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Public-private partnerships key to Caribbean recovery – Finance minister

Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke says closing huge infrastructure gaps with public-private partnerships (PPP) facilitated by the Inter-American Development Bank Group (IDBG) will catalyse long-term growth for the Caribbean region economy, particularly for the road to recovery post-COVID-19.

Dr Clarke, who was giving the opening address at the IDB annual meeting of Caribbean Governors yesterday via Zoom, indicated that support for the development of common PPP enabling framework from the IDB will further bolster the replicability of PPP projects within the region.

This, he said, will include the strengthening of institutional capacities through IDB advisory services and technical assistance.

“Long-term engagement between the IDB and Caribbean countries will be vital to help sustain mobilisation of private capital to leverage public investments in building resilient infrastructure,” Dr Clarke said.

“Our governments need to reinforce the skills and knowledge necessary to initiate, manage and assess public-private partnerships and must implement the structural reforms necessary for PPPs to effectively close sustainable infrastructure gaps,” he continued, noting the importance in achieving scale in developing infrastructure in the region.

According to Dr Clarke, assessments suggest significant setbacks to the achievements that the region has made towards closing its substantial development imbalances, and is projected to have a slower recovery to pre-pandemic gross domestic product levels compared with other Latin American countries.

“Public debt accumulation in Caribbean countries had accelerated noticeably in tandem with the duration of the pandemic. Fiscal space is clearly becoming ever more insufficient – it is a precious commodity – and in meeting the sharply expanded economic and social investment gaps suggesting that the long-term consequences of this crisis will persist for the foreseeable future,” he said.

“Many of our countries face a range of challenges in relation to the enabling environment for investors. While governments have made improvements in recent years, for example, by reducing barriers to entry for new businesses, improvements have fallen short in terms of expected outcomes.”

He further highlighted the essential support required from IDB for the region to not only overcome challenges, but to take advantage of emerging opportunities. This includes fostering the progress of transformation projects to retrofit key industries, especially in tourism for a rapidly changing future; and advancing the digital agenda, reskilling and upskilling human resources capabilities, especially considering the lost year of education.

The minister also welcomed the efforts of the Claver-Carone administration in creating a new vision for the IDB Group.

“All of us must take bold actions to combat the extraordinary challenges that lie ahead and an IDB Group that understands the urgency and is ready to take bold action with us makes our partnership more important than it has ever been. We look forward to the bilateral between our countries and the administration, and the fine-tuning alignment of priorities of the administration with our own,” he said.