OECS Chairman on COVID-19: Region needs help
The Eastern Caribbean and CARICOM countries will require substantial assistance to climb out of the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
This was put forward as several Eastern Caribbean leaders participated in the launch of the United Nation’s COVID-19 Multi-sectoral response plan and US$29.7 million Fund Appeal on behalf of Barbados and the OECS on May 6.
Chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said because of the region's vulnerability over the past decade, scarce resources were used to rebuild after hurricanes and borrowings were done to sustain economies which would have been decimated by external shocks.
Now with COVID-19, Prime Minister Browne believes good sense must prevail: “I am happy the United Nations is providing us this opportunity to at least raise some funds in the interim, we are appreciative of the fact that you're starting at 30 million, but the reality is this region needs hundreds of millions of dollars in order to stabilise the situation as a consequence of COVID-19.”
The OECS Chairman believes the international community especially the G20 countries, should provide some level of direct support for small states and other CARICOM countries that are suffering at this time.
Browne said: “Forcing us to carry these high debt loads and then to find monies, fresh money to stimulate and stabilise; then we will not be able to achieve the SDGs.
Historical debts that carry no real value for these Paris Club countries should be written off automatically. We should not have to beg them during this difficult period to write them off, they are of no value to them, these are not even debts that are in the books.”
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet in his presentation said Saint Lucia has seen a drop of 60 percent in its overall revenue and the reality is the island has no idea how long this situation is going to last.
He said since 2001 following the events of 9/11, the global economic crisis then climate change, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have not been fitting-in appropriately with the global economic architecture.
The Saint Lucia PM said the continuation of using per capita GDP as a measurement to determine what support SIDS should be getting, is a methodology that continues to fail.
He made an appeal for an urgent emergency meeting for SIDS to discuss how they are going to fit into the new economic architecture.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Barbados Dr Jerome Walcott in his presentation stated the pandemic has occurred at a time when it is almost too much to bear in terms of what is faced daily and yearly.
Dr Walcott said there are fragile economies dependent primarily on tourism which have been devastated by this pandemic.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said some islands are facing external economic shocks, blacklisting from the EU, limited access to funding (due to being graduated to middle-income level), limited fiscal space and the scourge of climate change in the form of hurricanes.