With Barbados and several of its regional neighbors firmly in the clutches of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the University of the West Indies is embarking on a mission to ensure that the presence of the lending institution in the region, is significantly reduced in the future.
According to UWI Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, the plan, which the university has called theTriple A programme, will focus on a developmental vision for the region, with the university playing an active role as an agent for economic reform.
“Most of the economies of this region are in IMF programmes, under IMF surveillance or exiting plans. The fact that the IMF is playing such a powerful and pivotal role in the allocation of economic resources in the Caribbean, has to do with the fact that we have not achieved the kind of growth that we have been expecting. As small vulnerable economies we have found ourselves exposed to global movements and some of those exposures have been very damaging,” said Beckles who was speaking at a media briefing at the UWI St Augustine campus, Trinidad.
He explained that the Caribbean must now conceptualize a post-IMF era, noting that the UWI will lead the way in terms of research and innovation, which would be critical to this transformation.
“In 20 years, there is no reason whatsoever why the IMF should be involved in our economic affairs to the level or depth that they currently possess. We have to find a way to restructure, to diversify and to move these economies into a higher level of competitiveness. This is the number one challenge facing the Caribbean and therefore the economic growth is the number one priority for the thinking of this university,” Beckles explained
The respected academic made it clear that the proclaimed vision was by no means the fleeting fancy of an institution striving for relevance and goodwill, but rather the commitment of a higher learning entity, whose fate is intertwined with the region’s.
“If we don’t achieve sustained economic growth in the next ten years across the region, then many of the social and cultural benefits that we have achieved will be eroded and the erosion will also be felt within our university. Therefore, we are primarily, first and foremost, committed to this business of economic transformation,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor noted that under the IMF programmes most regional countries, including Barbados, have managed to stabilize their economies, but impetus was now needed to transition to higher levels of growth. He contended that the goal was not as daunting as some may think, as the prognosis for the region was good.
“We are seeing some growth but not robust growth. What we have to do is to help all of our countries to transition from anemic growth to robust growth. I am quite confident that given the strategies and the polices that the university will put in place….. The larger economies like Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados are now poised for growth and the university wants to be behind this. It is also extremely comforting to us that the smaller islands like St Vincent, Grenada and Antigua are now the centers where we are having the highest projections of growth,” he said.