News Americas, ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada, Thurs. May 31, 2018: As the 2018 hurricane season commences tomorrow, Friday June 1st, the President of the Caribbean Development Bank is urging regional leaders to climate-proof their countries’ energy systems.
Dr. Wm. Warren Smith, in opening remarks at the Bank’s 48th Annual Meeting in Grenada today, said for too long the response by regional leaders has been largely reactionary and the cost of responding to natural disasters has been rising steadily.
He challenged Caribbean leaders to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency to build economic resilience while taking advantage of technological advances and price reductions in renewables.
His call comes as energy grids across the region took a beating from last year’s hurricanes, Irma and Maria, that left tens of thousands in the dark for weeks in some islands and over 14,000 still without power in Puerto Rico.
Dr. Smith also urged regional leaders and development partners to work collaboratively and proactively to address the region’s vulnerabilities, and to support resilience-building in the agriculture and air transport sectors as well.
“Taking advantage of these opportunities, as well as the wide-scale adoption of energy-efficiency measures, will assist in laying the basis for economic resilience through reductions in the public sector’s expenditure on energy; strengthening the fiscal balance; reducing borrowing requirements; and, as a consequence, reducing the pressure on countries’ foreign reserves,” Smith noted.
The President also acknowledged the critical contribution of the agriculture sector to economic activity in the Caribbean, noting that it accounts for over 10 percent of output in Belize, Dominica and Suriname, and as much as 33 percent in Guyana. He said, however, the Caribbean’s agricultural output had fallen consistently since the early 1990s, partly due to climate change impacts such as floods and droughts.
“If the Caribbean is to build resilience in agriculture, then substantial investments in changing agricultural practices and adapting to climate change are required,” said Dr. Smith, who voiced support for increased financing to help farmers upgrade their irrigation and drainage systems to mitigate the risk and impact of droughts, flooding and soil erosion.
In a region of small island economies heavily dependent on the agriculture, as well as tourism and financial services sectors, Smith said air connectivity is also essential to their growth.
INTRA-REGIONAL AIR TRANSPORTATION
The “vexed issue of regional air transportation,” he added, presents several major issues that stymie the movement of business and leisure travelers throughout the Caribbean.
He noted that high and regressive taxes and airport-related charges; operational inefficiencies within the principal air carrier; issues in the business environment within which it operates; and arrangements for funding the carrier are among factors constraining the ease and cost of travel in the Region and the growth outlook for intra-Caribbean travel and tourism.
“There is no sound justification for the regional airline industry remaining in this situation. Indeed, its survivability is under constant threat,” said Smith. “Empirical research by CDB has demonstrated that we can significantly improve airline connectivity by lowering taxes, liberalizing the regional market, and making changes to increase airport efficiency.”
The President pledged CDB’s collaboration with shareholder governments of the Region’s principal air carrier, as well as the governments of other Eastern Caribbean countries, which benefit from the inter-island services of the sub-regional air carrier.
“The aim is to accelerate implementation of the reforms, which are needed to create a sustainable and resilient inter-island air transport system,” he noted.
His comments come as Anguillan tourism officials yesterday revealed that while the country has largely returned to normal since being hit by the storms of 2017, its Blowing Point ferry terminal has still not been rebuilt so visitors and residents are being processed through the police station at Blowing Point and the police station at Simpson Bay in St. Maarten.
Meanwhile, many properties on the British Caribbean island have refurbished and renovated and are back, including The Frangipani Beach Resort on Meads Bay. which reopened in December; The Four Seasons, which reopened on March 23rd and The Reef by CuisinArt, which reopened on April 1st.
The CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa; The Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort and Belmond Cap Juluca, are all set to reopen this November, after major upgrades and renovations.