New agreement to access development assistance

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has signed the Agreement for Encouragement and Protection of Investment with the Director General of OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), Suleiman Jasir Al-Herbish.
 According to the prime minister, the signing of this agreement is important to the future development of Antigua and Barbuda as it places the twin island state in a position to gain financial assistance for development projects. 
This agreement, signed on Friday, is also designed to assist in financing private sector activities in Antigua and Barbuda involving investors from OPEC member states and other developing nations. 
The signing exercise occured as the prime minister lead a high powered delegation to Washington to attend the IMF/World Bank annual meetings.
During a High Level Ministerial session, the prime minister, criticised the international banking system as he stressed that the vulnerability of small states has increased because the international payment system is controlled by the developed countries and they have set up artificial impediments that undermine the development of small states.
He referred to the recent wide spread destruction of several Caribbean territories by Category 5 hurricanes as he emphasised the impact of those hurricanes, challenges faced in the rebuilding effort, and the need for building resilience. 
“Correspondent Banking is a global public good and should be available to all countries and all regions,” the prime minister stressed.
He elaborated that banking relations “is a fundamental human right that is just as important as the provision of other basic services such as water, electricity and broadband services”.
He told the high-level audience that “the socio-economic impact of de-risking is more severe than any hurricane.
“We are being de-banked from the international payment system,” the PM charged. “The provision of correspondent banking service cannot be seen exclusively through the lens of risk and profitability.”
His statements were widely supported by leaders of other small states from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific as well as representatives of international agencies, attending the meeting, which was also graced by the presence of the World Bank President, Deputy UN Secretary General, Sir Richard Branson and a number of donors.
Several delegations at the forum called on the Antigua and Barbuda prime minister to set up a proposal, which could tackle the perceived problems in a global way. In response, he has recommended the establishment of a “high-level working group on De-risking and Developmental Funding for Small Island States.”
Prime Minster Browne also met with the World Bank Regional Director for the Caribbean, Tahseen Sayed and held discussions on the rebuilding programme on Barbuda and the Antigua and Barbuda economy.
On the margins of the High Level Ministerial event, Senator Lennox Weston held a similar meeting with the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Baroness Patricia Scotland.
 On Saturday, the prime minister joined his regional colleagues and other leaders at a Small States Forum to discuss Climate Change, the recent destruction caused by hurricanes, and the eligibility criteria for the Caribbean for development assistance among other things.
The prime minister returned to the state yesterday. He was accompanied on his busy weekend trip to Washington by Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Governance, Senator Lennox Weston; Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders; Financial Secretary Whitfield Harris and Deputy Financial Secretary Rasona Davis-Crump.

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