Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Briefing | Region poised for growth

Published:Wednesday | December 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMDr Andre Haughton

The Caribbean and Latin America region is attracting more attention from global investors due to an unpredictable and changing global political environment and increased volatility in asset prices/markets since the start of 2016. Global investors see the region as poised for growth, evident by the increase in stock values as companies restructure to achieve efficiency.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Civil Society Group held a consultation meeting on sustainable growth for Caribbean and Latin America in Santo Domingo, Dominica Republic, on November 8 and 9. The two-day event was supported by civil society groups from 26 Caribbean and Latin American countries, who were eager to share their views and ideas on how to move the countries cohesively forward.

The opening provided general information on the IDB Civil Society Group and provided useful dialogue on consultation and collaboration needed for sustainable partnership to increase growth and cohesion within the region. The stage was set for the discussion on sustainable development against the background of environmental sustainability. Any attempts to increase economic growth and development must sustain the environment as well. Countries should move gradually towards clean renewable energy. Countries in the region are encouraged to continue with tax reform and improving the tax arrangement between government, business and citizens.

 

How important is technology?

 

The technology revolution is upon us; is it a positive or a negative contributor to sustainable growth? If Caribbean and Latin America do not become technology-ready, they might lose valuable labour to the more developed countries that have better technological infrastructure. Most Caribbean countries have been lagging behind in this regard. Climate change must be considered here. The region is becoming more vulnerable. The resilience of the environment must improve to secure the prospects for economic growth. Coastal erosion and its impact on tourism must be taken into consideration.

 

What are the alternatives for sustainable growth and human capital?

 

The alternative strategies proposed included facilitating behavioural change through art and creativity. A change in the approach to the philanthropic model must be examined to sustain the operations of the civil society organisations.

Crime and violence has been increasing in the region along with its prospect to increase growth. Understanding the relationship between citizen security, gender and sustainable growth is important if a country wants to move forward. A discussion ensued on the need to understand and deal with two paradoxes:

Paradox 1 - Growth in the region is increasing, but safety is diminishing.

Paradox 2 - Domestic violence is increasing.

In respect to paradox 1, civil society groups in each country should continue to incorporate data analysis and findings to guide their policy recommendations on strategies. Citizens should not be afraid to speak up on these issues. The IDB has pledged to support these initiatives and will continue to rely on the efficient use of data as well.

As it relates to paradox 2, technology and web-based instruments can be used to combat domestic violence in the region. Uruguay, for example, has increased its actions against domestic violence. Countries should work towards a cultural shift using social media campaigns. After addressing domestic violence, there was an interactive panel on road safety. A video was shown on the importance of road safety and the impact of road safety on an economy, personal lives and community, and was discussed. An interactive group exercise on how to increase road safety proved to be very useful.

 

How crucial is sustainable growth?

 

Sustainable growth is a topic more discussed than achieved in Caribbean and Latin American countries. The need to increase investment in countries of the region must continue to be emphasised. Sustainable growth has the potential to increase per capita income. This has been restrained by the region's history of underdevelopment, which increases the need for more investment in infrastructure. In this regard, governments of the region must become more fiscally and socially responsible. Governments should make realistic efforts to increase transparency and the efficiency of government spending.

 

How can Caribbean and Latin American governments improve?

 

Laws must be put in place making it mandatory for government to broadcast how each tax dollar is spent on each line item. Evidence of the spending must be provided as well as disclosing the contractors and how much each received. The government must also exercise its social responsibility and remember to publicise these through the national media. Government spending should not be hushed.

- Dr Andre Haughton is a lecturer in the Department of Economics on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies. Follow him on Twitter @DrAndreHaughton; or email editorial@gleanerjm.com.