The Convergence Between People, Planet, Purpose And Prosperity

Gregory Hill – Vice President, Finance & Corporate Services, Caribbean Development Bank

By AMCHAM T&T Staff Writer


“T he next ten years will bring more change than the previous one hundred years,” said Gregory Hill, Vice President, Finance & Corporate Services, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), at AMCHAM T&T’s Annual Economic Outlook Forum on January 17th, 2024.

In his feature address, Hill said that we were already seeing the start of dynamic changes such as renewable energy, quantum computing, nuclear fusion, open AI architecture, Chat GPT, machines behaving like humans, the healthcare revolution, how people work/communicate, and geopolitics. However, he warned that the next ten years would be a complete reboot.

Hill said that right now, the world was in what is called the ‘5th Industrial Revolution’, which was all about deepening the integration between people, technology and the environment. Compared to previous periods of technological expansion, he said, this era prioritised ensuring that productive gains were balanced with care for people and the environment.
“I see the potential for the CDB boosting T&T’s economy, based on providing the necessary policy support for pivoting, strengthening the knowledge culture, and investing – together with our global partners – for Trinidad and Tobago’s future well-being,” Hill said.

Hill cited that investments in methanol fuel would help to drive the transition away from fossil fuel.  Recent supply shocks presented an opportunity to utilise T&T’s geographic position for shipping and trans-shipment growth. He also saw rapid expansion of digital payments offering opportunities for the country’s micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, which account for a significant portion of GDP and employment, and the changing global marketplace allowing T&T to pivot towards a more sustainable Trinidad and Tobago.

Hill acknowledged that we must address a few challenges from structural deficiencies, timely response to economic disturbances, and the hurdles of global inequalities that hinder competitiveness and diversification. “Rising costs, food and energy insecurity and natural hazards necessitate proactive measures to reduce vulnerabilities and increase resilience in Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the CDB’s borrowing member countries.”

Hill said there was no hiding the dependence of the country’s economy on the energy sector and there was also no shying away from the fact that T&T needed to think beyond energy to already productive areas such as services, manufacturing and renewable energy generation.

He said that the launch of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate on January 10th added to the manufacturing capabilities of the country and would help to further expand the 53% growth in exports witnessed between 2021 and 2022.

He also welcomed the new regional ferry service between Guyana, T&T and Barbados, which allowed for a nexus where the current and future growth strategies of T&T intersected with the dynamic shifts taking place in the global economy. Within this context, the CDB could support the transition.

Hill added that the CDB recognised the need to strengthen the regional financial ecosystem through resource mobilisation from external funding sources, and from within the region. “For the CDB to increase its average US$400 million per annum investments, and for the development ecosystem to crowd in financing to meet the estimated US$100 billion regional development envelope (in 10 years’ time), there needs to be a multi-source, multi-instrument approach under a regional coalition for development.”

Here the private sector could play an instrumental role in increasing the equity available for development, especially by channelling liquidity through transformational projects. “This partnership or, what we could call, a 'coalition for development', represents a pivot towards a modern, people-centred, and environmentally conscious state,” Hill said. “Who better to drive it than all of you, captains of industry, bankers, and corporate leaders in this room?”

Hill advised the success of this call-to-action resided in four transformative actions: 
1.  Digital transformation; 
2. Carbon decoupling; 
3. Renewable energy; and 
4.  Mobilisation of private sector capital.

“We have this tremendous opportunity to be part of a whole new economy that is digital and founded on sustainable development principles,” Hill said. “The CDB has invested significantly in preparing for these paradigm shifts, by ensuring the readiness and capability of borrowing member countries to participate in the 5th Industrial Revolution. We are ready to engage in a region-wide programme to support the adoption of modern technologies.”

Hill said there would be both a ripple effect and a lot of opportunities for our region as America is now shifting to a ‘green economy’ that required a multi-trillion dollar investment. “In the Caribbean, our future will be redefined in the new context of what will happen in the world in a very short time, and how we can participate in it,” Hill said. “The biggest change in the region – especially in T&T – will be the primary shift from the fossil fuel economy to the green economy, and from economy to planet.”

Hill said the growth of the country must be separated from the lifecycle of oil. “It means decoupling the GDP from carbon. In 10-15-20 years that dependency could hamstring T&T,” Hill warns. “The country must tap into the other resources, and educate people to be part of mobilising those resources. For example, we're going to see 100 million new jobs in the green economy in the next 20 years based on US forecasts. So, there IS opportunity.”

As the world works toward meeting the Paris Agreement global warming limit and increasing climate adaptation ambition, carbon pricing mechanisms and the focus on carbon sequestration are vital for countries like Trinidad and Tobago, which may face penalties based on emissions per capita. 

Hill said Middle Eastern countries were well on their way to choosing not one path, but many new paths. “The UAE is transitioning and changing its economy rapidly. They are pivoting into education, innovation, and fintech. Ex-oil and gas staff are now getting skilled in digitisation and green energy, battery storage, energy transmission, and the like.”

Citing a CDB ground-breaking study on blue carbon accounting, Hill said there was  potential of marine and coastal ecosystems to integrate within National Accounting frameworks, and potentially help our economies to engage in the international carbon market.

“CDB is ready to support Trinidad and Tobago’s part of this trillion-dollar educational and innovation transformation, right here, right now, so that T&T has a Future Fit Economy, designed to deal with long-term issues like climate change and the technology revolution.”

Hill said Trinidad and Tobago had to decide what part of the multi-trillion USD sustainable economy it wanted for itself. “Who will take the really big steps? Is it the private sector? Is it private equity capital? Is it sovereign funds stepping in? Is it development agencies like CDB? Are there joint ventures to be made? Who are the architects of the transition?”

“I would say that it’s all of us, building the ladders to connect, and to reach the next level. This is a true ‘Coalition for Development,” Hill said. “A good future for the country, is one that harnesses the thought leadership from each and every one of you here today, to navigate the economic transformation which is just within reach.”