AS I SEE THINGS: Caribbean development challenges
The performance of the global economy over the past five years has convinced me that it is not as easy as some economists and other pundits would have thought for countries, irrespective of physical sizes and resource endowments, to emerge from recessions and get back to sustained economic growth and development paths.
A quick glance at the United States and some of the leading economies in Europe would certainly confirm that inference. As would be expected then when economies are small and open as those in the Caribbean, their development challenges only magnify whenever there is a major slowdown in the world economy.
It is not surprising therefore that from time to time we continue to hear from some of our leading economic managers that there is no “quick fix” when it comes to addressing the issue of growing Caribbean economies. If we accept that position and have learnt our lessons from the past, then it should be clear to all and sundry that a well-crafted approach must be adopted by all countries in the region to address not only our “lack of growth” problem but more generally the development challenges that confront us in the interim as well as what we expect is likely to unfold in the not too distant future.
Although similar in lots of respects Caribbean countries, still have a few differences in the evolution of their economies that would warrant some country-specific policies to address their respective growth and development challenges.
That issue aside for the moment there are some common elements that can be worked out and incorporated into a growth-promoting strategy for all countries in the region.
First, we have to determine based on historical performances which policies have contributed significantly to our strongest periods of growth. These policies must be classified as microeconomic, macroeconomic, sectoral, and institutional. Then, given the state of the global economic environment, we have to make a determination as to whether these same policies can generate the desired results of growing our economies now and in the future.
Where changes are deemed necessary, there should be no hesitation in making the appropriate adjustments in policies to ensure success. In short, we have to rely on what we know can work for us going forward.
Second, once we have settled on the right mix of policies to grow our economies, we have to then dedicate all of the resources necessary to the implementation of those policies. Too often in the past we have highlighted strategies, policies, programmes, and plans for stimulating economic growth and development of our economies but have failed miserably to support the various measures with adequate resources. Given that we are already significantly challenged by limited resources, it would mean logically that issues such as wastage and misappropriation of funds must be kept to a bare minimum.
All in all, therefore, if we in the Caribbean are to overcome our economic growth and development challenges, we have to become bold and creative in finding the right solutions to our problems. While we don’t expect the task to be easy, we can only progress if we try and fail, not fail to try. The times we live in surely dictate such an approach.
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