Crime factor

Academics see direct unemployment link1

A regional academic has warned that the problem of crime, which is hurting Caribbean economies, is directly linked to rising unemployment.

During a discussion forum on Youth Research and Action: Issues and Challenges at the Cave Hill School of Business, Dr Corin Bailey, who is a fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), said his conclusion was based on research done in Jamaica, which he believes is applicable to other Caribbean states.

Highlighting the issue of migration, he said there was evidence to suggest that crime was one of the main reasons why persons had opted to leave the Caribbean.

Bailey said crime also led to stigmatization of communities, as well as social exclusion.

“Without a doubt the economies of the Caribbean islands have been affected because large sums of money are spent by the governments on controlling the treatments of the effects of crime, and one such effect is that on the health system,” he said.

“Extreme pressure is placed on the health system in trying to treat the effects of crime in countries where many of the economies are crippled to begin with. So much of this expenditure on the effects on crime borne by the health system could be used elsewhere,” Bailey suggested.

He said while data for the region was “extremely limited”, one study found that in Barbados and Trinidad intentional injuries accounted for between 10 to 25 per cent of
hospital admission.

“So these are the heavy costs that are being borne by Caribbean governments. There [are] also heavy costs associated with security, defence, expansion of the police forces and expansion of the prison guards,” said Bailey, as he pointed to the impact of crime on the economy.

Also speaking during the forum, Dr Jonathan Lashley, head coordinator of a research project for the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on youth unemployment, said in 2006 estimates showed that the average cost of unemployment to economies was about one per cent of GDP, but “our [more recent] estimates here make the cost to the country 1.5 per cent of GDP.

“And for countries with very low percentage of GDP growth in recent times, 1.5 per cent is quite significant,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Director of SALISES Dr Don Marshall pointed to what he called “a crisis of identity and belonging” in the region based on the research, arguing that individuals were “ravished by the haunting reality of either underpaid meaningless work or unemployment”.

He said it was therefore necessary for the creation of “an environment of opportunity”.

“I want to suggest from primary to tertiary [education] we need a national youth and technology programme where the accent is on innovation and where possible creating prototypes.

“We need to create a new enterprise culture . . . a new economic class in my view, rooted in value-added pursuits, in innovation, industry and inventions. And the best way to do it is to promote, among young people, this notion of pursuing innovation from primary school through to tertiary level,” explained Marshall.

Another recommendation, he said, was to create “a new social compact between business and citizen”, adding that “the model of democracy” should go beyond just citizens and Government.

“That has been with us for some time. I am appealing for a sort of post corporate social compact between business and citizen, where business models are more than just for profit or shareholder value, but where business models incorporate and add social and environmental value to their schemes. So social investment, investment in employment . . . that would go a long way towards incentivizing a new relationship between businesses and citizen in the direction of enabling, not just people between the ages of 15 and 24, but establishing value that moves beyond market consideration of what value is,” he said.

“The bottom line is to be derived and the bottom line could be about a multi dimensional understanding of value. So value for the shareholder, value in terms of returns on investment, value for the environment, value for the social landscape,” added Marshall.

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