The launch of a comprehensive report dubbed, ‘Multidimensional Progress: human resilience beyond income’ was presented today. The document is crucial as it reveals the gaps in various aspects of society in the Caribbean region including the economy, poverty, education, employment among others. Kenroy Roach is the Regional Advisor for the United Nations Development Programme; he spoke of the findings as they relate to Belize.
“Belize has had a long history recent history of strong economic growth I think it’s one of the few countries in the Caribbean where we’ve seen impressive growth levels averaging about 2.5% over the last decade. Now Belize is experiencing a slow down in growth and so I think its at this point that the government needs to be looking at how to stimulate economic growth and also how to ensure that the benefits of that growth translates into poverty reduction because while the country has had good growth we still see a high incidence in poverty and indigence in Belize so this report presents some options for the government to consider and how to ensure that the benefits of that growth can translate into poverty reduction so the report speaks for example to the importance of assets, how to help citizens to acquire asset and the importance of assets particularly in times of shock where there are economic or environmental shocks that by owning assets people are better able to sort of manage the impacts of those shocks. The report also looks at opportunities for countries to diversify their economies which we believe is important so it presents what we call growth sectors and growth enablers, sectors that we believe with more support and emphasis you could create jobs and those jobs could benefit women and youth in particular. So the report is presenting a number of options to do two things, improve growth while at the same time ensure human development.”
As Roach mentioned, despite progress in the economy over the last ten years, the issues of poverty and youth employment remain highlighted as problematic areas. We asked him if the report identifies the gaps in having these issues balanced with the economic progress.
“We talked about in this report what we call vulnerable groups because for poverty reduction its important to have targeted social policies, targeted economic policies that raise living conditions for poor and vulnerable people and so in this report we identify women and youth and elderly and indigenous people as being some of those vulnerable groups where there is need for a special or concerted effort to improve their living conditions, we also look at the fact that in the report what we see in the case of Belize there’s about a 22% youth unemployment rate which is twice the amount of unemployment rate among adults. So that is a huge problem so its important for there to be very fast job creation but sustainable jobs. The report talks about how to do that, how to ensure that credit is available to stimulate the development in the economic sectors, opportunities around small medium sized development and how to ensure that the people who are not benefiting from the growth can start sustainable businesses.”
As it relates to the balance between education and job creation, Roach says there is a need to grow the private sector.
“This reports at the fact that there are more young people but there are also in the case of young women there are more women that are graduating from the education system. So there is a lot of output in the tertiary sectors particularly for young women but what we are not finding is that that output is translating in terms of job creation or job attainment so therefore there is the need to sort of ensure that there is a match between what is offered in the training programs at our tertiary institutions aligning with what is available in the public and private sector especially the private sector. Equally important is about stimulating the private sector growth and create more opportunities so that people who are coming out of the school system can be able to find jobs so it’s a mixed picture; yes more young people are completing school but on the other hand there is high unemployment so it’s about ensuring that there is a pathway so people can transition from school to work which is about creating more jobs in the public sector, it’s about retooling the education system to align with jobs that do exist but it’s also about entrepreneurship ensuring that there is credit and support and mentoring and things entrepreneurship need so that they can sustain their businesses.”
While the report focused on the Caribbean, we asked Roach to speak on how Belize compared to its regional counterparts.
The document goes on to recommend the development of new public policies to increase gains in various sectors which will tie in with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).