The role of the private sector is particularly vital today amid strong signals by some Caribbean economies of returning to positive growth in 2015.

This view has been shared by Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) Pamela Coke-Hamilton, on the eve of a two-day international colloquium designed to facilitate dialogue between regional and international private sector leaders, politicians and academics.

Coke-Hamilton said the role of the private sector was even more critical today than previously given its importance in driving economic growth. “So to the extent to which the private sector continues to make the necessary investment and diversify their base of operations and engage in innovation, then the economies will continue to improve and increase growth,” the Executive Director continued.

Caribbean Export is organising a second conference, Caribbean Exporters Colloquium 2014, at the Hilton Barbados from November 11-12 to help provide a road map for regional economic recovery.

The primary objective is to bring together thought leaders on the issues affecting export development diversification, expansion and penetration of markets and importantly facilitate exchanges between the private and public sectors in the region and externally.

“There is no other forum of this nature, as far as I know, in the Caribbean currently and we believe it provides a critical space to examine these issues,” Coke-Hamilton remarked.

The conference will identify key areas in which the region has competitive edges in the exports of goods and services and potentially new opportunities with high growth, consider new approaches to funding the private sector and discuss the role of innovation and the question: imitate or innovate? One of eight companion panel discussions on trade performance is the global competitiveness of the private sector and notably the challenges and hurdles it faces in being competitive. Various studies have concluded that some of these challenges are high operating costs, high transportation costs and inadequacies in enabling structures and processes.

Branding and intellectual property rights concerns and solutions will be raised alongside shipping and transportation of goods and services.

One rationale for holding the conference has to do with the concern that export issues tend to be subsumed into overall economic issues and wider political debate. Coke-Hamilton suggested there is a failure to drill down to the key elements that either impact negatively or positively on the export potential of regional economies and design legislative, policy or other answers resulting in positive change.

In this regard the presence of politicians including Senator the Honourable Darcy Boyce, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of Barbados, is regarded to be significant given the likely follow up requirements of legislation, regulation and policy.

An area that is being addressed by some Governments is energy, given the growing reliance on oil imports, growing foreign exchange expenditures and the opportunities provided by declining costs for key inputs, such as solar Photo Voltaic panels. The topic of alternative energy and the transitioning of the Caribbean to energy efficient economies has been given a separate session given concerns raised by the International Monetary Fund, the Caribbean Development Bank and other agencies about high electricity rates and the negative impact they are having in undermining the competitiveness of regional economies.

The Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium is funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) and was first convened in 2013. This year some 200 key regional and international stakeholders will gather for what is pegged to be the signature event of the year for private sector and government interests.