Jamaica can Tap into Huge Economic Potential of Disabled Community – Consultant

Photo: Rudranath Fraser Equality and Inclusion Consultant, United Kingdom (UK), Haqeeq Bostan (foreground), addresses an Inclusion and Diversity Summit at the University of Technology (UTech) in St. Andrew on Wednesday (November 29). Also pictured in the background (from left), are State Minister for Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Fayval Williams; and Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson.

Story Highlights

  • Equality and Inclusion Consultant, United Kingdom (UK), Haqeeq Bostan, says Jamaica can seek to tap into the huge economic potential of the disabled community by creating a more inclusive society.
  • Mr. Bostan said this concept of inclusivity, deemed the ‘purple economy’, has been working in the UK, where persons with disabilities are now being adequately accommodated and are participating in society and economic activities.
  • “That means that disabled people, when they can’t work, they are not paying their taxes; they are recipients of benefits rather than contributors to the economy. They are not going out there and spending; instead, they are having to rely on services. They are more likely to be users of services,” he said.

Equality and Inclusion Consultant, United Kingdom (UK), Haqeeq Bostan, says Jamaica can seek to tap into the huge economic potential of the disabled community by creating a more inclusive society.

Mr. Bostan said this concept of inclusivity, deemed the ‘purple economy’, has been working in the UK, where persons with disabilities are now being adequately accommodated and are participating in society and economic activities.

As a result of becoming more inclusive, that country is now benefiting from the disability market, which, according to research, is contributing £16.2 billion to the treasury and is worth more than £200 billion.

“When you start to include people, then cost to society lowers, as people are able to make more of a contribution,” Mr. Bostan said while speaking at an Inclusion and Diversity Summit at the University of Technology (UTech) in St. Andrew on Wednesday (November 29).

He pointed out that societies, especially business interests, must become more inclusive in order to take advantage of the estimated spend of about US$1 trillion of the one billion disabled persons around the world.

“If you start to include friends and family of those disabled people, you’re pushing the number up to 2.5 billion people and a US$6.9-trillion annual disposable income. That is a huge market, and not including disabled people by having an excluded society, businesses are not taking full advantage of that spending power,” he said.

Key to realising the value of the disabled community, Mr. Bostan said, is dispelling the negative perception of disabled persons not having the capacity to make meaningful contributions to the society. He said society loses more than it gains when it excludes this cohort.

Quoting findings from the World Bank, Mr. Bostan noted that in the United States alone, between US$1.3 trillion and US$1.9 trillion are lost as a result of not accommodating the needs of disabled people.

“That means that disabled people, when they can’t work, they are not paying their taxes; they are recipients of benefits rather than contributors to the economy. They are not going out there and spending; instead, they are having to rely on services. They are more likely to be users of services,” he said.

Turning to Kingston, Mr. Bostan said the capital is well on its way to becoming a more inclusive city for persons with disabilities, in terms of the steps that have been made to empower the community through greater access to education, healthcare and the built environment.

Mr. Bostan said the staging of the Summit was another tangible indication that Kingston (and Jamaica in general) is on its way to becoming more exclusive. The event served to explore the economic and social value of making Kingston a more inclusive city for disabled persons.

He praised the organisers, Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD), in partnership with the British Council, for staging the event, adding that it was also commendable that several government ministers were in attendance.

Those present were Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton; State Minister for Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Fayval Williams; Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson; and State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green, who participated in a panel discussion.

All ministers committed to continue championing the cause for the disabled, and highlighted the various measures, programmes and activities the Government has in place to cater to this group.

These include the enactment of the Disabilities Act; the provision of economic empowerment grants and assistive devices to enable persons with disabilities to become economically independent; and plans to retrofit all primary and secondary schools across the island with lifts and ramps to improve access by persons with disabilities.

Held under the theme: ‘Towards Kingston as an Inclusive City for Persons with Disabilities’, the Summit is the first in a three-part conversation to include policymakers and stakeholders, examining the importance of transforming Kingston into an inclusive city for locals and visitors.

JIS Social