UWI to establish Caribbean Competitiveness Centre

Competitiveness is of particular importance for the small developing states of our region if we are are to overcome the inherent limitations posed by size and take advantage of global trade. With this understanding The University of the West Indies views the establishment of a Caribbean Competitiveness Centre as a key to its role in the development of the region after the financial crisis. This Centre is set up with the help of a US$750,000 grant from The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

UWI Vice Chancellor, Professor E. Nigel Harris and Mr. Gerard S. Johnson, Manager Caribbean Country Department of the IDB Vice signed the agreement at Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort in Nassau Bahamas on October 1, 2010.

At the signing: From the left are Chairman of the Caribbean Competitiveness Center, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie; UWI Vice Chancellor Professor E. Nigel Harris; President of the IDB, Luis Alberto Moreno; and  to the extreme right Head of the Compete Caribbean Project of the IDB, Jose Jorge Saavedra.

An assessment of the competitiveness performance of the countries included in The Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 shows that except for Barbados that ranks (43) out of 133 countries, Caribbean countries rank relatively low, Trinidad and Tobago (84), Jamaica (95), Dominican Republic (101) and Guyana (110), and even though there are significant variations among CARIFORUM countries, all reflect persistent constraints in the business climate, market size, state of cluster development, and business sophistication.

For the region to benefit from free trade agreements like the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed with the European Union, it is imperative that our governments accelerate full intra-regional integration and market liberalization, while preparing for the challenges and opportunities resulting from external trade agreements as a block. To this end, Caribbean countries need to establish an inviting investment climate, and actively promote investment, innovation and entrepreneurship. To design and implement the required set of productive development policies, governments, regional institutions and private sector organizations need the specialized knowledge and technical capacity to develop more pertinent interventions to promote private sector development. It is here that we anticipate the Caribbean Competitiveness Centre at the University will play a significant role.

The Caribbean Competitiveness Centre will provide intellectual leadership on issues related to private sector development and competitiveness by increasing the institutional capacity to generate and share world-class and Caribbean-specific knowledge products on private sector development and competitiveness; and  upgrading the technical capacity of academics and public and private sector officials in cutting edge approaches to competitiveness, business climate reforms, clustering and SME development. The Centre will be established at UWI’s St. Augustine Campus, in Trinidad and Tobago and the Pro Vice Chancellor of Planning and Development, Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie will act as Chairman.

At the signing, UWI’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Nigel Harris stated “UWI is fully committed to strengthening research capabilities and training that will support private sector development and competitiveness in the region. The establishment of a Caribbean Competitiveness Centre will put UWI at the forefront of the debate on policies to promote private sector development. I am sure that the Centre will establish a network of academics, policymakers and business leaders to share their reflections and ideas on how to move the region forward.” He went on to thank the IDB and DFID for agreeing to partner with the University to establish the proposed Centre which he described as “a great vehicle to generate new ideas and policies to improve the region’s competitiveness.”

Jose Jorge Saavedra, IDB’s project team leader acknowledged UWI as the premier autonomous regional higher education institution serving the English-speaking Caribbean and reiterated that the institution is the ideal partner for such an initiative. He stressed that the establishment of the Centre creates a timely opportunity for the region’s academics, private sector executives and policy makers to be trained in the best practices being implemented across the world on issues of private sector development.

The establishment of the Caribbean Competitiveness Centre is closely related to a larger initiative called COMPETE CARIBBEAN, a multimillion dollar grant facility established by the Inter-American Development Bank, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to provide grant funding to support the development of productive development policies, business climate reforms, clustering initiatives and SME development activities within a comprehensive private sector development framework in the Caribbean.