About St. Vincent and the Grenadines
According to the 2008 Country Poverty Assessment, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had a poverty rate of 30.2 % in 2008. Despite the hard economic climate with regards to the global financial crisis, this was down from the 37.5 % measured in 1996. Still, in 2008, many as 44.3 % of residents felt that conditions had worsened from the year before. This is likely due to the escalations in prices of food and energy towards the end of 2007 and in 2008.
A significant setback in the social sector has been the continuing delay in the establishment of the National Health Insurance Scheme. As of 2008, only 9.4 % of the population was covered by health insurance. In the poorest quintile this was as low as 3.5 %, and in the highest quintile 23.1 %. There was also a higher percentage of males compared to females, which may be related to the fact that males were dominant in formal sectors where health insurance is the norm. Teenage prenencies remain high, with nearly 50 % women reporting their first pregnancy before the age of 19.
Resources must increasingly be channeled to the fight against HIV/AIDS. In 2002, an important development was the establishment in the Ministry of Health of the HIV/AIDS. Unit, tasked with implementation of policies intended to arrest the spread of the disease and staffed with personnel to provide counseling and other support to those infected. In 2003, GOSVG intensified action in the HIV/AID programme by increasing its commitment, attention and funding.
In the water and sewerage sector, GOSVG furthered implementation of the Solid Waste Management Improvement Project, funded by the World Bank, CDB and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The project seeks to improve waste management through the establishment upgrading of landfills, the provision of equipment and the strengthening of the legal framework. In addition, work commenced on the Windward Water Supply Project which is aimed at improving the quality of water supplied to the Windward Coast and the south-eastern part of island of St. Vincent.
Economic Situation Analysis
Against the backdrop of a weak global economy and the continuing erosion of preferential trade access for its main export crop, bananas, real growth in St. Vincent and the Grenadines averaged 5.2 % per annum during 2003-2007, primarily on strong performance of the construction sector. Growth was also strong in 2007, but economic activity declined by 0.6 % in 2008. Preliminary estimates for 2009 indicate a relative stability of economic activity of 0.15 % negative growth. Fiscal operation weakened in 2009 relative to 2008, with fairly good liquidity, much due to remittances remittances accounted for 28.8 % of all income to households in the lowest quintile, and 22.1% of households’ income overall.
Total public debt as at September 30th, 2009 stood at $1.19 billion, representing a 7% increase over the public debt as at September, 2008. The amount was comprised of $597.4 million for domestic debt and $588.9 million for external debt. Based on the revised GDP figures for St. Vincent and the Grenadines the public debt at the end of September 2009, was approximately sixty percent (60%) of GDP.
The continuing sluggishness in economic activity, especially in manufacturing, tourism and the distributive trades, coupled with the ongoing difficulties in bananas' agriculture, contributed to some stagnation in the levels of employment. CPA found evidence of high levels of unemployment and underemployment. There is also evidence from the PPA that some sections of the labour force have opted out of the formal market in favour of the underground economy, in particular growing marijuana. The national unemployment rate was at 18.8 % in 2008, the unemployment rate of the poor was 25.3 %.
Challenges and Policy Issues
The key challenges indentified through the 2008 Country Poverty Assessment for the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines at this juncture are:
- Expansion of the economy in areas where St. Vincent and the Grenadines can develop competitive exports of goods and services. This is known as economic diversification.
- Management of fiscal debt
- Improvement of fiscal operations
- Promotion of micro enterprises and SMEs as the foundation of private sector development with wide participation of the national community
- Continued expansion of social infrastructure, example housing for low income families
- Development and maintenance of a transfer budget to be used in targeting the poorest and address cohort and gender specific vulnerability, providing social protection.
- Creation of an environment where citizens can employ their talents in constructive development and contributions.
It is recognized that assistance from the international community will be needed in these efforts at poverty reduction.