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FTC Annual Lecture Focusses on the Future of Utilities PDF Print

Dr. Warren Smith, President of the CDB, 2016 FTC Annual LectureThemes related to the future of regulated sectors, namely water, electricity and telecommunications were addressed when the Fair Trading Commission hosted its Annual Lecture on March 18th at the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa. Now in its 12th year, the event featured Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) President, Dr. Warren Smith, who discussed Regulating Utilities in Small Island Developing States – Lessons for the Caribbean.

 The CDB President noted that electricity is regarded as the “lifeblood of modern society” and observed that its development was critical, as it also had implications for other sectors, including water production and distribution. Dr. Smith, who observed that the Caribbean was still “lagging far behind” with regard to meeting its energy goals, stated that “At present, electricity generation capacity derived from renewable energy in CARICOM countries is less than 10%, compared with regional targets of 20% by 2017 and 28% by 2022…the major barrier to rapid expansion of RE generation in the Caribbean remains that of the monopoly control over generation by the incumbent integrated electric utility, in several cases.”

While Dr. Smith conceded that Barbados, Belize and Jamaica served as examples where progress was being made, he maintained that the region’s future required that greater strides be taken. “Developments in the electricity, water, and telecommunication/ICT sector hold significant potential for unlocking new and substantial investments; facilitating innovation in the wider economy and contributing to increased and sustained economic growth. For these potentials to be realized, an enabling framework supported by appropriate policy, legislation and regulations, must be in place to encourage investment and take advantage of the developments in the respective sectors,” he stressed, adding that a similar approach would be necessary for the water sector to operate at its optimum.

“It is my view that for the water sector to evolve and transform itself in accordance with changing climate conditions and the economic and social imperatives of their countries, there will have to be regulatory reforms mirroring those which are occurring in the electricity sector,” he stated.

Regulation, he said, also had its role to play in the development of the telecommunications industry. While the sector “has been characterized by rapid and continuous advances in technology” which have “opened up new opportunities for economic growth, development and poverty reduction”, the CDB President highlighted that “similar efforts must be made to encourage improvements in overall performance, including the quality of service, through appropriate regulation in the Caribbean. Such improvements are critical for fostering innovation and positioning the region to exploit all opportunities for driving economic expansion”.

Despite these challenges, Dr. Smith said, “we are pleased with even the modest progress that has been made in aligning our regulatory reforms in the utility sectors to the needs of the industries. This is a good portent for our aspirational objective of achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030. We fully acknowledge that more needs to be done to galvanise change and development in the utility sectors as well as in the broader economy. It was Mark Twain who reminded us that ‘the secret to getting ahead is getting started’…we have made that start. We now need to redouble our efforts so that we can get even further ahead”.


Dr. Smith’s full presentation may be accessed here:


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