Within the first month of 2019, Barbados has recorded a higher murder rate than that of Trinidad and Tobago and according to economist Jeremy Stephen, a continuation of this trend could be disastrous for the economic recovery efforts.
To date, Barbados has recorded eight murders, which puts the murder rate at 2.8 per 100 thousand, while Trinidad, which has recorded 32 murders thus far, has a rate of 2.3 per 100 thousand.
Last year, Trinidad and Tobago recorded 516 murders, which represented a rate per 100 thousand that was five times more than Barbados, which recorded 28 murders for the same period.
“This is very sobering fact because the way you look at these figures, the rate for Barbados has to be rounded off to three persons per 100 000 because you can’t have a half of a person. So we are at three and they [Trinidad and Tobago] are at two. This could easily change as the year progresses but normally when the year starts, Barbados is nowhere near Trinidad’s murder rate,” Stephen said in an interview with Barbados TODAY this morning.
The University of the West Indies lecturer warned that the worrying trend could derail the Government’s recent efforts at restoring investor confidence in the country.
“This could really damage investor confidence in the long term. People believe that Barbados is still a safe place but if this issue persists it definitely can undermine any efforts to attract foreign direct investment in any sustainable manner,” said Stephen.
He contended that the repercussions were not limited to those on the outside looking in, noting that the nocturnal entertainment sector could also suffer as result of growing fears brought on by increased gun violence. Stephen argued that because of the possibility of being caught in the crossfire, Barbadians might decide not to leave the safety of their homes to go out at night.
“From a confidence point of view it could also damage what is happening on the local side. Persons would not want to go out at night because they are afraid that people will shoot up the place. A lot of people are reacting to these murders even though they don’t know the circumstances surrounding them. It seems a little more intense than the others that we had a year ago. So if this persists it could really damage the economy and affect people’s confidence to move around,” he explained.
However, Stephen made it clear that while he believes that the trend is worrying, he is by no means suggesting that Barbados is at crisis stage, as it is less than a month into the year.
“We need to bear in mind that the year has only just started and there is really no need to start getting carried away. However, it is important to make comparisons to bring the problem into sharp focus. Every time we hear about Trinidad the story is that they start each year very hot in terms of murders but it is really sobering when you place the start of our year in that context,” he explained, pointing out that due Barbados’ small population and a few incidents can easily taint the image of the country.
“Given the size of our population we need to understand that we cannot afford for this problem to get out of control and we need to support our law enforcement in every way. I need people to understand that this is a problem for all Barbadians,” he stressed.