Minister in Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle, has identified key ways in which focused and targeted regional integration efforts can help Caribbean countries put people at the centre of their trade and development agendas.
She expressed this view during the just concluded UNCTAD 15 conference in Barbados, in a Ministerial Roundtable session on Regional Integration for a Resilient, Inclusive and Sustainable Future.
The session also included UNCTAD Secretary General, Rebeca Grynspan; Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, and other ministers and experts.
Minister Caddle referenced the words of activist Lilla Watson in emphasising that countries in the region and across the globe must first acknowledge “that your liberation is bound up with mine”, and work together on solutions.
“We have to acknowledge … that trade dependency, finance, debt, the climate crisis and adaptation to climate are inextricably linked, and the countries in this region are on the frontline [in] all of those areas,” she stated.
Minister Caddle outlined five CARICOM regional integration actions that would make real differences in national economies and in the lives of people.
“We all have to acknowledge that there are frontline states when it comes to the climate crisis…and we need to be able to realise that those frontline states are going to require a different approach and a greater share of adaptation resources.”
Related to this, she identified the need to mobilise regional and international savings and private sector capital to finance resilience. “And one of the ways that we have sought to do that in Barbados and in collaboration with others in CARICOM is through Growth and Resilience Funds. What does that look like?
“In Barbados we’ve come up with the Roofs to Reefs Programme to make visible all the investments – mitigation and adaptation – that are necessary to get us to a certain standard of resilience. But it doesn’t make sense to only set up a Barbados market or a Grenada market…, we see this as a regional investment market where we are able to weight projects in terms of their resilience content, and establish Funds that invest only in such projects,” Minister Caddle explained.
She further stated that the conversation on this matter has to go beyond the subject of grant or concessionary finance, which is necessary but not sufficient to meet the scale of investment required, given the lack of fiscal space countries have.
The third area identified by the Minister was the strengthening of regional supply chains through the lowering of regional trade barriers and improving regional transport infrastructure.
Using fast ferries as an example, the Minister explained that while we develop a global framework for nutrition security that enables governments to promote better health without contravening trade rules, finding affordable ways to move not just people – but cargo – regionally, will make a difference.
“Fast ferries or boats only make financial sense if they carry cargo as well as people, and are needed to move fresh produce around the region. This requires regulations that make it easier for goods to come on and off quickly, and port improvements in each port on the order of about half a million in infrastructure,” she said.
She also cited the need for regional cooperation in telecommunications, through a single mobile rate and regulation of major technology companies, especially in light of increased online trade, so as to ensure their citizens had access to major online marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba, and a system of common social benefits that move with people when they move.