BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (SKNIS) — Where we are now?
Where are we headed? And how will we get there? were the three fundamental questions asked by Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris during his address at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Governors’ Meeting’s opening today (May 20).
Prime Minister Harris who is also the current Chairman of the Board of the CDB, noted that the answers to these questions will help the Caribbean Region determine its future.
“I am aware of several research projects being undertaken in respect of gathering information on various aspects of the development situation in the Caribbean,” Prime Minister Harris said. “We also have to agree that as a result of this on-going research we already have some answers to this simple but essential question. Therefore, I take the opportunity to commend all the institutions (national, regional and international) that are leading in this important work.”
In response to the second question, Prime Minister Harris contrasted the plight of prospective entrepreneurs against that of a successful banking system.
“To many people have no money to take care of themselves and their families yet our banking system in the OECS is overflowing with cash, concomitant with a hollow cry of limited investible opportunities in the face of our young men and ladies buzzing with ideas but no cash, ready for prime time in vybzing, dancehall, poetry, arts, crafts, culture, videography, production, sports and entertainment,” he said.
The banks were encouraged to finance entrepreneurial endeavours.
“It is perhaps here that a Development Bank must bring a new focus, new attention and new resources to help us to pursue a people centred path of diversification in which a new local entrepreneurial class is nurtured and supported,” Prime Minister Harris advised. “Access to low cost financial resources and technical expertise remain the backbone for achieving the sustainable development agenda for the Caribbean region. In this regard, we need to seriously explore the potential for public-private partnerships (PPPs) to play a role in enabling sustainable and scalable financial access.
“I encourage the Bank to find soft resources to be made available to our Development Banks for support to our farmers, fishers, hairdressers, our truckers – many of these small entities feel left out in the cold by our commercial banks.”
Prime Minister Harris’ proposed answers for “how will we get there,” included the region’s approach to production and distribution of alternative energy.
“Wouldn’t it be a game changer if the Caribbean assumed leadership in alternative energy export?” he queried. “That would have enormous implication for the cost of doing business and development in the region? A leadership role here will do wonders for our competitiveness. Imagine a new OECS space with St Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Grenada, leading in geothermal energy for the sub-region, Puerto Rico, the French overseas territories and southern islands. Imagine the results – new jobs, new skills, new sources of foreign exchange, new dynamics in trade and sustainable development too. If we can work together coordinating, sharing and leveraging resources, harmonizing regulations across jurisdictions in respect of alternative energy and power purchasing agreements (PPAs), we will create an amazing platform from which the CDB can act as enabler of resources and optimize resources from the Climate Fund. Let us have a fresh start in alternative energy.”
Prime Minister Harris concluded by addressing sustainability relative to the Caribbean context.
“In this critical period for the Caribbean Community, we will forge ahead in articulating a clear vision for the development of the region,” Prime Minister Harris concluded. “A glimpse at our human systems and legal and regulatory frameworks quickly reveal some credible strengths. The time is right for us to devise appropriate mechanisms to translate these strengths into opportunities for economic and social advancement. We cannot achieve success in creating prosperity for all without a stronger commitment to the sustainable development agenda and stronger partnerships with the international community. It is not just access to financing that matters, but the impact and outcome of usage of those funds, the institutions that we build, the values that we adopt and promote and in the end the civilisation that we mould.”
The Prime Minister called upon CDB and other regional and international partners to “support efforts of the small states in the Caribbean to spur inclusive growth and job creation in order to reduce poverty, and enhance the prospect for attaining prosperity well into the future.”