San Juan, PR – The final panel of the Clinton Foundation 2-day conference on the Island, closed on an upbeat note about the future of the Caribbean economy and region.
Moderated by President Bill Clinton, the high-profile panel including Prime Minister Mia Mottley from Barbados, Governor Albert Bryan from the US Virgin Islands, Richard Carrión, Chairman of Banco Popular and Sofia Stolberg, CEO of Piloto 151, focused on the importance of high impact entrepreneurship, infrastructure resiliency, and collaboration as the keys for economic growth and resiliency in the region.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley opened the panel discussion by honing in on the importance of diversified capital sources and renewable energy in the region. “We are at the stage where potentially the growth can be there, but it’s not going to be inclusive unless we start unlocking capital from within the region and match it with foreign capital from outside. The one thing that is part of our patrimony is renewable energy. We have a moral obligation to unlock renewable energy for the benefit of the Caribbean people and to unlock the investments that are possible, but we have to create the instruments that can then be married with foreign capital. We have set a target of 2030 for a fossil fuel free economy at best or a carbon-neutral economy at worst.”
Governor Albert Bryan chimed in by highlighting the opportunities that became apparent in the aftermath of the hurricanes. When you talk about resilience in the Caribbean, for decades we have always seen our commerce come off of a plane or off of a cruise ship and we have been ignoring for the most part that there is another way for commerce to come to the Caribbean and that’s the Internet. Technology has greatly improved our access to the world and because we are so small tiny little drops of commerce off the Internet are huge gallons of water for our economies.”
On a similar note, Sofia Stolberg stressed the importance of entrepreneurship, and in particular high impact entrepreneurship as an engine of economic growth for the region. “The future growth of the Caribbean is tied to entrepreneurship development. We need entrepreneurs and in particular high growth entrepreneurs to create the job opportunities and the type of economic growth that will be sustainable in the long run. How that happens is a function of how strong your entrepreneurship ecosystem is. In Puerto Rico, we are now seeing that companies and startups in our ecosystem are raising upwards of 1 million dollars which is something that never happened before. That’s a very good sign and we have to keep it up by continuing to bet on entrepreneurship.”
The panel ended with a call to action for more collaboration in a region where according to Richard Carrion “despite our physical proximity there are more barriers between the Islands than what unites us.”
Referencing The Social Conquest of Earth, a book written by E.O. Wilson, a microbiologist who is the world’s foremost expert on ants and who defines conquest as the ability of a species to hang on in spite of repeated opportunities to be destroyed or to destroy itself, President Clinton bet on the ability of the region to triumph through collaboration. “The most successful species that ever existed are ants, termites, bees and humans and the only conceivable answer is that they are the greatest cooperators. Out of this group we are the only ones with both consciousness and a conscience. Sometimes our consciousness gets ahead of our conscious and we run the risk of extermination for a short-term gain, but I believe that eventually our conscious catches up. When you leave here figure out how you can do more things right for this wonderful region we have come to support.”