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When the size of a country’s wealth doesn’t match its pace of social progress
Two Caribbean nations, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have made significant strides in meeting the basic human needs of their people, more so than much larger and wealthier countries.
And they have achieved that benchmark while outpacing several G-20 countries that range from Russia and Brazil to South Africa and China.
That’s according to the 2014 Index of Social Progress, which measures how 132 countries represented at the United Nations have succeeded or failed in providing their citizens with basic social and environmental needs. The latest assessment prepared by the Social Progress Imperative, a non-profit institution interested in the foundations of well-being and opportunity in many of the world’s wealthiest and poorest countries as well as those in between called the emerging economies, placed Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago on the list of the top 50 countries studied and ranked by experts when it came to social progress.
Jamaica was ranked 43rd and Trinidad and Tobago 47th. They are among three Caricom countries included in the study which didn’t assess such places as the Bahamas, Antigua, Barbados, Suriname, Dominica, Haiti, St. Lucia, Grenada and St. Kitts-Nevis. Guyana was the only other English-speaking Caribbean country studied for the Index and it was placed in the 82nd position. The Dominican Republic was 68th and Cuba 79th.
“Social progress” was defined by the experts as a “society’s capacity to meet the most basic needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.”
The Index measures the well-being of a society by observing social and environmental results, by not taking economic factors into consideration. The experts were particularly interested in personal safety, the sustainability of the ecosystems, health and wellness, shelter, sanitation, equity and inclusion and personal freedom and choice.
At the top of the global rankings were New Zealand, Switzerland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Finland Denmark and Australia, the top 10, all of which came from Oceana –Australia and New Zealand – Europe and North America.
The second tier of states, a group of 13 countries ran the gamut from Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Ireland to the United States, Belgium, Slovenia, Estonia, France, Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic. Among them were some of the world’s leading economies as measured by their gross domestic product and population, and they included five members of the G-7—Germany, the U.K. Japan, the U.S. and France.
Lower down the ladder were states with sharply different levels of economic development and that’s where Costa Rica, Uruguay, South Korea, Chile, Mauritius, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Panama, Israel, Kuwait and Argentina come in.
Yet another group, 50 in all ranged from Kuwait 40th to Morocco 90th . Among them were Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Botswana, Venezuela, Paraguay, Nicaragua, the Ukraine, Namibia, Cuba and China.
“These countries are closely bunched in terms of their overall social progress index score, but have widely different strengths and weaknesses,” stated the Social Progress Imperative.
Among the countries with the worst levels of performance were Pakistan, Yemen, N****, Angola, Sudan, Guinea, Burundi, the Central African Republic and Chad.
“The Social Progress Index provides evidence that extreme poverty and poor social performance often go hand in hand,” stated the report.
At the same time, it sends a clear message, insisted the experts: high per capita incomes alone don’t guarantee social progress. That may be the lesson taught by the ranking of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago whose GDP per capita figures are smaller than Saudi Arabia’s.