ST JOHN’S, Antigua, November 19, 2012—Inclusive growth that generates jobs and opportunities for all citizens in Antigua and Barbuda was at the center of a high-level regional conference hosted today by the Ministry of Finance, the Economy and Public Administration at the Grand Royal Antiguan Beach Resort. The conference is part of the Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF), a two-year regional platform for dialogue to foster higher levels of economic growth with opportunities for all in the Caribbean.
The CGF is a partnership between the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), with support from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The CGF builds on existing partnerships and involves stakeholders from the public and private sectors, academia and civil society, as well as the Caribbean Diaspora.
Over 150 participants from the public and private sectors, youth, academia, media and civil society joined the St John’s conference to talk about the key factors that have the greatest potential to increase growth in Antigua and Barbuda.
Participants discussed ways to strengthen the investment climate, upgrade education and develop skills that improve competitiveness and generate higher-paying jobs. They also addressed key actions needed to improve logistics and connectivity --especially by making key infrastructure services more affordable and efficient-- including information technology, transportation and electricity.
“We had a productive dialogue today on how to capitalize on Antigua and Barbuda’s natural and geographical advantages to expand the economy and create productive employment opportunities for all. Infrastructure improvements, along with a skilled and educated work force, are clearly among the necessary key factors to attract private investors and create a more favorable business climate,” said Harold Lovell, Minister of Finance and the Economy of Antigua and Barbuda.
Like other small island states, Antigua and Barbuda is challenged by frequent natural disasters; its small size and the associated lack of economies of scale; and its vulnerability to external shocks.
Tourism accounts for nearly 60% of the country’s GDP and 40% of investment. Antigua's economy was severely hit by the global economic crisis. This decline continued in 2011 but positive growth is expected in 2012.
The one-day CGF event included remarks by: Finance Minister Harold Lovell; Wayne Mitchell, Resident Representative of the International Monetary Fund in Antigua and Barbuda; and Andrea Gallina, Sr. Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and Coordinator of the CGF.
“Through the Caribbean Growth Forum we want to encourage a national, action-oriented public private dialogue involving all segments of society, including voices that are not typically heard, such as those of youth and small entrepreneurs. The goal is to inject fresh energy into economic growth issues and to serve as a catalyst for new initiatives,” said Gallina.
The CGF event in St John’s follows the launch of the initiative in Kingston, Jamaica, last June and the launch of a local chapter in the Dominican Republic earlier this month. Grenada and Dominica will organize similar events later this year, while Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are planning to hold national events early next year.
The first phase of the initiative will be completed by June 2013 with the production of an action plan by each of the 15 Caribbean countries participating in the Forum. The action plans will include concrete policy recommendations that would then be implemented by each country. Interested citizens will have a continuous opportunity to learn more about and engage in the CGF via the social media channels