The continuing impact of poverty and high unemployment on the region emerged as one of the key areas of concern for governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) who wrapped up the 45th annual meeting of their board in Basseterre, St Kitts, yesterday. This was disclosed by bank president Dr Warren Smith, as he gave the customary report on the meeting’s deliberations during the closing ceremony.
Smith stated that seven broad themes had emerged from the discussions: poverty reduction; private sector development; strengthening internal processes; membership in CDB; innovative financing modalities; partnerships and collaboration; and refuelling Caribbean integration.
But he noted that the strongest point arising during the discussions was that poverty remained a fundamental development challenge.
“Many governors voiced concern about high and rising unemployment, and relatedly, the unacceptably high rates of poverty in many of our BMCs. Our region’s youth, facing much higher rates of unemployment than the adult labour force, is particularly at risk in this environment,” Smith said.
“Part of the solution requires that we identify new sources of economic growth for our BMCs. However, we recognize that growth by itself is not enough. We need to also promote job-led growth that is targeted and gender-sensitive. And we need to build economies that are more diversified and resilient,” he proffered.
CDB, he said would not retreat from its founding mission, which one governor reminded “remains as clear and compelling today as it was in 1969”.
What is required, Smith said was new thinking that identified appropriate strategies for reducing poverty.
“CDB will support and provide intellectual leadership for this undertaking.”
Many governors recognized the critical and catalytic role that must be played by the private sector in galvanising Caribbean growth, he said.
“While this is, indeed, the case, priority attention must be given to creating the enabling environment within which this growth can occur. The cost of doing business must be reduced so that our economies become more competitive; logistics and connectivity improved; and bureaucratic obstacles minimized.”
The CDB intended to find appropriate entry points that would support and promote a larger and more efficient private sector, he said.
“In this regard, we also intend to be very selective and targeted in our approach to direct private engagement. One of our newest initiatives offers in-country capacity development to enable public and private sector actors to assess the risks associated with public private partnership (PPP) financing modalities. Our jointly-funded PPP Regional Support Facility, which was launched [Wednesday], is designed specifically for this purpose,” he said.
The CDB is also expecting the private sector to play a leading role in reducing energy cost and bolstering economic resilience by deepening and accelerating its green finance agenda.