By Marion V. Ali
Studies conducted over the last year by the Inter-American Development Bank and the University of the West Indies indicate that crime has had significantly adverse impacts on development in the Caribbean.
One report notes that in the Bahamas armed robberies and violent crimes are major threats facing visiting US citizens and goes as far as offer US citizen how to access help if they become victims of robberies.
Another article which David Hessop filed with Stabroek News notes that increasing crime levels have eroded investor confidence and have reduced international competitiveness because of the need for additional security features and outfits. It points out that an increasing amount of funds have to constantly be diverted from health and education to crime control and capacity-building for the administration of justice.
Earlier this year, Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Peter Bunting, lamented that crime and corruption remained the main obstacle to that country’s rapid growth and development.
Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie also stated that crime has become the most significant challenge to economic growth that his country has had to address.
He blamed the escalation of robberies, thefts and violence as the main reason for lower tourism arrivals. The article also names Trinidad and Belize as facing our own challenges from international crime syndicates.
This pronouncement differs a bit from information obtained from the Belize Tourism Board and the Belize Trade and Investment Development, BELTRAIDE.
Tourism statistics that The Reporter has accessed show that tourism arrivals has increasingly grown, with the exception of a few years when the world economy was down, and that they continue to show a gradual rise up to present.
Locally, crime has also not had a significant impact on foreign investment.
Statistics from BELTRAIDE bolster this position showing that foreign direct investment doubled in 2011 from US $99.28 million to US $194.98 million in 2012.
It did experience a significant drop back to US $112.22 million in 2013 but officials at BELTRAIDE say that those figures are on a promising rise again in 2014.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Trade, Michael Singh, says that the impression of crime and actual crime are not the same.
“The author wrote in reference to a per capita percentage, which would appear that Belize’s crime rate is high”, Singh said.
On the contrary, he pointed out, other issues are of greater significance to foreign investors, such as taxes, land issues and infrastructure.
The one area where crime has significantly impacted our economy is on the local front.
Local businesses and citizens are plagued by the common armed robberies, burglaries and thefts.
Comparative statistical data from the Ministry of National Security compliments sentiments of the business sector as it relates to street crimes.
The crime statistics over the past four years show that major crimes were generally down, except for murders in 2012.
Those figures dipped in 2013, however, while other major crimes such as robberies, burglaries, theft and rape recorded generally slight decreases.