'Growth', the most sought-after currency in the current global economic scenario, will be at the forefront of a pioneering initiative for the Caribbean to jumpstart the region's stalling economies.
A joint venture by the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF) will bring together key players within the region --private sector, the youth, civil society as well as the wider Caribbean Diaspora. The aim: to inspire a collective and inclusive solutions-led discussion about the future of the region and its potential for growth.
After several decades of below average growth -- excluding the Dominican Republic, the median growth in the region has stayed below 3 percent-- it's clear that the backdrop for the first meeting of the CGF this week is rife with challenges. But the region, which in recent years has registered high unemployment, crime, and unequal access to services and education, is brimming with potential ready to be fulfilled, experts say.
"The catalyst is a collective sense that something different can happen," explains World Bank Country Director Françoise Clottes. "It is not a forum to get depressed and talk about unresolved longstanding issues," she added.
Challenges are, indeed, great for the Caribbean. But so are opportunities. Strategically located, with a strong brand name and an educated population, it ticks all the right boxes when it comes to potential.
Also, the region's desire for change is palpable, according to Clottes.
"Here and there you find skepticism that lots of things have been tried, but there is energy in the Caribbean to talk about what can be done differently for different results," she said.
Defining sustainable growth
Experts agree that growth for growth's sake is not what is needed but rather strategic decisions, which take into account individual economic realities.
"We must make sure that opportunities for creativity are supported and nurtured, but that they are also right for the economy, rather than having hundreds of jobs advertised for which there are few qualified applicants because they did their training in fields no longer demanded by the market," says Juliette Wedderburn, Director of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung for Jamaica and Eastern Caribbean.