Thursday, 26th September, 2013


It is my distinct pleasure this morning to welcome Mr. Rodinald Soomer, a Member of the Board of Directors of the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) who will Chair the proceedings today. I am also equally delighted to welcome our special invitees - a most accomplished group of persons. Among you I recognise regional academicians, economists, statisticians and senior public servants, who during the course of today, will review the draft report commissioned by the CDF on the Development of a Cohesion Index. To facilitate this review we also have with us Dr Lloyd Waller and his colleague Dr Abdullahi Abdulhadri from the Centre for Leadership and Governance (CLG), University of the West Indies, Mona, who undertook the study and prepared the Report you have at hand.


The basis for the study was to develop a discrete range of tools for economic analysis. These tools would allow the CDF to measure the gap between the MDCs and LDCs within the context of the operation of the CARICOM Single Market & Economy (CSME) and facilitate a more evidence-based approach to the development of CDF’s Country Assistance Programmes. Ultimately we would generate the relevant datasets to provide the basis for evaluating CDF interventions.

Whilst I cannot pretend to have any special competence in the intricacies of the proposed tools to arrive at that end point, I can say that the Board and we in management were very clear about the output we were looking for, namely to:
1. Develop a methodology for comparative economic performance in the CSME through the development of an index that goes beyond GDP per capita.
2. Utilise the New Economic Geography (NEG) model to explain and predict agglomeration in the CSME, through the examination of the interaction between endogenous and exogenous variables.
3. Develop an evidence-based framework to assess/evaluate the impact of CDF interventions.

In pursuit of those goals, the Consultant:
1. Conducted a desk review to determine the coverage and relevance of previous work on comparative economic analysis and NEG in the region.
2. Consulted with the CARICOM Secretariat Statistical Department to assess the indicators currently being measured and the extent of their availability.
3. Developed a methodology for comparing disparities using a defined set of socio-economic indicators.
4. Identified qualitative and quantitative data on the flow of natural, human and capital resources between the countries and regions.
5. Made recommendations on empirical criteria to identify countries, regions and sectors which should qualify for development assistance.
6. Presented a draft of models/methodologies for review at the Meeting of the Standing Committee of CARICOM Statisticians.


At the end of the process, a draft Report with development of a Cohesion Index was prepared. The Consultants’ report was subsequently well received by a meeting of representatives of Member States that undertook the initial review on February 28 of this year.


The meeting took special note of the short comings resulting from the paucity of up to date sectoral data and made recommendations for CDF to support data collection efforts particularly in the Eastern Caribbean where the problem is most acute. The participants, however, paid special attention to the soundness of the theoretical construct of the model.


Today, we are therefore co-joined by you-- technical experts-- because the initial Consultative Meeting recommended the CDF facilitate a further review of the document and model by national economists and other specialists to allow for further refinement, if necessary.


Our Board of Directors are fully aware that if we have an agreement on the conceptual model we will still face challenges with data. In the Report, the index was illustrated using data for 10 countries between 1995 and 1999 which was less than ideal because the statistics were dated and not all countries in CSME were included. However, that approach was the only way the model could be developed under the current situation of limited data. The ideal situation is to have data on most of the indicators, if not all, for Member States over a period of time that span pre-CSME and post-CSME years. If there is a meeting of minds it will be necessary to identify appropriate partners in addition to, of course, the CARICOM Statistics Programme to determine if the data can be mined, and depending on that assessment, support a process for in-country collection of primary data.


Ladies and gentlemen, it is not my intention to encroach on the already limited time we can spend on the matter at hand. Therefore, it would simply be left to me to record my appreciation to you for taking time out of your busy schedules to be with us today. In doing so, it is my hope that you will be forthright and constructive in your comments. There is no pride of authorship here, because the whole purpose of this review is to determine if we are on the right track and if so what adjustments may be needed.


Thanks again.