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AS I SEE THINGS: Improving investor confidence

Brian Francis

AS I SEE THINGS: Improving investor confidence

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Historically, several regional and international organisations have urged Caribbean countries to boost their rates of economic growth and development in order to give themselves better chances of eradicating poverty, closing huge fiscal gaps, and reducing their levels of unemployment.
Admittedly, many of our regional economies have found it extremely difficult to maintain any sustained rates of growth since the 2008/2009 global recession. While that fact cannot be denied, it is also important to recognise that numerous countries have nonetheless been making significant efforts to raise their levels of economic activities but are severely limited by a lack of resources to ensure success.
Logically, therefore, if domestic resources are limited, the best hope for Caribbean countries is to look outside to foreign investors who have the necessary wealth and are willing and able to invest in our ailing economies. The important issue from a Caribbean perspective is that our economies are relatively small (as measured by our gross domestic product) and hence the amount of resources required to make a huge difference in our well-being is certainly not as great as those needed in more advanced countries. Yet, we cannot sit back and expect to attract any meaningful amount of foreign investment without improvements in investor confidence.
You see, several dimensions of our international business environments must be enhanced simultaneously in order to send the right signals to foreign investors that we are ready to welcome them into jurisdictions, that will guarantee some positive returns on their investments while at the same time improving our own economic landscape to ensure sustainability. It is within this context that our real challenges begin.
After all, what we in the Caribbean need more than ever in order to improve investor confidence is greater economic and political stability. I am sure this issue may very well sound trivial to some pundits, but it shouldn’t. After all, given the changing dynamics in the global economy, does anyone believe that small Caribbean countries would be able to attract any significant level of foreign investment if they are unable to record positive economic growth rates over three to five years, eliminate or reduce the fiscal deficits on Governments’ current account, lower the rates of unemployment to below e per cent, and effectively manage their public debts to bring them within generally acceptable levels (for example maintain debt-to-GDP ratio of 60 per cent or less)?      
When these economic issues are combined with developments on the political side such as acts or allegations of corruption that force members of Cabinet to resign and constant misbehaviours on the part of some of our leading political figures then, as small countries we are sending the wrong signal to the international community about our seriousness and commitment to good governance. And these issues only serve to weaken our image as mature jurisdictions that are ready and able to attract much needed foreign investment.
Therefore, going forward, we in the Caribbean must do everything possible to create stable business environments that are capable of improving investor confidence. Hence, the things we do politically, economically and otherwise must be well thought out and designed to boost rather than hurt our investment climate. All of our countries deserve that opportunity.