PORT OF SPAIN – With his bold vision and insightful recommendations for achieving economic transformation in the Caribbean region, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris has excited delegates who attended the recently concluded 49th Annual Meeting of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Dr. Harris addressed the conference on pressing issues, such as the critical importance of attaining food sovereignty, tackling the perennial issue of poverty, mitigating the effects of natural disasters and reducing crime. In his stirring address, Dr. Harris encouraged the CDB to assist further in heading off threats confronting the Caribbean, such as crime, which he said is “one of the challenges of the region.”
The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis also advocated for the collaborative development of a digital economy.
Dr. Harris’ broad-ranged address on behalf of Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) was widely acclaimed for his incisive proposals on how they can resolve urgent and ongoing developmental and structural challenges.
Prime Minister Harris called for ensuring “development that is inclusive” so that “our young and vulnerable populations can feel that they are part of progress and development in the region.” He also called for the bank’s assistance in “bringing more people into the mainstream” and providing additional opportunities “so they could find their own pathways for development.”
The Prime Minister also said he looked forward to the CDB providing further assistance in reducing poverty in the region and urged for there to be “the delineation of the appropriate transformational strategies” to confront this issue.
Fairer Criteria for Accessing Aid in Light of Vulnerability to Natural Disasters
Dr. Harris voiced concerns about the graduation of some BMCs on the basis of their per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Having graduated to high-income level, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and some other high- and middle-income small-island developing states (SIDS) are not eligible for preferential borrowing rates that lower income economies can access. Prime Minister Harris proposes a fairer system of assessing countries, which takes their vulnerability to exogenous shocks such as natural disasters into account.
As for responding to and being better prepared to face natural disasters, the Prime Minister recommended that there be “new models and instruments.”
He indicated that the need for quick response is important, “If we are going to be resilient, if we are going to harmonise hope within the population.”
Agriculture and its Importance to Development
As for agricultural development, the Prime Minister said the leakage of foreign exchange from the importation of food “is a significant one.”
Dr. Harris stated that a unified approach to food production could assist in having more funds available for dealing with regional health issues such as non-communicable diseases (NCDs). “We have to have oneness,” he asserted.
Prime Minister Harris also stressed that a boost in agricultural production could help to rectify balance of payments imbalances.
Digital Transformation – an Enabler and Driver of Economic Growth
With respect to building out the digital economy, he said that would be critical for the region’s participation in the modern global community. “It would also provide opportunities as an enabler and driver of economic growth,” Dr. Harris affirmed. “We have to ensure we develop our own digital capacity,” he added.
The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis observed that ensuring affordability and accessibility would be critical to the success of this endeavour, so he proposed that there be a concerted regional approach.
There is a need for entrepreneurial leadership in the digital economy, the Prime Minister further stated. The Prime Minister also said the “perennial challenge” is achieving economic transformation that involves the entire region.
During the conference, there were positive responses to the recommendations outlined in Dr. Harris’ vision for regional transformation.
The Prime Minister is St. Kitts-Nevis’ Governor at the CDB. He is also chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping.
The conference, which was attended by some 400 delegates, focused on a number of strategies to create economic transformation among CDB members.