KINGSTON - Jamaica, as with other Caribbean countries, is currently faced with fiscal challenges, against the background of the global financial crisis. Consequently, the identification of practical and implementable policies and activities to induce growth and create jobs throughout the region is a real and persistent challenge.
Jamaica was at the center of the high-level national Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF) conference hosted today by the country at the Vice Chancellor’s Building of the University of the West Indies, Mona. The forum was part of 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), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Compete Caribbean, 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.
Referring to Jamaica's challenges in particular, Director General, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Mr. Colin Bullock said: "The day’s event was particularly welcomed as it provided the opportunity to address Jamaica’s challenges and strategies for growth within a broader regional framework, in which we can draw from the shared experiences of our Caribbean neighbors, many of whom are facing similar challenges” He also noted that the areas of focus for the CGF were aligned with the medium term priorities of the Government of Jamaica, and will contribute to the achievement of the country’s growth strategy.
The CGF complements the Government's growth strategy - Vision 2030; and is also quite timely given that at the forefront of discussions were ways in which to strengthen investment climate, upgrade education and develop skills that improve competitiveness and generate a higher standard of living.
Other key actions addressed was the need to improve logistics and connectivity -- especially by making key infrastructure services more affordable and efficient-- including information technology, transportation and electricity.
About 200 participants from the public and private sectors, youth, academia, media and civil society joined the conference to talk about the key factors that have the greatest potential to increase growth in Trinidad.
Dr. Honorable Peter Phillips, Minister of Finance and Planning, put forward: "There is an important component we need to recognize. We need to realize that a change is required in attitude, a culture shift if you will, to aid and support growth. We must also build trust. We must also realize that we have embarked upon a national endeavor and all parts of all communities must be invested in our growth strategy for us to recognize success."
Newly appointed Jamaica IDB Country Representative, Therese Turner-Jones, suggested that: "This public-private partnership gives us the opportunity to examine our growth agenda in the Caribbean. This forum will also give us the favorable circumstances to think about the Idiosyncratic differences of the region, Jamaica in particular, and assist in a recovery plan from the global economic crisis which the Caribbean has been sluggish in reversing. The CGF is an important collaboration and presents a new beginning in how we can move forward."
“As one of the partners, the World Bank is delighted to support the Caribbean Growth Forum and its non-traditional approach to the greatest challenge currently faced by the region – how to increase sustainable growth,” said Françoise Clottes, World Bank Director for the Caribbean. “The CGF is a catalyst for the change Jamaica has envisioned by increasing participation, transparency and accountability in the reform process. Collective action is needed to turn words into action, and vision into change.”
Dr. Carla Barnett, Vice President, Operations, CDB, pointed out: "CDB is convinced that with the support of the collaborating development partners, and with the resolve of the Jamaican stakeholders in shaping the growth agenda, much can be achieved. CDB also looks forward to supporting, through the Country Assistance Strategy that will be completed during the next several months, the implementation of strategies that will evolve from the deliberations."
The one-day CGF event also included remarks by Mr. Gerard Johnson, General Manager Caribbean Country Department; Mr. Andrea Gallina, CGF Coordinator, World Bank; Professor E. Nigel Harris, Vice Chancellor, University of the West Indies; and Mr. Chris Zacca, President, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica.
The CGF event in Jamaica follows the launch of local chapters in the Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Dominica and The Bahamas over the past five months.
The first phase of the initiative will be completed at the end of 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.