Posted on

TONY BEST: Bajan leads search for economic answers


TONY BEST: Bajan leads search  for economic answers

Social Share

HOW DOES A Bajan who heads a well-known Washington-based organisation with a Caribbean economic mission go about getting the job done?

“Our goal is to promote private sector led economic development in the Caribbean and Central America, and we work with the private sector and governments in the region to spur economic expansion,” said Sally Yearwood, the Caribbean Central American Action’s executive director for the past five years.

In short, ‘inclusion’ is CCAA’s watchword and Yearwood has been a driving force behind efforts that routinely bring together captains of industry, government leaders and key players in the Caribbean’s civil society.

“We seek to find solutions to hurdles. We want to facilitate trade, investment and energy security, maritime transportation and disaster management,” insisted Yearwood. 

So it didn’t come as a surprise when CCAA and Yearwood last week assembled in Washington some high powered Caribbean government and private sector executives to discuss a looming crisis, the “de-risking” of correspondent banking partnerships between US and Caribbean banks that is threatening economic stability in the region.

“Correspondent banking is a global problem. It affects countries everywhere,” Yearwood said. “For instance, Mexico has lost many correspondent banking partnerships and a similar thing has occurred in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Still, it remains a serious matter for the Caribbean and it must be addressed.”

Actually, CCAA has been working on those kinds of issues for decades, dating back to the White House years of President Ronald Reagan, when Edward Seaga was Jamaica’s leader and Tom Adams headed Barbados’ government. And when Errol Barrow, returned to the Barbados Prime Minister’s office in 1986 after an absence of 10 years and Dr Cheddi Jagan became Guyana’s Executive President, they too attended different CCAA-sponsored gatherings to find solutions to Caribbean economic problems.

“We have been fostering constructive dialogue between the private and public sectors to improve the policy and regulatory environments for business at the local, regional and international levels for decades,” said Yearwood who has a lengthy track record of linking arms with senior corporate executives and top political decision makers to spur economic growth and social development.

She discusses the current with clarity. They range from corporate efficiency, tourism, and the mountains of debt owed by Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, Barbados and Antigua to the fall-out from the Great Recession which struck in 2008.”

Barbados has some tough choices,” she told the Sunday Sun. “The financial services sector is under constant threat and correspondent banking can become a real crisis for the island and its neighbours. That’s why the management of the economy is so important. I encourage Bajans, to be innovative and be (prudent) risk-takers.”

These days, CCAA is much smaller than when it launched the Annual Miami Conference on the Caribbean in the early 1980s. Back in its heyday, the meeting attracted thousands from America’s 50 states and the Caribbean. A US Vice-president, Secretaries of State and Commerce, almost every Caribbean leader, heads of universities, CEO’s of various corporations and representatives of  chambers of Commerce and manufacturers associations as well as governors of central banks. 

“The conference which will be held next month in Coral Gables has gotten smaller but it is still very important,” added Yearwood, who described her mother, Kathy Yearwood as “caring” and her father as “ a stand-up kind of guy” who was disciplined and got things done.

The 50-year old top executive sits on the Boards of directors of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, and is a member of Bretton Woods Committee. She also serves on the advisory board of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum.

The Barbadian has been at CCAA’s helm since 2011, three years after rejoining the organisation as its deputy Executive Director. She had previously worked with the organisation for six years but left for Haiti where she spent a dozen years serving as the trade and investment adviser of the US Agency for International Development, and was the country representative of the US Department of Commerce.

“My career has spanned more than 25 years working with various countries of the Caribbean and Central America,” she explained.


Tony Best is the NATION’s North American Correspondent. Email: [email protected]