Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles has blamed low enrollment in tertiary education for retarding the region’s development.
The renowned historian declared Tuesday that a shortage of capital combined with limited availability of skills was a devastating relationship.
Raising the issue at a United Nations Development Fund virtual forum to explore a new classification for Caribbean economies, Sir Hilary also argued that when conversations regarding the need for concessionary funding, debt forgiveness and debt abolition are raised, the focus must be on restructuring and diversifying the Caribbean economy for the future to place it on a more sustainable basis.
“And a critical part of that is capacity building in the area of skills training, professional development, access to higher education, to uplift the social capital to make it much more productive to deliver the outcomes that we are looking for,” he said.
Noting that he wishes to bring attention to the urgency of the situation, Sir Hilary pointed out that in light of a global trade negotiating agenda scheduled to take place in 2021 with the staging of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) 12th Ministerial Conference, the European Union Caribbean Forum, among other significant activities, the region must bring results to shape the conversations.
He said: “If we cannot somehow forge the results for concessionary funding, for looking at how to invest in bringing the Caribbean on to a more sustainable basis, bringing the Caribbean to a more competitive level, we are not going to get the benefits of any of these conversations in 2021 which would mean that in 23, 24 we haven’t actually have moved in any direction. So there is urgency now, these are very pressing issues for practical purposes.
“This is not an academic discourse about whether or not we should politicize the issue of concessionary funding. This is about what we have heard, an existential threat to the Caribbean that has been growing decade by decade and now COVID has blown the roof off the Caribbean house and when we look inside, we look and we can now see that what has been revealed has been concealed for decades that we are still trying to exit our colonial history, that we are still being punished for the audacity of building nations. This region has done proud. It has committed to democracy for 60 to 70 years since the Independence process.”
Sir Hilary said that in spite of the Caribbean being able to deliver democracy under difficult circumstances, and being held down and exploited, the region is still not getting the kind of relationship needed within the hemisphere and the world economy.
He said it is against this background, that the Caribbean must recognize its special ideal role particularly in paving the way for the post-colonisation era, beginning with Haiti.
Sir Hilary declared: “The Caribbean was there at the beginning and where have we ended. At the end of this journey, we have ended at the circumstance where the western world that never supported our development continues to see the Caribbean as a place that must not be treated for its commitment to justice, its commitment to democracy and making contribution to the freedom of every country in this hemisphere, it has the right to be better.
“This is not an intellectual discourse anymore, we have heard about the existential threats to these small groups of nations that were there at the beginning of modernity and here they are at the end of modernity, postmodernity, are still paying a price for their historic role.
“So we have a lot of work to do. This is not a call for special treatment for the Caribbean people, we in the Caribbean do not believe in the call for special treatment, but we do indeed insist upon fairness, upon justice and upon doing what is right.” ([email protected])