Dominica has praised the World Bank for providing financial assistance to the island during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic even as it urged the international financial institution to rethink its policies so as to help developing countries like Antigua and Barbuda benefit from its lending programmes.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, speaking in Parliament on Monday night, said that Dominica will benefit from an EC$67-million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) loan from the Washington-based financial institution as part of the country’s COVID-19 response.
“But I believe that the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) with the changes that they have made within those institutions have demonstrated their understanding in large measure of the challenges of small island developing states (SIDS), like Dominica, Skerrit told legislators.
He said the financing mechanism put in place by the two Washington-based institutions “is a reflection of their understanding and I can say to the people of Dominica that we have cultivated as a Government and a country an extraordinary cordial relationship with the World Bank, and its staff and the leadership of the bank….
“I believe we are developing with the World Bank a case study of how we believe the World Bank can help a developing country overcome its challenges. But I believe overall we can day that they are very responsive and understanding with regards to the needs of Small Island Developing States, like Dominica, especially having to face these external shocks of this pandemic””.
But Skerrit was critical of the financial institutions for their policies regarding concessionary loans to SIDS, making out a case for Antigua and Barbuda, which like a number of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries in the past been critical of their inability to access these loans.
“I speak on behalf of countries like Antigua and Barbuda and this unnecessary classification which prevents countries like Antigua and Barbuda to access funds like this, concessionary loans. As I said to them many times that they have to review the classification and in a tie when a country like Antigua and Barbuda is facing this huge external shock to tell me that the international financial institutions are not coming to the aid of Antigua and Barbuda is shameful, unacceptable.
“I believe in times like these the rules muct be relaxed because what Antigua and Barbuda is confronting now is a doing of the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda. It is an external shock that all of us are experiencing”
Skerrit said that the situation is even more critical for the CARICOM country given its heavy reliance on the tourism industry “and we all know what tourism is and has been for the last year”.
He said it is unfortunate that the country does not have access to the funds as well as concessionary financing.
“The international financial institutions should be running to the aid of Antigua and Barbuda and all of the developing countries that have graduated to middle income country status,” Skerrit told legislators