Antigua and Barbuda is among the top 10 small island developing states (SIDS) in the world with public debt greater than their gross domestic product (GDP).
Caribbean countries in fact make up six of the top 10.
Based on 2020 data, Barbados is the highest ranked at 157 percent, followed by Suriname, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, and Antigua and Barbuda.
Policy Advisor to the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC), Jwala Rambarran, told the Caribbean Debt and Climate Consultations in Barbados that most of this debt is owned by private creditors – with China being the largest creditor.
Rambarran said many Caribbean SIDS do not qualify for low cost concessional financing from international lenders because of their middle income status.
He stressed that creditors do not take the effects of external shocks into consideration, some going as far back as 1996 with the phasing out of preferential trade agreements for sugar and bananas, the global financial crisis and the fuel hike in 2008, more recently the Covid-19 pandemic followed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
Caribbean SIDS also face the constant threat of frequent and ferocious natural disasters, exacerbated by climate change.
He noted that between 1950 and 2021, the region faced 423 named storms, 216 hurricanes and 100 major hurricanes.
It has been estimated that the region has suffered about US$30 billion in damages over the last 70 years.
Rambarran estimated that the total Caribbean debt amounts to almost US$65 billion, of which more than half is domestic debt.
This is debt held by local banks, insurance companies and monies used for education, health and local social programmes which may not be sustainable.
The CPDC’s answer to the challenge facing indebted countries is Caribbean Emancipation 2030, which has several global initiatives as its foundation.
The policy advisor noted, “It looked at what were the types of debt restructuring and debt cancellation agreements that the international communities had proposed, had used and some of which are still in use.”
The aim is to come up with a debt solution that is tailored to the Caribbean.
The three main objectives are, firstly, to allow the region to negotiate substantial reductions in their overall debt.
Secondly, to institute new green resilience bonds which it is hoped would usher in a new wave of capital flows to Caribbean SIDS.
And, thirdly, encourage many Caribbean countries to adopt and pursue ambitious, economic reform programmes linking debt relief to climate resilience.
Officer in charge of the CPDC, Richard Jones, said it is critical that the voices of those most impacted by sovereign debt are heard.
He stressed that some of the most affected groups go unnoticed and noted that, as interlocutors between policymakers and the most vulnerable, civil society is uniquely placed to articulate grassroots needs.
“Civil society brings the human touch to policymaking where others have faltered.
Given the external shocks rocking Caribbean SIDS, solutions are desperately needed to improve the quality of life and livelihoods of those most affected.
“When we talk about sustainable development, priority must be given to marginalised social sectors.
The erasure of poverty is paramount.
That is the root of sustainability,” Jones said.
Rambarran concluded, “We wanted a message that carried the word emancipation.
We wanted a message that would sit deeply with policymakers and the wider society.
It also carried this powerful symbolism – you break the chains of slavery and break the bondage of debt,” he said.
The CPDC is a regional umbrella body of non-governmental organisations headquartered in Barbados.
It advocates on a number of social and economic development issues impacting the region, and provides technical assistance and small grant support to civil society organisations across the Caribbean.
Advertise with the mоѕt vіѕіtеd nеwѕ ѕіtе іn Antigua!
We offer fully customizable and flexible digital marketing packages. Your content is delivered instantly to thousands of users in Antigua and abroad!
Contact us at [email protected]