UN official says C’bean countries need urgent access to financing
Bridgetown, Barbados (CMC) — A senior United Nations official says Caribbean countries have very limited access to concessional financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), with the exception of Haiti, which is classified as least developed country.
United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jessica Faieta in an opinion piece to coincide with the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, said that with the majority of Caribbean Small Island Development States (SIDS) ranked as middle income countries, they “are shunned from receiving developing financing”.
Caribbean countries have been calling on the international community to revise the means through which they are granted concessional aid, noting that the use of per capita levels above the international financial eligibility benchmarks should be scrapped.
“Having lived and worked in four Caribbean countries I have witnessed first-hand how these vibrant societies with enormous potential share serious challenges: from severe exposure to natural hazards and external financial shocks to slow economic growth and high debt,” she wrote.
But she said the world has a unique opportunity to change this and help improve the lives and the future aspirations of Caribbean women and men making reference to the high-level meeting in Addis Abba.
The meeting is likely to adopt an international agreement setting out how the post 2015 sustainable development agenda will be financed.
Faieta said a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has found that that the traditional international standards, based on national per capita income averages, are inadequate measures of these countries’ sustainable development needs.
“As a result, Caribbean countries have very limited access to concessional financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), with the exception of Haiti, which is classified as least developed country. “
The report titled “Financing for Development Challenges in Caribbean SIDS: A case for review of eligibility criteria for access to concessionary financing” is being launched at the Addis Abba meeting that ends of Thursday.
The UN official said that it is time the international community responds to the call from Caribbean SIDS to review current criteria to access financing.
“Clearly, if left unresolved, this situation will thwart SIDS’ sustainable development pathways. We are calling for improved standards that take into account ‘multidimensional progress’ indicators, or well-being measurements beyond income alone.
“These include people’s inadequate access to essential services such as safe water, sanitation and health as well as citizen insecurity (crime and violence), unemployment, climate vulnerability, widening income gaps, and continuous emigration of highly educated and trained people. Other problems such as poor infrastructure to conduct business and attract foreign direct investment must also be considered” she said.
Faieta said that financing for development criterion must take into account that Caribbean countries face substantial problems, despite ranking higher than other SIDS in the Human Development Index, UNDP’s composite measure of health, education and income.
She said the 2015 Millennium Development Goals targets have not been achieved in relation to poverty, income inequality, education, health, access to basic services, environmental sustainability and gender equality and women empowerment.
“Some of our top recommendations include increasing lending to regional and sub-regional development banks — which are more in-line with the post 2015 sustainable development agenda.
“Strengthening the role of these development banks is also an important way to boost resilience in the Caribbean, or the ability to absorb external shocks without major social and economic setbacks. The Caribbean and countries hosting its diaspora should also improve arrangements and cross-border financial transactions to facilitate remittance payments as well as investments. Poor debt credit rating has helped deteriorate foreign investment in Caribbean countries. “
Faieta said that the Addis Abba conference provides “a unique opportunity to respond to the call from Caribbean SIDS to review current criteria for accessing concessional finance.
“Current barriers need to be lifted so the Caribbean countries and other SIDS can pave their way towards sustainable development,” she added.