The race for a new President for the Inter-American Development Bank is on and Trinidad and Tobago has fielded a candidate that it hopes will lead to greater diversity and inclusiveness in the regional body.
For decades the IDB has been the premier source of multilateral financing and expertise for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The election of a new IDB president, therefore, comes at a time when countries are grappling to manage the effects of climate change, limited fiscal space, escalating debt to GDP ratio, rising interest rates, fragile infrastructure and rising poverty says Planning Minister Pennelope Beckles, who serves as this country’s representative on the IDB’s Board of Governors as she endorsed T&T national, Gerard Stanley Johnson.
“For over 60 years, the IDB Group has been an instrumental source of multilateral financing for the region. This election comes at a time when we are grappling to manage with the effects of climate change, limited fiscal space, escalating debt to GDP, rising interest rates, fragile infrastructure and rising poverty.
“We need the bank’s support now more than at any time in history,” Beckles said in her nomination statement, adding that governors must continue the clarion call for diversity, equity, and inclusion in this institution.
And the strongest voice, she added, must always be for representation at all levels of the bank, noting that the election of a new president provides an opportune moment to constitute an executive that would reflect the diversity of Latin America and Caribbean.
Over the years the IDB has also been instrumental in assisting this country with its developmental agenda.
Total loan approval to date to T&T is US$520.50 million the IDB said in a response to the Business Guardian, noting it currently has loan operations in six sector areas.
These are urban development and housing, water and sanitisation, health, reform,modernisation of the State, social investment and trade.
“The IDB currently works in T&T within the 2021 to 2025 country strategy that aims to support the implementation of the country’s digital transformation agenda to achieve more sustainable and inclusive growth—the first pillar of the country’s medium-and long-term post-pandemic development plan. The new strategy focuses on one main area: digitalisation to support economic transformation,” it further explained.
To date IDB has completed 211 projects in this country.
And within the Caribbean Countries Department, the IDB works with six countries—Jamaica, Bahamas, Barbados, Suriname, Guyana and T&T to engage in development projects with the broad aim of improving lives within the region.
Former Minister of Public Utilities and executive director at the IDB Robert Le Hunte who also endorsed the nomination said the organisation estimates the region will need more than US$25 billion over the next seven years to meet its UN SDG goals.
As such, he said the IDB is a critical institution to the region as there is little it could do without access to financing.
According to Le Hunte entities at different times
in their development require various types of leadership.
“At this point in the history of the IDB, we need a leader who could hit the ground running, a leader who could facilitate transformational change. The reality is in complex organisations like the IDB to make meaningful change, you need to understand the running and rhythm of the organisation. Jerry, our candidate, has worked in the bank in the region and therefore he knows the good things about the bank And he knows the rhythm of the bank,” Le Hunte said.
Echoing similar sentiments as Beckles the executive director further endorsed that Johnson is also prepared to make the necessary changes and add new products and focus that the bank needs.
“The truth of the matter is that focus is needed immediately because the region and by extension the hemisphere is presently experiencing challenges that they have never felt before,” Le Hunte said, emphasising there’s a lot of developmental and infrastructural work which is required in the region.
According to Le Hunte, the speed of investment into the region therefore, needs to be increased.
And the incoming president would also have to focus on the wider region, Le Hunte said as he also noted external factors like the ongoing war in the Ukraine and rising inflation which are also impacting countries.
“All of these are external shocks that are happening to the region and there are going to be challenging times going forward. In addition, there’s the impact of climate change and the truth of the matter is a number of countries in the region are not contributors to the carbon emission issues but they are the major countries affected by climate change,” Le Hunte explained.
He said there’s a need for the IDB to take a “leadership position” on a number of these issues affecting the region, adding that Johnson will be the ideal candidate to advance some of those views.
Le Hunte stressed Johnson is not only a candidate for the Caribbean but also has vast expertise on matters affecting Central America and wider Latin America.
Additionally, Le Hunte insisted the private sector has a key role.
Le Hunte said because of the level of debt accumulated by many countries there’s a need for the development of the private sector.
Therefore, in the IDB there’s a private sector arm-IDB Invest which can play a greater part in enabling private sector companies with financial facilities and instrument, he added.
“A lot of governments of the region, their debt to GDP levels are very high so the private sector needs to play a greater role. And to play a greater role also, the IDB in their suite of products provides a lot of technical assistance, grant funding and loan funding,” Le Hunte added.
Gerard Stanley Johnson is an economist from T&T who has dedicated his professional career to advancing social and economic development in Latin American and the Caribbean.
During four decades he has lived and worked in some of the most challenging contexts, including the protection of the native inhabitants of the Amazon, the tumultuous institutional development of Haiti, public private projects in Guyana, the post-conflict reconstruction of Central America and the historic macroeconomic stabilisation programme in Jamaica.
With more than 30 years of experience at the IDB, Johnson offers an expansive knowledge and understanding of the bank and its mission.