The 2015 Human Development Report was launched yesterday in Ethiopia and distributed from Uruguay. As suggested by Helen Clarke speaking at the launch in the African nation, “there can be no doubt that history will judge 2015 to be a remarkably important year for setting global development-related agendas.” In Antigua and Barbuda, development-related initiatives have been foremost in the minds, policies, and actions implemented by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda for the benefit of the nation.
Caribbean Times believes that it is timely the 2015 report has been launched because it gives the policymakers and technocrats, the chance to gauge where the country is in contrast to other countries, and to focus on those things that will improve overall development and quality of life in the country, before going into 2016. Caribbean Times equally recognises that although Antigua and Barbuda is showing definite signs of improvement, there are areas that must be addressed, some more radically than others.
For example, and these figures used in the report are based on 2011 data regarding unemployment, speak to youth employment at 19.9 %. Given the time elapsed between then and now, and the fact that there was much human cry between 2011 and now, it is reasonable to assume that youth employment and the quality of work obtained have to be priority areas for the Government going into 2016.
Notwithstanding, it is commendable that Antigua and Barbuda occupies placement among those countries with a ‘High Human Development’ profile. In fact, with a ranking at number 58, Antigua and Barbuda rests just behind Barbados at 57 with the Bahamas leading regional countries at number 55. Other regional territories highlighted with similar profile in the rankings are: Trinidad & Tobago 64, Cuba 67, St. Kitts & Nevis 77, Grenada 79, St. Lucia 89, Dominica 94, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 97, Jamaica 99, Belize and Santo Domingo 101, and Suriname 103. Within the region, Guyana is ranked at Medium Human Development with a position of 124. Haiti is considered of Low Human Development and is ranked 163.
It must be noted that gender-related issues which produce inequalities, marginality, and slow down development have been cited as major areas of concern for developing countries, and Antigua and Barbuda has been pointed to in needing to do more in promoting women in politics for instance, and in having pay comparable to their male counterparts. Life expectancy at birth in this country now stands at 76. 1 years, with women living on average five years more than men having 78.5 and 73.5 expectancies respectively. Yet, there is a red flag with the adolescent birth rate measured at 49.3 (births per 1,000 women ages 15–19).
For the very first time, the Human Development Report is available in a unique web version. The web version of the Human Development Report 2015: Work for Human Development contains interactive features that provide enhanced functionality and enable information sharing in our interconnected world. Caribbean Times will be returning to this report to deal with selected areas that must be prioritised in this country’s quest for social transformation and consistent with its national development goals which should make Antigua and Barbuda the economic powerhouse in the Eastern Caribbean.