Patterns of Growth and Social Development in the Anglophone Caribbean1

By Ramsaran, Ramesh | Ibero-americana, July 1, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Patterns of Growth and Social Development in the Anglophone Caribbean1


Ramsaran, Ramesh, Ibero-americana


I. INTRODUCTION

In recent years a great deal of attention has come to focus on the issue of poverty and the sterility of certain kinds of public policy adopted in the post-war period as part of the strategy to transform underdevelopment and raise living standards. The concept of poverty itself has been expanded beyond low income and consumption, and now encompasses low achievement in education, health, nutrition, and other areas of human development. Powerlessness, voicelessness, vulnerability and fear have also been drawn into the concern, and it is now difficult to discuss poverty without reference to issues of national and global governance, state policy, and even human rights see World Bank (200 l:v). With increasing inequities both at the national and world levels, policies which affect human development directly or indirectly, are now viewed in more critical terms. The assumptions of models and theories now comes under greater scrutiny.

A recent World Bank Report notes that at the start of the new century "poverty remains a global problem of huge proportions. Of the world's 6 billion people, 2.8 billion live on less than US$2 a day, and 1.2 billion on less than US$1 a day. Six infants in every 100 do not see their first birthday, and 8 do not survive to their fifth. Of those who do reach school age, 9 boys in 100, and 14 girls, do not go to primary school"(ibid. 41). Another World Bank study points to the persistence of poverty and notes that the number of people living on less than US$1 a day increased from 1,183.2 million in 1987 to 1,198.9 million in 1998. It also notes that in some regions the proportion of the population falling in this group hardly changed in the period. For example, in Sub-Sahara Africa, it fluctuated between 46 and 50%, while in Latin America and the Caribbean it averaged around 16%. In South Asia there was a slight decline, but the proportion was still high remaining at around 40% of the population (World Bank 2000:4). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in trying to temper the optimism over the accomplishments of the post-war period, points out that poverty is everywhere. More than a quarter of the 4.5 billion people in developing countries still do not have some of life's most basic choices - survival beyond age 40, access to knowledge and minimum private and public services. Nearly 1.3 billion people do not have access to clean water. One in seven children of primary school age is out of school. And 840 million are malnourished (UNDP 1999:28).

On many fronts remarkable progress has been made. Between 1980 and 1999 the proportion of underweight children fell in developing countries from 37% to 27%. Between 1970 and 1999 in rural areas of the developing world the percentage of people with access to safe water increased more than fourfold - from 13% to 71%. In developing countries life expectancy increased from 55 years to 65 years between 1970 and 1998, while adult literacy increased from 48% to 72% and combined primary and secondary enrolment ratio increased from 50% to 72%. Some countries have actually succeeded in reducing poverty (UNDP 2000:3-4). Such progress, however, has to be seen in perspective. Some 90 million children are still out of school at the primary level. By the end of 1999 34 million people were infected with HIV (UNDP 2000 op cit 4). Inequality in many countries has also been rising, while the gap between rich and poor nations has been widening. The income gap between the fifth of the world's people living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest was 74 to 1 in 1997, up from 60 to 1 in 1990 and 30 to 1 in 1960 (UNDP 2000: 3, op cit).

The post-war development experience has challenged many ideas and theories which have influenced public policy over the years. Aggregate output can grow while the population at large becomes increasingly impoverished. The benefits of growth do not always trickle down. Growth does not always lead to job creation on the desired scale or translate into improved social services.

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