Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

The beautiful Caribbean isle of Saint Lucia is known for its natural amenities: a lush interior rainforest, volcanic mountains, sandy beaches and coastal reefs. More than 1.2 million tourists flocked to the tiny island in 2018 alone. Despite the country’s up-and-coming image as a sunny vacation spot, there are far more nuances to the daily lives of native Saint Lucians. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

  1. Tourism – Around 65 percent of Saint Lucia’s GDP is generated through tourism. The foreign-dependent nature of the tourism industry proved troubling for Saint Lucians, especially when the 2008 global financial crisis spurred a reduction of commercial flights to the island. However, recently the country began a new effort to boost cruise and yachting tourism through dock expansions and marketing campaigns. The total number of visitors increased by 10.2 percent from 2017 to 2018 alone.

  2. Education – According to UNICEF’s most recent data, Saint Lucia has a primary education gross enrollment rate of around 93 percent of children. The country’s secondary education enrollment rate is around 85 percent. As a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the country became a partner of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2016. The GPE is helping Saint Lucia strengthen its education system. The group has already disbursed more than $1.6 million dollars for teacher development, curriculum standardization and learning assessments.

  3. Hurricane Risk – Saint Lucia sits on the southeastern side of the Caribbean. That means it generally fares well during severe weather seasons because storms strengthen as they move northwards. For example, during Hurricane Maria in 2017, Saint Lucia only suffered minor road damage. Many neighboring islands, especially those to the north, faced complete devastation. However, the Saint Lucian economy does rely significantly on agricultural exports, which are often damaged in severe weather. For example, tropical storm Kirk damaged more than 80 percent of the island’s banana industry.

  4. Banana Industry – Saint Lucia’s agricultural industry employs over 20 percent of the island’s workforce. Bananas are the main export crop. Black Sigatoka Disease is also a serious concern. This disease damages the leaves of banana trees, rendering them unable to grow healthy fruit. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is one organization that reached out to Saint Lucians, as well as other Caribbean nations, to provide expert support. The FAO holds training sessions in the management of the disease, including proper selection and administration of fungicides.

  5. Crime – Unfortunately, Saint Lucia’s homicide rates are notably high. In 2017, they peaked at nearly six times the global average (which is 6.2 per 100,000 people). The government of Saint Lucia recently released the county’s Medium Term Development Plan for 2019-2022. The plan established a goal of reducing serious crime by 45 percent. Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet shared that the country will strive to meet that goal by improving prisoner rehabilitation services, the court infrastructure and resources for investigators.

  6. Public Health – Saint Lucia is among the healthier of the Caribbean countries, with an average life expectancy of nearly 75 years. That said, the country does have several serious health care issues. According to a 2016 survey, 92.5 percent of Saint Lucians felt “deprivations related to health insurance coverage.” Additionally, there are only 0.11 physicians per 1,000 people living in the country. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.3 health workers per 1,000 are necessary to cover primary healthcare needs. As a result, Saint Lucia is in need of change.

  7. Public Debt – Saint Lucia has a high level of public debt of 77 percent as of 2012. That is detrimentally high for a developing nation. The unemployment rate remains over 20 percent, as it has been since 2013. However, the recent spike in visitors to the island has encouraged Saint Lucians to capitalize on tourism. Industry officials expanded high-traffic port Pointe Seraphine to accommodate larger ships. The ministry of tourism also introduced new international marketing campaigns. The campaigns proved productive in the 10.2 percent visitor increase in 2018.

  8. Poverty – According to UNICEF, 25.1 percent of individuals and 18.7 percent of households live in poverty in Saint Lucia. This is largely due to the lack of diversity in the island’s domestic job market. Additionally, this is a result of an over-reliance on foreign markets. Economic expansion will be crucial in reducing poverty on the island and improving living conditions in Saint Lucia. Country officials are capitalizing on the increase of cruise and yachting tourism to create new jobs on the island.

  9. Sanitation – While some parts of Saint Lucia have relatively robust infrastructures, that is not the country-wide truth. There are several communities, largely in the north, that do not have access to electricity, potable water, flushable toilets or reliable roads. In 2015, the CIA World Factbook estimated that nearly 10 percent of Saint Lucians use unimproved sanitation systems. Consequently, there is a higher risk of preventable diseases. This is an example of poor living conditions in Saint Lucia.

  10. Erosion – The wearing away of mountains, hillsides and beaches is a dangerous problem for Saint Lucians. This is a result of particularly bad hurricanes, like with Hurricane Tomas in 2010. It is also due to poor agricultural practices, as erosion is a chief environmental concern on the island. Mudslides can ruin arable land, contaminate drinking supplies and shut down rural roads. Coastal erosion can damage houses and harm wildlife. Organizations like UNESCO promote better land management practices to mitigate these ill-effects.  The Saint Lucia National Trust also began a project in November 2016 to reduce coastal erosion through beach stabilization. The process is still ongoing.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia demonstrate how this island is more than just a scenic visitor spot. It is a complex country, balancing tourist growth and educational improvements with agricultural and infrastructural instabilities. With the right developmental strides, Saint Lucia can ensure the prosperity of all its citizens.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

Saint Lucia Poverty Rate

Globally, there are 103 countries that exist in the middle of the range between great prosperity and extreme poverty. Middle-income countries face the challenges of not being entrenched in extreme poverty but still dealing with issues surrounding poverty. Saint Lucia is an example of a country that has achieved middle-income status, yet has stagnated over the past few years.

Saint Lucia, which belonged to the British until 1979, sits in the waters of the Caribbean and is home to around 170,000 people. Saint Lucia’s GDP hovers at approximately $2 billion and its gross national product per capita is over $7,000. After the financial crisis of 2008, Saint Lucia‘s economy lagged during the latter half of the 2000s.

As a result, unemployment in the past few years has increased to 25%, with youth unemployment increasing to 15%. Saint Lucia has a mid-level Human Development Index, meaning that its quality of life has increased slightly, to a rank of 92 out of 188 countries. In accordance with the unemployment rate, the poverty rate was around 35% in 1995, but has declined since.

By looking at the Saint Lucian economy, it becomes easier to understand the Saint Lucia poverty rate. Saint Lucia has a primarily agricultural economy and it mainly exports bananas, mangos, coconuts and various vegetables. The banana industry was quite successful in the 1990s; however, the industry has weakened. Banana farmers have faced stiff competition from neighboring countries as well as foreign markets. The weakening of this sector has led to a slight increase in poverty.

Government Efforts at Poverty Reduction

The government has tried to tackle the Saint Lucia poverty rate by introducing policies to alleviate the burden of households in the country. The Saint Lucia Social Protection Policy was introduced in 2015 in order to strengthen social programs in Saint Lucia, as well as create a conditional cash transfer program that helps households obtain appropriate funds to survive.

With its friendly policies towards foreign investors, the government has also encouraged foreign investment and tourism throughout the country. The country hosts numerous “free zones” which allow private firms to operate outside of legislative boundaries. These areas can provide another source of employment for the population.

The island nation has a strong tourism industry; nearly 60% of jobs center around tourism and hospitality. This is similar to much of the Caribbean, and Saint Lucia is no exception. Natural disasters can decreases revenues from tourism, making Saint Lucia’s economy very weather-dependent.

While the Saint Lucia poverty rate serves as an important indicator, the growth of the tourism industry also plays a large role in understanding economic growth in Saint Lucia. Saint Lucia’s economic growth has helped increase its quality of life and the well-being of its citizens, but more government involvement could increase its numbers even more. Overall, developments in Saint Lucia have helped move along development globally.

Selasi Amoani

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Saint LuciaSaint Lucia is a popular tourist destination in the Caribbean, with tourism increasing each year. In 2014 alone, 338,158 visitors stayed on Saint Lucia, a six percent increase from 2013. Although Saint Lucia is a thriving tourist destination for those with expendable income to relax, many of its citizens face poverty. Poverty in Saint Lucia, as found by UNICEF, measures at 18.7 percent of households and 25.1 percent of individuals.

UNICEF’s Poverty Assessment Report for Saint Lucia highlights 10 main causes of poverty in Saint Lucia. The first of these causes is the decline in earnings from the banana industry. The agriculture industry employs 21.7 percent of Saint Lucia’s labor force. Agricultural Minister Ezechiel Joseph stated that there is a demand for Saint Lucia’s bananas, but that banana farmers need “to be able to produce the fruit in a sustainable basis.” Greater productivity and consistency are needed to satisfy potential buyers, recover the failing banana industry and reduce poverty in Saint Lucia.

An additional cause of poverty in Saint Lucia is the developing light manufacturing industry. Some of Saint Lucia’s light manufacturing exports include clothing, electronic components and corrugated cardboard boxes. While Saint Lucia produces quality products and has been commended for its strengths in light manufacturing by the Caribbean Export Development Agency, the Commerce Minister of Saint Lucia noted that there is work to be done to improve competitiveness and export potential in order to keep up with growing international competitors. The light manufacturing industry in Saint Lucia has the potential for great economic gain for the country, but has yet to bring that gain to fruition.

Failings by the government also contribute to poverty in Saint Lucia. In its report, UNICEF highlights poor infrastructure’s role in contributing to continued poverty in Saint Lucia. Many communities lack electricity, safe drinking water and usable roads, isolating them from other communities and limiting the types of industries in which they can take part. For these communities, agriculture is the main industry and is not likely to be a lucrative venture.

Additionally, the government is limited in its resources to provide a “safety-net” for those facing poverty because of its own financial difficulties. This compounds the problem of poverty in Saint Lucia; as the government faces hard times, it cannot provide as many services to its people, increasing the level of poverty for its citizens.

To truly alleviate poverty in Saint Lucia, economic expansion is key, particularly in the agriculture and ligh manufacturing industries, as these employ most of Saint Lucia’s poor. If these industries grow and compete in the international market, Saint Lucia’s poorest citizens will find themselves with more jobs, more money and greater peace of mind.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr