Commentary: Can expatriates find peace in the Caribbean islands today?

BY R.D.. Miller

The Mental Anguish: On August 14, 2017, Charlottesville, VA, Heather Heyer, 32, killed for standing up against hate during KKK, neo Nazis, white supremacist, and other hate groups racially motivated rally that incited violence.

Global reports have also shown an emergence of nationalism pushed by few, and where immigrants and other groups now viewed as a problem.

This push has triggered an egalitarianism debate, a value that many societies hold.

Although Caribbean expatriates survived racial tension decades ago, with less protection under the law, these rallies have brought back stories of a dark period for many immigrants.

For these aging baby boomers, the islands could be an appealing retirement peace dock for those who want to thank their adopted country for a better life.

They are not bitter and forever grateful, but concern that the resurfaced hate wounds today is problematic.

After watching Fareed Zakaria, a talk show host on CNN regarding division in America, an open question has emerged with one of my cousins who is now enjoying retirement.

Can Jamaica today and to a broader extent other parts of the Caribbean be ripe for the taking to attract potential baby boomers?

These retirement dollars as studies have shown can last longer in the Caribbean region. Their disposable income also benefits local communities.

They often create new employment through domestic help that sometimes pays better wages than regular local employment.

Economically it is an advantage for the country they would be leaving not having to subsidize medical and housing cost.

However, while many baby boomers would like to return their tropical paradise, a vast number will not return to due to fear of violence, changing demographics, foreign-born children that can lead to some cultural alienation, poor leadership, and lost connections.

During the early 1990s to early 2000 over 10,000 people returned to Jamaica alone from places like the United Kingdom, United States and Canada, as reports have shown, but many believe that number has diminished significantly.

If these islands were ripe for the taking, I believe more people would be landing outside the tourist protected zones.

Caribbean Life, a popular television show that highlights the best places for people searching to find a home, does not capture local political turmoil, corruption, poverty, crime, money laundering and other social issues in a 30-minute segment.

Although parts of this region shine bright on the outside, it has dark holes and, there are consequences if potential residents bite too fast from the basket of fruits they once left intact.

In a recent report, Jamaica has seen one of its lowest economic declines, and maybe since its independence from colonial British rule, and other parts of the region struggling on many economic fronts.

It has one of the highest crime homicide rates in the hemisphere, and over 350 expatriates killed, or robbed according to several reports in a decade.

Even few known quiet shores soon will find a spot on the murder rate per capita chart.

Someone with a gun in places such as the Turks and Caicos Islands, or The Bahamas, was a farfetched idea.

Ongoing economic stagnation and rising poverty have created a wider gap between the haves and have-nots

Simply, we the rich vs. them over there.

This social stratification is beyond the lack of jobs, inequality, poverty, it has morphed into criminal mentality that has no regard for anyone, but itself.

It has created a devastating “crab in the bucket” mentality where the bottom, consistently pulls the top down, and in the end, all perish.

Leading foreign affairs experts note that remittances play a key role, including other pensions that kept these poor nations’ economies afloat, but Western Union, tourist protected zones alone cannot sustain the overall Caribbean economy.

Welcome Home! Now all your hard-earned possessions are mine.

In May 2016, the US State Department warned that violent crime remains high in Trinidad and Tobago, and especially for expatriate residents and tourists involving violent robbery, kidnapping for ransom, assault, and rape.

I am not saying that everyone who visits some parts of the Caribbean is being robbed, but ongoing reports are troubling.

On August 15, 2017, returning residents were robbed of their luggage, car, and goods on their way from the Norman Manley airport, and left by the roadside.

Fortunately, no one died in this incident but, as always, an investigation is ongoing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016: Jamaica Observer: “Gregory, 71, and his 74-year-old wife, Corita — who returned to Jamaica from the United States — were chopped to death at their home in the rural community of Edinburgh.” Their horror is just one of many similar stories.

These crimes are simply another form of lottery scamming, but in the open with guns and machetes.

These returning residents worked long hours in sometimes poor weather, saved their money just to return to their native land to enjoy the sun, breeze, and a relaxed vibe.

The difficulties many face today are not price gouging alone that carries stiff penalties especially against seniors where they once worked, or a tropical storm, unreliable utility service, friends leaving because of violence, or poor roads.

It is poor leadership and difficulty implementing policies regarding crime and justice in eliminating criminal gangs who engage in serious crimes that devastate families.

Advertising beautiful seaside, rustic, or remote living packages to discount on shipping into a gated community can be attractive.

But it seems after these baby boomers cleared customs they are on their own.

No one wants to live in a retirement community being targeted by criminals next door waiting for an opportunity to strike

The elderly woman robbed multiple times after leaving local bank with her pension from years working in the United Kingdom is not a random act.

Silence from the community even when they know these perpetrators and with a poor record in solving these crimes, this case will stay in the authorities unsolved files.

Many residents that returned earlier now stay put due late stage illnesses and deterioration from aging.

They are now housed in multi-million-dollar homes, caged in with steel bars for protection like prison with multiple locks to enter.

One hopes for an emergency exit in the event of a fire.

While minimization tends to hit social media when these crimes occur, other well-managed islands, including some Latin countries, have developed policies that are attracting retirees in massive numbers.

Lower to no taxes on retirement income, well-managed communities, low crime, and cost of living, while others only see them as an attractive source for government officials especially tax planners.

The critique is squarely not what is wrong with returning residents learning the dos and don’ts as many in the media often blame the victims. It is simply what is wrong with leadership unable to foresee these problems, and develop a clear vision to deal with public affairs.

Also, now living in fear, many local business people who are contributing to the local economy are being killed and extorted by gangs.

If leaders that should be the voice of their nation are corrupt, self-centered, and part of amoral cliques, how can they have empathy for these people ravaged by crime?

I get it: No region is immune from crime, but who would want to work for 40-plus years to see it taken away driving from the airport to one’s new residence.

Several skilled people from the UK, Canada, the US, and elsewhere would like to return to help the youth.

Amalgamation into their foreign culture has not always kept them away, but fear of being targeted combined with memories of lost friends and family to violence even while on vacation in some of these areas.

Today, the Chinese seem to be the only ones attracted to the region, and with free access to government officials on all political sides.

Today, the Chinese seem to be the only ones attracted to the region, and with free access to government officials on all political sides.

These marriages are only one-sided, and has created dumping of their products while local farmers and small businesses struggle to compete with imposts as I have noted earlier, goodbye, going once, twice, sold.

As local authorities struggle to fight crime, what if these global investors were to take over crime fighting to protect their interests?

The tourist protected zone alone cannot sustain the overall Caribbean economy:

With uncertainties and safety concerns that kept many away from these shores, one hopes for a new change in thinking that the next generation who may yearn to enjoy the sun with friends, and family for their hard work will be safer.

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