Caribbean youth identified as perpetrators of crime

A
study on the situation of Caribbean youth has revealed that youth’s risky
behaviours are wreaking serious havoc on the economies of the Caribbean.

This
is according to a study conducted by the CARICOM Commission on Youth
Development in keeping with its mandate from Caricom heads of government to
analyze the situation of Caribbean youth and recommend policy intervention to
improve their well being.

The
study conducted by former World Bank Economist, Jad Channban, found that murder
rates in the Caribbean – at 30 per 100,000 annually – were higher than any
other region in the world and that youth were the primary perpetrators, as well
as the victims, of crime and violence.

Crime
has also been a concern among tourism officials in the Cayman Islands.

“CITA has never spent a lot of time
on crime prevention,” said Cayman Islands Tourism Association President Stephen
Broadbelt last year. “Now, all of a sudden, crime’s gone from not even being on
our list to the top of our list.”

The
report revealed that the economic costs of youth crime had two components: the
first being direct financial costs related to public expenditure on security,
policing, arrest, judicial processing, and incarceration.

The
second component was indirect costs linked to the foreign earnings of the
criminal while s/he was in prison and to the losses in tourism revenues linked
to youth crimes. Lost tourism revenues as a result of crime had reached in excess
of US$200 million per year for the CARICOM region and overall youth crime was
costing at least 7 per cent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product.

Based
on the findings of the study, teenage pregnancy was seemingly costing CARICOM
governments on average US$2,000 per year for every young pregnant mother. These
mothers were also losing potential earnings they could have achieved if they
had been able to delay their motherhood and continue on to higher educational
levels.

With
regard to HIV/AIDS, the study illustrated that CARICOM countries were spending
US$17 million per year on HIV treatment with an average cost of therapy
treatment estimated at US$641 per person.

The
study also highlighted the point that every young person with untreated HIV
faced a risk of death, and society would lose much of its human capital as a
result of the AIDS epidemic. “Each person dying from AIDS could have joined the
labor force at prevailing conditions and earned an annual income, which, if
summed up, would represent a potential for each youth cohort of nearly US$1
billion for the CARICOM region in future earnings,” the report noted.

In
quantifying the costs incurred by governments and individuals as a result of
these risky behaviours, the study pointed to estimates that indicated that if
youth unemployment were to be reduced to the level of that of adult
unemployment (i.e., on average for the Caribbean a reduction from 23 percent to
8 percent), the Caribbean economy as a whole would benefit from an average
increase of 1 percent in GDP.

The
findings of the study have been incorporated in the report of the CRICOM
Commission on Youth Development and was submitted to CARICOM heads of government
at a Special Summit in Suriname (January 29-30). The conference was held under
the theme, “YOUTH NOW for the Community Tomorrow.”

The
summit has been supported by the United Nations Development Program, the
European Union, and the Caribbean Development Bank. The commission’s work has
been supported by the governments of Spain and Italy, the United Nations Population
Fund Agency), and the Canadian International Development Agency. Technical
support was also given by the United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations
Development Fund for Women and the Commonwealth Youth Program.

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