Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Dealing with some ‘realities’ facing Caricom

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CITIZENS OF our Caribbean Community who keep hope alive, against the odds, for this region’s economic progress and social stability would undoubtedly find encouragement in a just-released World Bank Global Development Report.
According to this report, the World Bank projects the quite optimistic forecast of the Caribbean being among developing nations having “the largest bloc of savings and investment by 2030”. That’s 17 years from now to help influence the perennial doubting “Thomases” to share optimism for the future, considering that reports from the World Bank and agencies of the United Nations reference some depressing data on social and economic challenges the Caribbean continues to face.
Among these would be structural poverty and slow growth amid high levels of unemployment and endemic criminality involving a significant percentage of our youth population.
For example, the recently released UNDP Caribbean Human Development 2012 Report disclosed that “overall youth crime has become one of the main challenges  threatening economies and livelihoods” in the region” and costing CARICOM countries between 2.8 and four per cent of GDP”.
The President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr Warren Smith, in reflecting on the challenges during 2012, had sounded a warning at his media briefing in February that all member governments need to bear in mind.
“The Caribbean” he said, “must pay close attention to avoiding its own ‘fiscal cliff’ (a serious problem then confronting the United States) through a gradual but deliberate reduction of its mounting debt stock . . .” At the time, at least seven of the Bank’s member countries had “unsustainable debt levels”.
Currently, the CDB is holding its 43rd annual Board of Governors meeting in St Lucia and we wait to learn what new advisories or important decisions they may have to offer for the guidance of the region’s people.
For example, would they consider it relevant to share their perspectives on at least two current issues of much interest to the citizens of CARICOM – namely, the future of regional air transportation, so integral to sustaining progress of the vital tourism industry; as well as what could be expected for future operations of the CARICOM Petroleum Fund should Trinidad and Tobago go ahead with the threat to reduce its significant contributions?
While it is true that both issues are also expected to surface on the work agenda for the coming CARICOM Heads of Government summit in July, the reality is that among the CDB’s Board of Governors are also some prime ministers and finance ministers.
They would be well placed to help their colleagues to address the deep concerns within the Community about the future of regional air transportation and operations of the CARICOM Petroleum Fund, both issues involving Trinidad and Tobago as a major player.

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