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Richard Thomas, a dreadlocked Jamaican sound engineer and musician, is still livid over the last time he was arrested and briefly jailed for smoking marijuana. While his country is plagued by one of the world’s worst homicide rates, the “jailhouses are filled with people that have just smoked a spliff,” he fumes.

Thomas, who performs under the name of Jah Pinks, said he now prefers to drink marijuana tea; it’s better for his lungs and can be done discretely without the police hassling him over something many Jamaicans see as an integral part of their culture.

Paradoxically, while marijuana use is prevalent across the Caribbean the drug remains illegal in every single country – something that has often puzzled and frustrated both locals and visitors. That, however, may be about to change. Continue reading »

China, the US’s biggest geopolitical rival, is emerging as a new power in a region long considered America’s backyard. Robin Wigglesworth, capital markets correspondent, looks into why Caribbean nations find it hard to resist Beijing’s advances.

The snaking, sun-scorched streets of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, are dotted with thousands of signs advocating road safety. “Want to spend time with your family? DON’T SPEED, SPEED KILLS,” shouts one. “You may be dead wrong if you overtake carelessly,” warns another. Nary a stretch of asphalt is without some kind of cautionary signage. Continue reading »

Jamaica might be best known for its sunny beaches, reggae music and world class athletes such as Usain Bolt. But this Caribbean island nation of 2.9m is increasingly garnering international attention for something less boast-worthy : its crippling debt crisis.

In a television address late Monday, the country’s prime minister Portia Simpson Miller said the government will launch a restructuring of its local debt – its second in three years – as it looks to stave off a “serious economic crisis” and secure a credit line from the IMF. Continue reading »

If only the economic performance of the Caribbean matched the sporting prowess of its athletes.

The Caribbean may be sunnier than Europe, but it shares many of the Old Continent’s problems – namely anaemic economic growth, uncompetitive economies and burgeoning debt burdens. Continue reading »

Jamaica may have one of the biggest debt burdens in the world, but a new issue of some US $250m-$500m is rumoured to be just around the corner.

Although it was expected to be announced last week, it never was, seemingly because of difficulties in deciding what pricing the international market might find most attractive. Still, with any luck it won’t be too long now. Continue reading »

If policymakers in the US were already irked by China’s growing influence in a region they traditionally considered their “backyard”, news on Monday will only have contributed to their unease.

Caribbean countries, however, will be delighted that the state-run China Development Bank is to lend them some $1bn to finance infrastructure projects, given that economic troubles in their traditional sources of investment like the US and Europe are hampering growth. Continue reading »

Police patrol on May 24, 2010 in Kingston, Jamaica after two police officers were killed after coming under attack amid spreading unrest despite a state of emergency imposed by the governmentWhat awful timing. Just when Jamaica seemed to be turning a corner, after making a milestone deal with the IMF in February, this had to happen.

The chaos in Kingston (with almost 30 killed in drug-related violence since a state of emergency was declared last Friday) threatens to seriously undermine the Caribbean island’s all-important tourism industry. Continue reading »