|Prime Minister Freundel Stuart recives a copy of the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2013??from Resident Representative, Michelle Gyles McDonnough (A. Miller/BGIS)??|
It is possible to have economic development when no growth is taking place.
This view was expressed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart last Wednesday as he delivered the feature address at the Barbados launch of the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2013 – The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World, at UN House.
Mr. Stuart said economic development was possible because structural changes were taking place that had the effect of making life better for a larger number of people. "Capacities are being created and flexibilities are being put in place to respond to the diverse needs and aspirations of as large a number of people as possible," he underscored.
According to him, the history of the Caribbean, including Barbados, is evidence that growth "is not necessarily an end of itself". He noted that this island was once described as the jewel in the British crown because of its capacity to produce sugar for export, and while there was much economic growth, there was no evidence of schools, hospitals, or a safety net to protect the elderly.
"There was evidence sometimes of child labour; [and] there was crude disrespect for women…Yet, Barbados was growing… That was the Caribbean story. We were growing, but the benefits of that growth were not being shared with the most vulnerable elements in the society. So growth, while important for any country, has its limitations if it is not… modified to serve the ends of the most vulnerable and needy elements in the society…," the Prime Minister contended.
He stressed, however, that strategies in this region were "quietly and steadily modified" to take account of the existence of people who were in need of a voice in the community, but also the benefits that flowed from the economic activity which was taking place in the society.
"During that period, there was a decline in growth, but that decline in growth did not necessarily mean that the society was worse off, because changes were taking place that would now benefit a larger number of people, and that would put the society on a road to be a more inclusive society and make the economy serve a larger number of actors," he surmised.
Mr. Stuart reminded his audience that the scope for development "is never shut off" and stressed that people in this region must not allow themselves to be imbued with a sense of inadequacy.
"We are the equals of people anywhere, [and] we have the same capacities. Our countries may not be identically endowed, but we have endowments which we can exploit; we have capacities of which we can take advantage and of which we have been taking advantage. We have things which we can teach other people in other parts of the world," he stated.
Therefore, he suggested, that those countries in the South, as well as those in the North, needed each other. However, he noted that those in the South must continue to evaluate their strengths and see how they could change the world by challenging those orthodoxies that were now discredited because of the crisis the world is currently going through.
Mr. Stuart urged those in the South not to see problems, but opportunities to strengthen the countries in that group. He added that the South should exert influence on the countries in the North in an effort to make the world a better place.
Barbados is ranked 38 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Report of 2013.