Caribbean feeling recession's impact

Grenada Prime Minister Tillman Thomas stood before a roomful of world leaders at the United Nations in New York last week and painted a stark picture of how the financial meltdown was threatening his eastern Caribbean island.

Customs revenues, which account for half of the government's budget, have plummeted by at least 25 percent. Tourists vacationing in his Spice Isle have dropped by 20 percent. And $700 million in construction, part of the island's post-Hurricane Ivan rebuilding boom, has ground to a halt.

The financial misery hitting the United States, and spreading across the globe, Thomas said, was plunging tiny Grenada "into widespread poverty."

"Even where we have within our own limited resources attempted to establish fiscal measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis, these measures have proven to be insufficient, if not inadequate," Thomas said at the special summit on the world economy.

Grenada isn't alone. As leaders of the 15-member Caribbean Community begin a four-day summit in Guyana on Thursday focusing on regional issues from immigration to trade to climate change, coming up with a one-size-fits-all regional plan to protect their already vulnerable economies from peril will top the agenda.

Once believing they were insulated from the financial crisis gripping the United Kingdom, and their largest trading partner, the United States, Caribbean governments are increasingly worried as remittances decline, foreign investors dwindle and tourism dampens.

In the Bahamas, the decline in U.S. travelers has triggered layoffs at popular hotels while one resort – the Four Seasons in Exuma – shut its doors in May.

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