PM Browne to chair 2021 meeting of Commonwealth finance ministers

Prime Minister Gaston Browne
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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has accepted the nomination to chair the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting (CFMM) in 2021.

This after Commonwealth Finance Ministers met for their annual summit on Wednesday. The meeting, which is normally held in the margins of the IMF/World Bank annual meetings, was convened virtually, a release said. 

“It is with a sense of grave responsibility I accept this nomination on behalf of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. As diverse as the Commonwealth is, all its members, whether big and small, rich or poor, have been adversely affected by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has, however, given us new opportunities to reset our perspectives, create fresh approaches and achieve more desirable outcomes for the benefit of all, and especially the most vulnerable. The Commonwealth must use its competitive advantage of having such a diverse membership and a relatively united platform to champion reform,” Browne said as he accepted the nomination to serve.

As Chair of the CFMM for 2021, Browne will work with the Commonwealth Secretariat to adopt a theme and topics for the 2021 CFMM and provide input on background papers for the meeting.

Meanwhile, after the October 7 meeting, the ministers issued their first joint statement since 2009, agreed by all 54 members states of the Commonwealth.

The statement calls on the G20, Paris Club, World Bank and IMF to take meaningful steps to improve access to financing and debt sustainability. Specifically, it calls on the G20 to extend its Debt Suspension Initiative (DSSI) beyond 2020. The joint statement also calls on the Paris Club to develop innovative debt instruments which can provide additional liquidity to vulnerable states. Multilateral development banks are also challenged to be more flexible in their approach to financing to create easier paths to access funding. 

The timing of the statement is of critical importance. G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors are preparing for an October 14 meeting where major decisions on the DSSI, including an extension and expansion of the eligibility criteria to include all small and vulnerable countries, will be tabled. Under current rules, only low-income countries are eligible for the DSSI. Five members states of the Commonwealth are members of the G20.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Browne and colleague ministers from the Commonwealth Caribbean were united in their call for a revised financial architecture. Ministers called for financial support to be made available to all small, vulnerable nations facing the significant and widespread economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Citing the current experiences of Antigua and Barbuda as it grapples with a decline in revenue from tourism and keeps an eye on the existential threats posed by climate change, Browne proposed the creation of “bespoke instruments that respond with urgency and flexibility to the realities faced by small, vulnerable states”. 

The meeting also explored matters around fiscal sustainability and opportunities to drive resilient growth and job creation in the blue and green economy and in smart agriculture.

Financial Secretary Whitfield Harris, High Commissioner Karen-Mae Hill, and Political and Trade Attaché at the High Commission Ideka Dowe also attended the virtual meeting.

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