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Non-economic Shocks and the Need for Safety Nets in the Caribbean – Highlights from the 2024 Caribbean Youth Dialogues

April 22nd, 2024

by Adedoyin Ajayi

Photo: An eruption of La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent & the Grenadines on Thursday, ‎April ‎22, ‎2021. Photo by Robertson S. Henry 

The 2024 Caribbean Youth Dialogues organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) provided an appraisal on five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Hosted by ECLAC delegates Candice Gonzales, Colleen Skeete, and Abdullahi Abdulkadri, the two-day virtual session, held on April 3 and 4examined the progress of SDGs 1, 2, 13, 16, and 17. The presentations by speakers from various parts of the Caribbean coupled with debates made for an engrossing session.

The 2030 Agenda marks the expected actualization of the SDGs. With six years to the end of the timeframe, it is worth appraising the level of progress of the SDGs.

SDG 1 has progressed at a pace slower than anticipated in the Caribbean. A number of factors have been touted as the reason for the snail’s pace movement in ending poverty in the region. Low education levels and consequently lower human capital, reduced labour productivity, and failing economic institutions are some reasons for the high poverty levels in the region. Additionally, non-economic factors in recent years have contrived to exacerbate economic downturn in the Caribbean. Non-economic factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and high incidence of natural disasters are twin plagues that have buffeted the Caribbean.

Between 2019 and 2020, the Caribbean experienced nine hurricanes at Category 3 and above. In 2021, the eruption of La Soufrière volcano in St Vincent and The Grenadines forced thousands from their homes. Hurricanes, landslides, and floods are common. According to Don Leacock, founder of Build up Bim, a charitable organisation, the susceptibility of the Caribbean to natural disasters is inimical to the economy, and has the unpleasant outcome of worsening poverty. His words ring true.

 The Caribbean is renowned for being a tourist destination. In 2019, tourism contributed 26% of the region’s GDP, 42% of export incomes, and employed 35% of the population. This highlights the influence of tourism to the region. According to the IMF, the Caribbean has suffered more natural disasters than any other region since 1950, affecting over 24 million people and claiming over 250,000 lives. Unfortunately, this leads to resources being diverted to returning the economy to the status quo rather than consolidating development.

Similarly, Ayesha Constable, founder of the Young People for Action on Climate Change Jamaica pinpointed the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the slow development of SDG 1 in the Caribbean. The pandemic put a dampener on economies globally, and the Caribbean was no exception. Tourism in particular plummeted as isolation became an everyday word. The Caribbean suffered reduced foreign investment, leading to the poverty rate rising from 28.3% in 2019 to 30.3% in 2021. For Ayesha, the lack of safety nets and support systems failed to mitigate the unpleasant effects of COVID-19 pandemic, as it contributed to higher unemployment and lower food insecurity. Adequate preparation, response and recovery systems should be put in place for two reasons: firstly, to mitigate the effects of disasters and ensure reduced loss of lives and destruction of property. Secondly, to ensure quicker resilience from the damaging effects to the economy. The influence of tourism to the region has made these non-economic shocks more devastating to the Caribbean economy.

A key takeaway for me from the discussion was learning about the influence of non-economic effects in slowing down the tide of economic growth in the Caribbean. It creates an additional hurdle to scale on the path to economic growth and develop. Nevertheless, with the right mechanisms put in place, while these unfortunate occurrences might not be prevented, their effects can be minimized.

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About the author

Adedoyin Ajayi

Adedoyin Ajayi studied Economics at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria and graduated with first class honours. He likes reading and writing on issues pertaining to developing countries. He has published two academic papers on tourism and its interrelated factors in MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey). In addition to academic papers, Adedoyin loves creative writing, and some of his literary works have been published in online African literary journals like Brittle Paper. He aims to further his education with a postgraduate degree in Development Economics.

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by Adedoyin Ajayi

Photo: An eruption of La Soufriere volcano in St Vincent & the Grenadines on Thursday, ‎April ‎22, ‎2021. Photo by Robertson S. Henry 

The 2024 Caribbean Youth Dialogues organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) provided an appraisal on five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Hosted by ECLAC delegates Candice Gonzales, Colleen Skeete, and Abdullahi Abdulkadri, the two-day virtual session, held on April 3 and 4examined the progress of SDGs 1, 2, 13, 16, and 17. The presentations by speakers from various parts of the Caribbean coupled with debates made for an engrossing session.

The 2030 Agenda marks the expected actualization of the SDGs. With six years to the end of the timeframe, it is worth appraising the level of progress of the SDGs.

SDG 1 has progressed at a pace slower than anticipated in the Caribbean. A number of factors have been touted as the reason for the snail’s pace movement in ending poverty in the region. Low education levels and consequently lower human capital, reduced labour productivity, and failing economic institutions are some reasons for the high poverty levels in the region. Additionally, non-economic factors in recent years have contrived to exacerbate economic downturn in the Caribbean. Non-economic factors like the COVID-19 pandemic and high incidence of natural disasters are twin plagues that have buffeted the Caribbean.

Between 2019 and 2020, the Caribbean experienced nine hurricanes at Category 3 and above. In 2021, the eruption of La Soufrière volcano in St Vincent and The Grenadines forced thousands from their homes. Hurricanes, landslides, and floods are common. According to Don Leacock, founder of Build up Bim, a charitable organisation, the susceptibility of the Caribbean to natural disasters is inimical to the economy, and has the unpleasant outcome of worsening poverty. His words ring true.

 The Caribbean is renowned for being a tourist destination. In 2019, tourism contributed 26% of the region’s GDP, 42% of export incomes, and employed 35% of the population. This highlights the influence of tourism to the region. According to the IMF, the Caribbean has suffered more natural disasters than any other region since 1950, affecting over 24 million people and claiming over 250,000 lives. Unfortunately, this leads to resources being diverted to returning the economy to the status quo rather than consolidating development.

Similarly, Ayesha Constable, founder of the Young People for Action on Climate Change Jamaica pinpointed the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the slow development of SDG 1 in the Caribbean. The pandemic put a dampener on economies globally, and the Caribbean was no exception. Tourism in particular plummeted as isolation became an everyday word. The Caribbean suffered reduced foreign investment, leading to the poverty rate rising from 28.3% in 2019 to 30.3% in 2021. For Ayesha, the lack of safety nets and support systems failed to mitigate the unpleasant effects of COVID-19 pandemic, as it contributed to higher unemployment and lower food insecurity. Adequate preparation, response and recovery systems should be put in place for two reasons: firstly, to mitigate the effects of disasters and ensure reduced loss of lives and destruction of property. Secondly, to ensure quicker resilience from the damaging effects to the economy. The influence of tourism to the region has made these non-economic shocks more devastating to the Caribbean economy.

A key takeaway for me from the discussion was learning about the influence of non-economic effects in slowing down the tide of economic growth in the Caribbean. It creates an additional hurdle to scale on the path to economic growth and develop. Nevertheless, with the right mechanisms put in place, while these unfortunate occurrences might not be prevented, their effects can be minimized.