Financing for legit marijuana industry possible
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President of the Bank, Dr. Warren Smith
President of the Bank, Dr. Warren Smith

– CDB president

SOME states have legitimised marijuana and as the trend continues, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will support the fledgling regional cannabis industry.
This is according to President of the Bank, Dr. Warren Smith, at the bank’s annual news conference on Tuesday in Barbados.

Currently, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda have approved marijuana cultivation for sacramental use and medical purposes.
Barbados introduced legislation late last year in the form of the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act, laying the groundwork for a build out of the industry to commence this year.
St. Kitts and Nevis and other states are also in the process of developing laws in relation to that industry.

Dr. Smith underscored that countries such as the US and Canada, have an established, marijuana-based industry.

“I believe it is a legitimate industry for our countries to pursue as long as it remains within the law. That is the position I think we would want to take at the Caribbean Development Bank. As to whether we finance the development of that industry or not, who knows? It could be that it could be through the small business sector. I don’t know,” Dr. Smith said.
Dr. Smith warned that as Barbados and other countries develop the cannabis industry authorities should ensure that locals and the country benefit.

“The legitimisation of this product should not put our countries in a situation where that new area of production becomes dominated by foreign interest and our people, especially our small people, do not benefit from this new industry. That is something that I think we need to keep a very close eye on. We need to be real beneficiaries from this new industry,” he suggested.

Pointing out that the Caribbean was already recognised for the quality of its marijuana, the CDB President said he saw tremendous opportunity for export but warned against any overreliance.

“If you have a heavy reliance on a small sector and it runs into difficulties then it has a big impact on your foreign exchange earnings and your economic position. So any way in which we can find avenues to diversifying our productive base, and especially our export base, I think it is a good one,” the CDB President noted.

He continued: “My expectation is that it is only going to continue to replicate not only across this Region but across the world.”

Meanwhile, he said in 2019, the bank remained resolute in its commitment to assist the Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
He explained that approvals for capital projects, policy-based operations and technical assistance totalled US$347M.

The board of directors, he said, approved funding for several sizeable projects for the modernisation of the Kingstown Port in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
A second policy-based loan of US$75M was approved to support Barbados’ ongoing economic stabilisation and recovery programme. A US$50M exogenous shock policy-based loan for The Bahamas following the passage of Hurricane Dorian was also approved.

“Let us now take a look at some of the strategic initiatives. We leveraged our partnerships in search of new and additional sources of concessionary funds while operationally, our interventions were underpinned by the imperatives of adaptation, resilience-building, innovation and inclusion,” Dr. Smith said.

Early in 2019, he said three international rating agencies re-affirmed CDB’s credit rating. “This paved the way for our inaugural borrowing on the German capital market and the issuance of a EUR250M 20-year registered bond.”

“With our entry into this market, we diversified our investor base and increased our BMCs’ access to resources at attractive terms. We signed an agreement for a new Procurement Procedural Framework with the European Investment Bank. This framework is intended to harmonise our procurement procedures and promote more efficient financing, implementation and monitoring for a range of climate-focused investments in the Caribbean,” the CDB President noted.

Adding that the agreement came on the eve of the rollout of a new procurement policy and procedures in November, the CDB head said last year, the bank successfully concluded the Accreditation Master Agreement with the Green Climate Fund, paving the way for the mobilisation of additional climate financing.

“We also partnered with the German development agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), to provide almost EUR250,000 to help Eastern Caribbean countries prepare projects for funding consideration by the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund and CDB,” he added.

The CDB President is projecting a regional GDP growth of 4.1 per cent, consistent with expectations of accelerated global economic activity.

However, he noted that, “with estimated daily production of about 100,000 barrels of oil, Guyana should dominate regional growth performance. Other growth drivers in the Region should be the construction, tourism and agriculture sectors.”

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