ECLAC Deputy Executive Secretary Antonio Prado moderated the panel discussion entitled “Advocating innovative financing solutions” at the Forum on the Future of the Caribbean on Thursday 7 May 2015. The session, which examined opportunities that exist for domestic and international development financing for Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS), was considered especially timely given the upcoming United Nations Conference on Financing for Development being held in Addis Ababa in July.
Mr. Prado outlined important areas of focus for countries of the region during the session, the first being the need to address the issue of debt relief in a sustainable manner. He also identified the possibility of mobilizing resources through diaspora bond issue and increased remittances as being worthy of note.
The panel included Ms. Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist on Development Finance at UNDP in New York, and Mr. Jwala Rambarran, Governor of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago and two discussants, Mr. Ransford Smith, former Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat career diplomat in the Foreign Service of Jamaica, and former president of the Caribbean Development Bank, Professor Compton Bourne.
Ms. Hurley highlighted the biggest challenge for the region as being financing development. Governor Rambarran underscored the opportunity presented by increased remittance flows to the region, noting that such flows had become a very important source of external financing. He estimated that remittances now represent about 6% of GDP for the region and as much as to 21% of GDP in Haiti.
The panel addressed the dilemma of the Caribbean’s middle income status and its impact on access to concessional financing. The panelists reiterated the need to look beyond income per capita to states’ ability to mobilize finances, debt ratios, vulnerability to shocks and social challenges in determining eligibility for concessional funding.
Mr. Prado, in closing the session, pointed to ongoing initiatives by ECLAC in the subregion, including pursuit of advocacy for a broader set of criteria to take account of the vulnerability of SIDS; design of a strategy to pursue debt reduction and improve fiscal management in Caribbean states; and expansion of its capacity development efforts towards enhancing resilience building and risk reduction among member states to improve the response to losses from external events and advocate for more secure access to international finance to address this challenge.
The Forum, under the heading “Disruptive Thinking. Bold Action. Practical Outcomes”, provided the opportunity for regional and international leaders to tackle challenges to Caribbean development, and identify strategies for securing a sustainable future. It was co-hosted by The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago in collaboration with United Nations System, regional inter-governmental partners, and The Commonwealth Secretariat.