Caribbean policy reform threatened by lack of political will, implementation capacity

Dr. Wm. Warren Smith, President, Caribbean Development Bank, speaks at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Leadership and Transformation Forum, on September 18, 2017.


Absence of political will, combined with a lack of implementation capacity, is one of the biggest threats to Caribbean policy reform, says President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Wm. Warren Smith. He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Leadership and Transformation Forum: Delivering Results on September 18, 2017.

The two-day Forum, hosted by CDB, focused on improving implementation in the Caribbean, and finding new ways to deliver results in alignment with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

The lack of political will represents a major risk to successful implementation of growth-oriented reform programmes that can transform Caribbean economies.  The credibility of many of such programmes has often been undermined by a ‘start and stop’ approach to decision-making.   Decisions to delay or to abandon implementation are frequently influenced by political considerations related to, for example, impending general elections,” he said.

“In these turbulent times, the ability to drive through a reform programme necessitates securing buy-in and support from as wide a stakeholder base as possible, including the private sector and civil society,” Dr. Smith added.

The CDB President also emphasised the need for timely and efficient delivery of government services, noting that the implementation rate of public sector reform programmes across the Caribbean ranged between 20 to 75 percent in recent years, with most countries skewing towards the lower end.

The commonality of experience points generally to the need to strengthen the human and institutional capacity and improve efficiency and service delivery. This can be achieved through the training of public sector officials and the provision to governments of technical assistance, mainly in corporate governance, procurement and contract management,” said Dr. Smith.

Over 120 regional participants attended the Forum, including Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell; Senator the Hon. Darcy Boyce, Minister, Energy, Immigration, Telecommunication, Barbados; Hon. Winston Jordan, Minister of Finance, Guyana and Hon. Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Planning and Development, Trinidad and Tobago. Private sector leaders and stakeholders from regional organisations also attended. Participants learnt about implementation models that have been tested in countries such as Canada, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, including the concept of a Delivery Unit.

“Delivery units are small teams that track the progress of key priorities on a continual basis, promote accountability to stakeholders, and help solve problems when implementation bottlenecks arise. It is our hope that the outcome of your deliberations will provide a platform to advance and support a regional focus on delivering results,” said Monica La Bennett, Vice-President (Operations), CDB during her welcome remarks.

The Forum’s agenda included an examination of Grenada’s home-grown structural adjustment programme and Jamaica’s economic transformation programme. Dr. Justin Ram, Director of Economics, CDB, also delivered a presentation, Implementation: Delivering Results to Transform Caribbean Society, during which he outlined steps for designing and implementing Delivery Units in the Caribbean context.

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