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Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell (Photo: CARICOM Today)

Grenada PM wants CDB to be more aggressive in assisting regional countries

Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell (Photo: CARICOM Today)

 Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell has challenged the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to be more aggressive in its approach to helping borrowing member countries (BMC) address developmental challenges.

“These are tough times for the region, and the CDB and its personnel have to become even more innovative in serving member states,” Mitchell told newly appointed CDB President, Dr Hyginus “Gene” Leon, during an introductory virtual call on Tuesday.

Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon (Photo courtesy of Caribbean Development Bank)

“It cannot be business as usual in this time of crisis. The pandemic has created enormous challenges but it has also opened up immense opportunities and we must find a way to harness these for the benefit of the region’s development,” Dr Mitchell said, making reference to the impact of the coronavirus.

During the call with Leon and senior CDB members, he addressed several critical issues, calling for more innovation in the execution of the CDB’s mandate.

The Grenadian prime minister, who has in the past served on the CDB Board of Governors, said from his experience, the region’s premier financial institution tends to be too bureaucratic and when dealing with the bureaucracies of regional governments, this compounds the problem.

Dr Mitchell noted that Grenada has been seeking the bank’s support for an assessment of hazards across the country for many years, particularly as it relates to loosened boulders rolling down from hillsides and posing a threat to motorists and others.

The office of the Caribbean Development Bank in St Michaels, Barbados. (Photo: caribank.org)

“If those who sit at the top do not change the structure and demand accountability, it may not happen. I don’t think we challenge ourselves enough in terms of addressing the bureaucracy. We are too settled in our own comfort zones while there are many people suffering, waiting for us to create opportunities that can help them. I, therefore, challenge the bank to act more aggressively in delivering on its mandate.”

Mitchell expressed his “full confidence” in the St. Lucia-born Leon, who has had extensive experience at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

CDB president ready to “rebuild, reset”

Leon, for his part, thanked Prime Minister Mitchell and his counterparts in the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) for rallying behind his nomination and placing immense trust and confidence in him.

Members in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States rallied to nominate Dr Gene Leon. (File photo)

“I hope I will have the full cooperation of all members as we work together to advance the CDB and the region. In the next 50 years when we look back, we should be able to say definitively, that the CDB made a difference. The institution must be adaptable, nimble, and responsive to the needs of members and it must communicate better,” the CDB President said.

Citing what he termed the reticence and frustration of Caribbean leaders with respect to the CDB, Leon said, “I want to rebuild, reset and start a new stage where we can genuinely say this is our institution.

“I want to be able to speak freely to leaders to see how we can make the bank a genuine instrument to advance regional development. I want to see even greater participation in our annual meeting as we chart the three-dimensional approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic — immediate rescue, recovery, and longer-term development issues.”

Addressing challenges

Leon has identified some broad areas for collaboration including infrastructure, vulnerability to climate change, and generating more growth through economic diversification.

He said he was looking forward to active engagement with regional countries in crystalising elements of the bank’s next strategic plan and how countries can maximise the benefits derived from the regional financial institution.

“The region needs us all. This concept of unity and going forward together is crucial to what we want to achieve for the entire region,” Prime Minister Mitchell said at the end of the meeting with Leon.