CARICOM member states have been urged to lobby the international community to abandon the practice of disqualifying certain small island developing states from financial assistance based on their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita levels.
The call has come from Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to CARICOM, Dr Clarence Henry who said the devastation of recent hurricanes was sound evidence that small island developing states were still vulnerable and in need assistance.
“CARICOM has to advocate and show that the high per capita income branding, talk of these countries having “graduated”, which restricts us from receiving further donor assistance, is total nonsense.”
Dr Henry was speaking at a press conference held at the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry earlier this week as that organization, in collaboration with the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), announced that it had put together two 40-foot containers full of relief supplies for shipment to Barbuda.
Barbuda was completely devastated in the wake of Hurricane Irma two weeks ago, and Ambassador Henry noted that with the help of international partners, they managed to get everyone onto the sister island of Antigua and “those who are not staying with relatives are in shelters all over the island.”
He described the current events as “a wind of change, a wind of history and a wind that establishes a pattern that we must look at and address. All institutions of CARICOM must fashion a new methodology to deal with these matters. We need to have a discourse that looks at these challenges.”
Dr Henry said this was particularly important since after natural disasters countries needed help immediately, and could not afford to wait on international donor agencies, that often had to deliberate on when they could send such assistance and how much they were willing to send.
Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, Carlos Wharton, said the three groups had launched relief appeals between September 9 and 21. The supplies include water, baby products, feminine items, toiletries, canned goods, cereals, clothing, linens, toys, building supplies and a generator.
“We hope that this will go a long way in bringing comfort and relief to the residents of Barbuda”, he added.
Executive Director of the Barbados International Business Association, Henderson Holmes, said his members responded enthusiastically to the appeal.
“We thought we would just have a few packages to distribute, then our members told us they had barrels of items to ship.”
For his part, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Rudy Grant, said some of the stories he heard from his counterparts in the hurricane-ravaged islands via Whatsapp “brought tears to [his] eyes”. He said his organization was working in conjunction with the relief efforts organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA).
In expressing his gratitude Dr Henry said the actions of the Barbadian organizations “demonstrate how we as a people must operate – not in isolation but in firm hands together – together we struggle, together we survive, together we have a future.”