Top panelists discuss new ways to assess progress and well-being in the Caribbean

May 27, 2015

The Caribbean’s recent economic slowdown, largely due to the 2008-9 financial crisis, and a growing debt-burden, risk reversing hard-won social and economic gains. Photo: UNDP Barbados

Bridgetown, 27 May 2015 – Caribbean countries need a more comprehensive means to measure progress and well-being, beyond traditional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and “living above our below an international poverty line” assessments. This was a key message at a high-level meeting here today with top officials from the Caribbean and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) around its upcoming Regional Human Development Report for the Caribbean 2016.

The report, which complements the Human Development Report for Latin America and the Caribbean 2016: “Multidimensional Progress: Well-being beyond income”, will also focus on particular challenges and opportunities for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), with policy recommendations on how to boost resilience among the poor and vulnerable populations in the region—or the ability to absorb external shocks, financial or climate-related, without major setbacks.

“The key lesson of this decade is that hard inequalities, exclusions and vulnerabilities do not go away with more economic growth,” said UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Jessica Faieta. “Redefining the very idea of progress from a multidimensional perspective will be critical for the Caribbean, particularly as we all move into a new global Post 2015 development era, with the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Senator the Honourable Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade expressed her satisfaction on behalf of the host Government of Barbados noting that “this very important high-level consultation is intended to explore multidimensional mechanisms for assessing citizen well-being to propel our nations to higher levels of social protection and economic development.”

Challenges - While the economic growth of the Latin America and the Caribbean region during the past 12 years brought 65 million people out of poverty and 95 million moved into the middle class, 200 million people remain in vulnerable situation, risking falling into poverty if a major crisis hits, according to a UNDP report.

Moreover, the Caribbean’s recent economic slowdown, largely due to the 2008-9 financial crisis and a growing debt-burden risk reversing hard-won social and economic gains. The Latin America region is beginning to experience an increase in poverty and inequality rates, which call for enhanced social protection structures, particularly in light of the low projected growth for the years ahead.

Panelists raised crucial issues for the Caribbean today, including the decrease in Official Development Assistance and the need to consider other vulnerabilities, beyond traditional per capita income measurements, to boost donations from traditional donors.

“The elephant in the room is debt relief,” said Professor Compton Bourne, interim Executive Director of the Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance. “Many Caribbean countries cannot cope with their heavy debt burdens; evidence of this is in the number of restructuring processes: it’s a burden that cannot be sustained; we need to put the question of debt relief sharply on the table.”

In this context UNDP is preparing the 2016 report, which will also include policy recommendations that reflect the new global development agenda and the SDGs, which will be launched in September during the UN General Assembly in New York.

The Caribbean components of UNDP’s upcoming report will be defined through a consultative process led by a 20 high-level-member Advisory Panel, including the Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, Didiacus Jules, and the Executive Coordinator of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, Shantal Munroe-Knight, among others from the Latin America and the Caribbean region and Spain.

Contact information

In Barbados: Nathalie Thomas, nathalie.thomas@undp.org, Tel: + 1 (246) 467-6004; Penny Bowen, penny.bowen@undp.org

In New York: Carolina Azevedo, Carolina.azevedo@undp.org; Tel: +1 212 906 6127

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