The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean has been called on to play a greater role in giving a voice to the vulnerabilities which small island developing states (SIDS) face.
Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle, made this appeal during her keynote address at a UNDP retreat held recently at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
The Economic Affairs Minister stressed that it was important to make visible the issues that affect SIDS’ ability to access resources.
Stating that the issue of vulnerability was a longstanding argument made for years, she lamented that the direction of the narrative had not gone in favour of SIDS.
“Globally, there seems to be less and less regard for the issue of small size. We know that multilateralism is under threat. We know we have to protect ourselves and make our own country and region sustainable, but there is a role for UNDP to continue to play, to use evidence, research, new measures of vulnerability and what it looks like, to be able to say GDP per capita is not the way to understand what is happening at the national, community and household levels,” Minister Caddle stressed.
Pointing out that the UNDP was able to accomplish this with the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index, she said this needed to be “scaled up to the macro level”.
She said there was a need to agitate for measurements beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.
She argued: “Poverty is not static. It is a life cycle issue that I may be non-poor today by your income measurement [and] I may be poor according to other deprivations like my children’s access to affordable education or affordable health care…. The idea that in a region like this you can only measure income poverty and walk away and say that [it] is only 10 per cent or that [it] is only 16 per cent is really an oversimplification of all the things that affect people in this sub region. That is why the work on Multi-Dimensional Poverty led by UNDP, and now appearing in the work the Caribbean Development Bank is doing in its poverty measurement, has been so critical.”
Minister Caddle further stated: “It is also why advocacy by UNDP on what it means to be a middle income or high income small island developing state is so important because just as it is not about income poverty at one snap shot in time, similarly it is not just about GDP per capita of a country and we saw that with what Barbados has just been through. We see that you can have high GDP per capita and you can have unsustainable levels of debt such that you can’t invest in anything; you can’t invest in people; you can’t invest in infrastructure and before long that GDP per capita is going to stand for nothing at all.”
She suggested that one of the measures that needed to be looked at was a country’s capacity to adapt to technology, indicating it was a “very real metric”.
“One of those measures that might be more useful than GDP per capita is, does the country…have the base of knowledge to be able to adapt to technology and to be able use it to grow. I would suggest that is one you may consider.”
She highlighted climate change and disaster risk management as another measurement. Noting there was an abundance of evidence to demonstrate this, she pointed to the 220 per cent loss that Dominica experienced after Hurricane Maria.