Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Private sector key

THE regional private sector is an essential part of the solution to ongoing issues in the Caribbean, therefore the challenges to growth and development of the private sector itself must be addressed.

So says Vice President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Carla Barnett, who was speaking during a high-level dialogue at the recently concluded Inter-regional Preparatory meeting in
preparation for the third International conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Some of the challenges identified by the vice president include the need to strengthen productivity by
removing barriers that impede investment, creating, accessing and expanding new markets, improving access to financial services, expanding social and economic infrastructure, addressing key aspects of the enabling environment for private sector environment, strengthening capacity to manage environmental risks including climate change and supporting investment in innovation and technological development.

Dr. Barnett remarked that the founders of the Bank recognised that a vibrant private sector was an essential component of long-term sustainable economic growth and development in the Caribbean.

She told the delegates that, traditionally, the Bank has focused on interventions that provide affordable credit, targeted priority sectors using financial intermediaries in the countries as the primary root to reach micro, small and medium enterprises.

“Interventions are designed to provide capacity building at the level of the enterprise and to support improvements to the enabling environment,” she noted.

She revealed that the CDB facilitates access by micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to technical assistance through the Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services Networks, a programme that utilises regional resource persons to build capacity at the enterprise level, to improve responsiveness to market opportunities.

“Through its interventions, CDB facilitates training attachments and regional workshops across a range of sectors, with a view to improving competitiveness and strengthening technical and managerial capacity of enterprises, and therefore provide opportunities for them to achieve sustainability.”

She also highlighted that the CDB recently concluded negotiations with contributors of its Special Development Fund.

“One of its strategic priorities of this cycle is inclusive sustainable growth through, among other things, facilitating the development of the private sector. Expected outcomes include an improved business climate, policy improvements and enhance viability of MSMEs.”

Barnett noted that economic growth across the region is less than three per cent per annum, with growth mainly concentrated in those countries producing and exporting commodities.

“Countries for the most part are carrying extremely high debt burdens. Overall fiscal deficit of almost four per cent of GDP, and public debt at 80 per cent of GDP, are a serious threat,” she indicated.

The vice president noted that the impact of climate change cannot be understated.

“Critically, our region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to natural disasters, which often translates into severe economic and social setbacks. Losses due to natural hazards have increased from 0.9 per cent of GDP per annum in the 1980s to 1990s to 1.3 per cent of GDP. Estimates of losses from climate change impacts range from five per cent to 30 per cent of GDP,” she said. (JH)

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