Prime Minister Mia Mottley has taken multilateral lenders like the World Bank to task for not doing more to help vulnerable countries like Barbados and the Caribbean’s small island and coastal states prepare for climate change.
At a panel discussion here on Friday, Mottley argued that the international financial institutions had unfairly categorised some developing countries, shutting them out from accessing concessionary funding for critical projects to aid in their development and protection of the population.
But the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance used the forum to deliver a broadside against rich nations which have been pressuring hers as they compete for international financial services and business domiciles with low corporate taxes.
The discussion took place alongside the annual IMF/World Bank Spring meetings the Prime Minister is attending.
Since the 1990’s the World Bank has considered Barbados a middle-income country, limiting it from accessing concessionary loans.
She told the audience: “The rules are such that we are precluded from benefiting from concessional funding to fight the vagaries of climate change, to fight the vagaries of alleviating poverty at the very time when you need it more, at the very time when your vulnerability is greater than almost anyone else.
“Not because of actions you have taken but actions that developed countries and large corporations have taken to increase the likelihood that climate change will have deleterious consequences on your people.”
Insisting that the World Bank and other multilateral organisations were ignoring the “the reality of small states”, Mottley said they had come up with “a one size fits all approach that bears no relation to risks”.
The Prime Minister said she feared that Barbados could become a low-income country should it be hit by a natural disaster, though pointing out that the country still had access to funding from the Caribbean Development Bank and the CAF for climate change-related projects.
She said it was for that reason she is embarking on a planned “roofs to reefs” project, in order to help the country be better able to cope with the effects of natural disasters.
But she said Barbados needs huge funding for improving its sewerage systems, putting overhead cables underground and for replacement of the piping system for water, among others.
She said: “If you don’t have access to borrowing to redo some of these large infrastructural things, many of which are related to climate change, you are going to pauperise what was otherwise a middle-income nation.”
Declaring that she was not advocating a revolution, Mottley predicted that populations around the world would one day rise up and put pressure on their Governments in relation to tackling issues of climate change.
She also blasted developed countries and groupings for creating various “blacklists and whitelists”, saying it was offensive since the countries being placed on those lists did not have the luxury of considering what was “right or wrong or moral or not”.
The comments come in the wake of declarations by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based club of industrialised nations, that Barbados is an uncooperative tax haven.
Adding that “multilateralism for us is not a luxury, it is a necessity”, Mottley said some groups were doing nothing short of bullying smaller developing nations.
She said those smaller states were considered “invisible” and “dispensable” by more developed nations and multilateral organisations, adding that the rules based systems fought for over the years now seemed to be at risk.