Americas

Caribbean leaders talk about challenges and healing financial woes at Americas conference

Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell (left) and St. Luica Prime Minister Allen Chastanet join a panel discussion at the Americas Conference Series: The Caribbean Dilemma at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell (left) and St. Luica Prime Minister Allen Chastanet join a panel discussion at the Americas Conference Series: The Caribbean Dilemma at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. pfarrell@miamiherald.com

Caribbean government and financial leaders met Thursday to discuss how to put their island economies on a path of steady growth, and counteract natural disasters and other shocks.

More than 100 people attended “The Caribbean Dilemma,” part of the Americas Conference Series organized by the Miami Herald Media Co. and presented by the World Bank at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

Jamaican businessman Michael Lee-Chin, known as the “Growth Czar,” said countries can't create growth when their best and brightest are emigrating. Over the past two decades, Jamaica has only averaged 0.2 percent growth. Lee-Chin, who also serves as chairman of Jamaica's Economic Growth Council, has established an ambitious goal of 5 percent growth in four years.

“Confidence,” he said, “is returning to Jamaica.”

Caribbean leaders also discussed the opening of Cuba. Last year, the island received more than 4 million international visitors, ranking it second only to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean region. Leaders said they did not view Cuba's growing strength in tourism as competition.

“Cuba opening up is a fantastic thing for the Caribbean because it only strengthens the brand of the Caribbean as a whole,” said St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.

Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell said his nation's tourism hasn't been hurt at this point by Cuba’s increase in visitors. In fact, his economy was experiencing an uptick and is less volatile than other nations in the Eastern Caribbean because of revamped fiscal policies.

But, he said, Caribbean governments have to do a better job at working together: The expansion of Cuba “has exposed the weakness of our integration effort as a whole.”

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