The Caribbean is open to business!??That was Prime Minister Freundel Stuart???s clear message today in Malta, as he addressed a Commonwealth Business Forum which focused on investment in the Caribbean.
He was joined by the Prime Ministers of St. Kitts and Nevis, Timothy Harris; and Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley.??Mr. Stuart told his audience that CARICOM states offered a wide array of investment opportunities and listed some of them as construction, manufacturing and oil and gas.
He pointed out that there were the traditional sectors, including tourism and related activities, agriculture, fishing and marine products, and services (including the entertainment industry).?????The growth potential for these sectors, though somewhat diminished in accord with their current life cycle, can be resuscitated through innovation and product diversification.
???Then there are the new and emerging opportunities in respect of agriculture and agribusiness, tourism (health and wellness), renewable energy and business/ICT related services, and cultural industries. Indeed, renewable energy investments will boost both productivity and competitiveness of CARICOM businesses and are a major priority for CARICOM states,??? he stated.
He noted that CARICOM states had agreed targets for the introduction of renewable energy sources, explaining that they had committed to 20 per cent, 28 per cent, and 47 per cent by the years 2017, 2022, and 2027, respectively. ???We are working assiduously with our development partners towards that achievement,??? he stressed.
Describing the Caribbean as one of the regions of the world with the greatest potential for renewable energy, in particular solar energy, Mr. Stuart said his country already has one of the world???s highest penetration levels for solar water heaters. He pointed out that in excess of 30 per cent of houses were equipped with these energy-saving, carbon neutral devices.
He added that public-private partnerships in the Caribbean were also encouraged. He outlined some of those areas of participation as: water system renewal and upgrade; sewerage system expansion, upgrade and aquifer recharge with treated water; airport expansion; cruise port upgrade and expansion; affordable housing for sale; and energy efficiency and renewable energy in government facilities.
The Prime Minister continued: ???CARICOM states remain extremely optimistic about their capacity to attract growth-inducing investments to drive the sustainable development process, but remain mindful that exogenous events can considerably derail economic expansion. Recent experience highlights this vulnerability and underscores the importance of building economic resilience to withstand external shocks.???
He pointed out that just prior to 2008, and the onset of the global financial and economic crisis, there was a surge of interest in locating investments in certain CARICOM states. He disclosed that this interest was focused on hotels, condominiums, real estate development and golf courses, as well as other service sector opportunities, including areas ranging from private health care, the establishment of specialist financial services to port development and sea transport.
Mr. Stuart, who is also Chair of CARICOM, said this interest represented a welcomed shift from traditional approaches and the usual government to government relationships. According to him, the new focus is now on the ability of CARICOM governments to interact in a meaningful manner with global financiers and entrepreneurs.
???CARICOM states are aiming to rekindle this interest and are ready to lift the image of the region???s business operating environment,??? he stressed. He urged interested investors to join Caribbean governments in developing the region further, and broadening and diversifying economic opportunities for investment for their benefit, as well as the people of the region.