Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has acknowledged that Barbados is $14 million in the red in terms of its contributions to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Development Fund (CDF).
However, speaking to reporters here yesterday, he said this was a direct result of the island’s ongoing economic challenges, which may necessitate a full review of its participation in the CDF that was established back in 2008 to assist disadvantaged CARICOM states in making the transition to a regional single market and economy.
“In terms of our contribution fee to the Fund, we have written and asked for an extension of the time to pay,” Sinckler said, while contending that the amount outstanding was not a “debt” in the true sense of the word “because it’s not something that we borrowed from somebody and have to pay back.
“This is Barbados’ contribution to the Fund,” he said, adding that “maybe, as has happened in at least one other Caribbean country, we may need to say to the Fund, that given Barbados’ financial position, we need to be reassessed to become a recipient borrower from the Fund rather than only a contributor to the Fund”.
Sinckler also suggested that the classification of countries such as Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica as More Developed Countries (MDCs) within the context of the CDF was no longer relevant.
“That’s an old 1970s terms . . . I don’t know who these more developed countries are,” the minister of finance said.
However, with MDCs said to be the largest culprits in terms of the US$57.2 million that was outstanding as at December last year, officials of the fund have been urging them to pay up.
The latest appeal came last week during a CDF meeting at the Accra Beach Hotel at which it was disclosed that Trinidad and Tobago alone is responsible for US$40 million of that outstanding amount.
The CDF’s financial statement also indicates that Barbados is lagging behind in its contribution by (US$7.4 million), Jamaica (US$945,534) and Suriname (US$4.4 million) with Guyana said to be 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.
With the fund approaching a “critical” stage, CARICOM Chairman, prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada, and the CDF’s board chairman Sherwyn Williams, appealed to the MDCs to honour their commitments.
However, in response, Sinckler said “in the past year, Barbados has had to . . . say to the Fund that because of the foreign exchange challenges that we have, that it will not be possible at the point in time to make that contribution.
“You can only contribute to the Fund in foreign exchange, because it goes to the other countries. It is not going to them in Barbados dollars. It is going in foreign exchange,” he pointed out to reporters.