On November 5, Caribbean leaders and senior officials from sponsoring agencies gathered in Barbados to inaugurate the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Center (Cartac). The Center is designed to pool regional and donor expertise to help Caribbean Community (Caricom, see box), members and the Dominican Republic strengthen economic and fiscal management, improve financial sector supervision and regulation, and compile more timely and useful economic, financial, and social statistics.
The event drew distinguished regional and international participation, including Secretary General Edwin Carrington of Caricom and the Prime Ministers of Barbados, Owen Arthur; Grenada, Keith Mitchell; St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves; St. Kitts and Nevis, Denzil Douglas; and St. Lucia, Kenny D. Anthony. Also attending were IMF Managing Director Horst Köhler, who delivered the keynote address; Canadian International Development Agency Vice President Robert Anderson; Compton Bourne, President, Caribbean Development Bank; and Elena Martinez, Regional Director, United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Building capacity, sharing responsibility
In the inaugural address, Köhler emphasized that the IMF is now giving high priority to technical assistance designed to bolster a country’s capacity to develop and implement appropriate macroeconomic, fiscal, and monetary policies and to undertake administrative reforms.
Köhler also stressed that the IMF is particularly keen to see technical assistance take place in the context of “country ownership, prioritization, and an effective division of labor.” Cartac, he said, provides a good example of just how this can be done. He noted the “strong voice” that Caribbean governments will have, through their representation on the Center’s steering committee, in formulating its technical assistance plans—thus ensuring that these plans reflect national priorities and maximize local commitment to their implementation. There will be a strict prioritization of projects, he added, and steady attention to the core areas of public expenditure management—tax/customs policy and administration; financial sector regulation and supervision, onshore and offshore; and economic and financial statistics—where improvements are needed to ensure sound and sustainable growth. Cartac’s regional focus will allow for optimal use of the area’s expertise and ensure that technical assistance efforts stress coordination and avoid duplication and overlap.
Köhler also singled out Canada for particular mention, noting that it has made a valuable contribution in the design phase of the Center and was now generously contributing more than 50 percent of its funding.
The Caribbean Community, or Caricom, was created in 1973. Its member countries are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Turks and Caicos.
Up and running
Immediately preceding the inaugural ceremonies, Cartac’s steering committee met for the first time under the chairmanship of Marion Williams, Governor of Barbados Central Bank. It agreed on a governance structure for Cartac and on how to develop priorities over the coming months.
The center will provide technical assistance through a team of resident advisors, supplemented by short-term specialists. It will also feature a strong training component, offering in-country workshops, regional training courses, and hands-on professional attachments (internship programs for mid-level government officials).
Cartac is organized as a UNDP regional program with the IMF as executing agency. Within this frame-work, the UNDP provides administrative and logistical support; the IMF manages Cartac operations, provides its program coordinator (Nigel Bradshaw), and recruits and technically supervises its team of advisors to ensure quality control and an adherence to international standards and best practices.
Apart from Canada and the IMF, Cartac’s main contributors are the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The European Union has signaled its intention to provide financing starting in 2002, and the Caribbean Development Bank will be seconding a staff economist on a full-time basis. The participating countries contribute to the administrative costs of the center, and the host country, Barbados, furnishes office space and facilities.