CARICOM SG urges closer collaboration ahead of global conference

Ambassador Irwin LaRocque

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are being urged to collaborate with their counterparts in the Indian Ocean and Pacific States to achieve greater results when the development priorities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) come before a global forum next year.

But CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque, addressing a meeting of Caribbean SIDS preparing for a mid-term review of the Samoa Pathway (SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway), said that unity was needed “particularly as there are signs that this categorisation of nations like ours is being challenged.

Irwin La Rocque (File Photo)

“It was in the Caribbean 24 years ago that the SIDS grouping had its origin in the Barbados Programme for Action in 1994. The subsequent Mauritius Strategy of Implementation of 2005 and now the Samoa Pathway of 2014 served to cement the distinct characteristics and needs of these uniquely vulnerable nations,” La Rocque said.

He told the conference, which ends on Thursday that the “smouldering erosions” at the international level of the attention placed on SIDS “is a matter of grave concern.

“It has played its part in hindering the implementation of the pathway through the lack of resources. Further, our Community is faced with the question of whether our member states should get special treatment at SIDS because of the classification as middle income countries.

“This must be responded to vigorously. The International Monetary Fund has pointed out that our member states exhibit extreme versions of long term low growth, high debt, significant vulnerabilities and …resilience to shocks which set them apart from other low income states,” La Rocque said, making reference to the decision by the international community to graduate the region out of access to concessionary funding.

“We must not waiver in our efforts to have the international community desist from using GDP per capita as a principle criterion in determining access to concessional development financing, especially for SIDS,” the CARICOM Secretary General said.

The Samoa Pathway which represents SIDS priorities for sustainable development and poverty eradication, was adopted at the Third International Conference of SIDS in Apia, Samoa in September 2014.  A High Level Review of the progress made in addressing the SIDS priorities has been scheduled for September next year at UN Headquarters in New York.

La Rocque told the conference, one of several preparatory meetings being held to examine the progress made at national and regional levels, “substantial weight must be accorded to our unique vulnerability in this regard”.

He said statistics from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), two-thirds of the CARICOM countries have debt to GDP ratios in 2016, above the 60 percent threshold generally regarded as the benchmark for debt sustainability.

“It must be noted that a significant amount of that debt is due to external shocks and for reconstruction after natural disasters. We find ourselves constantly having to re-invest and rebuild in the same capital stock year after year…

“It is crucial therefore that urgent attention be paid to reducing that debt burden, La Rocque said, noting the various initiatives such as debt swaps being negotiated by SIDS.

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