I bet you thought it was Venezuela. But, as it turns out, Venezuela was just a fair-weather friend. Now that times have changed and Venezuela is feeling the impact of collapsing oil prices, its honeymoon with the Caribbean is over. It is ending subsidized interest rates on oil exports to the islands.
And who is stepping in to ease your pain, Jamaica?
Your new pal, Barack Obama.
Not so long ago, America was guzzling far more oil than it could produce and Venezuela was rolling in the proceeds from its oil exports. But that’s just a memory. With shale oil discoveries and new drilling techniques, America is producing more oil than it can consume. And this has contributed to a global slide in oil prices, leaving Venezuela pinching pennies.
So, now, America can afford to be generous with its oil. Venezuela cannot.
President Obama is heading for Jamaica today to give the country’s leaders the good news. He will become the first US president to set foot on Jamaican soil in more than three decades. The last sitting US president to visit the island was Ronald Reagan in 1982.
Presisdent Obama will attend a meeting with the 15-member CARICOM Caribbean bloc, and plans to offer the islands an alternative to cheap Venezuelan oil.
Apparently, Uncle Sam is waking up to the fact that there’s are friendly next-door neighbors who desperately need his help.
An article in Jamaica’s Observer newspaper quotes senior Obama advisor Ben Rhodes as saying:
We absolutely feel that the CARICOM region does deserve greater attention and engagement from the United States. We are looking to continually deepen our relationship with the Caribbean and can play an important role in enhancing the energy security of the region.
I know, where has Uncle Sam been all this time? But now that he has finally seen the light, Jamaica should be willing to forgive his past neglect. The island needs his friendship. As the Observer artilce notes, the Jamaican government has been forced to adopt a severe austerity program to meet the demands of IMF creditors.
According to the article, the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research calls it “the most austere budget in the world.”