||Central Bank Of Barbados
Four top economists recommend that the Caribbean must diversify their economies and pursue regional integration to build sustainable and stronger nations post COVID-19.
Dr. Peter Blair, Assistant Professor Harvard University; Dr. Dillon Alleyne, Deputy Director Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Dr. Wendell Samuel, Deputy Division Chief in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Western Hemisphere Department; and Dr. Eric Strobl, Professor in Environmental and Climate Economics, University of Bern Switzerland were discussing the topic “Adjusting to the Post-COVID-19 Economy” during the September edition of the Central Bank of Barbados’ Caribbean Economic Forum.
They argued that the pre COVID-19 status quo cannot continue. Instead, the region must grasp the opportunities that the crisis has presented.
“Amidst the crisis and the human aspect of this tragedy, there is a deep opportunity for us to reflect as individual countries and more broadly as regional partners in terms of coming up with national development plans and strategies for advancing the future of the people of the Caribbean,” Dr. Blair suggested.
Dr. Alleyne underscored the importance of regionalism in reimagining our economies. He noted that the “Debt to GDP ratio in the Caribbean is about 70 percent and many countries have ratios in excess of or close to 100 percent.” In his outlook, some solutions may arise through the Financing for Development (FfD) process, a UN approach concerned with the financing of Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which he believes can provide us with the liquidity needed to meet financing for short-term and intermediate needs. He argued further that regional solidarity would strengthen our clout on the international stage.
“There is a lot you can do from within, but you need solidarity to address certain external problems. Blacklisting and grey listing and the issue of the lost in corresponding banking are not issues you can address at the internal level,” Dr. Alleyne told viewers.
The ECLAC representative also advanced the development of an industrial policy with a focus on the domestic capital sector which he described as “building local capabilities through education and training, reforming our school system and restructuring our education system to provide the export of global services.” For him, investing in the domestic capital sector is actionable as such plans “do not require a great deal of new resources”
To action these strategies, and to truly rebuild Dr. Blair believes that a mindset change surrounding our capabilities is required. According to him, a shift in thinking would help us to export culture, create technology and sell new experiences that will position us for this new global economy.”
The panellists all agreed that an e-governance system and a strong telecommunication infrastructure must underpin our adjustment strategy going forward. The ability to connect in a fully digitised economy will allow “us to survive under lockdowns” and help us to interface globally.” This interface, according to Alleyne, will be more intense post-COVID-19 and will be characterised by innovation, and digitisation.”
The panellists were of the view that the ball is in our court. As Dr. Samuel of the IMF put it, “we as a region have to figure out what we have to do to create a resilient economy”.
The Caribbean Economic Forum (CEF) is a part of the Bank’s thought leadership programme. On October 27, 2020, three regional Information and Communications Technology (ICT) ministers, The Honourable Paula Ingabire, Rwanda’s Minister of ICT and Innovation; Senator the Honourable Kay McConney, Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology; and the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett St. Kitt’s and Nevis, Minister of Health, ICT, Entertainment, Entrepreneurship and Talent Development will address “How to Digitise an Economy.”