Edmond Campbell, Senior News Coordinator
Gareth Thomas, British state minister for trade and development, addresses the launch of the Caribbean Regional Development Strategy at The Jamaica Pegasus on Monday. At right is British High Commissioner, Jeremy Cresswell. - Junior Dowie/Staff Photographer
GARETH THOMAS, British minister of state for trade and development, says Jamaica's gross domestic product (GDP) growth is being stifled by the country's high murder rate.
Thomas said Jamaica could achieve annual GDP growth of 5.4 per cent if the island's homicide rate was reduced to the average figure in Costa Rica.
In 2006, the murder rate in Costa Rica was 0.8 per 10,000 inhabitants. The country has a population of little more than four million.
Jamaica's rate in 2006 was 4.96 per 10,000.
Thomas made reference to a World Bank study, which indicated that Jamaica's economic prospects were severely undermined by its chronic crime problem.
He said the high crime rate in some Caribbean countries had discouraged many prospective tourists from visiting the region.
Speaking Monday at the launch of the Caribbean Regional Development Strategy at The Jamaica Pegasus in New Kingston, Thomas said that crime was estimated to cost the Caribbean between five and 10 per cent annually in GDP.
President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Chris Zacca, said that group had consistently called for the re-estabishment of the rule of law as a precursor for economic growth.
In a Gleaner interview Monday, Zacca said he welcomed the study, noting that it reinforced the message that crime was the number-one enemy of poverty alleviation in Jamaica.
"High murder will lead to no growth, no crime will lead to growth, which will take people out of poverty," he stressed.
The United Kingdom trade official announced that his government would disburse, over the next three years, £46 million to help tackle a mix of socio-economic and environmental challenges facing the Caribbean.
He said the critical areas of crime, HIV/AIDS and climate change had to be addressed before the region could make meaningful progress in trade.
Thomas, who also held talks with Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Monday, said the Caribbean should strive to reduce the effects of climate change and the devastation being caused by natural disasters such as hurricanes.
"With coastal communities accounting for some 60 per cent of population, the Caribbean is one of the regions of the world that is most at risk with rising sea levels and hurricanes," he noted.