Wide Inequality Gap

Ja lags region in commitment to cut income inequality — 2018 report

BY RICHARD BROWNE
Business editor
browner@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 12, 2018

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As Jamaica starts to see some improvements in its economy — growth at 1.8 per cent, unemployment at about nine per cent, a world-leading stock market in terms of growth, and consumer confidence at a 17-year high — it is still lagging much of the region in terms of battling income inequality, according to a recently published report from Oxfam.

The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 2018 (CRI), released on Tuesday, is a global ranking of governments based on how they tackle the gap between rich and poor. The index looks at three main pillars of social spending, taxation and labour.

On the list of 157 countries, Jamaica lists below the half-way mark at 96, between Honduras at 95 and the Central African Republic at 97. And out of 25 countries in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, Jamaica ranked four from the bottom at 21.

Although just released, the impact of any policy changes brought by the change in Government in 2016 is not yet reflected; however, as the report notes, “our data for this year for the Latin America region is 2015”.

Jamaica was one of the poorest-perfroming countries in the region, behind Costa Rica at 36, Guyana (51), Antigua (53), St Lucia (67), Barbados (69), Triniada and Tobago (72), St Vincent (79) and the Grenadines, and the Dominican Republic (89).

Jamaica performed better than only three other counties in the region, however, such as Panama at 109, Belize at 115, and Haiti — at the bottom at 155.

“The region is currently facing an economic downturn connected to the fall in commodity prices. In 2015, it experienced the highest increase in poverty rates since the late 1980s, and changes of government in many countries are driving policy shifts that threaten the achievements made in recent years,” the report stated.

The top-ranked LAC country was Argentina (34), followed by Costa Rica (36) and Uruguay (38). Cuba and Venezuela were not on the list.

“Latin America is the most unequal region in the world, with a history of colonial exploitation and land concentration favouring small elites and disenfranchising the poorest people, especially indigenous peoples and women,” the report stated.

The countries that were best performing in terms of reducing inequality amoung their citizens were Denmark, ranked first, followed by Germany and Finland.

The United Kingdom ranked at 14, Canada 18, and the United States 23.

The highest-performing African country was South Africa at 31, but the worst-performing globally was also from that continent — Nigeria at 157.

Also in the bottom 10 was the developed economy of Singapore at 149, often looked to as a positive economic model for Jamaica.

The report notes, “Oxfam's research has shown that, since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world's population have received just one per cent of the total increase in global wealth, while the top one per cent have received 50 per cent of the increase.”

Jamaica actually scored much lower in the 2017 report (Oxam's first), placing 124, between Angola and Yemen. Oxfam noted however that a direct comparison is difficult, however, as the moethodolgy behind the numbers is very different in the two reports.

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