Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, has suggested that Caribbean countries should take a fresh look at a more integrated approach to tackling the region’s development challenges.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), he proposed what he called an integrated regional approach to the production and distribution of alternative energy, be it blue or green energy.
“Wouldn’t it be a game changer if the Caribbean assumed leadership in alternative energy export? That would have enormous implication for the cost of doing business and development in the region? A leadership role here will do wonders for our competitiveness. Imagine a new OECS space with St Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, and Grenada, leading in geothermal energy for the sub-region, Puerto Rico, the French overseas territories and southern islands.”
The results he said would be new jobs, new skills, new source of foreign exchange, new dynamics in trade and sustainable development too.
He also identified among the region’s pressing challenges, the need to continue our efforts at restructuring our economies with a view to energise growth in a sustainable way and adjust to the new normal global economic environment.
The “compelling requirement” to achieve increases in competitiveness and productivity through the building of a strong private sector; the need to strengthen fiscal regimes and reduce the public debt burden; tackle unemployment; close the growing social and economic infrastructure gaps and build resilience to climate change and natural disasters, were also listed as concerns to be addressed urgently.
According to Dr. Harris, while the Caribbean ranks high on the Human Development Index, relative to other developing and emerging market countries; had average literacy and high life expectancy at birth, poverty rates in the region were also too high averaging over 40 per cent for CDB Borrowing Member Countries.
This, he said, was coupled with serious income disparity, unacceptable high levels of unemployment and under employment, and social exclusion of important segments of the population.
Dr. Harris the current state of affairs in the global environment and the regional and national realities were all signaling that the Caribbean was at a critical crossroad.
“We must turn the right corner in many aspects of our development if we are to realise lasting success in achieving sustainable and inclusive job rich growth, bring an end to the scourge of poverty, arrest the growing trends in youth unemployment, and youths at risk.
“We must make the right choices to attain food and energy security, build resilience to externalities and strengthen our regional integration efforts. When this chapter of our history is examined, it must confirm discernible results of our success in the implementation of strategies that address in a meaningful way the urgent needs of our people particularly those who are currently marginalised and excluded.”