This is a comprehensive description of current problems in each part of the Caribbean, including both the independent republics and the colonies but excluding Central America. The author clearly knows the region well and has done a great amount of research.
The description of the political changes which have taken place in the foreign colonies during the past ten years is especially interesting. Each power has attempted to meet increasing demands for self-government in a different way. The United States has given Puerto Rico virtually complete autonomy and has made it clear that the people of the island can decide their own future status: independence, statehood, or a continuance of the present commonwealth. The Virgin Islands of the United States have had an increasing measure of self-government. There, as in Puerto Rico, the prosperity which has come from association with the United States seems to render complete independence unattractive. France has made her Caribbean possessions integral parts of the French Republic, a status which under the centralized French system gives them little real autonomy. There seems to be some question, especially in Guadeloupe and Martinique, whether pride in French citizenship and attachment to French culture will outweigh a desire for a greater voice in dealing with the islands’ own problems. The Netherlands have perhaps found a happier solution in making the Netherlands Antilles and Surinam separate realms under the Dutch crown, with complete local self-government and a voice in matters which affect the tripartite kingdom as a whole.
The British government sought to free itself from the responsibilities of empire in 1958 by setting up a West Indies Federation, but this project collapsed three years later, apparently in the main because the larger islands were unwilling to assume the burden of supporting their poorer neighbors. Jamaica and Trinidad became independent states in 1962 and Barbados in 1964, with governments which seem to be reasonably stable and competent. In Guyana, which also became independent in 1964, strife between Negroes and East Indians and the radicalism of some political leaders make the outlook less promising. Most of the Windward and Leeward Islands were given local self-government in 1967 as members of the West Indies Associated States, while the British government continued to be responsible for defense and foreign relations and for an indefinite amount of financial support. British Honduras, pending independence, was given a somewhat similar status. Several groups of smaller islands are still British colonies.
The economic situation, as Sir Harold describes it, seems less encouraging. There are brighter spots, but in much of the region it is difficult to see how the rapidly increasing population can maintain even its present low standard of living. The outlook would be worse if the special concessions which now favor the sale of colonial products to the mother countries were withdrawn. Industrial development is discouraged by limited markets and lack of capital and skilled labor. Sir Harold suggests that the promotion of the tourist trade, which has done so much for the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas, may offer the best hope for many of the other islands.