It has been almost four years since I first became involved with the regional public-private dialogue initiative, the Caribbean Growth Forum (CGF). In June 2012, I walked into the conference room at University of the West Indies, Mona Campus for the Launch of the first phase of the initiative and there was something electric in the air. It was new and fresh, but old fears lingered; was this to become 'just another regional talk-shop?'
Wide-eyed and optimistic I was determined that for my small part it wouldn't turn out that way.
“Plantain nu eat like rice” — a Caribbean saying roughly translated as “Make do with what is available to you” — applies to the region’s experience with public-private partnerships (PPPs) as well as to life on the islands. For many decades, implementation of PPPs in the Caribbean has been mixed; government officials and citizens alike have had to “make do” with these results.
Some partnerships have successfully delivered new or improved roads, ports, airports, bulk water treatment facilities, and electricity generation plants, along with other high-quality infrastructure facilities. However, other promising PPPs faced challenges that were never overcome. In many cases, the complexity of the PPP development and implementation process meant long delays in delivering projects; others resulted in questionable value or unexpected costs to governments or consumers.
To help Caribbean governments fulfill the promise of PPPs to deliver improved infrastructure assets and services, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), the World Bank Group (WBG), and the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) have created the Caribbean Regional Support Facility. This US$1.2 million program was launched at the High-Level Workshop on Practical Implementation on PPPs in Saint Lucia on June 15. An important component of its near-term activities, an upcoming series of boot camp-style workshops, will increase technical capacity among Caribbean government officials, offering the depth and breadth that’s been missing from the PPP market.
A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth.
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties.
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.
Penicillin was discovered almost 90 years ago and heralded the beginning of a revolutionary era in medicine. As the first antibiotic drug in existence, it was used to treat what had previously been severe and life-threatening illnesses, such as meningitis, pneumonia, and syphilis.
Overall, the survey mostly reaffirms findings from previous surveys and studies about migration and remittance behavior of Bangladeshis.
Who are the migrants?
The overwhelming majority (97.4 percent) of migrants are males, married (67.1 percent), Muslims (97.8 percent) most of whom (78.2 percent) are less than 39 years old with majority (61.5 percent) having less than ten years of education.
The majority (over 57 percent) of the migrants have been staying abroad for over 5 years and a significant (22.3 percent) proportion (largely from Sylhet) have been staying abroad for over ten years. Most (91 percent) work as blue colored labor in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Oman, Kuwait, South Korea and Singapore. Most of them (87.8 percent) received no formal training before leaving the country.
What does it take to make reforms work in small island countries?
At the end of June 2013, twelve Caribbean countries presented a roadmap for growth in three areas -logistics and connectivity, investment climate, skills and productivity- to a broad audience of private sector representatives, international development institutions, regional organization, civil society and media. That event culminated a 7-month long phase during which policy-making was not the result of close-doors meetings, but a process of intense negotiation, consultations, and consensus building among all actors of each Caribbean country’s societies. All of which was documented in real time and in a transparent fashion by each government. Yes, business was not “business as usual”.
Reforms priorities were agreed and a calendar for implementation brushed on a power point slide in the wonderful framework of five stars Bahamian hotel…After the workshop lights, projects and microphones shut down, many of us went home with a familiar sound in our ears: and now what? Was it another “talkshop”?
The case of the Maldonado stream: The voice of a citizen
Imagine a busy metropolitan avenue crossing the length of Buenos Aires, Argentina, transited daily by buses and trains and lined with a large hospital, medical buildings, schools, shops and businesses.
Now imagine for 27 years this avenue flooding severely 37 times as if it were a river. During a flood, envision people being evacuated in motorboats, cars practically floating downstream, and cars and pedestrians on the bridge above it having to remain stranded there until the waters on the avenue below receded. It sounds implausible doesn’t it? Not for Buenos Aires residents it didn’t. The Juan B. Justo Avenue was such a thoroughfare.
Motorcycle riders and passengers have long been vulnerable users of motorized transport. In the Americas, with the increasing ownership of motorcycles, given the ease and lower costs, this trend is worrisome as the number of vulnerable users as well as those impacted by traffic crashes increases, sometimes masking a shift from pedestrian or bicycle casualties to motorcycle victims. These trends would be similar in regions such as Africa which also share the motorcycle-taxi (mototaxi) phenomenon.
What is the solution to low growth in the Caribbean? That's been the question on the minds of private sector, government and civil society representatives from 12 Caribbean countries for the last year.
They're all member of the Caribbean Growth Forum - a regional initiative designed to share experiences, ideas and expertise to promote a more prosperous Caribbean. Andrea Gallina has been coordinating the process since it launched in May 2012.
Here he explains what has been achieved so far and what the next steps are for the Caribbean.