Caribbean needs to rethink development – ECLAC

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Friday July 12, 2013 – The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, has called for the rethinking of development in the Caribbean “using equality and environmental sustainability as our compass”.

Addressing a UN General Assembly high-level session on inequality, Bárcena said the world economic crisis has had a negative but not a dramatic impact on Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The main effect has been felt in terms of trade,” she said, adding that the region’s resilience to this situation is due to “countries’ macroeconomic prudence during the boom period, as well as the countercyclical policies implemented during the crisis”.

Bárcena said that poverty and inequality have also fallen in Latin American and Caribbean countries, stating that while the 1990s were typified by rising inequality, “there was a turnaround in the region from 2003, relating to labour market developments, including rising employment and falling wage inequality.

“However, much remains to be done”, she said, adding that economic advances have not resulted in changes to the region’s production structure.

The ECLAC chief said two thirds of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the region’s countries (66.9 per cent) is generated by the high-productivity sector, 22.5 per cent by the intermediate sector and 10.6 per cent by the low-productivity sector. 

She said this distribution is reversed for employment, stating that the high-productivity sector, mainly related to natural resource exploitation and commodity production, generates just 19.8 per cent of jobs.

She said the medium-productivity sector employs 30 per cent of workers, and the low-productivity sector accounts for 50.2 per cent of the workforce.

“Structural change is at the heart of a long-term growth process with employment and equality,” said Bárcena, stating that this should be aimed at closing productive and social gaps.

Bárcena indicated that the main ongoing social challenge is to make progress towards universalizing social protection.

“In order to picture our region’s future, it is vital to recognize that equality is the main ethical principle and the ultimate objective,” Bárcena said, noting that between 2002 and 2012, Latin American and Caribbean countries grew at an annual rate of almost four per cent.

But she said the regional growth is “steady but with some fluctuations, such as the 1.9 per cent fall in 2009, mainly on the back of buoyant internal demand, particularly in terms of private consumption”.

Over the same period, Bárcena said the region’s unemployment rate dipped dramatically from 15.8 per cent in 2002 to 6.4 per cent in 2012, while real wages also increased. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)