CASTRIES, St Lucia – The President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. Hyginus Leon has reaffirmed the bank’s commitment to placing member countries on a higher and more sustainable welfare path by building Internal Resilience Capacity through refining the international development paradigm, building partnerships and strengthening policies.
Delivering the keynote speech at the Opening Ceremony of the 53rd annual meeting of the bank’s board of governors in Saint Lucia on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, Dr Leon said that the Internal Resilience Capacity “Trilogy” was part of the CDB’s commitment “to remain steadfast and single-minded in its aspiration to accelerate the pace of economic activity, close the gap to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and fundamentally alter the region’s development path.”
Recognising the challenges that Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) faced over the last four years, Dr Leon said the bank had reimagined its approach to development and pivoted to promote a holistic systems approach, where productive and institutional capacity, environmental sustainability, social resilience, and financial affordability are seen as essential components of the evolution of the system.
“We need to measure better to target better. Let us agree we need to share to grow – sharing opportunities, burdens, and responsibilities. Let us agree we need a suite of instruments and affordable financing, with appropriate governance frameworks, and customise our varying needs and deliver on the promise of resilient prosperity for all,” said Dr Leon, highlighting the key points of the Trilogy.
“Let us agree that the use of Gross National Product/Income (GDP/GNI) as a proxy for development is insufficient and therefore our usual set of policies to grow GDP will also be insufficient. Let us agree to advance the global development agenda by adopting beyond-GDP measures (like the UN’s Multidimensional Vulnerability Index as our guideposts,” he said.
“Accelerated sustainable development requires partnerships for development between the private sector, government, and the international community. We need policies and supporting instruments that are designed to drive fit-for-purpose investment activities, enhance implementation capacity for building resilience and increase access to adequate and affordable financing for investments,” said Dr Leon.
The CDB disbursed US$285.9 million in 2022, an increase of 12.2 percent. This figure comprised US$180.7 million in loans and US$105 million in grants. The bank also committed an estimated US$41 million of its own funds towards climate change initiatives and adopted a climate finance target of 25-30 percent of its own resources towards climate change adaptation and mitigation by 2024.
Partnerships were a key highlight of Dr Leon’s speech with the bank president citing a new agreement with the Government of Italy, resulting in a US$50 million soft loan for a programme to support sustainable development projects in the Caribbean.
The CDB in partnership with the CARICOM Secretariat and OECS Commission, developed the Let’s REAP Programme to provide schools in BMCs with a roadmap to address the pandemic-related learning gaps and increase inclusion. This saw 2910 educators in Caribbean schools benefit from the REAP Programme while a further 175 special education teachers in Saint Lucia benefitted from training on how to better respond to varied student needs and improve their quality of education.
Efforts are also underway to establish a more robust architecture to address vulnerable countries’ Loss & Damage (L&D) needs, including through the Santiago Network and the new L&D fund that UNFCCC Parties agreed to establish at COP27.
The bank was instrumental in interventions to increase climate resilience, trade and agriculture, including EUR 14 million from the European Union to implement the Caribbean Action for Resilience Enhancement (CARE) Programme and a further USD 9.9 million from the Adaptation Fund to implement the “Building Resilience for Adaptation to Climate Change and Climate Variability in Agriculture in Saint Lucia Project.” Key projects were also established in Suriname, Guyana, The Bahamas, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Belize.
“We will continue to build on these achievements and deepen our ambition for the road ahead,” said Dr Leon.
Pointing out that unprecedented challenges brought on by crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, existing economic and environmental vulnerabilities, and the war in Ukraine, led to sharp declines in output, and slowed the region’s progress toward achieving the 2030 SDG target, while also contributing to rising debt and erosion of fiscal space, increased inequality, and poverty, Dr Leon warned that the Caribbean was potentially exposed to further risk including fractures in the flow of capital, goods, services, and technology across borders could add to inflationary pressures, eliminate jobs and deprive people of food, medicine, and other essentials.
“Fragmentation could result in another supply side shock leading to sharper increases in prices and less output. These difficult circumstances have increased the development challenges in the region,” he said.
Dr Leon called on the continued, unwavering support of member countries as the CDB moves to introduce and execute novel and innovative approaches in its goal to remain true to its mandate of transforming Caribbean societies and commitment to safeguarding the vision of resilient prosperity.
“Our efforts alone will not take us over the finish line. The fate of the region and the bank are inextricably linked. When the region succeeds, the bank succeeds,” Dr Leon said.