We caught up with Caribbean Economist, Marla Dukharan about embracing technology and establishing the Caribbean as headquarters for innovation.
What is your relationship with the Caribbean?
I see exceptional talent, outsized creativity and our hardworking, resilient nature here in the Caribbean. Yet our economies are struggling, our populations are becoming more vulnerable and we never seem to truly break free from patterns of low growth, and that is what I have spent my career working to solve. I live in Barbados, but I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago, where I completed my studies in economics at the University of the West Indies. I am very passionate about solving the problems that are hindering our economic growth and sustainability in this region. I have often been heard calling the Cayman Islands “the best run economy in the Caribbean” because the Cayman Islands has embraced diversification and building fiscal resilience that we have not seen elsewhere in this region. And you can see the results as the Cayman Islands has generated consistent economic growth over a decade alongside fiscal surpluses. And in addition to this, the Cayman Islands embraces people from all over the world. So much talent from across the earth, are jammed together in these tiny islands in the Caribbean sea, and this melting pot of cultures and talents I think has also differentiated Cayman in a meaningful way. No other country in this region has achieved the level of socio-economic success we are seeing in Cayman and it is largely the result of the disposition of companies and of government to embrace new sectors, innovation, diversification- the same things we have been hearing about in this region for decades that help us build strong economies, attract investment and create meaningful employment.
Why are technological advances, such as digitising the economy, important?
Technology levels the playing field globally, and it allows us in the Caribbean to overcome many of the constraints, such as our small size and economic concentration. In the Caribbean, we can become headquarters for innovation, we can participate in and even create new industries, we can be on the cusp of what’s next in any industry of our choosing. There are many examples of this from around the world and if there is one thing in abundance in this region it is creative talent. None of that will happen if we do not fully embrace the technology that can make this possible. We have to eliminate frictions, make it easy to do business, and to transact among ourselves and with the rest of the world.
Any views you can share with us on industry developments?
The problems hindering our growth in this region have been largely identified, and I have had many wonderful opportunities to work on building the solutions. As a spokesperson for the Caribbean Settlement Network, for example, I have gotten a front seat into the advances that have been made in creating an intra-regional clearinghouse that would make it much easier for us to trade and transact with one another, without ever having to use the USD. This sort of technology solution can lower the cost of remittances, facilitate intra-regional travel and trade, and make it much easier and more efficient for companies to expand their businesses across the region.