by Linda Straker
- Doing Business report advocates regulatory quality and efficiency
- Implementing its recommendations will increase region’s attractiveness for growth and development
Grenada and other Caribbean countries have been told by Caribbean Development Bank President, Dr William Warren Smith, that the World Bank’s Doing Business report is a very important review for the region and implementing the recommendations will increase the region’s attractiveness for growth and development.
He told participants at the Ninth Caribbean Forum that they should not regard the analyses of the World Bank Doing Business report simply as criticisms of shortcomings but they should grasp the opportunity for targeted redress of those very things that hamper business competitiveness in the region.
“The World Bank’s Doing Business indicators give us an idea of some of the critical factors that impact business decisions, including starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity services, and trading across borders. The speed with which these can take place provides a gauge of our region’s efficiency vis-à-vis the “best in class,” he told more than 200 delegates attending the forum.
The Doing Business report advocates for both regulatory quality and efficiency. It measures regulations across 190 economies in 12 business regulatory areas to assess the business environment in each economy.
The study looks at rules affecting business from inception through operation to wind-down: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.
A significant number of Caribbean countries received low ranking on the index which reviewed 190 countries. They include Suriname at 165; Grenada at 147; St Kitts and Nevis at 140, Guyana at 134, St Vincent and the Grenadines at 130; Barbados at 129, Trinidad and Tobago at 105, Dominica at 102 and St Lucia at 93.
“Let us pull out for priority action, those “low hanging fruits” that can bring significant benefit with minimal effort. I must admit that implementation is a grave concern for CDB itself. The growing “buckets” of undisbursed balances on our books keep me awake at nights,” he said.
Informing the participants that he is concerned about the increasing number of donor funds that are not accessed, Smith said that it is cold comfort that other development partners are facing a similar challenge.
“Bear in mind that none of us are delivering on our development mandate if the funds intended for these countries remain in our coffers. Our goal should be for the intended beneficiaries to be able to access these resources for high priority development projects as quickly as possible,” he told senior policymakers, public, private, and multilateral development partners.
In his address at the opening of the 2019 Caribbean Forum, Warren highlighted challenges with the implementation of projects and policies in the region. “In order to make the Caribbean a better place, it is necessary to tackle poor rates of implementation and weak implementation capacity, which are ongoing concerns for Caribbean public sector managers. Moving the needle on the solutions to our region’s perennial challenges requires a relentless commitment to implementation, starting with a cultural shift that encourages increased accountability,” said Smith.
“We often joke about Caribbean people always being late. But time is money, undermining our capacity to deliver goods and services in a timely manner, and undercutting our ability to compete based on low cost and high quality,” he said, explaining that lateness is only one manifestation of the implementation problem.
He disclosed that public sector investment programmes are underperforming, with implementation rates below 35% being reported by several countries. The low rate undermines private sector confidence and its willingness to invest. The implementation challenge also affects the work of CDB and is manifested in growing levels of undisbursed balances. Other development agencies face similar concerns.
CDB is addressing the implementation issue from several fronts, including supporting behavioural change in its borrowing member countries through institutionalised delivery mechanisms. Since 2016, CDB has also trained over 2,000 public officers in public policy analysis and project-cycle management. Smith announced that the bank will launch e-learning modules to reach an even larger number of public officials in the Caribbean.
The theme for the forum is “Regional Transformation for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth.” It is co-organised by the CDB, the Government of Barbados and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).