Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Timothy N.J. Antoine, issued a clarion call for “a strong decade of resilience and transformation – a big push!” during Thursday’s launch of the ECCB’s 40th Anniversary Celebrations held in the Sir Cecil Jacobs Auditorium at the Bank’s Headquarters.
Citing examples of what the results of this big push may look like, Governor Antoine touched on Wealth Creation; Food and Nutrition Security; Energy Security, and Digital Transformation.
Wealth Creation: “Over the next decade, we must strive to have at least 1 in 5 persons (20 percent) invested in both regional and international capital markets. And let me be clear: I am not speaking of crypto assets.”
Food and Nutrition Security: “Our Region imports about 80 percent of all the food we consume. Meantime, almost 8 in 10 deaths are from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). As a critical first step, let us meet the CARICOM target to reduce our food import bill by 25 percent by 2025.”
Energy Security: “About 90 percent of our energy needs are powered by fossil fuels, which means only about 10 percent are powered by renewables. As a consequence, we pay some of the highest electricity rates in the world and are vulnerable to the volatile oil market. Let us resolve to change that with, at least, a tripling of renewables over the next decade. I hope the example of our Central Bank will be of some inspiration.”
Long before the first day of October 2023, the date that the ECCB was established 40 years ago, its Headquarters will be carbon neutral. This is due to its solar canopy project started in 2019, which was recognised with the Central Banking 2022 Green Initiative Award.
Digital Transformation: “Estimates indicate that only about 60 percent of our people have broadband connectivity. The pandemic laid bare the gap between the connected and the unconnected. We must accelerate our work to build out a digital economy. That process starts with ensuring that high-speed broadband connectivity is accessible, affordable and reliable. It also necessitates the development of a wide range of digital skills to secure the new and emerging jobs.”
The ECCB Governor added: “The foregoing imperatives are critical even as our Central Bank, inter alia, discharges its mandates in respect of monetary stability, financial stability and payments modernisation as per the ECCB Agreement and our Strategic Plan.”
Governor Antoine continued: “Ultimately, our big push should aim to double per capita income in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) over the next decade.”
Today, per capita income in the USA is approximately US$60,000. In comparison, per capita income in the ECCU is approximately US$9,000 (EC$24,300) or 15 percent of US per capita income.
The Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank offered a sobering assessment of this income disparity, saying: “A 2.5 times increase of ECCU per capita income over 40 years and the lack of faster convergence of the ECCU to US living standards is a very disappointing outcome. This performance is reflective of the many exogenous shocks our Region has endured, as well as some policy choices. The key takeaway, then, is that we must revamp our development strategy to relentlessly pursue resilience and transformation.”
The ECCB Governor concluded: “As we set our sights on the fifth decade, let us press forward with an unbridled sense of imagination, determination and collective action. Let us be ambitious, bold and courageous…
“As a Region, we cannot change our history, we cannot change our geography but collectively we can elevate our development trajectory through innovation and collective action.”
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