Prime minister of Barbados and sitting chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Mia Mottley yesterday called for mature and relevant conversations relating to the debt obligations of middle-income small island developing states across the globe, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the 73rd Annual World Health Assembly, held via teleconference Mottley said: “Many countries will either have an orderly restructuring of debt, or at the very least a debt moratorium that provides certainty for both the borrower and the lender, or they will have a disorderly unravelling that will create a crisis, both within their respective countries and within the global financial markets.
“These conversations must admit of greater certainty in the management of our affairs, and I pray that the global community will have the courage to allow us to have them,” she said.
The Bajan prime minister argued there needs to be a global leadership initiative that acknowledges that the use of historic per capita income to determine access to concessional or grant funds or to determine fair access to the procurement of goods was unacceptable.
Mottley pointed out, further, that when the circumstances of middle-income countries begin to decline, international financial institution do not conduct reviews which consider the shocks to which they are exposed. By not doing so, international financial institutions preclude middle-income countries from accessing critical money or goods.
“It is also, therefore, clear that we need additional criteria to determine equitable access and fair allocation — criteria that better take into account that vulnerability which we have.”— Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley
“In addition, the use of certain proxy criteria to access technologies, medicines, vaccines or concessional funds and grants would exclude vulnerable countries such as ours in the Caribbean, some in Latin America, and even in the Pacific. Why? Because we are using criteria that are more relevant to fighting problems that have little or no relevance to our current vulnerabilities and challenges,” the CARICOM chair elaborated.
“For example, we are less than two weeks away from the beginning of the hurricane season. Tropical Storm Arthur has already formed off The Bahamas, well in advance of that start. Many of us are already confronting droughts and the presence of Sargassum weed as the result of the climate crisis, and it is wreaking havoc in our societies. But none of these challenges are captured by per capita income, or by maternal mortality rates. None of them,” Mottley continued.
She that there was a global market failure in which small middle-income states were at risk of not being seen or heard, or not even accessing critical goods and supplies.
She thanked Director General of the World Health Organization Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for recently reaching out to the executive director of the Global Fund to advocate for the countries in the region that have been excluded from procurement, through the consortium of critical COVID-19 medical supplies. She stressed, however, that the region needed to be included.
“It is also, therefore, clear that we need additional criteria to determine equitable access and fair allocation — criteria that better take into account that vulnerability which we have. And if we are asking for the same solution for climate, external shocks as we are now asking for the pandemic, it is because all three destroy our capacity to produce as nations and the ability of our people to survive.
“Equitable access and fair allocation of resources will allow our small states, particularly middle-income ones, dependent on travel to be able to have access to increased supplies for testing, such that we can reopen our societies safely to intra-regional travel, and thereafter to extra-regional travel. But it will also better allow us to ensure that there is a return to safe work, by safe people, the least vulnerable people to COVID-19 in our countries,” she said.
Mottley stated that middle-income countries urgently need to get access to adequate numbers of the appropriate tests, in particular, the rapid tests that are affordable and reliable, if their economies and societies are to reopen safely.