Published On: Tue, Oct 28th, 2014

Caribbean countries ready to address stagnation, says CDB president

Warren-Smith-credit-Caribbean-Development-BankMONTEGO BAY, Jamaica - President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr Warren Smith, has expressed optimism that Caribbean countries are ready to address the root causes of economic and social stagnation.

Addressing the opening of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2014 High Level Caribbean Forum in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on October 23, Smith said his optimism comes on the heels of discussions that took place at the recently held meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC.

“I had the privilege of attending the meetings… and came away with a renewed sense of optimism that the Caribbean countries and the development communities are ready to address frontally, the root causes of Caribbean economic and social stagnation,” he said.

“One of the root causes is the issue of energy and we need to address it as a fundamental root cause of our uncompetitiveness. We need to move on it with a sense of great urgency. The Caribbean is not energy poor. We might not have an abundance of fossil fuels… but we have enough alternatives to make a reasonable dent in our import bill,” the president argued.

Smith told the forum that the issue of the high debt burden being carried by Caribbean countries, must also be tackled.

“Very large debt overhangs represent a drag on economic growth. High debt and economic growth are not very good bed fellows. Failure to tackle this problem in a substantive way, fairly early in the adjustment process, is likely to heighten the risk of premature abandonment of the adjustment programme. The slow burner approach to whittling down large debt over-hang is fraught with danger and cries out for an early solution,” he emphasised

Smith said part of the solution to the economic woes of the Caribbean could lie in the creativity of the youth in the region.

“Available data suggests that youth unemployment at levels north of 34 percent in many of our countries needs immediate attention. Our young people are very creative and dynamic… they demonstrate these characteristics across the Caribbean mainly in the fields of the arts, dance and sports… but that’s not all they have a capacity for,” he pointed out.

He said that a recent initiative by the World Bank to take advantage of the aptitude of the youth in the field of animation is only one illustration of the possibilities of unleashing the dynamism of the young people in a sector where they can build small businesses, earn foreign exchange and integrate themselves into the international value chain.

Smith emphasized that the initiative by the World Bank must not be left to die, but rather it must be the target of sustained focus, as if given the appropriate support, these sectors, in time, can become the dynamic drivers of economic growth.

By Marlon Tingling

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