Caribbean countries facing challenges exacerbated by COVID-19

June 30, 2021
Grenada’s Economic Development and Finance Minister, Gregory Bowen (contributed photo)

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Grenada’s Finance and Economic Development Minister, Gregory Bowen, Wednesday said the region is facing a number of challenges exacerbated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Addressing the virtual 51st annual board of governors meeting of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Bowen said among the challenges were chronic indebtedness, high unemployment, especially among young people, the high cost of energy as well as income and gender inequalities, and food and security.

He said the region was also over-dependent on a few “economic sectors that were themselves highly vulnerable to economic and natural shocks."

“Added to these long-standing challenges is the devastating impact of climate change, including sea-level rise. Undoubtedly, we face many challenges and problems, but we ought not, and should not focus on them less they multiply and magnify,” said Bowen, speaking on behalf of the borrowing member countries (BMCs) of the Barbados-based regional financial institution.

“What we must do is to remain laser-focused on the solutions, ideally first based solutions, but second and third best ones should not be ignored,” he added.

He said that as a region, “we must be intentional about the future that we want for ourselves and the generations to come.

“Indeed we have an indelible responsibility to do the right thing and to do things right,” he said, noting that to secure a new development paradigm for the region, characterised by persistent high and inclusive growth, ownership and not indebtedness, good paying jobs sustained by innovation, technology, and appropriate skills, gender and income equalities, economic diversification, had to be fully developed.

Importantly, he said, it must prioritise people over profits.

In his address, Bowen said that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a severe impact on the region, noting “our health systems have been shaken, so too has been our education system.

“Indeed the economic, social, and psychological scars are as fresh as ever. That said they need not be permanent,” he said, advocating for “immediate policy measures” focusing on preserving lives and livelihoods.

“As the pandemic unfolds, we must continue to provide relief to our people and devise strategies to support economic recovery in the first instance and ultimately an expansion in national income,” he said, noting that in this context, “we are of necessity preoccupied with advocating for vaccine equity and addressing vaccine hesitancy to accelerate vaccine take up because we accept the fact that vaccination is now the key determinant of economic recovery and growth”.

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