CIBC pledges commitment to Caribbean infrastructure

Almost one-third of CIBC First Caribbean’s $1.8bn in financing for regional infrastructure projects over the past three years has gone to energy utilities in The Bahamas and elsewhere.

Colette Delaney, the bank’s chief executive, said utilities in Aruba, Curacao and Jamaica had also received funding as she yesterday delivered remarks at the opening of CARIF 2018 – the third Caribbean Infrastructure Forum - at Baha Mar.

“We believe that as a leading regional bank we have an important role to play in this sector. Each of the projects we funded was created in response to some specific opportunity or need that existed somewhere in our region,” Ms Delaney said.

The decision to co-sponsor the conference with KPMG is intended to underline CIBC FirstCaribbean’s ongoing commitment to the region. Ms Delaney said the two-day conference focuses on some of the major challenges and opportunities confronting the region in terms of infrastructure planning and development.

“These include climate change with its consequent rise in sea level and all that this portends for a region whose key earner is white sandy beaches; stronger storms in areas where building codes are weak or non-existent; rising landfills and shrinking land space as islands struggle to cope with solid waste disposal,” she said. “These are some of the real challenges facing this region, which the right partnerships can turn into opportunities.

“Last year’s devastating hurricanes taught us some critically important lessons. Chief among them was the very vulnerable nature of key infrastructure in the Caribbean. We all saw how storms can paralyse entire island-nations, many of which have one or two major highways, a single air and seaport, a single power plant and key government and private sector buildings clustered in one location.

Ms Delaney said Hurricanes Irma and Maria had a direct impact on CIBC FirstCaribbean operations in five territories – Anguilla, Antigua, British Virgin Islands, Dominica and St Maarten.

She added that if the Caribbean is to continue to grow and maximise its potential then “regional bankers and builders, politicians and policymakers must ensure that future projects – roads, bridges, ports, office buildings and hotels - are not only constructed to withstand the super storms of the future but are also situated in locations that give due consideration to storm surges, overflowing rivers and landslides”.

“In addition, we must also ensure that insurance coverage to mitigate these risks is adequately implemented, regulated and maintained,” the CIBC chief continued.

She added that even though the Caribbean is blessed with an almost infinite supply of sun, wind, water and thermal energy, they remain largely untapped resources. Creative private-public partnerships (PPPs) for the development and diversification of the energy sector are needed for a more balanced use of green energy along with that derived from traditional fossil fuels.

“It is clear,” Ms Delaney said, “that both public and private investment in physical capital is crucial to driving Caribbean economic development and, consequently, the creation of wealth for its citizens.

“As an example, a quick look at a sample of 128 developed and developing countries suggests that the quality of a country’s seaport infrastructure and shipping logistics, coupled with widespread access to both telecommunications and electricity, are all highly correlated with a country’s GDP per capita and thus its overall level of development.

“Conversely, a lack of investment in critical infrastructure and essential services in a well-planned and executed manner can cripple a country’s economic growth and stifle business development opportunities and foreign direct investment.”