The World Bank Group launched a multi-million-dollar lending programme to generate sustainable growth in struggling Caribbean nations.
The Washington-based World Bank Group’s board of executive directors endorsed the new Regional Partnership Strategy (RPS) for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) for the period 2015-2019 and focused on creating the conditions for sustainable and inclusive growth in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The announcement was made at a press conference to start the second day of the third regional Caribbean Growth Forum hosted by the World Bank at the Sandals Resort in Saint Lucia.
The new strategy proposes a lending programme of about US$120 million for the period and, in addition, includes an allocation of about US$92 million for Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines from the International Development Association (IDA).
The IDA is the arm of the World Bank Group that provides interest-free credits and grants to the world’s poorest countries as well as many small island developing states.
Over the last decade, the small Eastern Caribbean states have been trapped in a spiral of low growth, high debt and limited fiscal space. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, unemployment has risen in most OECS countries, with youth unemployment becoming a source of particular concern, ranging from 34 per cent in St Lucia to 42 per cent in Grenada, the World Bank said in a statement issued at the press conference.
“This World Bank Group Regional Partnership Strategy, in its effort to promote growth, quite rightly focuses on regional integration and on the importance of coordination within the region and with the international financial institutions,” said Dwight Venner, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
Three new regional operations are proposed under the strategy, focusing on competitiveness, renewable energy, and human development.
“A number of countries have already embarked on strategies that foster investment in competitive niche sectors to unleash innovation and creativity, including tourism, agribusiness, health services and creative industries,” said Sophie Sirtaine, World Bank country director for the Caribbean. “Continued reforms to restore fiscal sustainability and boost private sector growth are needed. This strategy aims to tackle these challenges head on, with flexibility to respond to external shocks and build social and climate resilience of these small economies.”