Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Mottley repeats call for global leadership initiative

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NAIROBI – Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley Wednesday said the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping is vulnerable to the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and appealed for a truly global response to the pandemic that has killed more than 370 000 people and infected 6.7 million others worldwide since it was first detected in China last year.

Mottley, who is also the chairman of the 15-member regional integration grouping, during her address to the extraordinary Inter-Sessional Summit of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) on transcending the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, renewed her call for multilateralism and a global leadership initiative that brings together not just governments, but other people of influence, insisting that it is the behaviour of individuals that has to change.

The one-day event is being held under the theme “Transcending the COVID-19 Pandemic: Building Resilience through Global Solidarity” and consists of a dialogue by the heads of state and Government of the OACPS.

The summit is based on three pillars namely “building resilience; keeping economies functioning and rebooting for a strong recovery, and boosting global solidarity and deepening partnerships”.

Mottley told the virtual summit that “the recovery of economic growth and jobs in one country cannot be achieved without recovery or economic growth in other countries that provide either the goods or alternatively purchase the goods”.

“In other words, we must recover together and we must protect our future prosperity by protecting the interests of all of us. This is the only way that the world can move forward in solidarity. Truly, global recovery requires, as we have said, leaving no country behind in the recovery process and that the necessary tools, tools to achieve this recovery are made available to all countries.

“Then we can at least guarantee that support. We have to ask ourselves, are we going to act as if our interests are served by maximising profit and hoarding vaccines for the wealthy or more powerful nations?”

The Barbados Prime Minister said that CARICOM and, by extension, the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) grouping, which includes the Dominican Republic, are especially vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19, not just in terms of the number of cases and,  regrettably, those deaths that have happened, even though there are few in comparison to other regions.

“It is the economic impact that is going to be our greatest challenge for the Caribbean is . . . the world’s most trade and travel dependent region. Tourism represents close to or more in some instances of 50 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and also employment.”

She said that the actions taken by members of the global community and ourselves to contain the spread of the pandemic are resulting in the most substantial contraction in economic activity since the Great Depression and the riots in the 1930s, noting that the cut is disproportionately deeper.

“For many of us, we remain committed to paying the economic costs, however, to ensuring that we protect the health and lives of our citizens and shore up our public health systems because we cannot replace lives. We simply cannot. But at the same time, an equally strong economic response is needed.

“We find it almost impossible, however, to do both with respect to the protection of lives and livelihoods in the circumstances in which we find ourselves globally. We simply do not have the fiscal space to marshal an economic stimulus the size and scope that our  developed partners can secure or that we need.”

Mottley said the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has forecast a collapse in Caribbean economies, with declines in some countries ranging from as low as 11 per cent to as much as 30 per cent in those tourism dependent countries.

She said the economic contraction . . . and the projected decline across many of these countries mirrors that of the economic decline of many European countries during World War Two.

“That decline then led to a Marshall Plan being settled to ensure that those states did not become failed states. We ask our brothers and sisters to take note of this fact and to recognise that this can no longer be the subject of politely listening to speeches and repetitive pleas to a world that is not yet hearing or not yet seeing us.

“Our small states have been suffering from high debt and low growth for decades, and we believe that they should be mature and relevant conversations for middle income, small island developing states across the globe as it relates to our debt obligations in the midst of this pandemic.

“We will either have an orderly restructuring of debt or, at the very least, a debt moratorium that provides certainty for both borrower and lender. Or we will have a disorderly unravelling that will create a crisis both within our countries and the financial markets,” the CARICOM chairman added.

She told the summit emergency fiscal measures, including debt relief, are needed to relieve the pressure on the highly indebted states of the Caribbean and avert another crisis of deep and long term impoverishment of our people.

“And I am not speaking for barometers because we have fundamentally restructured most of our debt. I am speaking from my brothers and sisters in the region whose profile as countries have too high a debt to GDP ratio and who have little room to manoeuvre, even as we therefore battle with the social and economic ravages of COVID.”

Mottley said the region was facing the pandemic even as it faces the fact that this is hurricane season.

“June 1 has passed and, for us, the Atlantic hurricane season this year is expected to be active and an above average season. We pray that this is a false prediction,” Mottley added.

She said that the challenges which now confront the OACPS membership due to this pandemic are a true test of the spirit and the letter of the revised Georgetown Agreement and the guiding tenants of the organisation” which are based fundamentally on the principles that we have heard so much about and will continue to hear about solidarity, unity and partnership”. (CMC)

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