Reply to the Address of Welcome by the Governor for Guyana the Honourable Dr. Ashni K. Singh, M.P. on behalf of the Borrowing Member Countries
“Your Excellency Nigel John Dakin, Governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands; the Honourable Charles Washington Misick, Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB); fellow Governors of the CDB; our special guest, President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina; President of the CDB, Dr. Gene Leon; Directors, Management and Staff of the Bank;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am honoured to respond on behalf of the Bank’s Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) to the warm welcome extended to us by the distinguished Premier. Considering that this is our first face-to-face meeting in three years, one must indeed applaud the decision to meet in beautiful Providenciales. Provo’s spectacular beaches provide a picturesque, even if slightly distracting, backdrop to the important discussions we are having this week, and her warm and hospitable people have already embraced us in a full display of the oneness of our Caribbean family.
Lest we be mistaken, the fact that we are meeting face-to-face should not lull us into believing that we have returned to any semblance of comfortable normalcy. In fact, we are meeting in times that are anything but normal.
To begin with, the battle with COVID-19 is far from over. Over the past seven days, 3.3 million new cases were reported worldwide, of which 2.3 million came from Europe and the Americas. As a result of COVID-19, global production and supply chains are still disrupted, with shipping costs rising by more than seven times since March 2020. The war in Ukraine has further dislocated supply of key commodities. For example, wheat prices have gone up by as much as 60 percent, given that Russia and Ukraine account for 30 percent of global wheat exports. The result is a delayed recovery from the pandemic, with sharp downward revision in growth forecasts and even sharper upward revision in inflation forecasts, raising the risk of stagflation.
For us in the Caribbean, the vulnerabilities which we all knew prior to COVID-19 have now been laid bare. In 2021, our BMCs are estimated to have grown by a modest 3.1 percent. In 2022, they are projected to grow by a more respectable 9.1 percent, but this growth is heavily concentrated, with only five of the nineteen BMCs projected to grow at rates at or above this pace. At the same time, we continue to carry a heavy debt burden, with thirteen of our countries ending 2021 with a debt to GDP ratio of more than 60 percent, and four of our countries ended the year with a ratio above 100 percent. The result is that our prospects for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals are even dimmer today than they were three years ago.
The implication of all this is that the Caribbean needs the CDB – our Bank – now more than ever before, as we tackle the longstanding problems of economic diversification, infrastructure gaps particularly in transport and energy, human capital development, access to basic social services, food security and, of course, climate vulnerability.
In this regard, I wish to highlight the following issues for special focus by the Bank.
First, resource mobilization and intermediation is a core function in the Bank’s original mandate. The success in 2021 in securing the $383 million replenishment for the 10th Cycle of the Special Development Fund is therefore commended, and the role played by contributors to this replenishment much appreciated. The partnership with the United Kingdom on the Caribbean Infrastructure Fund is also an outstanding example worthy of replication.
Second, the financing of projects contributing to economic development of the BMCs is the Bank’s core business. Maintaining a strong record of project approvals and disbursements should be a paramount objective, to be pursued actively and aggressively. Reduced approvals and disbursements affect net flows to BMCs. And, increased net flows are critically needed by BMCs, especially at times like these.
Third, regional integration and intra-regional trade are germane to the Bank’s objectives. At the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo held in Guyana last month, the Bank advised that it will use its best efforts to mobilize resources in support of a regional initiative to establish adequate and sustainable regional transportation, a historical impediment to regional trade especially in agricultural produce. The Bank has an incomparable convening authority in the Region, which should be deployed to support such regional initiatives.
We the BMCs look forward to this week’s discussions on these and other priorities for the Bank.
I will conclude by thanking, on behalf of the BMCs, the distinguished Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Government and People of this beautiful country, for the warmth of your welcome, and for the excellent arrangements you have made to ensure a comfortable and conducive setting for these 52nd Annual Meetings of the Caribbean Development Bank.
Thank you very much.”