The Caribbean is Energy Rich

The 2014 High Level Caribbean Forum was held last week in Jamaica. Organised by the IMF, this year’s forum focused on “Unlocking Economic Growth” in the Caribbean region. One of the take home messages was that the high cost of energy remains one of the most significant impediments to economic growth.

And yet, as stressed by President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Warren Smith the Caribbean is energy rich.

Dr. Warren Smith emphasised that the Caribbean is not energy poor and must now look to harness its potentials in alternative renewable energy. “The problem is tractable and it needs to be addressed and we need to move on it with a great sense of energy.” He added, “We might not have an abundance of fossil fuel all across our region but we have enough alternatives to be able to make a reasonable dent into the cost of our import bill”.

Certainly government can do a lot more to facilitate renewable energy markets across the region, though not all the barriers are legal and institutional in nature.

As the Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller stated in her speech, “One area, which has been pursued in the past without success, is to replace our ageing and inefficient power generating units with more modern efficient ones, using a cheaper alternative to oil.” She continued, “However, our efforts have been affected by the inability to secure alternative fuels at competitive prices” and the Prime Minister called for a new approach to securing project financing. Even large Caribbean states cannot go it alone.

Dr. Peter Phillips said there is more the CARICOM governments can do to support a regional strategy through a uniformed tax policy. As he stated, “It is also time that we in the Caribbean revisit the foundations of regional endeavours and arrangements.  It is time that we look at the current CARICOM taxation treaties and discuss the Common External Tariff.”

CARICOM states can do much to encourage an equitable regional approach which will clear the way for more capital investment in renewable energy.

Energy independence is a common goal for the Caribbean and vital for long-term economic sustainable growth.


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