March 14, 2005 Members of the University of the Virgin Islands' faculty, staff and student body paid keen attention Monday night as Compton Bourne, president of the Caribbean Development Bank, spoke to them at UVI's Chase Auditorium.on the subject of poverty in the Caribbean.
Bourne was the second person to lecture as part of the Dr. Alfred O. Heath Distinguished Speakers Forum. The first, Ronald Dellums, founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, spoke to a full house in March of 2004.
In the region, poverty stems from several factors, Bourne said, including natural disasters and the inability to obtain jobs. Income inequality and inadequate post-retirement income providers are also contributors, he added.
"Poverty seems to be more extensive in rural areas than urban areas," Bourne said. "It could well be that many individuals age into poverty."
Bourne said urban poverty is revealed in over-crowded cities and increased criminal activity, but added that criminal activity is a result of rural poverty as well.
"Even though poverty is not the source of crime, it serves as a factor," Bourne said.
The disparity between rich and poor countries has further widened due to economic volatility and adverse changes in the global market, Bourne said. Although poverty is on the rise, Bourne said there is hope for the Caribbean region.
"Economic growth will reduce poverty," Bourne said.
Bourne said equalizing income levels and ensuring proper health and nutrition could also reduce poverty. Bourne said other ways to alleviate the problem include: adopting policies and programs to assist the poor and improving access to credit facilities for those who may want to open small businesses.
Bourne listed various Caribbean islands and their poverty rates, including the neighboring British Virgin Islands, which has a poverty rate of 20 percent. The U.S. Virgin Islands' poverty rate was not included in the survey, Bourne said, because it is a U.S. territory and does not borrow from the CDB. Bourne said according to surveys done for the CDB from 1996 to 2002 measuring income poverty and non-income poverty, "Haiti and Suriname are at the highest end of the poverty spectrum."
Borne said society must be willing to make a commitment to help advance those who cannot "lift themselves" out of the position they are in.
"When all is said and done, we must be our brothers' keepers," he added,
The forum, which was simultaneously broadcast live on the St. Croix campus through videoconferencing, was part of this year's Charter Day activities. Charter Day is March 16, but UVI has been hosting activities since March 8 and will continue to do so until Wednesday.
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