A culture of entitlement

I just read a jaw-dropping article in The Economist - appropriately titled Allons, Enfants! - discussing the exceedingly dark and irrational situation in the French Caribbean.

Not yet a year ago, my wife and I visited St. Martin for a day, and noticed a striking discrepancy between the Dutch-governed and the French-governed part.

The Dutch-governed part, you see, is similar to the rest of the Caribbean. It appears better developed than other islands we've seen. However, the roads are old and rugged, and infrastructure in general appears to be comfortably closer to Caribbean standards than those of urban Europe.

Once you enter the French part, however, you say - wow. New asphalt roads. Sidewalks. Street lights. Marked intersections. And the next thought you have, if you're like me, is who pays for this? Surely not the Caribbean residents. If most other islands can't afford this, how can the French part of St. Martin? It must be that the French are shoveling a whole lot of money into this.

And so it is. According to the Economist article, the French are assisting their Caribbean territories to the tune of EUR 13 billion per year. This comes in the form of "subsidies and tax breaks, including a 40% salary premium for civil servants". Since the combined population of these territories is less than 1 million, this makes for a whopping EUR 13,000 of subsidies, tax breaks, and salary premiums per resident. This is for an area where GDP per capita is EUR 17,000, so the French taxpayers are providing 75% of that - or in other words... paying these people to live.

So you would think, the recipients of this magnanimity would be satisfied, correct?


Looting shops, burning cars, and protesting violently. Demanding a 200 EUR monthly salary increase. And extra rights. And maybe, perhaps, a little expropriation of white businessowners.

What Guadeloupe and Martinique should get is independence. The black majority is unsatisfied by that they don't get to make their own laws, and their standard of living is too low. The solution for this is to give them the ability to make their own laws. Then they can go ahead and nationalize the businesses of white people, of whom they are envious. Then, they can watch how their new country turns into Zimbabwe over the course of several decades; their infrastructure deteriorating, and lacking generous infusions from the French, their economies crumbling to dust.

Soon enough, they will be at the door of the IMF, asking for loans in the billions.

But this is the preferable outcome. Because then, they'll be able to pin it on themselves.


verbatim said...

I have spent a lot of time in Martinique and Guadeloupe in past 3 years. They are by far the most developed islands in the Caribbean and people's earnings are the highest.

All roads are actually repaved every 2 years or something because I have never seen a hole in the asphalt. On roads you mostly see new french cars. People actually spend majority of day driving around and doing nothing. In Guadeloupe they built 5 km of road in middle of nowhere with both sides sidewalk and street lighting.

Not to mention the huge amounts of money they get from European Union for being on periphery/undeveloped region. European Union is actually building them everything: waste management facilities, water facilites, bring money for nature conservation, volcano observation center etc. And they are still not satisfied.

I strongly agree with you. They should get independence and then they will see how life will change for them. Islands are way overpopulated and their economy will colapse soon without France.

verbatim said...

One mistake in your text. The actual GDP per capita is around 17.000 euros (http://www.insee.fr/fr/themes/tableau.asp?reg_id=99&ref_id=CMRSOS08114). But France stopped posting official info on GDP per capita around 3 years ago for those overseas regions for obvious reasons...

denis bider said...

I took the EUR 7,000 figure from the CIA factbook, which quotes USD 9,000 per capita for 1997.

Considering that, it looks like my mistake was to use the USD figure from 1997, and combine it with today's USD-EUR exchange rate; as well as to ignore inflation since 1997. Taking these two factors into account, those USD 9,000 might instead be EUR 12,000, while a decade of inflation might bring that to EUR 17,000 nowadays as you suggest.

This makes more sense because otherwise there's a discrepancy in that the French are spending EUR 13,000 per capita, and yet the GDP would be less - this could not be, the GDP has to be at least what the French are spending, with the difference being a good estimate for what the people of Guadeloupe actually make.

denis bider said...

Edited the article accordingly.

verbatim said...

Well, I also made a mistake.

Instead of "All roads are actually" should be "All major roads". Sure some less important street roads are in bad condition. But that's because they are owned by local municipalities and not French government.

verbatim said...

One interesting article on this subject. EU spent 21,6 millions of euros to built pools on Guadeloupe.