President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Warren Smith says there needs to be an eight-pillar approach to sustainable growth in the region.
Smith was speaking on Thursday at the opening of a two-day financial forum in The Bahamas, which has brought together finance ministers from across the Caribbean, as well as representatives from international funding institutions (IFIs) to discuss ways of addressing challenges to growth while achieving fiscal and debt sustainability objectives.
The CDB president listed, among other things, prudent public investment and debt-management strategies, macroeconomic stability and the removal of barriers to trade, as some of the pillars on which the region's economy has to be built.
"The Caribbean must confront its vulnerability in all its forms. A solid macroeconomic position with adequate fiscal reserves and low debt can be a strong bulwark against the vulnerability to external economic shocks."
Smith also called on Caribbean governments "to strive for better accountability, to build trust and commitment to their policies and strategies. Governments must develop the institutional and policy infrastructure necessary to support good governance practices; and the general public and the private sector need to be adequately equipped to hold their governments accountable," he said.
Alejandro Werner, director of the Western Hemisphere Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is co-hosting the event with the government of The Bahamas, said for the conference to be deemed successful, there must be two-way dialogue over the two days.
"This is the time to ensure that we listen to real-time feedback from the region on our proposal, so next time we would be a stronger more sustainable region, so we can build a framework together to push the region forward, to increase growth and to make this growth sustainable in the next few decades."
Delivering the keynote address at the opening, Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie called on the international funding agencies to try to better understand the peculiarities of the island-nations of the Caribbean in order to better tailor projects and programmes to suit their needs.
"The role that the IFIs play in our efforts to enhance public-private partnership frameworks will be critical.
"As long as the multilateral agencies have documented in their research that we are extremely vulnerable, to the point that our currencies will, in many cases, only mitigate as opposed to eliminate some of our economic exposures."
Hasan Tuluy, regional vice-president of the World Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean, said he hopes the outcome of the two-day conference would be a prioritised agenda for growth and prosperity in the region's economy.
"I'm hopeful that the outcome of the deliberations and discussions during this forum would result in a prioritised agenda of actions; an agenda that we can all forcefully rally around and which would advance the goals of shared growth and shared prosperity in the region."
Issues to be discussed at the conference include the regional growth forum and the implications for the structural reform needs of the region, and strategies for restoring sustainability while minimising the impact on growth and protecting vulnerable groups.
The conference is being held under the theme 'Building growth into Caribbean sustainability agenda - A concerted approach'.