DUBAI, United Arab Emirates –
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Importing food is damaging the Caribbean: Why no action?
It is shameful that golden opportunities to produce more food in the Caribbean and significantly reduce the astronomically high annual food import bill of US$4.75 billion are being woefully neglected. If this misguided trend continues, the economies of many of the countries of the region will be increasingly imperilled.
At a time of very low or no economic growth, extremely high ratios of debt-to-Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and declining foreign exchange earnings in many of the 14 independent nations that comprise the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the majority of them continue to spend huge sums on buying food outside the Caribbean.
In 2013, only four countries were exceptions to those with unsustainably high debt to GDP ratios. They were: Haiti 21.3 per cent, Suriname 29.2 per cent, T&T 30.6 per cent, and Bahamas 56.3 per cent. Of the others, Jamaica 138.9 per cent, Grenada 115 per cent, St Kitts-Nevis 104.9 per cent and Antigua and Barbuda 92.9 per cent have the highest debt-to-GDP ratio.
At the lower end of the unsustainable high debt-to-GDP ratio are Guyana 63.9 per cent, Dominica 74.95, Belize 75.5 per cent, and St Vincent and the Grenadines 76.4 per cent (source IMF and World Bank). It should be noted that in the case of Haiti, while its debt-to-GDP ratio is low, it has the highest rate of poverty at 77 per cent of its population. Other countries with high levels of poverty are: Belize 41.3 per cent, Grenada 37.7 per cent, Guyana 36.1 per cent, and St Vincent and the Grenadines 30.2 per cent.