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Data, Smart Investments and Caribbean Resilience


Hi welcome to another episode of MYD Global I'm your host Leann Hackman-Carty In today's episode, I speak with Runy Calmera

Runy's an economist based in Curacao which is just north of Venezuela He's part of the ABC islands So I'm talking to Runy about data, the importance of data and making decisions, whether it's a business or a community and also about how to make smart investments both now and in the future So stay tuned Hey Runy, good to see you today

How are you doing? Great Great Leann, thank you for inviting me Well it's a pleasure, I know you and I are both involved with the Island Innovation Forum and I wanted to take a chance to talk to you a little bit about what you're seeing in Curacao and elsewhere in the Caribbean So before we get started, can you just talk a little bit about your background? Yes OK now so I am a dreamer I like to dream about the future, about a better future state I'm a big percussionist

I like to play percussion congas I'm a trainer I train, um I give training I like to educate people to share my knowledge and as last I'm I'm an economist, so I turn data into analysis so that people, businesses, NGO's that they can turn uh create the right policies so that's what that's all the different versions of me, and I live in Curacao beautiful Curacao I think this is the first time I've met an economist that plays the conga like the drums I mean that's awesome So I wanted to talk about you mentioned data I know a lot of people, you know communities, businesses, they don't take data as seriously as they probably should and I know that's something that you're passionate about

Can you just talk about why it's so important to have good data? There are at least I think five reasons why data is very, very important Now the first one is without data you don't know what happened So that's the past, you don't know what happened in the past Imagine you're driving somewhere and you don't have data on how many miles you have gone, you don't know how far you are Without data you don't know the current situation where you are

so you are just flying blind all over the place and especially for businesses etc you want to know the current situation Without data, you don't know where you're going You don't have the targets, so data is also when you're setting a target you want to grow you want to become more resilient you need to measure that and you do that with data Without data they don't take you serious So, imagine you if you are a business owner and you want to have a loan to invest into your company or you are an NGO and you don't have any data about how many people you are supporting, how big the grant is going to be, you don't have any data so then people will not take you for serious, they don't take you seriously so data is very important to measure, to measure where you have been, where you are, where you want to be going, and actually I do most of the things I first start with data, I start with analyzing the data, analyzing a graph etc

You can learn a lot about where you are, where you want to be with data There are a lot of people they don't want to discuss data and they just talk about certain things but I always urge businesses, NGO's to get the data about their main processes And that's critical, I know when we're dealing with various communities after a disaster, one of the things is what do you have on your business community, what data do you have? Do you know how many businesses you have? Who they sell to, who's in their supply chain how many employees do they have, all of that information if you don't have it then and a disaster happens, it just makes it that much harder to move forward The other thing is obviously an economic impact and that's something that you would know a lot more about than myself but when you know communities are devastated after a disaster they're being asked by government what's the economic impact? Yes so an example Leann, when you hear about there are 20 million extra people in the United States unemployed and that has never been so much before, then if you are a community and you are dependent on the United States, 20 million it has never been like that even in the recession in the big Depression It has never been like that when you hear that United States they had 3

8 percentage of unemployment and now it's already going to 15 percent and then it might be to 20 percent So that data is already telling you that it's going to be big When you hear about China or Europe and I heard last Canada that is going to contract with 75 percent So the whole economy is going down with 7

5 percent and that is also in Europe they first came with it is 75 percent and then somebody from the IMF the highest Miss Christine Lagarde said it's not seven and a half percent, it's 15 percent so you see how big the impact is with data So just giving your viewers a sense of some indicators how big that what it is so it those with those data they tell me that it's going to be a huge effort for your resiliency your resiliency has to cope with a situation of 20 million people or with a situation of minus 75 percent of the economy going down That's where the whole data issue comes back into the place so so if this is what we know is happening, looking at various trends various you know where is this industry going where is this industry going being able to understand what some of those trends are going to be, because there's going to be a post-COVID economy and so where are those opportunities that may not have been there before? But data should drive some of if not all of those discussions and decisions, and so someone like yourself could be extremely valuable as communities and businesses are starting to come out of their holes and look for opportunities

One of the things too you look at and I know I look at as well is this whole thing resilience this word how would you define resilience? I would define resiliency the financial aspect then I would define it as how many months can you survive if all your external revenues etc drops, understand? How if you have a job how many months can you survive if you lost your job? Is it like one, after one month you are already you have to sell the house? Or after one month your kids cannot go to school anymore? You see so I I'm trying to define that resiliency in a metric and if you look at the total uh the total economy uh resilient of an economy it's all it also has to do with those kind of things If it's your finances, are they okay? Do you have a huge debt? Can you pay your salaries, you see? And then there is also an aspect of resiliency with environment etc the sustainable development goals I'm not, I have not yet defined the resiliency with the environment, but I would say if you are generating a lot of money, jobs etc is your environment resilient? Can your environment cope with all those tourists, all that, all those hotels etc Where would you think would be some smart investments right now for people to be thinking about? Yes OK, so in general I would say you have to invest in education You have to always invest in education even in these situations because when you invest in your education, you will be more able to survive because the world is changing so much, so investing in your own education – that's like the first thing you have to

You are your best investment You are your best investment because that's it you need to invest in yourself Now, invest in your financial education that's also more specific because a lot of people they lose their jobs and they don't know what an asset and liability is, you see? They think I have a credit card and that is a good thing, but the credit card is an liability because it takes money out of your pocket If you have a a house a house also takes money out of your pocket, so what I'm saying is you need to invest in your financial literacy also in the financial literacy of your kids because that's going to make you more resilient in the future If you just tell your kids hey this is a job just work, go on education go for a job, they are not resilient anymore because jobs are lost There was like AirBnB I think they lost they sent I heard they sent a lot of people home because those people are highly educated but they just lost their job, so financial literacy now

And then for a country the third one is invest in exporting Exporting and with exporting services exporting goods etc because especially for small islands but your viewers that are from small islands, if you don't export then you cannot pay for your imports Your whole lifestyle, the cars you are driving, the food you are eating you can only import that because you export so you have to invest as a nation in exporting services because with the exported services you can become part of the world, you can deliver your services to the world, you see? So you now you have to be outside Now you have to invest in new infrastructure because the world is becoming more decentralized There are many people they don't have access to capital, many communities don't have access to capital

Now there is something called the blockchain and with the blockchain I could send you ten thousand dollars right now and you can go to the groceries and you can eat you know? With a blockchain it is fast you get you can receive currency so you have to you have to as a government and as a country as a community you have to invest in those types of infrastructure in the blockchain so that you can become part of the world Twenty-four years ago, there was something called the internet and it just begun, and people didn't think that it would be like this That's the same thing with the blockchain so invest in the blockchain Last point is you have, second last one is you have to invest in renewables, because the sun is your best friend Tomorrow the sun will come up

You can have a contract with the sun it will be there That means that if your energy is dependent on fossil fuel, you don't know what's going to happen with fossil fuel You don't know what's going to happen – right now the oil price is very low but the oil price can go up you see, it can go up to $100 if Saudi Arabia and Russia decide to lower the supply Sun, wind etc you have to invest in that And then you have to invest in food so you have to invest in your in the food chain because we have seen with the corona pandemic that the food chain we are very dependent on other nations

Now imagine the food and the health Imagine that the food prices go up You have to um you have to invest in that so those are the topics I would invest in Well, and I think for most island communities in particular, I think it was Puerto Rico imports 90 percent of their food, and so you just think so when you have a natural disaster happening, or even COVID, no access to that transporting into your community with the goods That's a huge vulnerability So that whole food security issue that's a whole other topic to look at for sure

And yeah, so the oil because you mentioned Puerto Rico I know that the food bill so from the total imports, the food bill and the fuel bill the fossil fuel bill of the Caribbean I know for sure for Puerto Rico it is a high uh percentage So you have to eat because they don't produce their own food, so you have to eat and you are dependent on the fossil fuel so when something things happen, your tourism goes down you don't have the dollars anymore or the euros to buy the oil to buy the food so you are not resilient anymore So I'm not saying we should all produce our own food etc but we should think about where does your food come from? And there are a lot of people doing aquaponics or doing anything so if you are a community think about your food because if your currency devaluates becomes less in value you still need to import that food, you still need to import that oil And i'm thinking about right now should I put a solar panel and go drive an electric vehicle because if the food if the fuel prices go up, then i cannot drive my car anymore I think each location has its own unique challenges

Solar maybe makes sense for some people where it doesn't in other places or electric like the wind I mean it just it all depends where you live I look in where I live – it can get very cold here in the winter and there's not a lot of options to stay warm other than coming to visit you So I think all of this there's no black and white I think it's just what's right for your community? What makes sense? And then of course that's what you should be looking at to be resilient I just as we wrap up is there any last minute thoughts that you want to say something maybe you didn't mention? I would say I would stress again invest in yourself, the financial literacy is one of the biggest things that are important right now and I would say I don't want to scare everybody, but I would say this COVID pandemic is just like it's a temporary thing but there are things happening on the long run

People are creating a lot of currency Today I saw that the Federal Reserve creates a lot of I think three trillion currency, three trillion money So that is going to affect all of us you understand? So you have to become resilient, you have to I would say everybody who doesn't have your your free stuff about how to become resilient etc there is something happening with the financial system and the financial system you cannot just say OK I have my money and the government is giving me money, I'm happy What is the value of that money if everybody is printing that, so that's a whole other conversation, but I that's something I'm focusing on right now the last time So I want to thank you for the opportunity

Thank you very much Thank you Thank you for taking the time So, all the best and stay in touch

Source: Youtube

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