Prime Minister Mia Mottley has again used a global platform to press for debt relief for Caribbean states buckling under the pressure of severe economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mottley, the current Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), today warned the World Health Assembly, that small states have been suffering from high debt and low growth for decades and there would be stark consequences if the issue is not confronted
She declared: “Many countries will either have an orderly restructuring of debt or at the very least a debt moratorium that provides certainty for both the borrower and the lender, or they will have a disorderly unravelling that will create a crisis both within their respective countries and within the global financial markets.”
Mottley, who further made a case for “mature and relevant conversations” for middle income and small island developing states said: “These conversations must admit of greater certainty in the management of our affairs and I pray that the global community will have the courage to allow us to have them.
Citing Barbados’ recent restructuring of its domestic and external debt, which includes natural disaster clauses that provide for greater fiscal space to be created through a moratorium on the payment of principal and capitalization of the interest in the event of natural disaster, she suggested a similar provision would bring tremendous relief to SIDS and allow countries to better rebuild post-COVID-19.
It was the first time the assembly was holding a virtual meeting of world leaders and Mottley used the occasion to repeat her call for a global leadership initiative, rooted in moral leadership that would dismantle existing global inequalities, including the use of historic per capita to determine access to concessional or grant funding or access to the procurement of goods.
Said the Prime Minister: “The use of certain proxy criteria to access technologies, medicines, vaccines or concessional funds and grants would exclude vulnerable countries such as ours in the Caribbean, some in Latin America and even in the Pacific. Why? Because we are using criteria that are more relevant to fighting problems that have little or no relevance to our current vulnerabilities and challenges.
“For example, we are less than two weeks away from the beginning of the hurricane season. Tropical Storm Arthur has already formed off The Bahamas, well in advance of that start. Many of us are already confronting droughts and the presence of Sargassum weed as the result of the climate crisis, and it is wreaking havoc in our societies. But none of these challenges are captured by per capita income, or by maternal mortality rates. None of them.”
She stressed the need for additional criteria to determine equitable access and fair allocation that take into account the region’s vulnerability.
“And if we are asking for the same solution for climate, external shocks as we are now asking for the pandemic, it is because all three destroy our capacity to produce as nations and the ability of our people to survive,” she said.
She thanked World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for reaching out to the Executive Director of the Global Fund to advocate for Caribbean countries that have been excluded from procurement of critical COVID-19 medical supplies through the consortium.
“Equitable access and fair allocation of resources will allow our small states, particularly middle-income ones, dependent on travel to be able to have access to increased supplies for testing, such that we can reopen our societies safely to intra-regional travel, and thereafter to extra-regional travel. But it will also better allow us to ensure that there is a return to safe work, by safe people, the least vulnerable people to COVID-19 in our countries,” Mottley said.
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