The Caribbean area of the world is one of the most beautiful, but it is also a mixed bag when it comes to the economy. The area is made up of many different overseas territories, island nations and independent states which have all diversified greatly since the Caribbean was first "westernised" as far back as the 15th century. Many western countries have battled over various islands and mainland countries in the Caribbean, the victor bringing with them new economic opportunities to out-of-reach settlements. Whilst we will never know whether these Caribbean islands would have been able to thrive without the intervention of western settlers, the Caribbean economy can safely say that it is steadily progressing as a whole and is able in the main to keep itself afloat.
Rise of the Sugar Cane Industry
The history of the Caribbean economy shows that the area was once very productive and was a world leader when it came to the production and export of certain resources. Probably the most significant is the production of sugar cane. Although there is a dark side to the sugar cane plantation production, from around the 17th century right through until the 19th century, there is no denying that it firmly placed the Caribbean Sea on the world map. Whilst most of the islands in the Caribbean were involved with sugar cane production there were a few exceptions. The likes of Curacao and Sant Maarten were prominent in the salt mining industry; Haiti was settled by the Spanish who opened gold mines and the Turks & Caicos Islands were inhabited by salt collectors from the Bermuda region.
Weather & Beaches Attract Tourists
There are several key industries that contribute massively to the Caribbean economy and undoubtedly one of the biggest is tourism. The rest of the world is keen to see the beauty of these idyllic islands and the promise of nature, warm weather and tranquillity leads millions of people to the shores of these islands every year. Even the smaller islands that have experienced a slow increase in economic growth, generally manage to make revenue out of visitors to their shores, particularly in the form of day trips from those on cruise ships. For example, whilst The Bahamas welcomes over 4 million visitors a year, the island of Dominica welcomes as few as 75,000 travellers in comparison. Most of the islands that depend on the Caribbean economy to thrive in terms of tourism have the backing of their governments to be able to see a steady growth in this niche in the years to come.
As well as tourism several of the Caribbean nations and territories are doing well in terms of the financial industry. Whilst some have had issues with the practices in relation to money-laundering control, others have built up a solid reputation as being stable and reliable centres for financial ventures. The territory of the British Virgin Islands is particularly noted as a major centre for offshore business, with over 700,000 companies being formed there; and the country of Barbados is noted for its highly trained workforce in the financial arena.
Other Industries Flourish in the Caribbean Economy
Manufacturing of textiles, electronics and clothing, as well as oil production or refining is also quite important to several islands within the Caribbean area. Curacao currently enjoys a good relationship with Venezuela, for example, and is responsible for refining crude oil which has been imported from the mainland country. On the other hand, Aruba had faced a decline in its oil industry but initiatives are being taken to build the industry back up in the near future.
As agriculture was a huge part of the Caribbean economy as we know it (in the form of the sugar cane production for example), it may come as a surprise to many that this industry is not as strong as it once was. Factors such as the declination of the natural environment, abject poverty and natural disasters have played a part in the agricultural sector only being a prominent industry for a handful of the islands.
In summary, it is quite clear to see that the islands in the Caribbean have a variety of industries that they can rely on to boost their economy. Each country or territory does have other factors that come in to play in regards to whether they can grow or sustain their current individual economy, but in the main, the Caribbean economy looks set to go from strength to strength in the future.