PM Harris wants CDB to take new approach to regional development

Harris, who is the outgoing chairman of the Caribbean Development Bank, said today at the opening of a two-day Board of Governors meeting at the St. Kitts Marriott that the time has come to re-orientate the mechanisms for development.

“Our financial system must be incentivized to move from the import-driven retail  and wholesale sectors and the drainage of our foreign exchange to finance new innovative industries and productive engagements in agriculture, in tourism, in manufacturing, in arts and entertainment,” Harris stated.

He underscored that the development bank must bring new focus, attention and resources to help pursue a “people-centered path of diversification in which a new local entrepreneur class is nurtured and supported by appropriate financing.

“Access to low cost financial resources and technical expertise remain the backbone for achieving the sustainable development agenda for the Caribbean region,” the CDB chairman said, as he called for a deepening of relations between the private and public sectors.

As a consequence, he said the bank must explore Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) toward enabling “sustainable and scalable financial access”. But he indicated that the proper model to “unlock” the potential of PPP has not yet been realized, so that a discussion is required on how each entity could help to make it happen.

In this connection, he said it was important for the bank to nurture the PPP relationship. “We must identify the pool of viable private sector partners within the region, and beyond, that are capable of going the distance with any plans for expanding the economic infrastructure. The bank has an important role to play in creating an environment for the private sector to innovate and flourish,” Harris remarked.

He said the bank should also pursue more soft financial resources for the region’s development banks for on-lending to micro and small business, suggesting a “fresh start” for the region’s economic development.

Harris provided several suggestions, including an integrated regional approach to the production and distribution of alternative energy. “A leadership role here would do wonders for our competitiveness,” the chairman said, as he envisioned the creation of new jobs, new trading dynamics and increased foreign exchange earnings for the region.

“If we can work together, coordinating, sharing and leveraging financial and other resources, harmonizing legislation across jurisdictions, in respect to alternative energy and power purchasing arrangements, we will create an amazing platform for which the CDB can act as an enabler of resources,” opined Harris, who called for a “fresh start” in alternative energy for the region.

In addition, he said, the Caribbean needs to become more engaged with the international processes that define the rules on financing, because of the impact such rule have on small developing countries.

“Without a doubt, the prospects for the sustainable development of our Caribbean islands will continue to be seriously challenged, if the international community insists that the resource access mechanism to implement the post 2015 sustainable development agenda is rooted in the narrow confines of the measurement of income per capita GDP. Such a matrix has seen too many of us graduated beyond our means to pay, or denied access to well needed resources,” Prime Minister Harris remarked.

According to Harris, the non-borrowing members of the bank can help by extending the influence of the bank, and assist in addressing the “infrastructure deficit in the region”.

Making a plea for support of the small islands of the Caribbean, Harris said, “I call on the bank, and other regional and international partners to support the efforts of the small states in the region to spur inclusive job-rich growth in order to reduce poverty.”

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