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Remarks by President Ilan Goldfajn on the occasion of the XII Annual Consultation with Caribbean Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank

Georgetown, Guyana
As prepared for delivery

His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-Operative Republic of Guyana; 

Distinguished Governors and Heads of Delegation; 

Members of the Delegations;

Executive Directors of the Inter-American Development Bank and IDB Invest; 

Senior Management of the IDB Group;  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I'm honored to be in Guyana and especially in the city of Georgetown, on my first official visit to Guyana as the IDB’s president. Guyana means the “land of many waters.” And it’s no secret why! Your country is made up of a seemingly endless tapestry of great rivers and impressive waterfalls.
 
Yesterday, I was here for the fifty-fourth anniversary of Guyana becoming a republic. It was incredible to be here during the Mashramani. I want to thank President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali and Senior Minister Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh for hosting this Annual Meeting of Governors. I also want to thank the governors, CEOs, and other members of the delegations who traveled to join us.
  
It's hard to believe it's already been a year since we met in Trinidad and Tobago. And what a difference a year makes. The IDB is modernizing, helping the region develop while finding its place in the global scenario. Back in Trinidad and Tobago, many of you expressed the shared challenges as the need for adaptation and resilience to climate change, food insecurity, citizen and business insecurity, and foster sustainable development through private sector engagement, rule of law and digitalization. The ask was for a regional program to help deliver real progress on these issues.
 
That’s why we worked closely with many of you to develop the One Caribbean program. And today, the IDB is here to deliver on One Caribbean – and provide updates on where we stand on regional priorities.

We are gathered here to prepare for the Annual Meetings in March, where for the first time ever we are embarking in three transformational changes – IDB invest capitalization and new model, IDB Lab replenishment and new funding model, and the new Institutional Strategy for the group.
 
I'd like to share with you a few observations on the prospects for the Caribbean in general, and Guyana in particular. As you know better than anyone, extreme events like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters have hit Caribbean countries hard.

Today, 75% of extreme weather events are linked to climate change, which affects Caribbean countries much more than others. And, Caribbean countries are uniquely vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change. But there's the other side of the story about the Caribbean—and that's a story of resilience. The region has evolved, making strides to rise to the challenge and prepare themselves for future disasters, setting an example for the world.

Caribbean governments have recognized climate change as one of their top challenges and priorities, and accordingly, many have developed national resilience plans and have committed to ambitious timetables as part of the Paris Agreement to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2020, Jamaica become the first country in the region to set more ambitious targets for reducing emissions in both the land-use and energy sectors. In Barbados, another country with an ambitious nationally determined contribution to be fossil-fuel free by 2030 - the government developed Roofs to Reefs, a national strategy to build climate resilience and restore coral reefs.
 
And the region is shaping the global public debate. Take for example the "Bridgetown Initiative,” which calls for a global approach to rapidly scaling up MDB’s climate-resilient investments and accelerating private sector involvement in climate action.
   
Also, President Ali has been vocal in the global public debate on carbon credit and food insecurity, and its link t climate change, among others. Through these and more, the region has shaped the global conversation on climate change and is helping to lead the way on promoting resilience.
 
Please allow me to spend a moment on Guyana, our gracious host for this meeting.  As you know, Guyana has one of the world's fastest growing economies, fueled in part by booming oil production. Guyana is truly one-of-a-kind because of its enduring high growth rates. Between 2020 and 2024, GDP growth is projected to average 38% per year.

Virtually no other country recently has had such a prolonged period of robust growth, and the trend seems set to continue in coming years. But what's equally unique about Guyana, are its beautiful forests – Guyana is the second most forested country on earth with 93.5% of its territory covered by trees. We know that Guyana’s forest cover is more valuable to both Guyana and the world standing than cleared. Guyana's forest alone removes about 154 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere every year. The country plays a key role in the ability of the broader Amazon Rainforest to absorb 1/4 of all the CO2 absorbed by all land on earth, helping mitigate climate change for the whole world. And, right here in Guyana, the government launched the Low Carbon Development Strategy of 2030, which established incentives to create a new low-carbon economy in Guyana. With more of these right reforms and investments, Guyana and other Caribbean countries can be at the center of global efforts to protect the planet's biodiversity, its oceans, and the planet.

The conversations we have today will help us amplify the impact of the work we're already doing in the region. I'd like to mention several projects that show the value of our work here in Guyana. As you know, our mission at the IDB is to improve lives. But sometimes our work saves lives. That's the case with our Maternal Health Project in Guyana, which helped cut the maternal mortality rate by 8% and the neonatal mortality rate by 36% between 2014 and 2022.
 
Today, hundreds of women and children are alive because of this program, which gives women with high-risk pregnancies better access to hospitals. That's true for mothers in distant indigenous communities, like Marisa Edwards in South Rupununi, who's pregnant with her eighth child and now, for the first time, will be able to deliver her baby at a hospital.

And, today, we announced three new public sector agreements to further improve lives in Guyana. One will expand access to a safe and better learning environment in primary schools and educational services for vulnerable students. This investment will help drive growth by enabling today's youth to seize tomorrow's economic opportunities.
 
The second agreement supports Guyana's Ministry of Education efforts to address fundamental challenges of the education sector, including teacher training, curriculum and textbook reform, upgrading of school infrastructure and connectivity, and the integration of a national education management information system. A third agreement concerns the energy supply diversification efforts by the Guyanese authorities, which will benefit around 200,000 people.
 
But our engagement does not only focus on the public sector. Through IDB Invest, our private sector arm, we also signed three new agreements in support of Guyana’s vibrant business sector, including operations in the areas of logistics, education and sustainable tourism.

Now I'd like to zoom out for a moment and touch on our work in other Caribbean countries.  In Jamaica, 10 health centers have introduced tele-mentoring services to support persons suffering from chronic illnesses while improving health services on the island.
 
In The Bahamas, close to 1500 Micro Small Medium Entreprises are benefiting from business advisory services from the Access Accelerator, a part of the Small Business Development Centre, which is a collaboration between IDB and IDB Lab, our innovation laboratory.

And, we have focused on providing innovative financial tools to the Caribbean. As one example, Barbados completed a debt-for-nature conversion in 2022 backed by a US$150 million guarantees, allowing the country to reduce borrowing costs and use savings to finance a long-term marine conservation program.
 
The unique deal underscores the country’s innovation in mainstreaming climate sustainability and biodiversity into its fiscal management agenda.

More recently, in 2023, Barbados entered into a new debt for climate conversion with the IDB that will allow Barbados to generate savings, reduce environmental degradation from sewage, raise resources for investments in water resiliency, and improve the debt management capacity of the country.

In Suriname, we expect to continue to work on support to vulnerable populations and indigenous communities.
  
Finally, IDB Invest will provide financing for an estimated amount of US$12 million for the development of the International School for Development Justice, a project that the University of West Indies, President Irfaan Ali's alma mater, is spearheading. With this project the University of West Indies is creating one of the world’s first postgraduate online learning schools dedicated exclusively to programs around sustainability and social justice, allowing students from anywhere in the world to earn degrees on these issues.
  
I'm proud of this work we’ve done together. But we can and must do more. As I mentioned earlier, to tackle climate change, better integrate the region, support citizen security, and ensure its sustainable development, we need to take a regional approach to the Caribbean’s development.
 
That's why we worked hand in hand with you, our governors to develop the “One Caribbean” initiative. This regional flagship program will promote the Caribbean's sustainable development with a sharpened focus on high-impact initiatives.

"One Caribbean" focuses on four pillars: climate adaptation, disaster-risk management and resilience; citizen and business security; sustainable development through private-sector engagement; and food security. Also, institutional strengthening and digital transformation are cross-cutting areas of work.
 
Improving regional integration, including physical and digital connectivity, is also a major priority of ONE Caribbean. One Caribbean builds on over 50 years of partnerships with Caribbean countries. It also builds on the IDB Group's longstanding commitment to the Caribbean.
 
And it's not only the public sector. IDB Invest has a target of 10% of its commitments in small and island countries by 2025, and at least one deal per year per country in each of the smallest jurisdictions (Haiti, Guyana, Belize, Suriname, and Barbados). This target was achieved in 2023.
 
We look forward to partnering closely with you to continue building the "One Caribbean'' program together. Our meetings here also open a space to reflect together with our Governors on how we can build an IDB Group that is not only bigger, but better and more effective and impactful —better able to support Caribbean countries like Guyana.
 
Specifically, we’ll be discussing three transformational changes: the IDB Group's new Institutional Strategy, a new business model and recapitalization for IDB Invest, our private sector arm; and the replenishment of IDB Lab's resources with a new sustainable funding model. Achieving them would make the IDB group another institution, ready to transform the region in the scale and impact needed.
 
With the support of our Governors, we’ll be able to do more, not only for Guyana, but for the entire Caribbean. A year ago, I said that the challenges facing the Caribbean countries were not created overnight, and therefore it would be unwise to think that we will solve them in one day.
 
But as Guyana and the region have shown, with patience and perseverance, we can make impressive progress.
  
Thank you again. I look forward to more productive conversations on building an even better and brighter Caribbean. 
 

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank’s mission is to improve people’s lives. Founded in 1959, the IDB is one of the leading sources of financing for economic, social, and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also undertakes cutting-edge research and provides consultancy services on policies, technical assistance, and training to public and private clients throughout the region. 

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