Kingston, Jamaica — President Reagan arrived here for a five-day visit to Jamaica and Barbados, where he will meet Caribbean leaders to discuss his proposed $350 million in US assistance and trade concessions to strengthen Caribbean economies.
Monitor correspondent Daniel Southerland, traveling with Mr. Reagan, reports he is the first American President to pay the Caribbean an official visit - and he's getting a warm welcome here at his first stop.
The President was to hold talks first with Prime Minister Edward Seaga. Later he will meet Barbados Prime Minister J. M. G. Adams and elected leaders of the ministates of the eastern Caribbean.
Reagan is making a major commitment to aiding a region that has long been taken for granted by the United States. But by making such a commitment, the administration has raised islanders' expectations - and that brings risks. After a period of more than eight years of what has been called negative economic growth, the economy under Mr. Seaga has begun to grow at a rate of about 1.5 percent. The country's staggering unemployment rate of nearly 30 percent has been slightly reduced.
But foreign investors have not come to the island in the numbers that some government officials had hoped they would. The international financial climate is less than favorable.
So for now, the nation of 2.5 million is living largely on a flow of aid and loans from Western nations and international financial institutions. Reagan's visit is helping to bolster the island's hope.