Premier Fahie made the statement at the just concluded University of the West Indies (UWI) Development Partner Forum, which is part of the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
He said the investment in universities will help to develop both the institutional capacity required to help drive sustainable development and produce the critical mass of graduates needed to support the diversification of the Caribbean economy.
“There is a very strong case for putting higher education at the heart of resilience, particularly for Small Island Developing States whose vulnerabilities require them to be nimble and able to adjust quickly to new economic and social circumstances. However, the people on the ground must be equipped with the knowledge and training to do so,” Premier Fahie stated.
“The Caribbean’s most valuable asset is its people and it is our investment in them that will make the difference in our recovery from COVID and in our longer-term development. However, we need economies of scale for the maximum impact of any investments made in higher education. The region will be best served if our institutions of higher education and development partners all work together,” he argued
Fahie also highlighted the importance of investing in Information Communication Technologies (ICT’s) which, when aliged with higher education, is critical for development in the region.
“In terms of investment, we know that in order to bridge the digital divide, we need to inject funding for new technologies, new equipment, better broadband connectivity and ICT infrastructure to reach the most remote communities,” he said.
“We also know that in a knowledge economy, lifelong learning is the new currency and skills training can enable citizens to quickly pivot to new economic activities. Very importantly, we also understand that higher education extends beyond schooling to the shaping of civilizations and the harnessing of indigenous knowledge,” the Premier added.
Fahie further said he believes the aforementioned approach is the only way the Caribbean will emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, with more diversified and competitive economies and more sustainable and inclusive societies.
The theme of the meeting which was virtually held was ‘Investing in Higher Education to Build More Diversified and Resilient Post-COVID Economies in the Caribbean.’
Also in attendance at the meeting was Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley; Antigua & Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Brown; the UWI’s Vice-Chancellor, Sir Hillary Beckles; and other ministers and distinguished delegates.