Editorial: Promises and lies

Youth unemployment and youth crime in the Caribbean are two of the most vexing situations in the region.  We know the symptoms, we know the cause and we know the cure, but we seemingly cannot implement a solution to the problem.  

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in a recent IMFBlog, highlighted the problems being faced by the youth in the region and the domino effects, on our societies.  In their “Chart of the Week” entitled “Crime, Joblessness, and Youth in the Caribbean” the blog’s author(s) revealed some startling statistics.  In summary, the youth unemployment situation in the Caribbean is “among the highest in the world,” and the resulting crimes “are key bottlenecks to growth in the region.”

In detail, the statistics are depressing.  For example, the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 15 and 24 jumped from 21 percent to 26 percent in the period 2007 to 2013, brought on by the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis.  Naturally, the increasing unemployment has led to increasing crime, and in several Caribbean countries, the crime has pushed the murder rate to some of the highest in the world.  

Of note, in a list of the 25 countries with the highest murder rates (in the world – 2016), the Caribbean was well represented with Jamaica and St. Kitts in the top ten, placing 6th and 9th respectively.   The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic, and St. Lucia all cracked the top 20.  With Dominica filling out the top 25 list placing 21st.  These ratings are based on the number of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants per year.  Jamaica scored its 6th place ranking with a murder rate of 39.3. We are not going to get into a debate about the fairness or unfairness of murder rates as a comparative model because that is not the topic at hand.  Luckily for us, we live in paradise and our murder rate is not as worrying as some of the bigger islands.  That said, we have seen a worrying increase in violent crime.

Returning to the IMFBlog, it stated, “violent crime in the Caribbean is significantly higher than in any other region (with 6.8 percent of the population affected versus a world average of 4.5 percent), and “about 40 percent of the Caribbean population identifies crime and security-related issues as the biggest problem facing their countries, even more than poverty or inequality.”

Not depressed as yet?  Well, read on.  According to the blog, “According to the 2012 United Nations Caribbean Human Development Report, young people are both the primary victims and perpetrators of crime in the region. Victims of violent crime are mainly between the ages of 18 to 30 and from lower levels of income, while 80 percent of prosecuted crimes were committed by people aged 17 to 29 years.

Essentially, this paints a picture of youth on youth crime that does not bode well for our future and the reason is obvious. The youth are our future!  

As we stated at the beginning of this piece, luckily the solution to this crisis is known to everyone even if it remains forever elusive.  With an upcoming election, you will hear the solution very often flowing from the mouths of politicians. The refrain goes something like this: “jobs, jobs, jobs!”  Simple to say but extremely hard to achieve.  

That is why we need to hold our politicians accountable for their promises.  It cannot be that we hear the same “jobs, jobs, jobs” sermon every time an election is looming and then the “excuse, excuse, excuse” chorus after they are in power.  If the politicians want votes, they need to present a realistic and detailed job creation programme and then deliver.   We, as voters, need to learn to distinguish between promises and lies.

To help you with making that determination, here is the best advice we can give you:  If the promise is grand and has few details, it is probably a lie.  Think back to all those broken promises and see how many fit into this single assessment.  

Jobs will be one of the key issues in this, or any other election for that matter, so it is important that we do not allow ourselves to be forced-fed mushy promises that provide no economic nutrition.  Without jobs people must find alternatives to providing for basic living needs.  Often, one thing leads to another, and the slippery slope towards a life of crime becomes well-lubricated and greed does the rest.  We know what the consequences are and we know what the solution is! Now we just need a good plan from those in charge of the economy and the ability to execute for the betterment of all  –  now and in the future!

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