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Shaping the Debate on Promoting Jobs and Competitiveness in Small Island Developing States

Ivan Rossignol's picture

The United Nations has declared 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in recognition of the contributions this group of countries has made to the world, and to raise awareness of the development challenges they confront – including those related to climate change and the need to create high-quality jobs for their citizens.

The Third International Conference on SIDS in September in Apia, Samoa will be the highlight event.  The World Bank Group is helping shape the debate on both climate and jobs with a delegation led by Rachel Kyte, the Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, and with senior-level participation in the conference’s Private Sector Forum.

Is the global jobs agenda relevant to small islands states?

Tackling the challenges related to the jobs agenda in large and middle-income countries could be seen as the most significant issue for the Bank Group’s new Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, of which I’m a member. Yet the Minister of Finance of Seychelles recently challenged my thinking on this. 

At the June 13  joint World Bank Group-United Nations' High-Level Dialogue on Advancing Sustainable Development in SIDS (which precedes the September conference on SIDS), the presentation by Pierre Laporte, the Minister of Finance, Trade and Investment of Seychelles – who is also the chair of the Small States Forum – led to a lively discussion on various job-creation and growth models that the SIDS countries may want to pursue. 

The sentiment among SIDS leaders was that one-size-fits-all solutions will not do when it comes to jobs and growth.  Yes, they do want to continue to address the tough fiscal challenges they face, but they want to tackle them while creating job opportunities for their citizens. 

Decades of reforms have not helped SIDS grow at a rate similar to the rest of the world: On average, their pace of job creation is about half the global rate. The lack of opportunities felt by many generations resulted in a heavy “brain drain” that exceeds the level seen in other developing countries. 

It is becoming very clear that business as usual in SIDS will not do.  Creative solutions need to be found now.

The struggle for survival for Caribbean cleantech SMEs

Eleanor Ereira's picture

They had to do something different, something memorable, which would make people realize just how tough it is for small businesses in the Caribbean to survive, “So we held a funeral”. Rosalea Hamilton, the President of the Jamaica-based MSME Alliance explained that they staged a funeral to mourn for the death of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Jamaica. The objective was to draw attention to a petition presented to the Prime Minister on ways to support the sector. As the poster for the event underscored, if nothing changed to help Caribbean entrepreneurs, their ventures were as good as dead.Life isn't a beach for cleantech SMEs in the Caribbean, which face high energy costs, lack of financing and other challenges. (Credit: Clive Gutteridge, Flickr Creative Commons)

According to Rosalea, one of the top challenges facing businesses in Jamaica is the cripplingly high electricity costs, which can account for 25% of a business’s expenses. Jamaica, along with many other Caribbean countries, is highly dependent on foreign oil. This is in spite of numerous domestic natural resources that could be used to move away from fossil fuels, such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy, biofuels such as bagasse, and waste-to-energy systems. Given the high energy prices, start-ups developing alternative energy solutions should thrive in the Caribbean. But ask regional cleantech entrepreneurs, and a different story emerges.