NASSAU – The role of the private sector, the need for clean energy and the threat of climate change were the leading topics during a day of conferences Friday at the Inter-American Development Bank’s annual assembly in the Bahamian capital.
James Scriven, manager of the IDB’s private-sector arm, the Inter-American Investment Corporation, noted how important it is to have business backing when it comes to meeting the region’s “enormous” challenges in matters of urbanization, energy and climate change.
By 2050, Scriven said, 90 percent of the population in the region will live in cities, while by 2030 the demand for energy will have doubled.
Fabrizio Opertti, the IDB’s head of Trade and Investment, told EFE that the role of the bank is to establish a “mechanism for hemispheric dialogue” between the private and public sectors.
IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno spoke about the economic slowdown in Latin America, largely brought about by the severe contraction of the No. 1 economy of the region, Brazil.
Faced with the complex global panorama due to the downturn of the Chinese economy and the drop in commodity prices, Moreno said that “the region should look inwards,” a reference to the scant internal trade in the Latin American region, whose current proportion is only 22 percent of the total.
“In general, the answer is to increase productivity,” Moreno said.
One of the keys could be making progress in the energy sector, for which Latin America should go all-out to develop renewable energy.
In the case of the Caribbean, this renewal is particularly urgent since the region faces the world’s highest energy costs.
The goal is to reduce the energy bill by some 30 percent in the Caribbean by 2030, with an approach that combines greater efficiency, renewable energy development and the promotion of natural gas as a substitute for petroleum.
Though it was not on the agenda, participants could not refrain from commenting on the Panama Papers controversy.
This massive leak of documents from the Panamanian law office of Mossack Fonseca has revealed that a number of Caribbean countries, including the Bahamas, have been used by individuals and firms around the world to set up shell companies with hidden assets to lessen tax liabilities.
Moreno noted the impact that these revelations can have on certain Caribbean economies, where financial services make up an important part of their economic activity.