World Bank Group launches Caribbean Growth Forum

-to stimulate economic growth, job creation

The World Bank Group last Thursday launched the Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF), a platform for dialogue aimed at promoting policies and partnerships for increased economic growth.

According to a World Bank press release, the scheme is a one-year partnership among the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), with support from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that will facilitate the sharing of knowledge and ideas on policies to stimulate sustainable and inclusive growth and job creation. The IDB, World Bank and the CDB singed an agreement formalising their collaboration during the CDB Board Meeting in the Cayman Islands.

The CGF will build on existing partnerships and invoke stakeholders from the public and private sectors, academia and civil society as well as in the Caribbean Diaspora, the release said. “We want to facilitate a Caribbean-led transformational dialogue generating fresh thinking on innovation-based growth-oriented policies,” Francoise Clottes, World Bank Director for the Caribbean, explained.

The Forum will draw from practical development initiatives and research to address cross-cutting regional challenges, such as studies on how to enhance the business environment for existing and new investors in the Caribbean; proposals to unleash stronger competition; policy options to reduce public debt and analyses to improve transportation logistics in the region.

CDB President Warren Smith also noted that accelerating and sustaining inclusive growth is arguably one of the most pressing development challenges preoccupying the region’s leadership and CGF offers an exciting and innovative platform for networking and open exchange of ideas on constructive ways to address the challenge.

According to the Bank, Caribbean countries face many common challenges, such as frequent natural disasters, a small size and lack of economies of scale as well as vulnerability to external shocks. “Economic growth has been structurally low in the region, and most countries experienced a significant economic contraction due to the 2008 global financial crisis,” it said.

In contrast to Latin America, which grew by six percent in 2011, Caribbean countries only grew by an average of 2.3 percent. Caribbean economies also face serious debt challenges. Public debt-to-GDP ratios have reached 100% in a number of countries over the past few years.

“Caribbean countries need to reposition their economies to face emerging challenges in an increasingly integrated global economy,” said Kurt Focke, Division Chief of the Capital Markets and Financial Institutions Division and Chairman of the Compete Caribbean Programme, IDB. The region has done well in capitalising on its natural endowment and geographic location to generate growth, he said, adding that it needs to transition from natural resource-based growth to innovation-based growth.

The first regional conference of the CGF will be held from June 18-19 in Jamaica, followed by Digital Jam 2.0 from June 28 to 30 that will focus on youth and jobs in the Information and Communication Technologies sector.

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