Our Readers' Opinions
January 24, 2014
Crime hampering Caribbean development

“The increase in violence and crime in Latin America and the Caribbean is an undeniable fact that erodes the foundation of the democratic processes in the region and imposes high social, economic and cultural costs…(it is) a top pressing challenge” – Caribbean Human Development Report (UNDP) 2012

The shocking reality of the negative impact of crime and violence on the development of the Caribbean region is brought out in the report from which the quote above is taken.{{more}} After extensive research covering seven CARICOM countries- Guyana and Suriname on the South American mainland, Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean islands of St Lucia and Antigua/Barbuda, and the so-called ‘big islands’ of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago- the report examines the negative effects of such crime and violence and makes recommendations as to how best this phenomenon can be handled.

It begins by pointing out that whereas the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean contain 8.5 per cent of the world’s population, this region accounts for 27 per cent of homicides worldwide, more than a quarter. This is a most frightening statistic but in addition to the horror of it all, it is the broader impact on human development and growth processes in the region which stand out worryingly.

Thus, the report speaks of crime as “…. having a negative impact on vulnerable economies such as those of the Caribbean,….erodes confidence in future development,……reduces competitiveness by imposing burdensome security costs, ….and may negatively alter the investment climate,” including leading to a flight of much-needed capital. It goes on to mention the loss of human capital arising from migration caused by growing insecurity, the destruction of social capital, the retardation of the development process and the diversion of scarce resources to be employed in the fight against crime and to attempt to create a climate of security.

All these are even more significant when one notes that, as the report points out, that, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. Tourism accounts for 25 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings, 20 per cent of jobs and between 23 and 35 per cent of the total economies of the region.

But, are we listening? Certainly not in Trinidad! There, in the first three weeks of January this year there have already been 38 murders. How could people feel safe travelling there for the Carnival with such a frightening backdrop? Or take the burgeoning drug trade with agents of the US Drug Enforcement Agency now in Port of Spain following up leads on a US$ 100 million shipment of cocaine to the USA in Trinidad orange juice cans? Trinidad manufacturers are worried stiff about the repercussions on trade.

It doesn’t appear that we in these islands are listening either. Yachts are robbed right here in SVG, and such a robbery in St Lucia, resulted in the murder of a British tourist and the wounding of his wife. What kind of picture are we giving the world about these perceived “idyllic” islands?