Tahseen Sayed, Country Director, World Bank Caribbean.
The Day After: Rethinking the future of the Caribbean
The Caribbean has largely been able to contain the spread of COVID-19 thanks to early action by policymakers. But the economic consequences are severe, given the standstill in tourism and remittances. GDP is anticipated to contract between 5-9%, with job losses estimated at over a quarter of the labor force. During these challenging times, let us pause and rethink the future opportunities for economic diversification in the Caribbean.
The pause in tourism is an opportunity to strengthen the sector, leveraging the Caribbean’s unique characteristics, especially its vast ocean resources. The Blue Economy can boost tourism and create jobs and economic growth through sectors like fisheries, aquaculture, and renewable energy. Fisheries already generate 4% of jobs, but there is great potential for more. Many Caribbean countries have taken important steps to protect the pristine blue oceans and banned single-use plastic – more can be done to strengthen regulatory frameworks for the marine environment.
Digital technology is a great niche area for the Caribbean and can bring transformational change. Today’s COVID-19 world has starkly demonstrated the unparalleled contribution of technology in keeping individuals, families, countries, businesses and the world connected. Moving to a digital Caribbean means making citizen-centric public services accessible, enabling a reliable e-payment system, and fostering entrepreneurship. The Caribbean can leapfrog with its educated English-speaking population and benefit from proximity to North American markets. Moreover, it can build a home-grown digital services industry that serves the broader region.
Finally, reimagining the future of the Caribbean is not possible without its people. The region is rich in human resources, with a vibrant and entrepreneurial youth population eager to innovate. This is the biggest resource for the Caribbean to #RethinktheFuture in its march towards inclusion and resilience.