people in the capital of wealth added looks good from the outside said the reports usually well-stocked shops that ran out for short of many consumer goods. They rationed staple foods like cooking oil though few reports of north, Koreans asking the foreign colleagues to by Scots items for them from trump's at the reserve foreigners. And the fact that it was that bad in Pyongyang suggests that is probably much less than provinces. We don't have any fast reports from the very few. But the likelihood that things a much west outside of Pyongyang where people can't see as very high. We've had the longest wettest rainy season for many years a tickly northwest province where North Korea grows a lot of rice has been particularly badly hit by the flooding. And even state media miss it in. August, the flooding was probably going to affect the harvest. And we've got typhoon season, which is just starting, which is probably GonNa lead to more floods. Everything is going to get less and so how much do you read into this unusual admission of culpability and amid all of these challenges? Well it certainly suggests to me that the regime is concerned by the devastation economic devastation caused to people's lives Kim. Jong UN it's been very keen to showcases concern he's gone and toward some of the flood-hit areas, he's been very down on bureaucrats. Embezzling Aid Funds and are not doing enough to rebuild infrastructure quickly enough. and has been the announcement that because the most recent economic plan that failed digging top party congress in January and announced new five plants the sort of promise that they're going to think about it and things get better in the future. So clearly trying to appear as the they cannot say they're really trying to help people and what about beyond the government? Is there any international support coming through in normal times outside of covert and whatnot humanitarian organizations from outside of North Korea would now be gearing up. To send water pumps and food aid to alleviate the impact of these catastrophes on ordinary people in the north and the efforts of never been straightforward because North Korea's very obsessed with this idea of self reliance. They don't really need the outside while they can manage on their own and the determination isolate themselves in the context of the pandemic. Makes it a little more difficult Kim on US despite trick office, a foreign help the stencil reason for that that's going to bring the virus into the country. Butler their other matches and The other problem is that because of the quarantined, the vast majority of foreign aid workers, diplomats have been forced to leave North Korea and the few who remain behind Abbad from leaving Pyongyang. So they can't really go and see what it looks like out in the field will visit any eight projects with do any on the ground wack I mean I. It's it's rare that a happy people story comes out of North Korea here but this does seem to be a confluence of of really bad conditions. How bad do you think this could get? This is a very challenging situation even by North Korean standards haven for the usual misery of the people have to do this less than your average bad year. It doesn't look as the s going to get quite as bad as what happened in the nineties off to the public distribution system collapsed and there was widespread famine in the entire country. So people on seeing that just yet. But it's just GONNA lead to sort of level increase misery over the next few months and probably couple of years. Thanks very much for joining US lineup. Thanks for having me Jason. For more analysis like this from our international network of correspondents subscribe to the Economist to find the best introductory offer wherever you are just go to economist dot com slash intelligence offer. Then, Hudson was one of the great. English cricketers a fine Batsman, a taciturn Yorkshireman he scored three hundred and sixty four runs in the fifth ashes test match in nineteen thirty eight. Adrian Bloomfield is our east. Africa. co-respondent. If you are cricket fan, you will know who lent Hudson is the Central African Republic. On the other hand is not a country with much of a cricketing pedigree. It doesn't even have a cricket team say it seems a little strange that in two thousand sixteen, the Central African Republic chose to issue a set of commemorative stamps to mark the centenary of Len Hanson's birth, and what's all the still the Central African Republic the only country that chose to commemorate the centenary of leading Hobson's Beth Niger did and so did maybe. That's not the only example of commemorative stamps did seem like unusual choices far from it. This proliferation of postage is infuriating the collectors of the serious stuff sometimes is also the anniversaries themselves. So it possibly, you can imagine you might mark the Senri of an international figure in. But. Why did Sierra Leone in January choose to mark three, hundred, ninety, five years since the death of young Bruegel the elder. Ten years ago Guinea-bissau, the two hundred sixtieth anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach this year Jim did the same for the two hundred seventieth anniversary So, what's behind this? Why are these countries celebrating these figures on on anniversary normally countries issue stamps to show off their beautiful countryside Beth were on the phone to celebrate National Heroes or landmarks but there is a rationale for printing stamps of long dead foreigners say if you wanted to walk into a post office in Bangui, the capital of the central. African Republic you would find it very difficult to buy a Lenhart and stamp what's going on here is that there is an aggressive cutting of the collectors market because there are collectors who will scour the Internet and they're going to be very happy to pay quite handsomely Orlando Hudson Stamps Modigliani stamps, and it's a handy way for poorer African states who might. Not have much of an international presence to boost their revenues and how long has this kind of thing going on? Is this a new trend? The has been this tendency to issue stamps for the collector's market for about seventy years according to a chapel is blake to the royal. Philatelic. Society of London, it started when decolonisation happened and accompanying America. Actually started to represent newly decolonized countries to help them with the postal services. But then I think some countries start to natives at this was a way of making money and I, and some collectors I've speaking to mark nineteen eighty as the point things began to happen I'm nineteen ninety one was the year of the wedding of Prince Charles and they diadema. A number of African countries issued stems to commemorate that and they start to notice that that did pretty well in the collector's market. But in the last year has there's been an explosion in this, and this is causing the serious collectors those who collect stamps for money as an investment to have kitchens, and why is that several African countries not just African countries one or two smaller countries like Vanuatu. For example, went to a Lithuanian based outfit called stem put Asia on them to design and print stems and the series collectors will tell you that Stanford has flooded the market with Tanto one collector said to me stems are very numerous and frequently awful. Sierra Leone last year, Chan that one, thousand, five, hundred, sixty, six different sets of stamps many of them. Showing long dead white men whereas India with a population of more than a billion people issue just one hundred, thousand, nine sets of stems. But what's the problem here if there is a thriving market for it and people are buying them and people still find whatever novelty they find in it. Then what's the issue that is exactly the case postal officials are to Sierra and he said people want to buy these. Stems, we're willing to sell them. It makes us money. So what is the problem? Why are collectors grumbling? What some of the collectors are saying is that it's cheapening the brand of these countries and also is it appropriate particularly in this day in age? So a lot of collectors will be finding stamps from countries that they little of and believe that those countries spend most of their time apparently celebrating those dead white men as heroes and say, there are suggestions of what is going on here essentially is postal imperialism. Adrian thanks very much for your time. Thank you very much indeed Jason. That's all for this episode of the Intelligence. If you like us give us a rating on Apple podcasts and see back tomorrow.