Date: Sat, 11 Sep 1999 15:24:14 -0500 (CDT)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: POPULATION-CARIBBEAN: Little to Show After Years of Talk
Article: 75887
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** reg.carib: 277.0 **/
** Topic: IPS: POPULATION-CARIBBEAN: Little to Show After Years of Talk **
** Written 9:11 PM Sep 10, 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:reg.carib **

Little to Show After Years of Talk

By Wesley Gibbings, IPS, 10 September 1999

Successive studies have shown that factors including low economic growth, macroeconomic instability, deficiencies in the labour market resulting in limited job growth, low productivity and low wages in the informal sector, and a decline in the quality of social services are major contributors to growing poverty in the region.

Dr Edward Greene, consultant on Public Policy and Health for the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) urges a fresh perspective on the problem in a paper delivered at consultations here last week hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

For example, he suggests that the gender-poverty relationship remains inconclusive though most interpretations of the current information show that a gender-poverty gap favours the males.

However, he says, household size, schooling and rural location are much stronger predictors of poverty than is gender.

Several intervening factors may account for these counter- intuitive results, he argues. They include on the one hand, the comparable levels of educational qualifications in which females are outperforming males.

On the other hand, he adds, lower rates of female participation in the labour force or the same level of employment at lower wages than men, may be contributory factors.

He also observes that male youth with few years of schooling are less likely than females to be poor while the reverse is likely with increasing years of education.

Like Duncan, Greene also argues that ethnicity has a role to play in the entire milieu though some issues like ethnicity could only be dealt with in a perfunctory manner due to lack of information.

He however cites the examples of Guyana and Belize where Amerindian groups are at the bottom of the income chain.

In Guyana, he says, the two primary ethnic groups, Indo and Afro-Guyanese are almost equally represented among the poor. However, the Amerindians with 7 percent of the population account for 35 percent of the total incidence of poverty.

In Belize, Greene says, compared with the Creole; Asians and whites had the best chance (9 percent) of escaping poverty compared with Garifuna (2.5 percent) and Mayas (0.28 percent) who are among the poorest groups in the country.

He says this persists despite the fact that in both countries there are special laws to protect the rights of these indigenous groups.

In both countries the situation is associated with a complex of issues ranging from the dispersed settlement patterns, the high cost of administration, their lack of human skills, and the lack of an effective lobby, he says.

It is an observation also made by Duncan who cites the indigenous populations of Guyana, Suriname, Dominica, St Vincent, Jamaica and Belize that are targeted by a number of programmes.

Nevertheless, it is the case that conditions relative to the country as a whole have not shown much significant improvement. They still remain, in relation to national positioning, the poorest of the poor.

The view is substantiated by a 1997 World Bank study which indicated that as many as 25 percent of the indigenous population of Latin America and the Caribbean live in extreme poverty.

The Caribs of Dominica and the Black Caribs of St Vincent are specifically cited by Duncan as groups requiring special mention. The 1995 British Development Division Report on poverty in Dominica reported that the island's indigenous population lived under the worst conditions of poverty in the country.

In strife-torn Guyana, Greene observes that ethnic poverty ... is exacerbated by the racial tensions between the two dominant groups .. this situation polarises the efforts for poverty alleviation and reduces the effectiveness of state programmes that are perceived to be executed according to racial biases.

He recommends, for Caribbean countries hit by such problems, the establishment of joint commissions with representation from the ethnic groups to identify and recommend policy changes.

He also suggests the application of affirmative action programmes which, he argues, are among the most general practices that have worked to guarantee employment opportunities and the distribution of public goods.

NGOs and other community groups, he says, must play a vital role in fostering better inter-racial relationships.

Pay special attention to the impact of poverty on the ethnic groups that are disempowered due to lack of access to opportunities, he advises.

Duncan recommends tackling the problem through programmes of early childhood development.

Without quality integrated child development in indigenous areas, he says, social integration for them remains unreal.