KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – There may be a link between this country’s economic performance and the homicide rate, but not the one that some citizens might have anticipated.
Data from the last 15 years suggest that the better the economy performs, the more killings there are in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, although number are not enough to say if one causes the other.
The data, at face value, seem to debunk a claim by the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and other commentators that the number of homicides in this country is a result of the economic slump over the past three years.
An I-Witness News analysis of government statistic and International Monetary Fund data found that between 1996 and 2010, in five instances, the number of homicides decreased year-on-year, even as the nation’s economic situation deteriorated, the most obvious trench emerging from the data.
On the other hand, in three instances, the number of homicides fell year-on-year while the economy improved.
In yet another three cases, both the number of homicides and the economic performance increased year-on-year.
In only three instances were there year-on-year increases in the number of homicides when the economy deteriorated.
According to the data, this country registered 291 homicides between 1996 and 2010, while the economy grew an average of 3.1 per cent for each of those years.
In 1996, there were 14 homicides and the economy grew by 1.3 per cent. In 1997, the number of homicides fell to six, even as the economy grew by 3.1 per cent, followed by 5.7 per cent economic growth and 20 homicides in 1998.
In 1999, there were 12 homicides and the economy grew by 3.6 per cent, while in 2000, the NDP’s last full year in office, the economy grew by 2 per cent while their were 21 homicides, the first time the figure exceeded 20.
The ruling Unity Labour Party came to office in March 2001, a year when the economy grew by 1.5 per cent and there were 12 homicides.
In 2002, there were 20 homicides and the economy grew by 6.1 per cent.
This country registered its best economic performance over the last 15 years in 2003, when the economy grew by 7.2 per cent and there were 12 murders.
But the following year, the economy grew by 4.6 per cent and murders shot up to 27. That year, some citizens were said to have fallen victim to a war between local and Grenadian criminals, who escaped from that country south of here during Hurricane Ivan.
In 2005, the number of homicides fell by one, to 26, while the economy grew 3 per cent. And while economic growth in 2006 was twice that of 2005, the number of homicides also halved.
2007 holds the record for the most Vincentians killed in a single year: 36. That year, the economy grew by 3.1 per cent.
In 2008, the first time the country registered economic decline in the past 15 years, the economy contracted by 0.6 per cent and there were 27 homicides.
The homicide count fell to 20 in 2009 even as the economy contracted by 2.3 per cent, almost four times the 2008 figure, the worst economic performance in the past 15 years.
In 2010, the last year for which complete data in available, there were 25 homicides and the economy contracted by 1.8 per cent.
So far, this year, there have been 20 homicides here, even as economic growth projections range from a contraction of 0.4 to 0.8 per cent growth.
While the data offer insights into the trend regarding the number of homicides and the economic performance here, it is insufficient to draw conclusion on whether the economy in fact causes people to commit more homicides.