"There is no question that the Caribbean is shouldering an unsustainable debt burden which compromises the capacity of the economies for sustained growth and restricts the options available to governments to introduce important social and welfare programmes," the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac) Alicia B�rcena said yesterday.
She was speaking via video conference at the opening the 17th meeting of the Monitoring Committee of the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC) in Port-of-Spain. Ministers and high-level government representatives from the Caribbean gathered in T&T to consider progress made in implementation of development strategies for the region.
Also participating in the opening ceremony of the monitoring committee on the 40th year of the CDCC was the current chai, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, Arnaldo Brown; Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Dookeran; and Grenada Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Business, Clarice Modeste-Curwen.
The monitoring committee endorsed the key outcomes of the preceding two-day symposium that offered Caribbean policy makers and experts a forum to deliberate the region's development priorities as the international community prepares to adopt a new set of global sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Referring to the discussions of the symposium, B�rcena underscored that these represent "an important first step towards ensuring that the Post 2015 development agenda will work for the Caribbean; by identifying from among the 17 goals the ones that will best address the priority development needs of the region."
The monitoring committee also focused on strategies for debt relief and to promote innovative financing.
Eclac deputy executive secretary Antonio Prado presented a proposal on a co-ordinated strategy to address debt reduction for sustainable development in the Caribbean.
The timeliness of tackling this issue was underscored by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, Arnaldo Brown, who stressed that "the region needs a growth strategy to build productivity" and further underscored that "a major productivity drive is essential."
The meeting further reviewed progress in implementation of the ongoing work programme of Eclac in the Caribbean.
Over the past 18 months, wide-ranging activities have been undertaken, including extensive research on the state of socioeconomic development in the subregion; strengthening the capacity of governments to assess and respond to disasters through the use of the Damage and Loss Assessment (DaLA) methodology; assisting governments with the development of national trade policies; enhancing the ability of national statistical offices to make most effective use of census data through training in the use of specialised (REDATAM) software; and introducing strategies to improve government efficiency by implementing e-government systems.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran praised these efforts and thanked Eclac for its contribution towards building models of Caribbean convergence.