The Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Antonio Prado, moderated a panel discussion at the Forum on the Future of the Caribbean, where he outlined important areas of focus for countries of the region, like the need to address debt relief in a sustainable manner and the possibility of mobilizing resources through diaspora bond issues and increased remittances.
The session on Advocating Innovative Financing Solutions, which examined opportunities for domestic and international development financing for Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS), was considered especially timely given the upcoming United Nations Conference on Financing for Development being held in Addis Ababa in July.
The panel included Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist on Development Finance at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in New York, Jwala Rambarran, Governor of the Central Bank and two discussants, Ransford Smith, former Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat and career diplomat in the foreign service of Jamaica, and Professor Compton Bourne, former President of the Caribbean Development Bank.
Hurley highlighted the biggest challenge for the region as being financing development. Rambarran underscored the opportunity presented by increased remittance flows to the region, noting that they had become a very important source of external financing. He estimated that remittances now represent about 6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for the region and as much as 21 per cent of GDP in Haiti.
The session addressed the dilemma of the Caribbean’s middle income status and its impact on access to concessional financing. The panellists reiterated the need to look beyond income per capita to states’ ability to mobilise finances, debt ratios, vulnerability to shocks and social challenges in determining eligibility for concessional funding.
Prado, in closing the session, pointed to ongoing initiatives by ECLAC in the sub region, including pursuit of advocacy for a broader set of criteria to take account of the vulnerability of SIDS; design of a strategy to pursue debt reduction and improve fiscal management in Caribbean states; and expansion of its capacity development efforts towards enhancing resilience building and risk reduction among member states to improve the response to losses from external events and advocate for more secure access to international finance to address this challenge.
The Forum, under the heading Disruptive Thinking. Bold Action. Practical Outcomes, provided the opportunity for regional and international leaders to tackle challenges to Caribbean development, and identify strategies for securing a sustainable future. It was co-hosted by The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with United Nations system, regional inter-governmental partners, and the Commonwealth Secretariat.