Op-Ed: The Caribbean’s “Depth” Crisis

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - May 6, 2013

By Zhivargo S. Laing
Op-Ed Contributor

WHILE GOVERNMENT DEBT remains worrisome for many Caribbean and Latin American countries, socio-economic depth may be the more serious worry for sustainable growth and development in the future.

Socio-economic depth here refers to the level of achievement in economic and social areas which enhance development prospects. Areas such as economic diversification, ease of doing business, investment promotion, fiscal management, education policy, public health, infrastructure, public order, civic participation and the citizenry’s sense of hope.

High achievement in these areas creates socio-economic depth and improves growth and development prospects – lower achievement does the opposite.

Since the 1970s and 80s, Latin America has improved its debt profile both in terms of reduced Debt-to-GDP ratio and the mix of domestic and international debt. The Caribbean on the other hand has gone in the opposite direction. Both groupings, however, remain challenged in terms of socio-economic depth.

The intense global focus on debt issues, particularly since the so-called “Great Recession,” which fermented and boiled over in 2008, is understandable but somewhat shortsighted.

Elevated debt-to-GDP ratio can be a burden to a country, particularly in the current global economic malaise, so attention to the same is no surprise. However, socio-economic depth should command just as much, if not more attention.

Indeed, in the long run, it can significantly aid in debt reduction. The reality is that too many Caribbean and Latin American countries remain plagued by enduring underachievement in areas such as the diversification of the economy, leaving a number of them vulnerable to the vagaries of global fluctuations.

A weak focus on education has left many of our young men and women unable to thrive and make a more meaningful economic contribution to themselves and the state. Waning infrastructure has contributed to a lower quality of life and is a disincentive to both domestic and international investment.

Public disorder and injustice has left many citizens distrustful and discouraged; while uninspired public services administration leads to inefficiencies in conducting business; and regional transportation has inflated the cost of trade within the region.

Perhaps paying greater attention to debt, as opposed to depth, reflects both politics and pragmatism. The debt problem is decidedly simpler to track and easier to spin – socio-economic depth is less so.

Dedicated efforts to tackle the Caribbean and Latin American “depth crisis” offer infinitely more and longer term gains than tackling its “debt crisis.”

Policy development in this area has enormously more room to grow, and if tackled seriously should define and reveal the next generation of policy makers, politicians and statesmen to take the region forward.

Zhivargo S. Laing, former Minister of State for Finance with the Government of The Bahamas, is an economist, consultant and motivational speaker

Popular Posts the sexiest beaches including this resort at atlantis

The Sexiest Beaches in the Caribbean to Visit Right Now 

One is a beach with a nightclub-style pool right next door. Another is filled with beach bars — and even has its own au natural corner. Then there’s a beach that’s practically a nonstop party.  There are so many things that […]

The Best Caribbean Islands to Visit This Summer, From Antigua to St Croix

verandah antigua

We’ve been saying it for years, and we’ll keep saying it: in some ways, the Caribbean is even better in the summer months. The water is warm. It’s a bit less crowded, a little bit quieter. At night, the trade […]

The Winners of the 2024 Caribbean Green Awards 

caribbean green

With almost 20,000 votes, the winners of the Caribbean Green Awards 2024 Presented by E-Finity have been crowned.  From state-of-the-art marine conservation projects to hotels that are redefining sustainability, the Green movement has never been stronger in the Caribbean.  “This […]

Related Posts the resort with blue water and cottages

Looking to Own a Resort in The Bahamas? This One Is on the Market for $17M

A beach resort in The Bahamas is on the market, Caribbean Journal Invest has learned.  The 21-acre property, which is just five minutes from the island’s New Bight Airport, is for sale for $17 million.  It is on the market […]

Caribbean Hotels Keep Filling Up as Travel Demand Strengthens 

bahamas small hotels

It was a very strong March for the Caribbean hotel industry, according to the newest data from hotel analytics firm STR.  Hotel occupancy was 76.4 percent last month, a sizable 7.3 percent jump over March 2023 — a very strong […]

This Top Paradise Island Restaurant Has a New Look 

four seasons

Ocean Blu, one of the two eateries at the Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort on Paradise Island in The Bahamas, has gotten a new look and a new culinary program.  The open-air eatery set next to the resort’s infinity […]


Sign up for Caribbean Journal's free newsletter for a daily dose of beaches, hotels, rum and the best Caribbean travel information on the net.

No. Thank You