Archive for February 2015

How Sustainable Tourism in Jamaica Opened Doors for Youth


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by Stefan Wright

If you had told me two years ago that my tourism project would lead me to be part of a team filming a video in a music studio, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that is precisely what happened, together with Jamoi, one of several young Jamaican men who had turned his life around with this project – a project which combined sustainable tourism in Jamaica and at-risk youth.

> Read more

Haitian Dollars: Myth or Reality?


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by Guest blogger, Hilaire Notewo-Petsoh

Mackandal_coin_haitiPhoto of Haitian coin 20 gourdes, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, User The Deceiver  

When you have friends, and you travel all the time, the least you can do for them, beyond photographs and Facebook status updates, is bring back some tangible souvenirs from your trip.  Lately, I have been traveling a lot to Haiti; and every time I land in that beautiful country, I always like to shop.  The diversity and the beauty of the artistry displayed along the streets and other commercial avenues is compelling. Even though I don’t go to local markets, mostly because policies at work discourage it, I always try to find a way to interact with local business owners; I enjoy engaging with small business retailers, to learn more about how they do business, and sometimes to test their negotiations skills. > Read more

The MIF in Jamaica: Small businesses, small country, small projects… large impact


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by Winsome Leslie

picture 2

Three years ago, I and my MIF colleagues who focus on Jamaica made a deliberate decision to target  access to finance for Jamaican SMEs–a critical area of need in the country, and one in which we could make a difference. Today, the MIF portfolio in Jamaica includes a group of mutually reinforcing projects that offer support to small and medium firms through a range of models. I recently attended the 2015 Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Conference in Kingston, which got me reflecting on the progress we’ve made with this targeted approach.

Commercial Banking: We launched two projects with commercial banks.  In the first, we partnered with National Commercial Bank (NCB) to develop and deploy a new credit scoring system, and train SMEs to make them more “bankable.” NCB also put aside a pool of loan funds to be accessed by project beneficiaries; and this past month, as a result of the project, the bank launched Capital Quest, the Jamaican equivalent of the U.S. TV show Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs compete for investment from a panel of financiers.

The second project, with Scotiabank, is the first project in the Caribbean under our women entrepreneurship Banking (weB) program, and helps SMEs to improve their risk profile and creditworthiness through an enterprise risk management tool developed in an earlier MIF-funded pilot.  This tool will be incorporated into Scotia’s own credit appraisal process to serve the credit needs of both male and female-headed companies. > Read more

Can measuring the impact of economic development come down to centimeters?


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by Guest blogger, Pierre Kenol Thys

09121HA_0012Photo by IDB, Jose Ramon Gomez

Haiti’s hydroelectric plant, built in Péligre forty years ago, has reached the end of its life cycle.  With a generating capacity of 54 MW, Péligre is the largest power plant in the country and the biggest civil engineering work that the country has known, save the construction of the Citadelle Laferrière.  The driving force behind the plant is a barrage in the Artibonite River built in the early 1950s.  Currently, the plant is experiencing a long-overdue rehabilitation funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, the German Development Bank and OPEC Funds for International development.  Thus far, $74 million have been committed but given the scope of work, project management is seeking an additional 50% in financing.

The plant is dependent on three Francis water turbines, each with a capacity of 18 MW, and each needing to be retrofitted with new parts.  The French company, Alstom, was chosen to construct the three new stators, a major and much needed component for the turbines.  The first stator was shipped to Haiti for installation in the spring of 2013.  After months of negotiating with Haitian authorities, we finally received a green light to transport the stator from the port to the plant.  The stator would begin the six-hour journey on August 27. > Read more

How can we help “unattached” youth transition into the work force?


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by Claudia Uribe

youth photo Photo by Ministry of Youth and Culture

In Latin America and the Caribbean, about one in every five youth between the ages of  15-24 is neither in school nor in the workforce. This amounts to roughly 25 million young people whose situation is affecting not only their present and future earnings, motivation and self-esteem, but also their society’s economic outlook and well-being!

Are these “unattached” youth a “lost generation” as some are claiming? I refuse to think so. I believe that it is within our governments’ and our own power and responsibility to provide young people with the skills and opportunities to lead productive lives. While evidence shows that there are admittedly many challenges for helping youth in an effective manner, it also shows that programs that are strong in developing work and life skills through internships and training, that give importance to self-development and self-esteem, and that have a good mentoring component are best positioned to do so. > Read more

Growing Maritime trade in the Caribbean


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by Elizabeth Rodezno & inputs from Krista Lucenti

docked container ship

Miami, Florida – In an effort to re-invigorate maritime trade across the Caribbean, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) hosted a gathering of regional maritime officials for a round-table dialogue, as part of its Caribbean Strategic Agenda on Integration. The intent was to assess the results of its Caribbean projects, the critical lessons learned, and best practices from other regions. The comes as a follow-up to the April 2014 Association of Caribbean States meeting in Merida, Mexico, during which heads of state committed to further develop the areas of maritime transport, port connectivity, and trade facilitation in the Caribbean.

Officials gathered at the Miami Hyatt Regency on December 8 to constructively weigh in on transport and trade agendas, with a view to identifying opportunities for collaboration and engagement between countries, and between the Bank and countries. The dialogue further cemented the initiatives set forth in the “Merida Declaration”, specifically the support of port logistics and infrastructure, assessing the feasibility of developing a short sea shipping network, and the implementation the International Transit of Goods (Spanish: TIM) system.

Participants proposed additional goals for the region, specifically increased literacy in ship technology and the training to keep up with changing technology, boosting port efficiency, establishing standardized operating procedures, and strengthening value added services. These improvements, all of which would be aided through the use of a TIM, would serve to prepare for the expansion of the Panama Canal, which is set to provide significant economic opportunities for the region upon completion in 2016.

Gerard Johnson, general manager of the Caribbean Department, plans to be aggressive about a uniform data sharing system for the region, having recognized the need and desire through the round-table. “We can finance the design and implementation of the TIM, and the training to use it, the benefits of which we know will be tenfold. This is all about growth and plucking low hanging fruit. If we remove the inefficiencies, there is great potential.” Jesus Schucry Giacoman Zapata, representative of the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID), reiterated Mr. Johnson’s comments, affirming AMEXCID’s partnership. “If the political will is there, and if you have the resources, we are here to provide support.”

The “Coffee-Stain Puzzle”


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by Claudia Uribe 


I have always found it fascinating to learn about how scientific “discoveries” are made. Scientists have the power of observing the ordinary and seeing the extraordinary. One of my favorite cases comes from an episode I watched some years ago on the Discovery Channel where a Physics professor from the University of Chicago, Sidney Nagel, one morning, as he was pouring himself a cup of coffee, accidentally spilled a drop on his kitchen counter. As he watched it dry he began to wonder why it was that there was always a ring of darker stuff at the outer edge (haven’t we all seen one?)

Later that day, Nagel discussed his observation with a group of colleagues and found out that nobody really knew why this outer ring formed. “The coffee- stain puzzle” got everyone excited, and both senior and junior faculty from the math, chemistry, physics and computer science departments began undertaking simple experiments to understand the phenomena. (Imagine a group of serious professors spending hours debating a simple coffee stain!).  Did the type of surface where the coffee spilled matter? (No it didn’t). Did other types of liquids follow the same drying pattern? (Yes, think of wine for instance). Someone thought of covering the edges while the liquid was drying, and alas, the ring formed only on the unmasked portion. These and further experiments and measurements finally led the scientists to understand that, while evaporating, the particles in the liquid would stream towards the edge in a systematic manner and speed, instead of moving randomly.

The principle discovered from this simple kitchen observation has led to many applications in the fields of electronics and circuit building, digital information storage, paints, among many others. Some might even have been instrumental to the technology that allows me to put my blog online so you can read it! > Read more

DevCa 2015: Open Data Conference and Code Sprint


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by Guest blogger, Mariana Leytón


Developing the Caribbean, or DevCA, is a regional Open Data Conference and 24 hour code sprint that aims “to highlight the current and potential impact of open data and software innovation on addressing social challenges globally and particularly in the Caribbean”. It is held simultaneously across multiple islands and combines conference sessions with a 24-hour code sprint in which teams of designers, developers and domain experts work together to build solutions to pressing problems using open data. The conference is happening during the Caribbean ICT Week that celebrates the 25th anniversary of CTU and has served as a forum for government representatives, policy regulators and technology experts to gather and discuss the opportunities provided by ICT and open data.

The first day of the conference will begin with a series of talks in which professors from the University of West Indies will explain various open data tools and repositories that participants can use during the code sprint and then on. After a break, experts on ideating solutions that use open data will talk about applications for the data exposed. On day two, discussions about the single Caribbean ICT space will be held while the code sprint takes place in a parallel session. There will be a presentation of the products of the code sprint in the afternoon, followed by an awards ceremony.

You can learn more about the event at DevCa’s website, where you can also learn more about open data, data journalism, and hackathons, and see the entire event schedule.


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Reggaenomics: Bob Marley’s legacy on Jamaica’s creative economy


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by Guest blogger, Julienne Gage

On February 6, music fans around the world will celebrate what would have been the 70th birthday of reggae superstar Bob Marley. Although he was felled by cancer more than three decades ago, his legacy highlights pop culture’s impact on national identities and even on economies, says Jamaican radio host and culture critic Dermot Hussey, co-author of Bob Marley: Reggae King of the World.

“Marley came at a time when sometimes you wondered whether people were looking for that kind of a persona and he fulfilled that need. He was very humble, modest, passionate, and very determined. He wrote great music, great songs,” Hussey told me in an interview about Jamaica’s creative industries.

Marley, a farm boy from Saint Ann Parish, gained popularity with his lively rock steady rhythm, a precursor of reggae, just as Jamaica and other British colonies were gaining independence in the early 1960s.

Hussey contends that while Marley was a towering figure of 20th century culture, many artists in Jamaica and other parts of the post-colonial world raised themselves up with reggae’s socially conscious sound and lyrics. > Read more

The Caribbean Celebrates a Regional ICT Week


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by Guest blogger, Mariana Leytón

CTU-Caribbean-ICT-Week-e1423107544636The event will provide a forum for delegates to share perspectives on how information and communications technology is uncovering unprecedented opportunities and new challenges for Caribbean development.

The Caribbean Telecommunications Unit (CTU), an intergovernmental organization with the mission of creating “an environment in partnership with members to optimise returns from ICT resources for the benefit of stakeholders”, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week. With that motive, representatives of several Caribbean countries are participating in an ICT Week in Trinidad and Tobago through which several panels, discussions and working groups will take place and culminate with a two day conference on open data.

Government ministers, regional regulators and policy makers, senior private sector officials and technology researchers are gathering in seven sessions regarding:

  1. Identifying opportunities for the Caribbean to succeed in the “storm of technological revolution”.
  2. Identifying the benefits of investing in ICT and priorities and opportunities for an “ICT-enabled development”.
  3. Considerations for developing a Caribbean single ICT space.
  4. Internet governance.
  5. Infrastructure, access and net neutrality.
  6. Essential initiatives for leveraging the power of ICT.
  7. Brainstorming for funding for the ICT infrastructure, Caribbean crowdfunding, joint procurement and public-private partnership.


On Thursday and Friday, the Developing the Caribbean (DevCA) 2015 Open Data Conference and Code Sprint will take place.

For more information, visit the CTU website or follow them on Facebook.


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The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inter-American Development Bank, its Management, its Board of Executive Directors or its member Governments.

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