Caribbean needs debt aid not studies or scorn, Barbados minister tells international community

Bridgetown, Barbados — Barbados’ Finance Minister Chris Sinckler yesterday sent a strong message to the international community as the region continues a plea for debt relief: Don’t just “study the situation” of developing states in economic crises; actually do something to help.

Sinckler spoke frankly about the lip service being paid to developing nations, like those in the Caribbean, as he addressed the 11th Annual Meeting Group of Latin American and the Caribbean Debt Management Specialists yesterday.

“For us small states, it is not enough to just speak almost despairingly about our negative debt matrices as if pouring scorn on us for daring to pursue the development of our people and societies. And it is certainly not enough to keep sending missions of sterilized technocrats and academics to study the situation and, if we are lucky, publish a book to which we get entitled to a free copy. No! That is not what the Caribbean needs,” he told the gathering at the Hilton Barbados Resort.

“What we need is for the hemispheric and global community to act in a way demonstrative of their often exclaimed but yet to be realized desire to help the region’s countries deal with the elephant in the room.

“Don’t just throw the zoo keeper to the wolves of international financial capital such as the IMF for yet another visionless and impractical adjustment programme. Rather, grant us no less favour than that which was given to the heavily indebted poor countries during the 1990s,” Sinckler added, declaring that “anything less would be considered by us as abandonment by the international community of small and vulnerable states”.

Pointing out that the Caribbean was heavily indebted, with six of 13 countries among the 10 most indebted middle-income countries in the world, Sinckler said a CARICOM Commission on the Economy is focusing on devising a coordinated regional response to seeking debt relief from domestic, regional and international creditors.

He noted that as recently as last month, regional financial leaders and technocrats attending the UN Financing for Development Conference in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, were “evangelical” in their insistence that there must be a serious, workable and timely international debt relief programme to assist small vulnerable economies.

Addressing the economy at the local level, the Barbados minister pointed out that government had made steps toward improving its debt management process, and was committed to embarking on its own set of public debt management reforms.

Sinckler said that with the assistance of development partners like the Commonwealth Secretariat, Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre and the Inter-American Development Bank, the administration had critically evaluated Barbados’ debt management system, with a view to making much needed improvements.

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