Prime Minister Mia Mottley on Friday set out a compelling case for countries of the Americas to team up and act now to shield their people from spiralling prices while guaranteeing their access to critical supplies.
Mottley, who took to the stage of the ninth Summit of the Americas and invoked the words of late Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley, “so much trouble in the world”, listed disruptions in the global supply chain among global crises that have sufficient potential to “bring down” small states.
She proposed that the hemispheric grouping use its cooperative efforts to build joint platforms for procurement, similar to the African Medical Supplies Platform which procured COVID 19 vaccines for member states at the height of the pandemic.
“Why can’t we have an American supply platform that treats to the most critical supplies, so that we can reduce the price of critical goods, from vaccines to water pipes to all other things that are impacting our ability to deliver proper services to our people?” Mottley said.
“In the Caribbean, we make an order and they say ‘that is too small for us’. We [Barbados] announced a tax holiday for electric vehicles; we cannot get the supply of electric vehicles. Will Brazil help us? Will India help us? Will the United States or will Canada help us?
“We can’t get access to batteries in order to help us become net zero by 2030, but yet we want to come on these platforms and talk about it,” the Barbadian leader added.
Mottley stressed that providing solutions to such problems should be the aim of the US-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030) which the United States presented to regional heads during talks chaired by US Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday.
Under the partnership, the US pledged to support clean energy and climate resilience projects in the Caribbean at every stage of development.
“And when we finish with PACC 2030, Canada and Chile and all of the others can create that platform for that joint procurement to reduce the price of supplies,” Mottley again stressed.
Turning her attention to the climate crisis, she made it clear that small island states do not have the fiscal space to respond to crises spawned by others.
“The international community is required, in the justice of the moment, to help us prevent loss of life and property for a crisis that we didn’t create,” she said.
Prime Minister Mottley also pressed home the need to reform the architecture of international financial institutions, as she questioned the role of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the lending arm of the World Bank Group.
“Where is the reconstruction from the climate crisis being financed? Where is the reconstruction from the pandemic being financed – the post-pandemic recovery? Where is the platform for middle-income countries that house 75 per cent of the world’s poor but because they are middle-income we don’t remember that? Where is the climate finance being targeted to, justifiably and fairly, when the numbers show that only 15 per cent of climate finance is going to climate-vulnerable countries?” she questioned.
Mottley’s concerns about financing to deal with climate change and other crises were shared by Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne who called for genuine international cooperation to remedy these challenges which have forced many small states to cope by borrowing on commercial terms.
“This borrowing to repeatedly repair infrastructure damaged by the impact of climate change, and, more recently, to finance extraordinary expenditure incurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has enlarged our debt burden, leaving little fiscal space to build resilience, and to construct necessary physical infrastructure,” he said.
Noting that many Caribbean countries have now exhausted their borrowing capacity to respond to exogenous shocks, Browne said they need debt relief and post-COVID recovery assistance to shore up their economies.