One noted economist is making a link between the high levels of youth unemployment in Barbados and the upsurge in crime.
Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Justin Ram said on average approximately one in four young people were unemployed in the region, and this was a worrying trend that needed to be arrested urgently.
Focusing on Barbados, Ram told the 10th Domestic Financial Institutions Conference at the Central Bank on Thursday, that the crime situation was a particularly concerning one.
“Across our borrowing member countries unemployment continues to be a real problem. Some of our countries have unemployment in excess of 20 per cent. In Barbados it is [just under] 10 per cent. But a real important issue for us to remember is that one in four of our young people is unemployed, and this is on average. In some of our countries it is as high as 50 per cent,” said Ram.
Noting that persons living in Barbados are particularly concerned about the homicide rate per 100,000 population, Sam said if the trends continue the country could end up with even higher rates of murders.
So far for the year Barbados has recorded 20 murders, just eight fewer than it recorded for the entire 2018 period. In 2017 the country recorded a total of 31 murders.
“This is all related back to this – if young people don’t have anything meaningful to do then they will find something to do in their time, and we have to be paying particular attention to this,” warned the CDB economist.
At the same time, he urged authorities to pay close attention to the dwindling population.
Stating that it could create serious problems for the future of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Ram said it was a situation that the CDB was also concerned about.
“This is quite concerning. In Jamaica we expect to see, by 2100, a 50 per cent decline in population. In Barbados we are estimating about a 10 per cent decline in population. Folks, it is important for us to pay particular attention to this now because it will bite us particularly hard if we don’t do something about it,” he said.
“You have to think about who will pay for those pensions. In this population decline there is a significant proportion of that population who will be older and retired and we have to think about what is going to be the dependency ratio,” he warned.
Ram advised that “it is not only about having more children”, while pointing to the influx of Venezuelans in Trinidad & Tobago, hinting that importation of labour could be part of the solution.
“We have to ask ourselves what do we need to do in order to arrest this declining population, and it is not only about having more children,” he said.
He said while Barbados continued to make strides in several areas, some challenges exist including the need for improvement in the access to finance for micro and small enterprises, and ensuring everyone had access to “good education”.
He also pointed out that gender inequality remained a concern, a lack of workforce skills training based on employers’ needs, lack of adequate data, and too few citizens and private sector involvement in the financial system.
“We certainly need to have financial sector reform . . . we also need to ensure that there is good regulatory autonomy that when the regulator decides to do something there is no real political interference there. That is particularly important. And we need to ensure how we get productive investment opportunities,” said Ram.
According to him among the measures needed in Barbados and other Caribbean countries, were the development of the junior stock exchanges, development of more investment options, greater global integration, greater financial inclusion and more innovation and increased technology use.