Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon, president of the Caribbean Development Bank, CDB, warned on Monday that it “cannot be business as usual”, while urging a new global trade deal that would allow small island developing states or SIDS to achieve their potential.
“International discourse has underscored the significance of global trade, in particular trade liberalisation for growth and economic development … at this juncture, it cannot be business as usual,” Leon told an UNCTAD Expert Meeting on Revisiting Development Strategies for Small Island Developing States in the Post-Pandemic Competitive Landscape.
“We need a new deal in international trade if small island developing states and other developing countries are to achieve prosperity and sustainability,” he said.
The meeting is seeking to respond to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s renewed mandate to assist SIDS by addressing their specific vulnerabilities, building resilience and promoting structural economic transformation and productive capacities.
The CDB president joined global leaders in trade and development in identifying many disadvantageous attributes now compounded by climate change which were conspiring to relegate the Barbados-based bank’s 19 borrowing member countries or BMCs to an existence which could only be characterised as unattained potential.
“A new deal in international trade can propel the growth and development of SIDS. CDB is ready and willing to partner with other multilateral development banks, international organisations, governments, and the private sector, on the necessary reforms to reconfigure existing trade frameworks,” Leon said. “What SIDS justly require is the levelling of the playing field to allow all participants a fair chance at victory.”
He told the event that global leaders are now faced with a unique opportunity to reimagine development for this grouping by creating a resilient ecosystem spanning social, financial, environmental, institutional, and productive capacity dimensions.
This can be achieved only by integrating frameworks of debt sustainability, quality investment-growth nexus, and resilience building in a manner that ensures internal system coherence at any time but temporal consistency over time, he added.
The CDB president said that developing states are ready to help themselves; however, the international community can assist by counteracting existing limitations to trade and the countries’ ability to exploit its benefits.
This can be accomplished through reinforced partnerships with development banks to increase financing, deliberate attempts to industrialise knowledge and reshape private sector partnerships and increasing overall connectivity, Leon told the meeting, adding that such initiatives could establish alternatives that relocate SIDS from the peripheral positioning that has constrained their economic advancement for centuries.