He was addressing the opening of the two-day 2015 High Level Caribbean Forum – Financing Growth, at the Marriott Resort. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) organized the event.
In declaring the forum officially opened, Prime Minister Harris said, “It is because growth is so crucial to the development of our economies and more so to the improvement in the lives of our people, that we are determined to develop a strategy that will strengthen the investment climate for the region and promote private sector development.”
He expressed the belief that the private sector has to play its part in creating positive growth in the Caribbean, say that it was untenable to have the public sector being the major engine of economic growth. The prime minister proffered the view that partnership is the way to go in achieving future economic growth.
He said, “Sustainable growth requires partnership – Partnership among economic actors, partnership between public and private sectors, partnership between government and government and partnership between government and International Financial Institutions.”
According to Harris, financing growth very often involves accumulating debt, and emphasized, “Both the public and private sectors would have to determine the optimal solution for their financing needs, while at the same time exhibiting fiscal prudence.” He also indicated the vulnerability to external shocks and natural disaster.
One of the main issues that will be discussed is that of energy, as it is viewed as one of the fundamental pillars influencing growth. On this, the prime minister said, “The high cost of fossil fuel for oil importing countries has created a real constraint on growth and competitiveness. That high cost has led to the accumulation of billions of dollars in arrears by participating member PETROCARIBE states to the Government of Venezuela.”
Energy is prominent on the Forum’s agenda, and this will be of particular interest for the federation. According to Harris, “In St. Kitts and Nevis, we are fully cognizant that we cannot continue to rely on fossil fuel, when better alternatives are available. As such, we have been encouraging and providing our nationals with incentives to use alternative forms of energy, which would reduce their energy costs over the long-term.”
He told the audience that solar technologies, wind energy and geothermal energy sources are “actively being explored” to achieve affordable energy for the nation. In addition, the prime minister indicated important spin-offs in using renewable energy. “We look to geothermal energy and the prospects for new jobs, new skills, new niches and a new source of foreign exchange and economic growth,” Prime Minister Harris said.
He stated that the Growth Forums were intended to promote dialogue between the private and public sectors and is a means by which the Caribbean could create sustainable and inclusive growth.