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NEW YORK NEW YORK: Barbados now down to third in subregion


Tony Best

NEW YORK NEW YORK: Barbados now down to third in subregion

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Some political figures in Barbados who complained loudly at election time in 2008 about the country’s declining economic and social fortunes, putting the blame on the “other side”, have finally seen what they campaigned against come true and it occurred on their watch.   
That’s because Barbados’ ranking in the United Nations Human Development Programme’s 2011 Report has tumbled from 29th in 2004 and 31st in 2006 to 42nd in 2010 and now to 47th in 2011. At the turn of the 21st century Barbados was the world’s leading developing country in such quality of life indices as per capita income, levels of education, health, life spans at birth, child survival rates, poverty, public safety, and access to clean water and sanitation.
Barbados is no longer the top rated country in Latin America and the Caribbean. Instead, that pride of place goes to Chile 44th and Argentina 45th with Barbados being relegated to the third spot in the subregion and fifth overall in the Western Hemisphere.
A key reason for the decline is the way the experts calculate the elements in the index. They have significantly changed the methodology. Another reason is the challenging economic and social picture of the day. Next is the fact that United Nations experts have also expanded the list of countries they classify as being “very high human developed” states, an indication that Barbados’ problem isn’t simply that its index has fallen in a year, but other states, such as Chile, Argentina and Lithuania, have done better and have moved from being “high human development” countries to the “very high” grouping.
Another thing. It’s not surprising that Chile has overtaken Barbados. The South American state has been a significant economic player in the Western Hemisphere for more than a decade as successive governments there moved aggressively to boost exports and expand manufacturing construction while improving the quality of its people’s lives. At the same time, Argentina has emerged from being the sick economic child of South America to a country with an outstanding rebuilding effort after massive defaults on loans in the last decade.
But the island-nation isn’t alone in recording a significant decline in its ranking. Once 39th in the global scheme of things, St Kitts-Nevis is now in the 72nd position. The Bahamas was in the 43rd position last year but has slumped to 53rd. Trinidad and Tobago, CARICOM’S wealthiest country with one of the best performing economies, was 54th in 2004, 57th two years later and 59th in 2010. This year its ranking stands at 62nd. Guyana too hasn’t done well either. It now stands at 117th but was 104th a year ago.
Perhaps Barbados’ consolation is that it remains a nation with one of the world’s highest levels of human development. It belongs among the nations with a “very high” level of human development, a grouping led by Norway, Australia, Netherlands, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan.
Another thing: as Barbados examines the continuing pattern of declines, it should note that there are gaps in the information it supplies to international agencies.

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