French Antilles and French Guiana - Poverty and wealth

According to the DFAIT A Guide for Canadian Exporters , the elite class in the CDF is composed primarily of government employees with the most prestigious positions. This segment of society shop in very expensive

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
French Guiana & N/A N/A 6,000 N/A N/A
French Antilles
United States 28,600 30,200 31,500 33,900 36,200
Brazil 6,300 6,300 6,100 6,150 6,500
Suriname 3,150 3,400 3,500 3,400 N/A
Note: Data are estimates.
SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations , 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th editions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.

boutiques that sell large varieties of high-quality products that are imported to the departments on jumbo jets on a weekly basis. As a result of this type of consumption, much of the money that the elites earn escapes the local economy and directly benefits France and other EU members. This is a major impediment to development, especially considering that the rationale behind awarding CDF government officials higher salaries than their metropolitan counterparts relates to increasing demand in the local economy. Supermarkets provide the same basic goods for both the elites and the middle and lower classes, though the latter must be much more cautious about what they buy. People with high incomes represent about 20 percent of the populations of the CDF, while those with middle or lower incomes constitute the remaining 80 percent.

The French government allocates a significant amount of resources to the CDF to ensure that the standard of living in the departments is similar to the standard of living in the metropolis. Consequently, the CDF enjoy some of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean and South America. Poverty is acute, but it is generally nowhere near the levels of poverty experienced by developing countries with similar economies. This notwithstanding, the standard of living in the CDF in reality falls considerably below that of the standard of living in the French metropolis. In 1997, for instance, GDP per capita in purchasing power parity in French Guiana, Martinique, and Guadeloupe equaled $6,000, $10,700, and $9,000, respectively, in contrast to the overall GDP per capita (PPP) in France, which equaled $27,975 in 1998. Evidently, there is considerable discrepancy in the social conditions between France and the CDF as a whole, not to mention within the CDF themselves.

Health care and education are generally accessible in the CDF. Free health care is provided for the poorest segments of society, while education is universally free. Furthermore, expenditure on such services has actually increased in some cases, in sharp contrast to the general decline in social expenditures in OECD countries. In Martinique, for example, total expenditure on health care increased from 583 million euros in 1999 to 610 million in 2000. Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 to 16 in the CDF and university is available for those seeking to further their education. In many cases, however, students must leave school early in order to help provide for the family.

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