With projections of slow economic recovery for the Caribbean, the Global Pandemic has exposed the societal and economic weaknesses of the Caribbean region. These sentiments were expressed at the 10th Annual Consultation with the Governors for countries comprising the Caribbean Country Department, and the President of the Caribbean Development Bank hosted by the Inter- American Development Bank (IDB). Recognizing the magnitude of support and guidance needed to sustain our Caribbean economies, the IDB has presented a “roadmap to recovery”, the Build Forward Initiative.
Established in 1959, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) serves as the Latin American and Caribbean region’s ideal lending institution for “long-term financing” to develop countries economically, socially, and institutionally. The IDB, therefore, acts as a financial and policy “mentor” to its members while aiding in economic and social research, policy advice, technical assistance and training to its’ public and private sector clients. Its members include countries namely The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. The IDB also provides technical and funding services to other Caribbean states such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) through a partnership with the Caribbean Development Bank.
On February 25th 2021, the IDB’s 10th Consultation was held to reveal the bold steps to be actioned to stimulate economic recovery and digital transformation for the region. Reports reveal that Caribbean Governors had gravely supported the Build Forward Initiative as it seeks to execute sustainable recovery of the region while also advancing technological and digital development. The Build Forward Initiative is therefore a $3.5 billion multi-year program that will provide concessional financing to resilient projects specifically in the areas of tourism, education, public-private partnerships and information and communication technologies. According to a News Release by the IDB, $1.5 billion in resources has also been pledged for “advisory services, project preparation, catalyzing private capital for investments in resilient infrastructure and nature and disaster-risk-based solutions” to address the Caribbean’s challenges intensified by Covid-19.
How does the IDB plan to Build Forward?
The 10th consultation revealed that a crucial action item to foster progress on the road to recovery is advancing the Caribbean’s digital agenda by initiating digital transformation. Resultantly, the IDB seeks to assist countries in developing their digital industry policies, promoting the digital transformation of education, reducing the digital divide to ensure sustainable development, and employing thorough research and assessments of the labour market. This focus on digital transformation is being pushed as the jobs of “tomorrow” are increasingly becoming the jobs in demand today.
Moreover, research reveals that many Caribbean countries are heavily dependent on the tourism sector which has been severed by the pandemic. According to the Governor of Jamaica, tourism accounts for at least 15% of the Caribbean’s labor pool predominantly employing our women and youth. It is therefore imperative for the focus to be centered on building resilience and assisting in the recovery and restoration of this sector as its vulnerability is threatened by health issues such as the Covid-19 virus and natural disasters. The IDB through the Build Forward Initiative, therefore, seeks to action green recovery efforts in the tourism sector. It has also been noted that public-private partnerships are essential to aid in post-Covid recovery efforts. The Build Forward Initiative, therefore, seeks to mobilise private capital and support the development of infrastructure resulting in upstream support for public-private partnership projects.
One can therefore conclude that the IDB is on a mission of smart reform to aid in establishing transformative actions and results on this road to recovery. With digital-based solutions, grant/ concessional loans backed by donors, expert policy advice, training, and advisory services, the IDB through the Build Forward Initiative seeks to initiate smooth recovery and build the resilience of the Caribbean.