Welcome by the Hon. Pennelope Beckles,
Minister of Planning and Development and
Governor on the Board of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank.
Planning and Development Minister the Hon. Pennelope Beckles delivered welcome remarks at the Pre-Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Country Department of the Inter-American Development Bank:
Partnering for a Resilient Caribbean
March 6, 2023
- Fellow Governors and Representatives of the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Suriname
- Mr. Ilan Goldfajn, President of the Inter-American Development Bank
- Dr. Hyginus Leon, President of the Caribbean Development Bank
- Management and other Representatives of the IDB and CDB,
- All other specially invited guests;
- Representatives of the Media.
Good morning and wishes of continued joy, peace and success for 2023 and beyond to all of you, our esteemed guests. I am honoured to extend a warm Trinidad and Tobago welcome. Many of you may be disappointed that you have missed our recently concluded carnival celebrations, however, we have a cultural evening planned as part of this Meeting that will immerse you in some of the other aspects of our culture, cuisine and island charm.
I wish to congratulate the Inter-American Development Bank for your organization and diligence leading up to this, the Pre-Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Country Department of the IDB. I also wish to thank and commend the staff of the Ministry of Planning and Development for providing the professional support needed for this significant occasion.
At this juncture, I officially welcome and congratulate the new IDB President, Ilan Goldfajn, whose presence at this Meeting reflects his commitment to guarantee the IDB’s continued role as an important multilateral development partner for our Region. A quick glance at everyone present, inclusive of my fellow Governors on the Board of the Inter-American Development Bank, regional counterparts, delegates and guests, I believe that we are not far off from this year’s theme of ‘Partnering for a Resilient Caribbean’.
In taking note of President Goldfain’s words in his inaugural address to the Bank in January of this year, I reiterate his call to all of us as leaders to be united in our goals, resourceful in our resolve and committed to our sheer will and purpose to the people of the region. — And I quote —:
“We must be more effective at lifting people out of poverty, reducing all types of inequality, addressing climate change, accelerating productivity and growth, and creating economic opportunities for member countries.” End of quote.
To achieve this vision for our people, I would like to make the point that while we are grouped as Latin America and the Caribbean, we should be aware that there are specific variables occurring at all levels that cannot be ignored for our highly vulnerable Small Island Developing States.
What are these variables?
The Caribbean archipelago comprises a chain of precious pearls. These small Island and low-lying coastal states located at the heart of the Atlantic Ocean, are facing the real threat of sea level rise and coastal erosion.
According to a 2014 report from the IDB’s Office of Evaluation and Oversight, called LAC Small Island Development States, sea level rise has occurred at a rate of about two to four centimeters per decade over the past thirty-three years, a trend which presents a multiplicity of dangers to the region’s freshwater resources and to our largely coastal populations dependent on tourism and agriculture. While two to four centimeters may seem diminutive to some, any further sea level rise will be catastrophic for our islands. This affects the very notion of resilience and sustainable development which has brought us together today.
Sea level rise is a destructive physical force in itself, the vicarious effects are also equally threatening to the Caribbean. In Trinidad and Tobago alone, a study related to the Convention of Biological Services in 2017, indicated that the dollar value of shoreline protection provided by coastal ecosystems for Trinidad and Tobago falls in the range of US One hundred and thirty three dollars per hectare per year. Aside from protection services, coastal ecosystems also support recreation and tourism-based activities, valued at up to US Three hundred and ninety thousand four hundred and twenty eight dollars per hectare per year. Taking into consideration the multitude of natural assets in our region, the mere thought of losing these resources is both unimaginable and terrifying.
I make this point to emphasise that loss of land through coastal erosion and other issues related to sea level rise and climate change are not only an environmental ordeal, but possess catastrophic, far-reaching negative effects on our economic enhancement and survival.
Ladies and gentlemen, in terms of addressing the threat of climate change to the Caribbean, the cost of inaction is high.
Projections indicate that cumulative losses could total US Twenty two billion dollars annually by the year 2050, a figure representing in the area of ten per cent of the Caribbean’s economy.
Adding to this, in the wake of two intemperate years, the residue of the unprecedented fall-out from COVID-19 to economies across the Caribbean region still lingers. This was intensified by our huge dependence on external demand for resources, tourism, and finance.
This has not been assisted by the fact that a new series of jolts arose, just when we felt we were emerging from the pandemic in 2021-2022, challenging our economies’ fragile recoveries and resilience. We felt the impact of these shocks to our supply chains and demand conditions via rising inflation and tightening financial conditions, which were also negatively influenced by new global events compelled by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
We also have shared concerns of food security, water security, citizen safety, reliance on fossil fuels, the need to jump start penetration of alternative energy, electric vehicles and more, all of which are a common thread, binding us to commit to the need for unity and partnership to overcome such challenges.
The need to further develop resilience, which at its very essence, is this need to overcome, amplifies the call for deeper partnership among all of us present today, a call which reverberates more vigourously with each passing day .
A call which leads us to move from MOUs, to more M-O-DOs. This is the call to which we must hearken regarding the development of further resilient infrastructure to withstand natural disasters, climate change and the test of time. This is the call which reverberates and beckons for stronger financial systems to facilitate our goals for the region’s people.
It is a clarion call which brings all of the aforementioned factors and more to the forefront of everything we need to do as Government leaders, leaders in our fields of expertise and leaders in our communities.
Our purpose here is not for today alone.
Our purpose here is for a momentous shift, invigorating our passion for the development of our region’s human and natural resources that extends for generations to come.
Our unity as the Region’s leaders and the assurance of the Inter-American Development Bank and other development partners to be bonding elements in this partnership is a step in the right direction for action to safeguard a Resilient Caribbean. This is so that the Atlantic Ocean’s jewels continue to be resplendent, enduring beacons for our people and for similar regions and small island developing states across the world.
I reiterate the warmth and welcome to Trinidad and Tobago to all of you, as well as my wishes and the support of the Ministry of Planning and Development for a fruitful and successful meeting.