Experts warn of “emerging challenges to stability and development”

A group of international experts examining social policy in small states has ranked Barbados highly, but warned of “emerging challenges to stability and development”.

Increasing social malaise, growing crime rates, loss of social cohesion and worsening poverty and inequality are issues the island should be concerned about, they said in a United Nations Research Institute for Social Development research paper dated July 2013.

Despite the challenges, Naren Prasad, Nicola Hypher and Megan Gerecke commended the island “for having achieved high income levels and remarkable progress in social development”.

Prasad is First Economic Affairs Officer at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, Hypher is Social Protection Policy Adviser at Save the Children United Kingdom, and Gerecke is Technical Officer at the International Labour Organisation.

Barbados was the subject of an “in-depth country study” which produced the findings, as were several other small island states in the Caribbean, Pacific region, and Mediterranean.

In the paper on the topic Seeing Big: Transformative Social Policies In Small States, the researchers praised Barbados for overcoming “problems related to heavy dependence on a monocrop export-bound economy based on sugar towards a more diversified and lucrative economic structure based on services and tourism”.

“Barbados is a multi-ethnic society that has been characterised by ethnic tensions. However, from soon after Independence, the political system ensured a stake for each of the diverse ethnic groups,” they noted.

“This allowed a two-party system to mature, providing a basis for political and social stability to Barbados and was a tremendous asset in attracting foreign investors.

“Successive governments in Barbados have shown a commitment to social policy, with an emphasis on comprehensive social service provision, and this has been an important factor in the country’s social and economic development.”

Barbados’ emphasis on universal free access to health care and education was also highlighted in the report, and it also pointed out that the island “has one of the most advanced social protection schemes in the region, comprising both contributory and non-contributory pensions and unemployment insurance”.

The experts also said universal health and education were a priority in all 12 countries studied.

“Policy intent is credible, and many countries have aimed to provide free health care, and primary and secondary education. Barbados, Malta, Mauritius and Seychelles have implemented universal health care and legally guaranteed free primary, secondary and/or tertiary education with no user fees,” they stated. (SC)

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