The International Monetary Fund (IMF) kicked off a high-level forum here on Thursday in hopes of unlocking economic growth for the Caribbean region.
The two-day forum, which has brought together finance ministers and central bank governors from across the Caribbean, is supposed to play the role as a platform for strengthening cooperation and advancing solutions to key challenges facing the region.
This get-together has been the third of its kind in the Caribbean over recent years. The last two were hold in Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas.
"While the 2013 conference program took a comprehensive approach to the growth challenge, this year we have streamlined the agenda to cover three specific topics," IMF Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu said.
Energy costs, tax competition and financial sector vulnerability, according to Zhu, are among issues that have the biggest impact on the growth, and thus became the topics being focused on.
In recent years, many of the Caribbean countries have suffered from slow economic growth and heavy burden of debts at the same time. Four countries -- Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, and Grenada -- have embarked on economic programs supported by the IMF.
The multilateral financial agency estimates that growth in the Caribbean will remain weak at 1.5 percent in 2014, compared with the world overall level of 3.3 percent.
Within this context, Zhu said: "Reinvigorating growth remains the top priority" for the region.
His opinion was echoed by Jorge Familiar, World Bank's vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Familiar pointed out that the global financial crisis exposed the fragility of the Caribbean.
Although significant reform programs were implemented by some countries to stem the cycle of low growth, high debt and limited fiscal space, there was still need for more to be done, he said.
Addressing the forum, Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said the largest single deterrent to growth is the cost of energy, which represents more than one third of the island's import bill.
But, she said, the country's recent efforts in increasing power capacity will help reduce the energy bill by 30 percent or 350 million U.S. dollars by 2018.