Opening Address by PM Mitchell at the 48th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the CDB

Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada. Photo: CARICOM

Opening Address by Dr The Right Honourable Keith C Mitchell, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Planning, Economic and Physical Development, Grenada and Chairman of the Board of Governors, at the 48th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank, delivered at the Grenada Trade Centre on 30 May 2018.

“Colleague Heads of Government, fellow Members of the Parliament and Cabinet of Grenada; President of the CDB, Dr William Warren Smith, distinguished Governors of the CDB and Members of the Board of Directors, the World Bank’s Regional Director for the Caribbean – Tahseen Sayed Khan, and Other Representatives of the Development Community, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Vice-Presidents and other Members of Staff of the CDB, Cabinet Secretary, Permanent Secretaries and other Members of Staff of the Public Service of Grenada, Delegates and Guests, Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good morning.

A warm Grenadian welcome to you all. We are delighted to have you with us and we are honored to host this year’s meeting.

I take this opportunity formally, and on Grenadian soil, to register Grenada’s gratitude to the CDB, for supporting our Home-Grown Structural Adjustment Programme. The policy-based loans and technical assistance provided by the Bank contributed immensely toward the success of our programme and the fiscal stability that has been achieved.

I must also commend the CDB for their initiative toward addressing a most challenging issue, which affects all of us in the region: that of regional transportation and travel.

I have long advocated that we urgently need to reduce the cost of intra-regional air travel. I echo my call made at various Heads of Government Conferences; that the Heads should collectively agree to reduce the airline ticket taxes, and some other fees which attach to intra-regional air travel. This, I continue to believe, will represent a significant installment to the regional integration account, while facilitating enhanced freedom of movement of goods, services and people.

Further, I continue to strongly advance that the region’s major air travel carrier must be made to operate as an efficient and sustainable business.

I, therefore, look forward to the recommendations from CDB’s thematic study on improving connectivity and competitiveness in the regional aviation industry, which will be presented this afternoon.  I also look forward to the Bank’s forthcoming research on regional transportation, which will focus on enhancing the policy and operational frameworks for marine and road transport.

Ad Lib: Commend the management of LIAT for the recent improvement in efficiency of schedules.

Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen I would also like to complement the President, CDB Board of Directors and Management on the following important initiatives which were approved by the Board since the last Board of Governors meeting, and which will contribute significantly to building resilience in the region.

Some of the salient achievements include:

(i) the creation of an Infrastructure Trust Fund with support from the Government of Mexico, through which grants and concessionary loans are provided for climate-resilient infrastructure;

(ii) the AFD loan and grant financing facility to fund infrastructure projects, with environmental and climate benefits in eligible BMCs;

(iii) the European Investment Bank’s- Second Climate Action Line of Credit, with an increase in Principal Amount.  I was honored to be a signatory for this welcomed and timely facility, especially in anticipation of increased demands for concessional resources to assist with post-natural disaster reconstruction.

Also noteworthy are the new grant resources to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), to help increase its reserves and capital, and to support its long-term sustainability.

Furthermore, and equally important, is the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Programme for the Eastern Caribbean Programme by the European Union-Caribbean Investment Facility, in the amount of 12.3 million Euros, which will support geothermal development in BMCs. Colleagues, delegates, we all know that diversifying our energy mix is a key development imperative for our countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this 48th Board of Governors’ Meeting is being held at a time of immense global challenges. Indeed, we are all too familiar with the extraordinary development problems we face as a region. Those of us who believe in the law of attraction know that the more we talk about our problems, the more we anchor them in place, so we are not here today to discuss them. Instead, we are here to explore solutions, because with every challenge, there is an opportunity for innovative and transformative change.

As we contemplate solutions, we must be mindful that they cannot be ordinary ones; but, of necessity, they must match the extraordinary nature of our reality.

Fittingly, the spotlight for this year’s Meeting is on resilience; in particular, the multi-dimensional perspectives of resilience, in the context of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Those of us who are blessed to be alive today have an indelible responsibility to bestow to the next generation a Caribbean that is inclusive, prosperous and resilient in all of its forms. Pursuing policies and strategies for resilience-building and lasting change are not ends in themselves; indeed, they are the most important means towards securing the bright future that we all envisage for this our one Caribbean.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season starts on Friday. How prepared are we as a region for this year’s season? What lessons have we learnt from last year?  By now, we have all internalised the harsh truth that Hurricanes Maria and Irma will not be the last intense hurricanes that will hit the region. How then, do we adapt to the new normal? Adjusting to the new normal requires comprehensive and coordinated efforts to mainstream climate change considerations in development planning.  In practice, this will require a shift in focus, from sustainable development to climate-smart sustainable development.

At the macro level, we must accelerate our transition to green and blue economies, and in so doing, synchronise economic development with environmental sustainability.  Operationally, we must institutionalise climate-risk screening of all infrastructure projects and programmes, of both the public and private sectors. In tandem, we also need to enforce proper building standards that support climate-resilient infrastructure. Furthermore, it is crucially important that we invest in climate-smart education to entrench a culture of respect for, and preservation of this, our one Planet Earth.

Our waste disposal practices in the region must be made to conform to the highest environmental standards. We must also hasten to reverse our dependence on the use of plastics and Styrofoam materials, for example, and start using bio-degradable material.

Of urgency is the need to enact legislation that will give teeth to, and accelerate our adherence to environmental best practices.

Indeed, better management of and respect for our marine and coastal environment also goes to the core of our sustainability.

Here in Grenada, we recently assigned a new ministry, a vanguard in the region, to lead the way in that regard. The Ministry of Climate Change, Environment, Fisheries, Forestry and Disaster Management is mandated to work to ensure that every area of our development is up to speed on the question of addressing climate change.

Ladies and Gentlemen, adjusting to the new normal and transitioning to a truly resilient Caribbean will also require a new financing architecture. This must not only involve grant funding; but also innovation in lending and insurance mechanisms that are uniquely tailored to our Caribbean realities, and must explicitly consider our inherent vulnerabilities. We must, therefore, intensify our advocacy in this regard and be strategic, skillful and smart about it.

As Chair of the Small States Forum, Grenada will continue to use its leverage to lobby for concessional and innovative climate financing on behalf of all Caribbean and other Small Island States.

Navigating the new normal will require stronger and more strategic collaboration with partners who truly understand our history and unique characteristics.

The new normal will also require us to make greater use of technological advances, such as digitalisation. We have no choice but to accelerate the wide-spread adoption of digital technologies to bolster our disaster preparedness and response systems, and enhance our resilience to climate change, in general. As a practical matter, we must equip our people with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively leverage technology, as we build a climate-resilient Caribbean.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there must be an urgency of collective efforts to adopt reforms that also promote the structural re-engineering of our economies, strengthen social protection and safety net systems, and entrench good fiscal governance through legislated fiscal responsibility and accountability frameworks, as we build resilience in all its forms.

It is not sufficient to protect and multiply the social and economic gains that we have made individually and collectively; we also have to reduce our vulnerabilities. We have to look beyond crisis containment to consider and address the structural experience of our vulnerabilities and prioritise vulnerability reduction because the two are naturally intertwined.

Ladies and Gentlemen, storms and hurricanes do not have to result in catastrophic disasters. However, in too many instances in our region this has been the case, because of the prevailing susceptibilities of our communities. We have seen firsthand how poverty and social weaknesses magnify natural disasters. This need not be the case.

We must redouble our efforts to improve the conditions for the most vulnerable in our societies so that they are empowered and supported to manage disasters and climate risks. Our vulnerability-reduction policies must recognise gender rigidities and target women and children especially, because they tend to be disproportionately affected by natural disasters.

Colleagues, delegates, it is evident that building resilience and reducing vulnerability are the two defining issues of our time. They are the ultimate imperatives to achieving and advancing inclusive and climate-smart sustainable development of our individual countries and region, as a whole. Indeed, the Caribbean Development Bank is well placed to guide policy formulation and support implementation of strategies in these two areas.

The bank must forge ahead in this regard, with vigour and agility, further enhanced by the collective strength and resolve of all of its members. May the deliberations over the next two days be fruitful and solutions-oriented; resulting in meaningful actions toward the creation of more resilient and prosperous Caribbean economies and societies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing, I assure that, in true Grenadian style, we have gone all out to ensure that your next two days are comfortable, productive, fulfilling and rewarding. I trust that you will take some time to enjoy the uniqueness of our beautifully unspoilt Island.

After all, you are in the chocolate capital of the Caribbean and in one of the top ten hot global destinations to visit, according to the experts; so, ensure that you make some good and lasting memories here in Pure Grenada Isle of Spice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as Chairman of this 48th Annual Board of Governors Meeting, representing the Government and People of the Tri-Island State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, I am honoured to hereby declare this meeting officially open.”

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