Caribbean lead­ers talk about chal­lenges and heal­ing fi­nan­cial woes at Amer­i­cas con­fer­ence

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

Caribbean gov­ern­ment and fi­nan­cial lead­ers met Thurs­day to dis­cuss how to put their is­land economies on a path of steady growth, and coun­ter­act nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and other shocks. More than 100 peo­ple at­tended “The Caribbean Dilemma,” part of the Amer­i­cas Con­fer­ence Series or­ga­nized by the Mi­ami Her­ald Me­dia Co. and pre­sented by the World Bank at the Bilt­more Ho­tel in Co­ral Gables.

Ja­maican busi­ness­man Michael Lee-Chin, known as the “Growth Czar,” said coun­tries can’t cre­ate growth when their best and bright­est are em­i­grat­ing. Over the past

two decades, Ja­maica has only av­er­aged 0.2 per­cent growth. Lee-Chin, who also serves as chair­man of Ja­maica’s Eco­nomic Growth Coun­cil, has es­tab­lished an am­bi­tious goal of 5 per­cent growth in four years. “Con­fi­dence,” he said, “is re­turn­ing to Ja­maica.”

Caribbean lead­ers also dis­cussed the open­ing of Cuba. Last year, the is­land re­ceived more than 4 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors, rank­ing it sec­ond only to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic in the Caribbean re­gion. Lead­ers said they did not view Cuba’s grow­ing strength in tourism as com­pe­ti­tion.

“Cuba open­ing up is a fan­tas­tic thing for the Caribbean be­cause it only strength­ens the brand of the Caribbean as a whole,” said St. Lu­cia Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet.

Gre­nada Prime Min­is­ter Keith Mitchell said his na­tion’s tourism hasn’t been hurt at this point by Cuba’s in­crease in vis­i­tors. In fact, his econ­omy was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an uptick and is less volatile than other na­tions in the Eastern Caribbean be­cause of re­vamped fis­cal poli­cies.

But, he said, Caribbean gov­ern­ments have to do a bet­ter job at work­ing to­gether: The ex­pan­sion of Cuba “has ex­posed the weak­ness of our in­te­gra­tion ef­fort as a whole.”

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