Barbados PM says Caribbean is open to business
Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel Stuart (File photo)

MALTA (CMC) – Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel Stuart has urged members of the Commonwealth to invest in Caribbean Community (Caricom) member states.

Stuart, in an address on Thursday at a Commonwealth Business Forum under way in Malta, said the region offers a wide array of investment opportunities including agriculture, fishing and services.

“The growth potential for these sectors, though somewhat diminished in accord with their current life cycle, can be resuscitated through innovation and product diversification.

“Then there are the new and emerging opportunities in respect of agriculture and agribusiness, tourism (health and wellness), renewable energy and business/ICT-related services, and cultural industries. Indeed, renewable energy investments will boost both productivity and competitiveness of Caricom businesses and are a major priority for Caricom states."

Stuart, who is also the chairman of Caricom, said member states have agreed targets for the introduction of renewable energy sources, explaining that they had committed to 20 per cent, 28 per cent, and 47 per cent by the years 2017, 2022, and 2027, respectively.

“We are working assiduously with our development partners towards that achievement.”

Describing the Caribbean as one of the regions of the world with the greatest potential for renewable energy, in particular solar energy, Stuart said Barbados already has one of the world's highest penetration levels for solar water heaters. He pointed out that in excess of 30 per cent of houses were equipped with these energy-saving, carbon neutral devices.

He added that public-private partnerships in the Caribbean were also encouraged.

“Caricom states remain extremely optimistic about their capacity to attract growth-inducing investments to drive the sustainable development process, but remain mindful that exogenous events can considerably derail economic expansion. Recent experience highlights this vulnerability and underscores the importance of building economic resilience to withstand external shocks.”

He added that just prior to 2008, and the onset of the global financial and economic crisis, there was a surge of interest in locating investments in certain CARICOM states.

He disclosed that this interest was focused on hotels, condominiums, real estate development and golf courses, as well as other service sector opportunities, including areas ranging from private health care, the establishment of specialist financial services to port development and sea transport.

Stuart said this interest represented a welcomed shift from traditional approaches and the usual government to government relationships.

“Caricom states are aiming to rekindle this interest and are ready to lift the image of the region's business operating environment,” he stressed. He urged interested investors to join Caribbean governments in developing the region further, and broadening and diversifying economic opportunities for investment for their benefit, as well as the people of the region.

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