Narrowing the income gap has many dimensions

By Earl Bousquet
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, March 14, 2011
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The small size of most Caribbean islands and the short distance between urban and rural centers, coupled with the development of infrastructure facilitating both expansion of services and movement between population centers, means the dividing gap between rural and urban centers is narrowing faster in the Caribbean than in China.

But while the rural/urban gap may be reducing and narrowing in the physical sense, the wide social gaps remain, as do the income gaps.

Most Caribbean governments are (historically) apt to try to narrow the national income gap by providing opportunities for employment and self-employment.

With the state hardly having a stake in and largely opting to stay out of "private enterprise issues" (like the size of incomes and location of income-generating private enterprises), narrowing the income gap essentially becomes a necessary lifelong individual goal.

You can move from job to job, try your hand at "a new business" until one works for you – or risk riding on the fast lane.

With most political parties actually afraid of the political consequences of failing to deliver on such a campaign or manifesto promise if elected, many people opt for the fast track to prosperity – many instead ending up (literally) riding a motorcycle into a trailer truck on a one-way street.

However, one Caribbean country that's taken one giant leap towards enabling individuals to personally narrow their income gap in the absence of the state's ability to do so, is Cuba.

Ahead of the upcoming April Communist Party Congress that will decide on new approaches for new times, the Cuban government – unable to increase wages or create new jobs – opted to redirect half-a-million workers from state jobs they couldn't keep to new opportunities for small private investment.

In a country where the revolutionary state has dominated enterprise, the new opportunities for people to start new small businesses to maintain themselves and their families has already begun to bear fruit.

With the new openings in small business and Cuban farmers also now able to sell produce directly to consumers, will also come new challenges requiring adjustments to the emerging new realities.

Throughout the Caribbean, tourism, information technology and entertainment are among the new industries attracting the attention of those seeking the fastest or most enduring possibilities of narrowing their income gaps or fattening their bank accounts.

Traditional labor-intensive approaches (such as agriculture, agro industry and manufacturing) are being replaced or challenged everywhere by New Age technology and opportunities and the increasing need for service industries.

And while the young are grabbing the new opportunities, the ageing, elderly and pensionable, who have now officially grown out of the income-earning generation, are starting to think of demanding that they no longer be condemned to death by unemployment in an age when information technology and the concept of "virtual offices" can allow them to work from home.

I think the convergence of the needs and demands of young and old in rural and urban communities everywhere for narrowing of their income gaps will become more of a problem for those countries that continue to shy away from this urgent task, than for those that devise a plan to grab the dog by the tail and avoid its bite.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of


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