Barbados owes in excess of US$7 million (Bds$14 million) to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Development Fund, making it the second most indebted to the regional facility, which was established by CARICOM governments to provide financial or technical assistance to disadvantaged countries.
The revelation was made today during a CDF meeting at the Accra Beach Hotel at which it was also disclosed that for the period ending December 31, 2016, the fund was owed US$57.2 million, with US$40 million of that amount outstanding from Trinidad and Tobago.
The CDF’s financial statement also indicates that the largest culprits are the so-called more developed countries (MDCs), namely Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados ($7.4 million), Jamaica ($945,534) and Suriname ($4.4 million).
Guyana is the only MDC to have paid its entire pledged contribution of US$7.3 million.
The so-called less developed countries (LDCS) of Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines owe US$4.3 million, with Kingstown’s total debt amounting to all of US$166.
CDF officials fear that the fund is approaching a “critical” stage as more member countries are expected to request assistance.
It was for this reason that they called on the MDCs to pay up, a plea echoed today by CARICOM Chairman, prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada, and the CDF’s board chairman Sherwyn Williams, when they addressed the sixth meeting of contributors and development partners.
CDF Chief Executive Officer Rodinald Soomer said while he was cognizant of the economic constraints facing CARICOM nations, it was crucial that they pay what they owe in order for the fund to continue meeting its obligations.
“We receive contributions from a lot of the LCD members of the CDF, not much from the MDC members, which is perhaps one of the reasons prime minister Mitchell emphasized so much the need for us to have the MDCs come to the table, especially now. We are mid-way in our cycle. It is becoming critical for us to start getting these programmes formulated and implemented.
“We have enough resources to respond to request from one or two of our member states . . . .We will need to have the resources coming rather quickly if we are to be able to respond as we should for the rest of 2017 and into 2018 . . . so we are reaching a point where it is becoming critical for us to complete the replenishment of the CDF,” Soomer said, adding that while he was certain the MDCs were not hiding from their responsibilities, “something will have to give”.
At the end of December last year the total fund balances were recorded at US$119.8 million, an increase of about 5.75 per cent over the previous year. Total expenses reached US$4.82 million, which was 14 per cent lower than it was in 2015. Meanwhile, operational costs were US$9.8 million last year, down from the US$12.6 million in 2015.
In 2016 the CDF disbursed loans totaling US$5 million to Dominica, Grenada, Guyana and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Grants totalling US$2.2 million were disbursed to Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica.