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IDB’s Caribbean Governors discuss regional opportunities, challenges

At a meeting hosted by the Central Bank of Suriname

BERGENDAL, Suriname – Top economic authorities from the Caribbean region gathered here today to discuss common development opportunities and challenges during the first annual meeting of the Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Caribbean Country Department. 

The event, hosted by the Central Bank of Suriname, was held in preparation for the annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the IDB, scheduled to take place in Montevideo, Uruguay, March 16-19. 

The IDB is one of the Caribbean region’s leading sources of multilateral financing. Loan approvals for The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago reached nearly $900 million last year, while disbursements reached $560 million. 

IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno told the governors that the Bank will strive to remain a premier development partner in the region, using its expanded lending capacity and exploring new mechanisms to provide faster access to financing. 

Caribbean countries achieved positive economic growth of 2 percent of GDP last year, Moreno noted, but their governments are increasingly worried about the potential impact of festering crises in other parts of the world. 

“We meet today in the midst of a complex global setting, full of uncertainties and vulnerabilities,” Moreno said. “The possibility of a new global crisis concerns all of us. Although we are optimistic that the agreements reached in the eurozone will contribute to containing fiscal imbalances and supporting the euro, we are also aware that additional measures and efforts are needed.” 

In his remarks, Central Bank of Suriname Governor Gillmore Hoefdraad voiced his region’s concerns, listing many of the pending challenges Caribbean countries face in sectors such as tourism, agriculture and energy, as well as in strengthening their fiscal positions and debt management. 

Hoefdraad also called for concrete action on regional integration among Caribbean nations. “We must together find ways to define new economic activities, which will allow our countries to finally get on a sustainable development path,” he said. “This is the time to combine scarce human, financial and natural resources to one common goal: bringing prosperity to our nations.” 

The other delegations to the meeting were led by The Bahamas’ Financial Secretary Ehurd Cunningham, Barbados Finance Minister Christopher Sinckler, Guyana Finance Minister Ashni Singh, Jamaica High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago Sharon Saunders, Trinidad and Tobago Finance Minister Winston Dookeran, and Caribbean Development Bank President William Warren Smith. 

During the governors’ plenary meeting, renowned international economic analyst Nouriel Roubini delivered a special presentation on the global economic outlook and its implications for the Caribbean. 

Roubini examined the political and financial risks building up in different parts of the world and their possible evolution during the current year. As small and open economies, Caribbean countries face many sources of vulnerability, he added. 

Considering different strategies for economic growth, Roubini highlighted the advantages of investing in human capital development and intensifying trade integration, alternatives successfully followed by East Asia’s most dynamic nations. 

The delegations also held bilateral meetings with IDB officials to discuss their national strategies and future lending requirements. During their meeting, Suriname Finance Minister Adelien Wijnerman and Moreno signed the contracts for two loans totaling $20 million to help finance a conditional cash transfers program and a national census and household survey.

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