There are no forces with greater capacity to transform the lives of millions, from poverty to prosperity, than the forces of inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
Yet, Jamaica and the Caribbean have struggled with low levels of economic growth and high debt, made worse by the ravaging effects of climate change on our islands which are situated in the midst of great bodies of water.
Our challenges with growth and high debt, have constrained our ability to effectively and sustainably exploit the vast resources and potential that exist in our surrounding oceans and seas. We also have not been able to effectively respond to the threats emanating from our oceans and seas, such as rising sea levels, and the stronger hurricanes carried over ever warming waters. The ironic and circular reality is that our inability to effectively and sustainably exploit the resources of our oceans and land environment is negatively impacting our growth prospects. We need a virtuous nexxus between our economies and our environment.
SIDS like the countries of the Caribbean need to be empowered to take charge of their development and prosperity, through economic growth rather than debt, while being good stewards of our environment. This will undoubtedly require enlightened thinking and partnerships, as already recognized by each and every country which has signed on to Agenda 2030.
With the steadfast support of our bilateral friends and multi-lateral partners, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries have made substantial progress in implementing painful, but necessary economic and structural reforms across political administrations, which have delivered previously elusive macro-economic stability.
In so doing, Jamaica is a leading example to the world of what can be achieved when countries resolve to take responsibility for their economic direction, forge consensus at home, supported by international partnership and cooperation.
Every year however, we are reminded with unfailing consistency, that one or more Caribbean island will have their people disrupted, their economic growth interrupted, and percentage points of GDP knocked off.
On a regular and recurring basis natural disasters cost between 0.5% and 4% of GDP and the assessment of damage sometimes exceeds 200% of GDP as with Grenada in 2004 and Dominica in 2017.
More frequent and intense natural disasters currently pose an existential threat to the Caribbean and to SIDS generally, and expose deep vulnerabilities that transcend and make a mockery of per-capita income indexes as a means of graduation.
Building resilience is not optional; it is an imperative for our survival. Creative and innovative solutions must be found to design appropriate risk mitigation, risk transfer and risk financing tools while ensuring wide participation in solutions.
We thank Canada for using its G7 Presidency for raising the profile of the relevance of gender sensitive planning in matters related to Climate Change, as it is indisputable that women and children are disproportionately affected by disasters, and in the Caribbean, this assumes even greater relevance, given that most households are in fact led by women.
And the Caribbean is taking responsibility.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has developed a ten-year Regional Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy and Programming Framework. The strategy is being implemented with major focus on key cross cutting themes including Gender, Climate Change, and Environmental Sustainability. CDEMA is however, severely under-funded.
In Jamaica’s case, we have also supported climate change adaptation and resilience building initiatives among NGOS, community-based organizations and MSMEs in climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism.
We have reformed our Building Act which now supports resilient infrastructure and disaster risk reduction measures.
Importantly, We are also about to take steps to limit and control plastics and other non bio-degradable materials and consumer waste which threaten our coastline and oceans.
HOWEVER, WE NEED PARTNERSHIP AND COOPERATION
Even as we take responsibility, and while initiatives have begun to yield some measurable benefits, we need cooperation and partnerships with countries like the G7, to address some of our challenges.
Firstly, high public debt and the lack of fiscal space to invest in climate change adaptation measures, and developing resilient public infrastructure. SIDS can ill-afford to borrow funds for disaster recovery, and investment in resilience building.
Secondly, the classification of many SIDS as Upper Middle Income states (according to their Gross National Income) severely impacts their eligibility for access to certain sources of funding primarily in the reconstruction and recovery phase of the disaster management cycle. We continue to emphasize the need to review financing policies, so that true investments can be made.
Thirdly, insufficient capacity among SIDS to access global funding windows, such as the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund.
Fourthly, access to appropriate risk transfer mechanisms to support recovery at the national and community level.
Ultimately our answers could like in partnerships with countries like the G7, through trade and investment and technology transfers, as well as creative solutions to debt and risk, which support economic growth. It is ultimately sustainable growth which will empower us to ensure prosperity for our people, while taking care of our oceans and seas and land environment.