World Bank President, Ajay Banga, has high praises for Jamaica’s current economic health, noting that “your country has managed your macro situation very well”.
“It is not the same for many developing countries, which took on a great deal of debt when interest rates were low, both international and domestic debt,” he noted.
“The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as part of the G-20 Common Framework, are trying to work through how to restructure some of those debts in a way that makes it more palatable and easier for these countries to work their way through,” he said.
Banga, who arrived in the island on Tuesday (June 13), was speaking to journalists during a tour of the Content Greenhouse Cluster in Williamsfield, Manchester on Wednesday (June 14).
The project involves the revitalisation of former bauxite lands for agriculture production.
Farmers are engaged in cultivating crops such as cucumber, sweet potato, cabbage, lettuce, hot pepper in greenhouses, supplying hotels, supermarkets and other markets.
It is being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment (JSIF) through its Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) and financed by the World Bank. It involves collaboration with the Windalco Kirkvine/Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) Joint Communities Council.
Banga hailed the project and the use of greenhouse technology in helping to build climate resilience.
This, he said, is key, particularly for developing countries, “as just one hurricane could damage your gross domestic product (GDP)… and change everything we see today within three hours”.
He praised the Government of Jamaica for being the pioneer in issuing “some very interesting” catastrophe bonds, which enables the country to get access to funding in the event of a terrible natural disaster.
Banga said other countries can learn from the example, noting that Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr. Nigel Clarke, “is willing to be a pioneer in pushing the idea further”.
The World Bank President assumed the position on June 2, and his historic trip marks the first time that the head of the world’s largest lending institution is visiting Jamaica.
Banga said the visit to the island this week is part of a six-month tour of countries to engage with the Bank’s clients, including farmers, who are beneficiaries of World Bank-funded projects.
He said he could learn more from a five-minute discussion with a farmer in Jamaica than he could from a 50-page report in his office, noting that his role is to “help them to do better for themselves”.
“That world requires food security; growing your food at the right quality, getting the right compensation for it, being able to earn a living out of it and changing the lives of your children and families is the first priority,” Banga noted.
The World Bank President further commended the use of former bauxite lands for farming, noting that “there is dignity, pride and outstanding achievement in taking an otherwise mined-out, ugly location and transforming it into a healthy, growing and vital part of society where fruit and vegetables are being grown”.
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Floyd Green, who accompanied Banga on the visit to the Content Greenhouse Cluster, hailed the farmers for their resilience.
“These farmers have gone through COVID-19 and are still here, still farming, still doing well, and these are the initiatives that touch and transform lives,” he said.
He noted the diversity of young and female farmers working collaboratively and transitioning from open field to protected farming where they can operate year-round.
The Minister said the challenge now is to find ways to replicate these projects in other communities and transform these areas through agriculture.
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