Infrastructure “gap” is real but currently the borrowing environment for projects is very attractive, among four of the key takeaways from Caribbean infrastructure webinar.
There is a big infrastructure gap in the Caribbean, a gap between what currently exists and what the region needs to remain competitive and to weather the climate storm. How do we narrow that gap? What are the priority sectors? And where do we find the funds for the updated infrastructure the Caribbean so urgently needs?
In a virtual discussion hosted earlier this week by CIBC FirstCaribbean, KPMG and New Energy Events, with the support of the Caribbean Development Bank, these questions were tabled and debated. Setting the stage for next month’s 7th Caribbean Infrastructure Forum (CARIF, September 18-19, Miami), these are the top four takeaways:
National Development Programmes that have shelf-life beyond political terms are critical
National plans which reflect broad consensus across the political, business and civil society spectrum are critical, not least so that the focus on investment in infrastructure lives from one government administration to the next.
According to the Caribbean Development Bank’s Therese Turner-Jones: “Twenty years ago, national development plans were en vogue and it seems as if they have fallen out of fashion. But now, given the state of infrastructure and the amount of what I would call decrepit public sector assets around the region, we really need to think in terms of a long-term plan to get things not only climate-proof but to bring it up to a modern standard,” she said.
Sam Story, Associate Partner at KPMG, concurred, citing critical infrastructure projects across the region which have languished and show little progress. “National development planning and a national development strategy is absolutely key to making sure that those vital long-term projects happen,” he said.
Banks are liquid and ready to lend; now is a good time for projects
Adam Carter, head of investment banking at CIBC FirstCaribbean, said that banks are liquid and where there’s liquidity banks are keen to put capital to work. He cited renewable energy and electric grid modernization projects as focal points for the bank, but also flagged food security, transportation networks and digital infrastructure as critical areas for growth and investment.
Carter cautioned that, “with long gestation investments such as infrastructure you tend to see negotiations change quite a number of times. I think that is something we need to think about carefully and how we fix that.”
Overall Carter asserted, however, that we see “a very attractive borrowing environment for projects”.
New sources of funding arriving in the region
Beyond the banking sector, “access to competitive funding is key”, asserted Luc Allary of AECON Concessions. And new sources of funding are arriving: sovereign wealth funds for example, but also “countries (e.g. China) coming in with their own funding at highly concessional rates. That space seems to be growing with more actors coming in. Interest in the Caribbean is strong and that has to be good.”
Private sector needs to step up to fund development; support of development banks remain essential
Heavily indebted regional governments can’t shoulder the burden of infrastructure alone. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are key to unlocking private capital and unleashing the private sector. In that mix, the multilateral development banks (MDBs) have a vital role to play. “The MDBs”, said Carter of FirstCaribbean, “have a plethora of know-how that could be of huge benefit to our resource-constrained governments. So why reinvent the wheel when you’ve got experience literally in our backyard?”
About New Energy Events
New Energy Events is a leading provider of conferences, news and trainings serving infrastructure investment, the energy transition and the development of green hydrogen markets across the Americas.
About the Caribbean Infrastructure Forum (CARIF)
The Caribbean Infrastructure Forum (CARIF) convenes regional and global leaders engaged in the planning, financing and construction of infrastructure and capital projects across the Caribbean.
CARIF 2023 will take place on September 18-19 at the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove in Miami. For more information, visit the event website at http://newenergyevents.com/carif/.
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