President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Warren Smith, says member countries must commit to a programme of reform in order to address existing challenges.
He stated that countries that implement far reaching reforms stand to reap substantial benefits in terms of more robust and resilient economic growth “and greater capacity to address the curse of poverty and deprivation in our countries”. He noted for example, that extensive tax reforms must be introduced to encourage the emergence of new industries and also to improve the efficiency of tax collection.
Dr. Smith was addressing the 42nd annual meeting of the CDB Board of Governors in the Cayman Islands on May 23, under the theme: ‘Seizing the moment; seizing the time’.
Jamaica is undertaking significant reforms of its tax, pensions and financial administration systems, and is a longstanding member and beneficiary of the regional financial institution’s developmental credit facility.
While admitting that the implementing of reform polices is no easy task, the CDB head said they are imperative in positioning economies to overcome the impact of financial challenges, to take advantage of exciting new trends in international trade and business, and enhance the environment for the production of internationally competitive goods and services.
He argued that international competitiveness “lies at the core of developing a more resilient Caribbean economy” and necessitates introducing a raft of structural changes which address constraints to the emergence and the growth of new industries.
"To facilitate these changes, we must be proactive in introducing reforms which improve the business climate. One useful tool for continuously measuring progress, in this regard, is the systematic application and monitoring of the results of the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ survey,” he declared.
Turning to other matters, Dr. Smith said countries must focus on reducing the cost of energy, through efficiency methods, including conservation, while at the same time, incentivising the shift towards cost-effective renewable such as solar energy.
He also pointed to the need to improve access to information technology by prioritising wide-scale introduction of broad-band internet to drive down the cost of communications, especially for business and for education.
Special attention, Dr. Smith said, must also be paid to creating opportunities which unleash the natural talents of the youth in fields such as music, dance, sports and agriculture based on modern technology as “this will create the basis for launching dynamic new industries, which can grow and prosper alongside the more traditional ones like tourism”.
He stated too that the product offerings of traditionally competitive industries, like tourism, need to be revamped and must reflect changes in tastes and preferences in the marketplace and expand the skill sets in these industries.
The CDB is a regional financial institution, which was established for the purpose of contributing to the harmonious economic growth and development of member countries across the region.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter