St. Lucia - Poverty and wealth

There is little drastic poverty in St. Lucia, but there are clear differences between a wealthy minority, a comfortable middle class, and a poor lower class. With per capita income estimated at approximately US$4,000 in 1998, the island is one of the more prosperous in the Eastern Caribbean. This is largely due to the success of the banana industry during the 1980s and the early 1990s, and continues because of the tourism industry. Many rural villages in banana-growing areas have solid housing and expensive imported vehicles, signs of the banana industry's economic impact. But there are also many smaller farmers, some with as little as an acre or two, who have not shared in the benefits of the banana boom.

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
St. Lucia N/A 2,076 2,150 3,542 3,907
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Jamaica 1,819 1,458 1,353 1,651 1,559
Bahamas 8,030 12,727 13,835 13,919 N/A
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: St. Lucia
Lowest 10% 2.0
Lowest 20% 5.2
Second 20% 9.9
Third 20% 14.8
Fourth 20% 21.8
Highest 20% 48.3
Highest 10% 32.5
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

In contrast, the wealthy minority in St. Lucia are situated in the plush residential developments to the north of Castries, around which many tourist resorts are to be found. Here, shopping malls, golf courses, and marinas testify to a luxurious lifestyle. Those who are richest in St. Lucia are white collar professionals such as lawyers and doctors, local managers of foreign companies, and people connected with successful tourism ventures and private sector construction. Included in this employment sector is a large number of European and American expatriates (citizens who moved from their native country to live in St. Lucia). The island's middle class is composed of urban professionals and those involved in traditional retail, while in the countryside there are many owners of large farms who have made enough money to consider themselves middle class.

Primary education is free and compulsory, but poor families often find it hard to afford uniforms and school books for their children. Medical care is available throughout the island, but doctors charge for visits and prescriptions are expensive. Housing conditions vary enormously, from the luxury villas of the island's northern tip to the ramshackle villages of the eastern coast.

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