"We are on the cusp of yet another transformative era."
So said Dr Indera Sagewan, adjunct lecturer at the Institute of International Relations at UWI, at the launch of former foreign affairs and finance minister Winston Dookeran's book Resetting Caribbean Policy Analysis in the Aftermath of the Covid19 Pandemic.
The event took place at the Central Bank Auditorium in Port of Spain on Tuesday.
Sagewan began her address on a grim note, saying, “The world is in a crisis; it is a confluence of catastrophes. Pandemic, rising inflation, the cost of living and supply-chain disruptions, regionalisation of global value chains, protectionism, terrorism, geopolitics, trade and territorial wars and natural disasters.”
She said the fallout from the covid19 pandemic has the potential to cause generational catastrophe in schooling, increased domestic violence, a projected rise in child marriage and a dramatic decrease in trade, especially for developing countries.
Sagewan described this as the "new normal." She said the world is still grappling with the complexities and opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution, but there is a fifth one looming.
In the Caribbean context, she highlighted challenges such as high unemployment, vulnerability to natural disasters, and one-sided trade flows. She called for a new development paradigm that recognises the interconnectedness of various aspects like food, energy, health, water, economics and climate security.
Proposing a new growth and development paradigm for the Caribbean, Sagewan outlined key elements for consideration. She advocated for a shift from siloed to interconnected, holistic planning and execution, addressing various sectors' interdependence in existing governance and economic models of the Caribbean. Production, unemployment, education, the digital economy, inflation, inequality, health and climate change, she said they are all being addressed in isolation from each other, but in fact, they are interdependent.
Sagewan also stressed the importance of building flexibility and speed into strategies and structures, citing the need for adaptability and agility in the face of disruptions, and she emphasised the necessity of building societal resistance, challenging the current paradigm of societal dependence.
She thanked Dookeran for his commitment to the economy, industry and regional development.
Director of the Jamaica-based UWI Press Christine Randle said she felt honoured to work with Dookeran on the book, the first publication under her directorship at the press.
Highlighting shifts in the publishing industry, she discussed the university's goal of retooling the press, including the launch of the UWI Press application for smartphone and tablet users worldwide.
Randle elaborated on the "seismic" changes in publishing, from digital books to the decline of brick-and-mortar stores, presenting both challenges and opportunities. She discussed the university's initiatives, such as the UWI Press app, aimed at disseminating products to a new generation of readers. Randle highlighted the significance of the application, providing quick access and nonreturnable sales of books, book chapters and journal articles.
Dookeran thanked everyone involved in the collaborative partnership, expressing gratitude for their support and contributions to the publication and production of his book.
He said it aims to improve financial outcomes and adapt to the changing landscape of academic publishing.