The economic challenges of tourist and travel dependent Caribbean countries, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and possible solutions to them were discussed, when the new President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon, recently paid Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley a courtesy call.
Ms. Mottley highlighted statistics, in the IMF World Economic Outlook for last year, to prove the point that with the exception of a few war-torn states, highly dependent tourist and travel countries in the Caribbean were greatly impacted economically by the pandemic.
The Prime Minister said Barbados had registered a 17.6 per cent decline in GDP last year, and surmised that this level of double-digit economic decline had pushed the island back by one or two decades.
She lamented that no responses had been forthcoming as yet to meet the needs of the region, as she highlighted the volcanic eruption in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the recent weather-related “freak event” in Barbados, as issues that compounded the situation.
Therefore, she expressed the view that there needs to be an engagement and review of the Bretton Woods institutions of the IMF and World Bank to meet the needs of countries.
During the discussions, she underscored the importance of natural disaster and pandemic bonds, and said that now, more than ever, the Caribbean must speak with one voice and act collectively.
Dr. Leon said the issue of climate change was critical and must be a main area of focus. He added that sustainable and inclusive growth could only come about with resilience, and if there was innovation.
He underscored the importance of partnership and working closely together, and stressed that the development of the region remains the goal of the CDB.
Prime Minister Mottley and Dr. Leon also spoke about the importance of a vulnerability index; COVID-19 and the need for the region to access more vaccines; marine transport in the region; food security and education, among others.
Government representatives attending the courtesy call included Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle; Chief Economic Counsellor, Ambassador Clyde Mascoll; Director of Finance and Economic Affairs, Ian Carrington; Economic Advisor to Government, Dr. Kevin Greenidge, and Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Alies Jordan.
Dr. Leon was accompanied by Vice President (Operations), Isaac Solomon; Vice President (Corporate Services), Yvette Lemonias Seale; Advisor to the Vice President (Corporate Services), Fay Alleyne Kirnon; and Advisor to the President, Dorla Humes.