Regional economies broken but not failed

Source: Trinidad Guardian – Published June 17th 2015

CASTRIES, St. Lucia – The Third Regional Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF) opened on Tuesday with St Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony saying it was necessary for regional governments to dispel the notion they were managing failed economies.
“I do not subscribe to that perspective. These economies may be broken but I believe we can pick up the pieces. 
I believe that our historical task is to conceptualize, shape and define an economic model that answers to the times and to our needs,” Anthony told delegates attending the two-day event.
The CGF provides an opportunity to discuss a new agenda for sustainable growth in the Caribbean and also provides a platform for private sector and civil society to give feedback on national reforms and help track the implementation of actions needed to spur sustainable growth and opportunities for all in the Caribbean.
Anthony told the meeting it is no secret that the global financial crisis which started in 2008 has adversely impacted the economies of non-commodity exporting Caribbean states. 
He said the crisis accentuated structural weaknesses within those economies as foreign exchange inflows decreased due to lower tourism arrivals.
“Added to this were high levels of unemployment, triggered in most instances by job losses and limited capacity of domestic firms to absorb new entrants in the labour market,” he said, adding that “while commodity exporters have fared somewhat better, these countries remain highly vulnerable to international price changes.”
He told the delegates that in the post financial crisis period, even as the economies of the region’s major trading partners have begun to recover, all Caribbean countries have experienced decelerated foreign direct investment (FDI).
Anthony said of concern is the concentration of the FDI flows into tourism and natural resources that have not assisted regional countries in diversifying their economies.
“This, coupled with decreasing workers’ remittances, have exacerbated the negative impact that the financial crisis has had on economies and on livelihoods.
“In the midst of the global crisis, this region has been exposed to other debilitating shocks. 
It has had to contend with the collapse of some financial institutions and in others, fragility emanating from the collapse of significant investments in the tourism plant in some states.”
He said cognizant of the fiscal challenges and limited policy options, Caribbean governments have had to implement measures to alleviate this crisis.
“Such efforts would have been futile had it not been for the technical and financial support provided by the multilateral community to our region.”
Prime Minister Anthony said the launching of the Forum three years ago initiated dialogue between representatives from business associations, civil society organizations, government, private sector, and international development agencies on growth and development in the region.
He said 12 countries have launched their national chapters, including; Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, T&T and St. Lucia. (CMC)