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The underserved low-income market in the Caribbean

Close to 90 percent of the population in the Caribbean––over 11 million people, mostly in Haiti, Jamaica and Suriname—has an annual income lower than $3,260 or under $300 a month measured in purchasing-power-parity (PPP) dollars. This startling statistics comes from a new report presented at the seminar Opportunities for the Majority (OM) in the Caribbean, held by the IDB in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on May 17—18.

The report brings fresh public attention to one of the key development issues shared by most Caribbean and Latin American countries.  Improving the living conditions of the low-income population—the majority in the region—constitutes a huge development challenge.
The majority is also the largest untapped market in Latin America and the Caribbean for business innovation, partnership and economic growth. In the case of the Caribbean, the underserved market amounts to nearly $8.7 billion (PPP) in total annual income.  “We have to engage the business community to develop brand new strategies to not only sell to the poor but to allow the poor to transform their own lives,” said, Wesley Hughes, Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, during the seminar.   

In 2006, the IDB launched the OM initiative to focus on improving conditions for this large low-income segment of the population by engaging them as consumers, producers, partners, and creators of wealth. Under this initiative, the IDB is working with the private sector and civil society to support innovative, practical, market-based solutions to persistent problems for the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean, such as access to housing, basic infrastructure, formal financial services, employment, business opportunities and modern technology.

Speaking at the seminar, Ana-Mita Betancourt, Team Leader of the IDB’s Opportunities for the Majority initiative, highlighted IDB’s role in promoting partnerships to spur economic inclusion and sustainable development. “New partnerships, sharing risks and information, investing time and resources, with incentives for business, civil society and government can make a real difference for low income households,” said, Ana-Mita.

Other speakers at the Opportunities for the Majority in the Caribbean event included Professor Stuart L. Hart, coauthor of the seminal article The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid and David Rabkin cofounder of the OTF Group, one of the top names in competitiveness consulting, and vice-president at American Express.