Bourne: Address income inequality
Urgent attention needs to be paid to a number of areas in the society if the livelihoods of Caribbean people are to be sustained and improve, says Dr Compton Bourne.
The academic and outgoing president of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) said while the world as a whole was recording some progress, there were still areas that needed careful attention and improvement.
He said income and wealth inequality was “a major problem” and the Caribbean needed to address this situation.
Bourne made this assessment while delivering the 11th Annual Caribbean Public Policy Lecture – Sustainably Improving Caribbean Livelihoods: Public Policy Challenges – at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, last week.
“The incidence of income inequality is quite substantial in the region.
“There is an indication that in some countries that inequality has widened, so that the problem [with] differences in income levels has become more acute.
“Income and wealth inequalities . . . usually entail unequal access to opportunities in market-oriented societies,” explained Bourne, who noted that income and wealth inequity led to social instability.
“Inequality has the consequence of corroding or preventing the emergence of social trust; the bond that people share in a society across economic and ethnic groups and across religions and races,” he added.
The CDB boss told the audience that Caribbean economies had to grapple continuously with national economic vulnerability and resilience and with the fact that as countries they were highly dependent on international commerce, trade or finance, and development in the wider global economy could affect their economic prospects “for better or for worse”.
He said economic growth was a major factor that affected sustainability, noting that where there was economic growth over the years, it has been “modest”.
If public policy could not adequately address disparities in income and wealth, other ways should be considered, said Bourne.
“Find other ways of equalising those opportunities such as income subsidies and educational grants that would serve to mitigate some of those difficulties,” he said.