A shift is needed in the Caribbean’s integration model – which seems limited by size, design and inertia – in order to forge wider convergence spaces for approaching production, the institutional framework and economic frontiers, according to Winston Dookeran, former Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and current Secretary-General of EUCLID University, who gave a keynote lecture today at the main headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.
To increase the visibility of the Caribbean situation and perspective and contribute to subregional thinking and action, the Trinidadian economist and politician participated in the Keynote Lecture Series organized to commemorate ECLAC’s 75th anniversary. Dookeran made a presentation entitled “Structure and Synergy in Development: The Caribbean Setting and its Future,” the fifth lecture in the series that began in July and is scheduled to run through February 2024.
Dookeran, who was received by ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, began by describing the Commission as an internationally recognized “cradle of development ideas.”
“ECLAC has stood firm as an institution of dignity,” which “has never deviated from the search of the public good of development” and has remained loyal to the mission of seeking new ideas for countries’ progress, he said.
In his presentation, the former Finance Minister of Trinidad and Tobago analyzed the way in which the structure of the Caribbean economy is changing in a multipolar world, he examined the “geometry” of the crisis prompted by COVID-19, referred to the subregion’s difficulties for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and addressed the limitations and restrictions that hamper the Caribbean from accessing and taking advantage of development finance.
“The key to tackling the development challenges facing the Caribbean lies in the strategy for structural change,” Dookeran affirmed, stressing that in a post-COVID-19 era, it is critical to have “shock absorbers” that can be a buffer against economic shocks – an issue that must be part of the agenda for reforming the international financial architecture.
In his presentation, the Trinidadian scholar highlighted the role of governance, institutional strengthening and the redefinition of the role of the State for closing the gap between theory and practice and achieving the desired development.
It is necessary to design an institutional framework for promoting “sustainable social equity,” he indicated. This includes universal health coverage, guaranteed minimum income for all, and robust and inclusive community governance, he said.
“The time has come for resetting the State and market roles in the development process. A new role for the State, neither controlling nor facilitating, must make change happen. A new synergy between the State and the market – a 'catalytic' role for the State – must be explored,” he stated.
Dookeran further posed the need to prepare for the technological advance entailed by artificial intelligence, which involves, for example, the digitalization of the economy and measures to promote technical change in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).
In his remarks, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, emphasized that “the Caribbean is as beautiful as it is vulnerable and fragile. Many Caribbean countries are characterized by significant multidimensional vulnerabilities that challenge their path to long-term sustainable development.”
Since they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, “the subregion seems stuck in a cycle of disasters, recovery with low growth, loans, large deficits, and debt that challenge efforts to progress towards resilient and sustainable development,” the United Nations regional organization’s highest authority added.
In response to this complex scenario, Salazar-Xirinachs emphasized that Caribbean leaders have been united and particularly vocal in global forums, calling for redoubling efforts to address climate change and deliver climate justice; seeking support to address natural disasters; and reforming the global financial architecture to make it fairer and more inclusive.
Caribbean diplomats have been instrumental contributors to efforts to reimagine the global economic order, he said, mentioning examples such as the Bridgetown Initiative, led by the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley; the Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond Initiative, promoted by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, and co-chaired by the Prime Minister of Jamaica; and the Loss and Damage Fund, which was championed by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and secured under the Chairmanship of Antigua and Barbuda during COP27.
In addition, Antigua and Barbuda will host the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and will lead discussions towards a bold new Programme of Action.
The current President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago, has also underscored the need to defend the cause of Small Island Developing States, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs said.
“At ECLAC, we are honored to help elevate the Caribbean perspective and to contribute to subregional thinking and action on sustainable development,” he concluded.