COVID-19: Vaccine, Politics, Socio-Economics and are some Caribbean islands pricing themselves out of a return visit?

The Hidden Engine:

The Caribbean tourist industry has been its economic engine. It is the most tourist-dependent in the world according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). For some islands experts also noted that tourism accounts for upwards of 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives

Since COVID-19, travel spending has suffered an unprecedented 42% annual decline (roughly $500 billion) from 2019. International travel and business travel had the sharpest declines, and experts have noted spending fell 76% and business travel spending fell about 70 percent.

Several decades ago, manufacturing areas like sugar, banana, coffee, poultry, and bauxite; played a key role in sustaining the economy. These jobs were the balance between the service economy that provided what established the middle class.

Sadly, many were sold to foreign investments; and many jobs moved elsewhere because of globalization and the development of technology. These investments also followed cheap labor and better tax incentives like tax breaks, grants, reduced costs of opening or expanding a business facility, and free job training.

The companies that remained for about a decade were no longer competitively priced or folded due to massive imports, poor management, and reduced production.

These closures affected communities from local stores, restaurants, bars, and street vendors who depended on these operations. It has increased unemployment, widen the gap between the haves vs haves-nots; especially for the dominant Caribbean islands like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Haiti, Dominica, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and other parts of Latin America who were already looking for an economic booster shot.

It has created an extremely social divide, that made it worse for generation by a generation where poverty and inequality have been on the rise regardless of the political side in power. It seems today, more charity organizations asking for aids rather than a platform to develop innovation for the next generation who will be key to the sustainability of these shores.

Taking from Peter to Pay Paul:

Globally, there is an increase in commodities; prices of home building materials even for preparation for school since the pandemic. Additionally, supply chains contributed to increased volatility in import, export, and producer price many leading economic data have shown.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska



COVID-19 has caused an economic shock three times worse than the 2008 financial crisis, economists notes. But nations who were unprepared suffered the more. Though many blame their ongoing financial problems on lock-down, it is not the sole issue.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there are reports of enormous fare hikes from taking a local taxi from an airport to a hotel lodging. Sadly, it seems to represent an opportunity for prior lost revenue and will discourage future trips, especially for budget-stricken travelers.

A simple COVID-19 test few argued as required or visiting and departing typically run between 20-35 US dollars. I have spoken to recent travelers who visited Jamaica that it can cost about US$80.00, and that varies depends on the location to get back on a flight.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch

Another traveler complained that while at airport checkout custom fined her for items because she may have forgotten to take off a sale tag. For several natives going on vacation, it is not unusual to purchase a new set of clothing.

These connected visitors often purchased items also to be given away or returned if not worn. Even a few extra boxes of protected masks to support aunt Jane is being seen as a business trip. In addition, reports items missing after inspection of luggage to clear check out.

Reports have shown excursion trips almost double in cost. Some of these businesses were already struggling financially before the pandemic. It is like you are simply paying for others who are hesitant to travel.

Despite the pandemic risk, some will continue to travel due to heritage, cultural connections, while others just need a mental break.

These deep-roots vacationers’ trips to an authentic small restaurant tucked away on a lovely rural hillside or a small beach shop away from the populated areas with an aunt, grandparents, uncle, or siblings play a pivotal role in the off-the-grid economy disposable income.

Vacation is also beyond the beach and now into urban centers, taking in historic sites and cultural events.  Travel reports have shown there was a growing influx of travelers in places like Europe and North America, and part of ASIA before COVID-19.

Photo by riciardus

Visiting and spending out of protected tourist zones is like direct remittance, where countries like Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Jamaica alone accounted for almost ($10 Billion USD) annually according to IOM UN Migration.

A delicate balance:

The pandemic has created tension in the local communities where government officials struggle on what businesses should remain open or close temporarily. Health ministers also argued many visitors to the region were not adhering to the safety protocol, and I believe they should.

Managing the number of incoming visitors some of whom may not have been vaccinated and the local economic impact is a delicate topic. This pandemic has put leadership decisions between a rock and a hard place. It is a balancing act closing the local economy because others will die from the lack of an economic vaccine.

R.D.

Even though many locals have complied from social distancing, wear masks, and are vaccinated, frustration continues. Some argued that locals are being locked down, while visitors are allowed to move freely and party.

The lack of consistency in local guidelines, from what business will be closed, or street will be blocked to enforce curfews to the type of transportation allowed to operate only add to the frustration.

Many argue it seems leaders are utilizing these times of fear, anxiety, and economic uncertainty to gently push in a direction to gain despotic political power through restrictions. Though it may not be a push to reduce democracy; freedom only comes through knowledge, and reasonableness is only possible if talk achieves consensus. 

COVID-19 survival is like an underground business operation. It is a balancing act navigating the pandemic risk for their economic viability. So, many people march to their drumbeat.

Those who are well-connected, wealthy, politicians and who can afford to self-quarantine, healthcare access, and more than likely already vaccinated; often seem to be the ones who are jabbing fingers and scorned at those who break curves rules, or demonstrating crying for help.

Overcrowding at a local hospital

Some locals are concerned that the healthcare systems had already been struggling in keeping up with critical needs. Additionally, while this surge pushing hospitals to the brink with the worst still likely ahead, the pandemic has exposed its inefficiency, from limited bed space to overcrowding to mitigate this pandemic and other key issues before the outbreak.

Despite the blame game, and people who still traveling, I believe anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 or has other medical issues and is aware of potential medical hurdles would not risk their lives to navigate a few islands’ healthcare systems.

Another shot not in the arm.

Sadly, many politicians in these impoverished and developing counties are like dealers in a casino; they always come out ahead; including other well-connected people. They are salaried employees on the people’s taxes and the impact of this pandemic is less severe.

On top of a fragile economy; local communities coughing up an economic virus that had already been dormant just waiting on a strain to be reactivated. The pandemic has put the region’s governance under the microscope and exposed the fragile labor force and the poor.

Photo by Julia Volk

For decades, it looks like leaders have been playing poker economics where no one knows the outcome of the hand dealt, expecting and promising a more reliable hand each election cycle since independence from once colonial rule.

Today, many educated students are waiting to join a list of call centers with high student loans and limited job opportunities. The idea of purchasing a small house off the grid from a modest job is becoming more challenging.

Some reports show three out of four youths are unemployed. Many students are not achieving the critical academic requisite from the lack of resources, even heading back to the classrooms that were already overcrowded.

Yes, with high unemployment and undervalued currency, dwindling middle class, and increased poverty is breeding added violence from robberies, murders, and criminal assaults.

Generally, any increase in price on basic goods and services such as; bus fare, taxes, groceries, fuel, or government services, and if wages remain stagnant and have not budged in decades, families must cut back somewhere.

Often especially for basic food supplies, prices can vary from the adjacent store a few steps away, with little enforcement only adds to the economic struggles.

Several reports have shown nearly nine in ten voters say they are concerned about inflation, the rising cost of living, and limited job prospects and financial uncertainties have created more economic fever and financial strokes.

What next?

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has been meeting to discuss a global coordinated partnership on the impact of the Coronavirus on world travel and tourism, according to reports, but who is at the table for the impoverished nations?

Photo by August de Richelieu

With the cost of living increasing globally, the pandemic remains unpredictable, more young people are becoming infected in the region and dying.

Many communities are not even close to a first dosage, where access to the poor, frequently seen through the eyes of politics can be difficult, while others are on the second, or even getting close to a third.

There are reports of people still refusing to be vaccinated. However, I believe that there are no more valid excuses for not being vaccinated other than health reasons.

Many impoverished people who were already left out of the economy instantly feeling the brunt of an outsider; especially the ones who refuse to be vaccinated. It seems they are the ones should be rounded up like slaves when they voiced their concerns.

Often reaching out with a small support group with a conversation about the vaccine may help some hesitancy due to people’s conflict with religious ideology, distrust of their leaders, or ignorance.

Nurses, doctors, and scientists are key in public health awareness and dispelling myths communicating with and educating patients and caregivers about the benefits of vaccination and vaccine safety.

One hope is that access to this vaccine, does not become for sale or used as a political platform for future election votes across some of these shores, and elsewhere.


The sun will rise again on these shores, and if people follow the science and recommendations, it may lead to less need for targeted price hikes.

Photo by Jonathan Petersson

There must be a balance where everyone can navigate this recent significant change; support each other regardless of your political views, locals, incoming and departing visitors working collectively where no one felt left out or pressured to have a sense of normalcy.

See you again soon!

COVID-19: The long-term socio-economic gap facing poor and developing countries.

BY R.D. Miller

The humanity of education:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious implications beyond the spread of the illness itself and efforts to quarantine or social distancing. Many have lost their jobs, companies have closed or sales have gone down. With over a million people die and another 70 million infected and rising, there are several untold and unseen consequences.  

coronavirus under the microscope.

Unfortunately, many lower-income families in impoverished communities in poor and developing countries do not have access to the global space of learning to rebound on par with the rest of the rich counties, states, school districts. Several classrooms already needed an upgrade before the pandemic.

Many are already crowded, low performance, old run-down buildings deemed unsafe for both children and teachers; including a high student-teacher ratio. In some of these school systems, students had to attend schools in morning and afternoon shifts.

Though it is not an effortless task, the pandemic has exposed how fragile economies were, and the lack of focus on the educational system before the pandemic.

Experts noted these students will miss out on face-to-face socialization process critical to the child’s development, as until this global health pandemic, run its course.

Reports have shown several schools who conducted classes following the guidelines of social distancing and mask, later had to close from new infections. In addition, these schools have the resources, from proper ventilation, adequate classroom size.

While discussions between communities about what is the best course of action to mitigate the effects of science, politics, vaccination and resources regarding fair distribution. The reality for many impoverished nations this remains a complex issue, and where some may not or have a classroom to return because of the lack the critical resources.

Photo by Pixabay

Besides that, many will refuse the vaccine for cultural, religious reasons and a history of distrust in fear of being used for its development. However, hidden between the clinical trials, vaccination, hesitations, death toll, and infections that have been increasing; hunger, poverty, and starvation is killing millions, and this crisis seems to have taken a back seat or being overshadowed by many communities

What this pandemic has taught us is that the educational system is about teaching all regardless of race, sex, creed, culture, or socioeconomic status, and to build a nation and humanity, that will create a change in bringing our society to a perfect union.

Beyond the vaccine, science, and politics.

This forecast looks worse for impoverished nations and though it may not relate to a teacher’s engagement in this new normal distance learning, hybrid, but behind a camera, computer screen tucked away on a kitchen counter, at a cafe, or a corner office, and beyond the articles, opinions, COVID-19 occupy two different worlds.

While there have been political debates and promises about the COVID-19 stimulus package, or money distributed as reported in certain areas that lasted a trip to a local grocery store, and where elections have been won or lost because of pandemic management.

Unfortunately, many politicians are adept at winning elections, and then they learn the difference between campaigning and governing. Government is about accomplishing things, and usually a lot harder than being a politician. Some have limited skills, and we give them more tasks than they can do.

We have seen several political leaders issued tablets in many of these poor and developing regions, and it is a step in the promising direction, but that is where it stops. There is no access to the internet or resources to pay for access.

Technology experts noted though they may provide access regarding learning from a remote location, it lacks a keyboard, mouse, low processor, and limited research capabilities to work on projects. There are many young students out of the classroom and on to the streets to find their way. 

Poverty is like a dial-up speed to upload and download life’s journey, and it has held many students back.  It is a fact that COVID-19 has already shown signs that it is affecting school achievement, as experts have noticed. Reports have shown students since COVID-19 failing at an alarming rate. A recent test assessment showed lower scores for math, reading, and science.

The economic reality that cannot be masked

Before COVID-19, many poor and developing countries were struggling and risking high tides across the treacherous ocean as refugees to traveling to countries for an economic anchorage in an empty classroom anywhere. These systemic disparities today need a new fiber-optic connection to link hunger, education, and the pandemic into a single package on a long-term social contract like what they offer with your local cable company, broadband internet, television, and telephone.

Photo by Ahmed akacha

The middle class has equally been deeply affected, and the dreadful long-term reality of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty is appalling, as they expected poverty to increase, according to the World Bank. The report shows that between 70 and 80 million people will fall into more profound poverty. There were significant pre-pandemic disparities in many areas, like education, employment, and access to good, affordable health care.

On-campus or not?

In contrast to rich school districts that have adopted an excellent strategy with resources, new technology platforms, improved speed, computers, and uninterrupted access, virtual, in-classroom, or hybrid.

These wealthy districts’ parents often are more engaged, have the flexibility, and connection that can influence the next learning platforms that suit their schedules. And though there are concerns about students and teacher safety, as evidenced by the demonstration lines with the teachers and their union, that normally settles with the school’s budget.

On the other side of the city, even with access, this pandemic has devastated many families; especially minorities, people of color who have lost many families because of this disease. The healthcare disparities have caused more deaths in these communities, and whether online or in class, it will not fill the emotional sadness and gaps from any new classroom format.

Who will be there to comfort a student who may have to cope with a deceased parent or another family member to the disease? The fact is, COVID-19 already created a wider gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Unquestionably, students missed their senior proms, hanging out with friends, homecoming, and sports, as experts noted, critical to the student’s social and emotional needs. However, this pandemic will not be measured on these things alone, or political polls, but on the gaps that it will leave in our society.

Besides, the further setbacks in their educational, social, and economic development; a good deal of may not even be vaccinated based on location, and access again will remain a barrier.  The only ones who may come out as the winner are well-connected politicians where questions remain about the accounting of COVID-19 donated funds as reports have shown.

In addition, the investors as shares of pharmaceutical companies skyrocketed, but one still must give credit to the scientist who has been working and got society to this point.

Today’s multiple caps teachers: counselor, technical support, financial resource, attendance advocate

Studies have shown that teachers have a lifelong effect on schoolchildren that help them to believe in themselves, but parents will remain the most influential individuals in a child’s education and development.

COVID-19 has tossed many teachers into this unknown glass room, where everyone watching, hoping to get to know these kids through their gadgets that are often foggy while keeping 20-35 students alert.

The online setting does not provide an ideal platform to recognize all students, unique strengths, weaknesses, and motivation levels critical to keeping them all engaged virtually. However, it is a balance given the risk for new infections as no one knows how it is going to turn out from the vaccine to new variants.

We can argue that these students do not have the responsibility to go to work, the only commitment is to wake up, log in and take part, but I can see how many students’ grades may suffer even if a student had a high grade point average, before the Pandemic.

The personal check-in disguised for a few days

I monitored a few classes over the past three months, and I realized how tough teachers’ roles are in this new normal. Undoubtedly, a bonus for the ones who are mothers with instant access to their children from exposure to COVID-19.  Time again you get that, “I’ll be right back,” wearing two hats, but I understand.

Photo by Bich Tran

Even working in an environment, protecting the public and with the latest technology gadgets, my platform has its ugly days. However, as the week passed, it became more painless, and occasionally someone pops into this visual space, and maybe a school counselor and perhaps from parental feedback.

The students’ opinions that may be formed for a lifetime, may not have any outside discussion from one’s political beliefs, socio-economic status, culture, race, national origin, and how few view other groups, and a misguided history from some of these selective lectures, where it appears key decades in our/their history pains kipped to a much rosier picture in that period.

Some teachers are extremely helpful and understanding, while others, once they complete the slide, please check the folder to reply. What about those who may not have access to a closed online slide from that day’s class to refresh because their connection is away from the comfort of their home at a McDonald’s? 

The question that I kept coming back to, if these sponge brains do not have an outlet at this age in the future to talk about any disagreement, questionable section of these Power Points is critical to their development at lunch, on the playing field, in the hallway walking to a locker.  Let’s hope COVID-19 does not set us farther apart when we are all vaccinated and can return to normal.

Where is mum?

Missing in the debate:  
Employment
Daycare
Slow or No Wi-Fi

These parents deserve more support and resources like community groups. Even to help with an assignment. It’s critical to recognize and respect that every family and child has unique needs. Many parents have become substitute night teachers of the abundance of assignments and emails. If they cannot explain the material being taught, how will they help their child with homework?

The experts also pointed out that parents take note: Kids, teens, college student mental health problems on the rise.

More withdrawn than usual
Eating or sleeping too much or too little;
Getting irritable mood most days
Lack of interest in activities they typically enjoy.

Logging out for the day with concerns, but remain optimistic

Parents must be conscientious of several pop-up learning platforms being sold as an alternative by offering free computers and dedicated support. They must investigate like any sequence-based surveillance, laboratory studies, and epidemiological findings to make sure it does not leave them with an enormous financial burden and it does not prepare the child for the future.

Also, the increase in fishing to lure students from the virtual classroom to inappropriate websites and the best internet security alone cannot monitor these sites.

As society re-balances, I hope this pandemic creates a do-over where everyone can receive a legitimate shot to overcome these systematic gaps. Times are rough now, but if we prepare with a new balanced approach, I remain hopeful because education belongs to humanity and not a country.


Photo Credit: Forbes