Saint Lucia
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C.D.B. President says: GDP No Longer A Reliable Yardstick for Measuring Development!

President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon
President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon

President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon is calling on member-states to agree that measurement of development by the traditional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) yardstick is out-of-date and insufficient for today — and continuing to grow economies to qualify by GDP will be just as insufficient.

The president yesterday invited Governors of CDB member-states attending the 53rd CDB Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Saint Lucia to “Let’s agree” that the new methods need to be considered and adopted at national and regional levels, if the region is to recover at the rate needed to overcome the lasting challenges of current global financial and economic realities.

Dr Leon delivered his second CDB AGM address since taking office at the region’s development bank in 2021 at the Sandals Grande Saint Lucian Beach Resort and Spa yesterday morning, continuing to offer prescriptions for evolving changes affecting and facing the bank’s borrowing member-states.

Following-up on his previous messages in 2021 and 2022 — of the bank needing to reinvent its approaches to problem-solving in these new times — he said much more needs to be done, more quickly, to enhance the region’s ability to adapt to new realities by changing from old strategies.

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Describing the four-year challenges from the discovery of COVID in 2019 as that from “a once-in-100-years” event that “disrupted” regional economies with “erosive shocks” that slowed-down progress towards achievement of the United Nations Special Development Goals (SDGs), he also said it resulted in increasing poverty, lower earnings, increasing costs of food and energy, plus exposure to international cross-border risks” that can overcome the region’s economic vulnerabilities and worsen already burdensome crises.

President Leon said the “new difficulties increase the region’s development challenges” and offered Power-point-assisted illustrated elements of Essential Components of a Regional Economic Response and identified several areas where the bank had scored successes, in Climate Change Initiatives, an Adaptation Plan, New Partnerships, Interventions and increases in Loans and Grants.

He said that the bank was “also cognizant that headwinds remain” like more hurricanes and new financial strictures, but “we will remain steadfast to close the gaps to help achieve SDG’s and rebuild internal resilience capacity.”

He offered a Trilogy of solutions that conclude that “social development is too important to be exclusive” and thus should be a shared goal of developed and developing nations through “financial partnerships” for new initiatives like Green Energy that go beyond national and regional boundaries and both compliment and complement the likes of new partnerships between Private and Public Sectors.

President Leon also recommended that “We can use technology to bridge skills gaps and create new skills sets for youth and stop or slow-down the migration rate of regional skills.

He said new approaches will require “creating new policies and instruments for change based on human needs and not only on GDP…”

He also urged delegates to “Let’s agree that we need a new suite” of investments and resource allocations to make the region better for the common good of all.

President Leon noted that “use of GDP as a proxy for development is insufficient… and continuing to build on that basis “will also be insufficient…”

He urged instead, more use of related human development indexes “that aid in social development and achievement of SDGs.”

The President said the bank supports the Bridgetown Initiative 2.0, while advocating more also be done to “create the architecture to assess Loss and Damage” from Climate Change, as agreed to at the Climate Change summit at Sharm al Shaik in Egypt (COP 27) in 2022.

He said the CDB, as the region’s development bank, “will relentlessly pursue the policies outlined with continued responsiveness…”

The CDB president concluded saying “The fate of the region and the bank is also ours” and urged governors and member-states to work together to address common challenges, “lest we are forced to answer in the future for not doing what we can do now and together!”

The opening session was held under the broad theme of Marshalling Resources for Sustainable regional development and Access to Affordable Financing and chaired by Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre as Chair of the CDB’s Board of Governors.

In his welcome address, PM Pierre offered an update on the positive achievements of the Ministry of the Youth Economy and his administration’s creation of the Youth Economy Agency (YEA) that’s awarded over 180 grants in two months and worth $5,000 each, that are already seeing young entrepreneurs create innovative mechanism to trade and engage in other strategic alliances between themselves.

The Saint Lucia PM said the challenges facing the region’s governments, economies and people “are numerous but not beyond our imagination…”

He also complimented the CDB for “its continuing resolve to address the region’s developmental needs” and called on member-states “to continue to strive” to overcome national debts.

However, he said, the CDB and all delegates need to always remember that “There can be no economies without people, because in the final analysis, it’s the people who we serve!”

The meeting’s opening ceremony was also addressed by representatives of borrowing, non-borrowing and non-regional member-states and Guyana’s Central Bank governor.