A grim short-term outlook for the Caribbean — IDB's Turner-Jones


A grim short-term outlook for the Caribbean — IDB's Turner-Jones

Says growth is expected to be negative throughout the region

Business reporter

Friday, May 15, 2020

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As the world and by extension Caribbean economies reel from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is believed that special effort will have to be undertaken in order to combat the debilitating impacts and chart a path of positive recovery for the region.

Inter-American Development Bank's (IDB) resident representative for the Caribbean country department, Therese Turner- Jones, said that as the virus progresses it will take the region some time to get back on track in the post-virus era.

“My short-term outlook is grim because it's going to take some time for our main sources of income to recover. For the rest of this year we are really going to have to adjust our expectations of growth as it's going to be negative throughout this region,” she said while speaking in an interview with the Jamaica Observer recently.

She said that this negative growth could translate into some of the most adverse effects which will bring about higher levels of unemployment and social upheaval as people scramble for inadequate resources and essential services. The IDB representative for the region also described the entity's latest economic assessment findings on the impact of the pandemic on the region as being fairly conservative.

As tourism grounds to a halt and remittances declines, major sources of foreign exchange for the Caribbean becomes affected and countries are forced to contend with their plan of action for recovery.

“There is no easy way out of this but I think a lot can be done. Looking towards the long term, the new normal to prevail is that it will not be business as usual—a lot of things will have to adjust,” she told the Caribbean Business Report (CBR).

She said that with these largely dependent sectors now on a decline, there are several other industries of which the region can take advantage, noting the green economy as a potential bridge and an outlet for the future. The prospects for agriculture and renewable energy were cited as some of the drivers in such an economy.

“If people start to think about the green economy as a bridge out of this disaster then that's a positive thing as there is a lot of investment in renewable energy. Part of proofing Caribbean economies has a lot to do with climate change and trying to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters. Importantly, is also the issue of food security and agriculture, which is another bridge,” she added.

Turner-Jones further indicated that digital transformation will also be an important aspect of the recovery process, this, as she believes that it is through such a system as well as having good coordinating measures in place— that government will be able to deliver its services most effectively .“ A lot of what the government does in this region needs to move from paper to digital. It can't be that people have to go through five different outlets to get one thing done. It's not modern and it's not efficient.”

“Better positioned will be those countries that are on a path for integrating their economies more broadly with the global economy through digital transformation as well as having public sector systems that are more agile and can adjust quickly,” she told the CBR.

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