by Kari Grenade, PhD Regional Economist and Macroeconomic Advisor
While all human beings have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in one way or the other, some have been more disproportionately impacted.
The ones most severely impacted have been the poor and vulnerable, the elderly, women, students, those with pre-existing health conditions, and those in precarious and low-skilled jobs. The health and socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic have undoubtedly worsened poverty and inequalities within and between countries.
Widening social and economic disparities within countries are inconsistent with sustainable inclusive development, which is a holistic concept that embeds the principle of leaving no one behind. The principle of leaving no one behind recognises sustainable development as an ecosystem in which the whole is made up of constituent parts and as such, inclusive sustainable development can only be achieved if no part of the ecosystem is left behind.
As Caribbean countries recover from the pandemic, building forward better would require among other strategic imperatives, forging a new societal compact with the overarching aim of leaving no one behind. Specifically, a new societal compact should:
- prioritise wellbeing (individual, economic, social, and environmental) above all
- reorder and equalise how opportunities are distributed across society
- promote equality, equity and all human rights (civil, political, economic, social, religious, and cultural)
- educate, empower, energise and equip people to live their best lives
- shift mindsets towards possibilities and away from limitations and expand choices and opportunities
- meet people’s expectations for self-actualisation, security (social and economic), peace, and adequate public services that are delivered efficiently
- recognise people’s worth and value, unlock potential (individual, economic, cultural) and harness individuals’ talents
- restore citizens’ satisfaction and trust in public institutions
- encourage citizens’ active participation in the development process
- strengthen communities and rekindle the community spirit
- create pathways for wealth creation and prosperity and
- build resilience in all of its many dimensions (including social, economic, environmental, cultural, and institutional)
A new societal compact is not about creating a bigger welfare state. It is fundamentally about reordering priorities, equalising opportunities, rebalancing risks, and investing in social cohesion. As Caribbean countries consider their policy options in building forward better, there is an opportunity to (re)engineer a new compact for a better, more equal, just, inclusive, progressive and prosperous society.