This was the view expressed by Minister of Trade and Commerce, Dr. Timothy Harris during the opening ceremony of the 6th Annual Private Sector Meeting which was held at the St. Kitts Marriott on Saturday, 11th June, 2011.
Dr. Harris delivered the feature address for the occasion and explained that what is needed in the current environment is “a reinvigorated proactive private sector that will carefully scan its environment for opportunities to grow and expand and contribute to development in our region”.
He noted that the Caribbean region is at a place where its financial development and economic growth are challenged.
“Like the rest of the world, our region is at a critical juncture, where it is lagging in a sufficiency of growth to finance the developmental expectations of its people, and being too heavily indebted to provide the necessary stimuli for sustained economic growth.
“Clearly, with seven of the most indebted countries of the world being CARICOM member states, we have a long hard road to travel in fiscal discipline to crawl out of the abyss of debt. The experiences of Haiti, Guyana and Jamaica are clear reminders that the exit road will be arduous and tenuous, and will demand much, in sacrifices of a people. The more recent experiences of Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda tell us that more congruent approaches are possible and feasible.”
Minister Harris said that notwithstanding that governments across the Caribbean are constrained, they must turn their focus on improving economic and social ills.
“Governments then must focus on a strategic set of activities that will ameliorate the social and economic malaise and decline that are permeating and undermining the very fabric of the Caribbean ethos. Law and Order must remain the most pivotal and pertinent focal point if we are to effectively combat crime, while simultaneously governments ought to be encouraging and stimulating greater private sector involvement in our economies.”
Senior Minister Harris made it clear that there must be a partnership between government and the private sector if economic growth and development are to take place.
“Too often we fail to appreciate that governments need the private sector, and vice versa. The old adage that one hand cannot clap is particularly instructive in the present world order. The private sector needs the government to maintain law and order; regulate fair competition; provide a sound economic and social infrastructure; improve on democratic governance in our jurisdictions; and create an environment of conduciveness, in which entities can thrive and flourish.
“We are on this journey together. If we were to cooperate more, rather than seemingly being ever so often at odds with each other, I believe that the business environment will benefit by gargantuan improvements. Government can be a resourceful partner to catalyze private sector investment, growth and development. By making it easier for doing business in their jurisdictions, governments can go a long way in creating a legal and regulatory framework, which builds investor confidence in the very economies that they need to grow and develop.”