St. Vincent and the Grenadines - Poverty and wealth



Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is not a country of social extremes. There is a small middle class, traditionally involved in retailing and the professions, while a significant group of small farmers benefited from the "banana boom" of the 1980s, resulting in much improved housing conditions in many rural communities. Society is not prohibitively stratified, and educational opportunities exist for upward mobility. The literacy rate is high at 98 percent for both men and women.

There are no recent figures relating to income distribution in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but World Bank and other sources suggest that at least 30 percent of the population still lives in poverty, including the large numbers of unemployed. The most underdeveloped and marginalized area of the main island is the north, where villages such as Sandy Bay, Owia, and Fancy are still without electricity (although a project to connect them was underway in 2000). Here, the volcanic terrain limits the development of agriculture and there are few economic opportunities other than cultivating marijuana. The inhabitants of the poorest north coast settlements include the last descendants of the Black Caribs, a community descended from the island's indigenous population and slaves who escaped the sugar plantations in the 18th century and revolted against the British. On the east coast, the once thriving town of Georgetown is now almost deserted, abandoned since the government-owned sugar mill was closed

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
St. Vincent & the Grenadines N/A 1,322 1,649 2,168 2,635
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Jamaica 1,819 1,458 1,353 1,651 1,559
St. Lucia N/A 2,076 2,150 3,542 3,907
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
St. Vincent & the Grenadines 27 4 8 2 13 24 22
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Jamaica 24 7 3 1 9 8 48
St. Lucia 40 5 11 4 17 11 11
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

in the 1970s. Here, as elsewhere beyond the Kingstown area, educational and medical services are basic.

In contrast, the wealthier middle-class suburbs around Kingstown have a full range of amenities and facilities. The more prosperous banana-growing villages of the fertile inland valleys are also evidence of economic success. The wealthiest sectors of the population include those involved in the tourism industry, the new financial services sector and, according to critics, those with political connections.

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