Antigua & Barbuda Asks For UN’s Help To Seek Debt Forgiveness From Paris Club


Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne on Wednesday called on the United Nations to assist with its appeal to the Paris Club for debt forgiveness of more than US$100 million.

Browne made the call during the launch of a COVID-19 multi-sectoral response plan (MRP), and US$29.7 million funding appeal for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. The initiative is a joint cooperation and mobilization strategy by the UN sub-regional team, to meet the immediate to medium-term needs of Eastern Caribbean countries.

“There are simple interventions that we need. Historical debts that carry no real value for these Paris Club countries should be written off automatically. We should not have to beg them during this difficult period to write them off. They are of no value to them,” Browne said during the virtual launch.

“The United Nations, you can help us to be strong advocates especially for those nuisance debts. All they’re doing is to literally use them as a noose around our necks. If it is that they are saying they are not in a position to write off current debts, at least write off those bad debts.”

The Paris Club is an informal group of creditor nations whose objective is to find workable solutions to payment problems faced by debtor nations. Its membership includes a majority of the western European and Scandinavian countries, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

Browne recently revealed that the Paris Club is owed about US$150 million, and that this is the opportune time for Antigua and Barbuda to press for forgiveness, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If the international community cannot assist us at a time when we are seeing the worst crisis, when are they going to assist us? When are they going to be able to assist these micro states? Some of us have debts, including Paris Club debts for decades, and they still force us to take on those debts,” Browne said Wednesday afternoon.

He noted that the debts have not been paid on for some 40 years, and if the Paris Club countries were to write them off, it would only be “a paper transaction” to them, since technically speaking, the debts are not in the current budget of the countries.

“So why would they want to continue to push to collect those debts? And if [our] countries go into IMF [International Monetary Fund] programmes, you will have a situation where the amounts of the debts that you have to honour, which would have been unpaid for decades, would actually exceed the amount that they give you in financial support,” Browne said.

The Antigua and Barbuda leader said that type of response is not satisfactory for small, vulnerable countries.

Bespoke solutions

“I think that they have to look at some granular detail with what is happening with these countries and to come up with bespoke solutions, the prime minister said.

“We are not opportunistically seeking ODA [Official Development Assistance] and debt relief. It is an absolute necessity.”

In fact, Browne said Small Island Development States have very limited resources as well as structural problems, and they’ve had to borrow repeatedly to deal with the “exogenous shocks” and therefore need a more responsive international community.

Happy for UN Initiative

Meanwhile, Browne said he was happy that the United Nations is providing an opportunity to raise some funds in the interim, but he’s hoping that the ambition could be increased beyond $30 million. 

“We’re appreciative of the fact that you’re starting with $30 million, but the reality is, this region needs hundreds of millions of dollars in order to stabilize the situation as a consequence of COVID-19,” Browne said.

“The international community, especially the G-20 countries, I think there has to be some level of direct support for these small states and even other CARICOM [Caribbean Community] countries that are suffering at this time.

“Forcing us to carry high debt loads and then to find monies to stimulate and to stabilize — we  are not going to be able to achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals],” he added.

Allen Chastanet – Prime Minister of Saint Lucia.[/caption]

Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, who also participated in the launch said that unlike some of the disasters Caribbean countries have experienced in the past, particularly as it pertains to climate change and hurricanes, COVID-19 is impacting every single sector. 

60% drop in overall revenues

He said the ability of respective governments to continue funding their day-to-day needs has been severely impacted.

“Here we are, a time in which to no fault of anyone, a pandemic has arisen. As a result of it, unprecedentedly, the global economy has been shut down and we have now found ourselves fighting two battles — one on the health side and the other on the economic side,” Chastanet said.

“The developed world showed us what the solution was, which was to create liquidity. Sadly for us, we are not in a position to create that same level of liquidity.

“We’re all contending with the IMF and the World Bank and following the strict protocols that have been established for us from an economic  development perspective — that is debt to GDP of three per cent, not more than a three per cent overall deficit — these numbers now have become impossible to be conformed to, given the calamity where Saint Lucia has seen a drop of 60 per cent in its overall revenues,” Chastanet added.

How long will it last?

The Saint Lucian leader said the harsh reality is that no one knows how long the current situation will last. 

“Is it going to be two months, is it going to be three months before we see the global economies return to some level of normalcy?” Chastanet said. 

“And what is the new normal going to be, when the ECCB, the World Bank and CDB put out a prognosis that our overall GDP is going to come back somewhere between 18 and 23 per cent?”Didier Trebucq, UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.[/caption]

Didier Trebucq, UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean said the closure of borders and grounding of commercial flights have placed the Caribbean service-based economies under severe threat, noting that tourism contributes for some islands as much as 50 per cent of GDP and provides jobs for up to one-half of labor forces in this region.

‘This is critical’

Trebucq said downturns in regional economies caused by COVID-19, have exacerbated the risks of social inequalities and gaps, for example, the loss of jobs has compounded unemployment, which currently ranges between 10 per cent and 25 per cent across the region.

“At this time of greater global uncertainty, the Caribbean has never before needed the level of assistance that it requires today. The region not only

requires adequate fiscal space and resources to embark on a comprehensive socio-economic response to COVID; but it also needs technical expertise to effectively target the most vulnerable now, as well as in the longer-term as they seek to ‘restore livelihoods and income security’ following this crisis,” Trebucq said.

“I think of low-skilled employees who will have lost their job in the tourism sector; fishermen belonging to a vulnerable household suffering from this lockdown.”

Trebucq said that it is against this background that the UN sub-regional team is launching the funding appeal.

“This is the UN’s effort to support countries in fostering international solidarity and help mobilize financial resources to meet some of their needs for over the next eight months,” Trebucq said.

“It is aimed at supporting the ongoing advocacy by the Eastern Caribbean states for differential treatment based on their vulnerability; and to support their access to more resources. This is critical.”

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  1. So what your saying is you want to Borrow Money but you don’t think you should have to pay it back ?
    And you Wonder why they don’t give you more Money ?
    Also you run to the UN ,Now there’s a Group as useless as Gaston Browne

    Lots of LUCK with that On.

  2. I am calling on all Banks.Please forgive my personal debts.I came to you and borrowed your money and now me carn pay you.I spent the monies borrowed,like a drunken sailor.What a damn shame that in past 6 years.Antigua and Barbuda has taken in a windfall of US $$$$$$.The CIP alone brought in over a Billion Dollars.The GDP of Antigua was the best in the Western Hemisphere.Better than that of Canada and the United States of America in 2019.However in a matter of 2 months Antigua is virtually bankrupt.What happened WORLD BOSS/MOSES.You lead the country down a cesspool of corruption.I pay a boat load of taxes.And you would want the loans to be written off.

    • Let us call on the great USA to pay Antigua and Barbuda its monies as per the WTO ruling.
      Let us call on the great USA to pay Antigua and Barbuda its monies as per the WTO ruling.
      Let us call on the great USA to pay Antigua and Barbuda its monies as per the WTO ruling.

      • @wow:Perhaps you should read the WTO ruling.Instead of jumping to a conclusion.See exactly what it did say.You are looking for cash.It never said anything about liquid cash.

        • @Bugsy are u for real ……then again I never saw a smart bug they call ways get squashed ….. by the way is a cockroach a bug asking for bugsy

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