04 February, 2008 - Published 08:56 GMT

The Caribbean's crime woes

An unflattering portrait of crime in the Caribbean is painted by the Economist magazine in its latest edition.

The Economist’s article pulled no punches.
It says the Caribbean, better known for its blue skies, cricket and rum punch, was the world leader in violent crime.

It quoted a joint United Nations-World Bank study last year, as saying the region had a murder rate of 30 per 100,000 inhabitants - four times the North American figure and 15 times the West and Central European average.

Jamaica, according to the Economist, is the world's most murderous country. But it notes that the rest of the Caribbean was catching up fast, irrespective of size or wealth.

Prosperous Bahamas, it points out, was far more dangerous than impoverished Guyana. In Trinidad and Tobago, the murder rate has quadrupled over the past decade, despite a fall in unemployment to five percent last year.

The respected international publication says the illegal drugs trade was largely to blame but it added out that since the 1990s, cocaine shipments in the Caribbean have stabilised while murder rates have soared - pointing to a complex picture.

Tourism has largely escaped the violence but last May's UN-world bank report cited by the magazine, had warned that crime had the potential to curb the region's economic growth.

The report also acknowledged that murder statistics in small countries were often problematic because a relatively small number of incidents can result in high rates.

But what is clear is that homicides are a growing problem in the Caribbean.