President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr William Warren Smith today highlighted a number of areas that need to be addressed in order to improve the standard of living in the Caribbean.
While speaking at the 50th Annual Meeting of the CDB’s Board of Governors, he said that export expansion is one of the means to catalyse sustainable advances in standards of living in the small Caribbean economies with no reserve currencies
“A diversified production structure helps to build economic resilience, making economies less susceptible to price and output fluctuations. Such a diversified structure also leads to low cost, productive and competitive economies,” Dr Smith said.
He emphasised that in order to achieve this level of diversification, Caribbean countries need to find a way to get the private sector to assume its place as the ultimate generator of jobs, incomes, and exports. Specifically, the public sector must focus on creating an ecosystem that includes climate-friendly infrastructure, a healthy and skilled labour force, enabling legislative and regulatory frameworks, enabling culture, and access to appropriate types of finance.
Smith also lamented that the Caribbean has not exploited the true potential of the regional integration project — Caricom Single Market and Economy — which would allow firms to access a larger protected market in which they could grow and which would provide a launching pad to the global market.
To date, the Caribbean Community has implemented less than half of the actions agreed upon in the 2001 roadmap to a single market and economy.
“I believe that the full potential of the integration movement has been limited by significant non-tariff barriers to trade; a lack of harmonised investment codes, tax incentives, and macroeconomic policies; and restrictions on capital mobility,” Smith pointed out.
Commenting on his tenure at the helm of CDB, which will come to an end next April, Smith noted that the bank was instrumental in helping to transform the region.
Between 2011 and 2019, the CDB approved US$2.5 billion in resources for projects in transportation, social infrastructure, environment, sea defences, disaster management, reconstruction, and energy. At the same time, disbursement in cash reached US$1.8 billion.
“A diversified production structure helps to build economic resilience, making economies less susceptible to price and output fluctuations. Such a diversified structure also leads to low cost, productive and competitive economies.”— Dr William Warren Smith, president, Caribbean Development Bank
Despite COVID-19 setbacks, the redional bank expects that total approvals in 2020 will reach US$470 million, and disbursements to be around US$367 million.
Some highlights of CDB results Smith shared was the narrowing of infrastructure deficit in the region during the ten-year period, as well as improving access to social and economic services.
With assistance of the CDB, governments across the region constructed and upgraded approximately 2,400 kilometres of roads. In addition, some 60 communities benefitted from community-based interventions in disaster risk management to reduce vulnerability and strengthen the capacity of residents to cope with hazard events.
“CDB also improved learning conditions by building human capital through investments in over 1,600 classrooms, and training almost 13,000 teachers. These initiatives have benefitted and continue to benefit some 469,000 students across the region,” a release from the bank highlighted.
“By installing and upgrading over 800 kilometres of water supply lines in several countries, an estimated 62,700 households now have access to improved water and sanitation services,” it added.
The institution said it was able to achieve these milestones by deepening strategic partnerships and mobilised resources from numerous donor countries and multilateral financial institutions. Among the areas of focus that the CDB prioritsed funding are climate adaptation, renewable energy, and energy efficiency
“I am even more convinced that the business of development is complex. It requires many players, including CDB, joining forces in an orchestrated manner to create the environment best suited for advancing living standards in our region,” concluded Smith.