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Wednesday, May 10, 2006 

Blair praises Caribbean for right economic strategy
Published on: 5/10/06.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair thinks Caribbean economies have adopted the right strategy in the face of tough challenges like disappearing special trade terms and high indebtedness.

"I am not going to pretend that there are not real challenges ahead for the Caribbean, such as the consequences of changes to the sugar protocol . . . and the need to make hard choices to tackle the debt overhang," Blair said in a telecast to the sixth Euromoney/Latin Finance Caribbean Investment Forum at Sherbourne Conference Centre yesterday.

Debt overhang is a situation where the debt stock of a country exceeds the nation's future capacity to repay it.

"By adopting a regional approach with the common vision of a modern economy based on services, I think the Caribbean has the right strategy for these new circumstances," he said.

Blair, who had a meeting late last year with Caribbean leaders, told the more than 300 bankers, investors and other business persons he was sorry he could not attend the forum.

The leaders talked about the erosion of trade preferences and the of changes in the global economy on small island economies, he recalled.

But he noted that along with the economic challenges, there were "great opportunities in the region".

"To take full advantage of these new opportunities, economies need to be flexible and ready to change – and that goes for the Caribbean as much as for Europe."

He also touched on the Cricket World Cup planned for the Caribbean next year.

"This should be a superb shop window for future investors in the Caribbean. But we are all keen to see the Caribbean attracting significant new investment as its economies adjust," Blair said.

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