Commentary: The View from Europe: Should it matter who pays for Caribbean development?

By David Jessop

By any measure, the Caribbean’s infrastructure requirements are substantial. If the region is to be able to increase its competitiveness and give citizens the quality of life they desire, its transformation has become a matter of urgency.

In 2014, Dr Warren Smith, the then new president of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), indicated that to achieve this, the region would need US$30 billion in the coming decade. It would need this, he said, if it was to be able to modernise its power, transportation, telecommunications, water and wastewater infrastructure. Since then it has become apparent that if the region is also to become resilient to climate change it will require an even greater resource.

Unfortunately, investment in infrastructure is now beyond the reach of almost all national capital budgets, requiring governments either to take on more debt, reach deals with external private sector entities, engage with governments outside the region, or to access the increasingly limited support offered by the international development agencies.

Notwithstanding, there are signs that in some capitals the source of funding for Caribbean infrastructure is becoming less about development and more about ideology; with pressure being placed on Caribbean governments to reject proposals from China and others, on the basis that such offers of long-term finance on soft terms are intended to create political influence, strategic advantage or even dependency.

The reality is that in every nation in the region is struggling to find alternative ways to finance the renewal, expansion, modernisation or construction of hard infrastructure for schools, hospitals, roads, ports, airports, telecommunications, power plants, utilities distributions systems, and universal high-speed internet. All also face domestic political pressure to upgrade and make sustainable soft infrastructure – the delivery of health care, education, and justice for example – in ways that better…

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