Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources, Santia Bradshaw, speaking at the opening of the 10th International Road Federation (IRF) Caribbean Regional Congress at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, today. (Ministry of Transport, Works and Water Resources)

The 10th International Road Federation (IRF) Caribbean Regional Congress officially kicked off today, Wednesday, June 8, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

The major road and transportation conference attracted approximately 180 delegates from several countries, as well as high-ranking government officials and regional transportation ministers.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources, Santia Bradshaw, thanked the IRF for hosting this year’s congress in Barbados under the theme “A Roadmap to a Safe and Resilient Road System”.

Minister Bradshaw pointed out that the Congress presented an opportunity for multi-country, multidisciplinary and multi-agency collaboration, support and engagement, as it provided a forum for small island developing states (SIDS) within the region to have meaningful discussion on issues of climate change, adaptation, road safety and climate resilient infrastructure.

“I do hope that that this conference provides the encouragement that political leaders need to motivate local and international partners to act.  Barbados, like all small and vulnerable island states, cannot afford to wait until climate change is destructive and then pay for the cleanup afterwards. In order to minimise disaster losses and manage high-impact climate events, easier access to financial instruments, such as risk-sharing facilities, contingent credit, or international aid, will be necessary.  This will help offset reduced tax revenues after disasters and make it easier to restore service along critical transport corridors,” Ms. Bradshaw emphasised.

Director of Projects Department, Caribbean Development Bank, Daniel Best, underscored the importance of climate change being a major topic on the agenda.

Senior Vice Chairman of the International Road Federation, Dr. William Sowell, speaking at today’s opening ceremony. (Ministry of Transport, Works and Water Resources)

“Many of us are aware of the shocks natural hazards persistently impose on Caribbean countries, which are already deeply challenged with regards to economic and social vulnerabilities. Damage to roads and bridges alone, and associated losses, due to extreme rainfall events in St. Vincent in 2013 represented over 11% of GDP.  When Hurricane Maria impacted Dominica in 2017, damage to roads and bridges represented nearly 34% of GDP. In addition to these vulnerabilities, we must now contend with the deep impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Road transport is a backbone service, enabling the functioning of every other area of economic and social activity.  Strengthening resilience for road transport systems must be a top priority for Caribbean countries,” Mr. Best stressed.

Senior Vice Chairman of the International Road Federation, Dr. William Sowell, also addressed the delegates.  Noting he was pleased the Congress was in Barbados, he spoke about the importance of modern, safe and resilient roads to everyday life.

“People and goods need to move more efficiently and safely for economies to grow, for wealth to be created and for prosperity to be shared.  As much as a dynamic economy depends on the movement of goods and services, people rely on roads for employment, education, health services, shopping and recreation, and at the IRF they try to capture these connections with the slogan ‘Better Roads, Better World,” Mr. Sowell said.

The 10th IRF Caribbean Regional Congress will conclude on Friday, June 10, with a technical tour and site visit to a number of roadwork projects on island.

Ministry of Transport, Works and Water Resources

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