COVID-19 decimated Caribbean economies. The U.S. should do more to help, Browne says



The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated economies across the tourism-dependent Caribbean costing losses as high as 20 percent in some countries in just one year, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda and current chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community said Friday.


“Our biggest issue is funding at this point,” Gaston Browne said during a virtual conversation that was part of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center’s Leaders of the America series. “We need access to affordable financing. In fact, the region at this time is virtually facing a debt crisis.”


Browne reiterated his call for the United States to help small developing states in the Caribbean gain access to grants and low-income financing from international financial institutions, to reschedule debt payments and get debt forgiveness.


He noted that for some countries in the region, their only choice has been to turn to China, which was giving out loans at 2% for up to 20 years with a five-year principal and moratorium. “That is the type of funding that we need in order to continue to grow and develop,” he said, accusing international financial institutions of ignoring the financial blow that Covid has dealt.


“Democracy and human rights are not achieved in conditions of poverty and want…These are issues that have to be addressed in order to sustain democracies within the Caribbean region. With his twin-island nation one of the hardest hit, Browne said the economic effects of the pandemic have already caused countries in the Caribbean to “lose a decade in development. I don’t know if we can be waiting an entire decade to be recovering those lost gains.”


News alerts in your inbox Sign up for email alerts and be the first to know when news breaks. SIGN UP This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply. “The United States has a strong voice within the four walls of the [international financial institutions] and its intervention …can be a game changer in terms of access to finance,” added Browne.


“This an area in which we think the United States has failed to assist the Caribbean region, to use its influence within the [international financial institutions] to have more responsive, let’s say, policy instruments and financial tools to assist countries in the Caribbean.”


Browne also said the U.S. can show more support to the region in respect to its ongoing fight with climate change and U.S. banks, which have been cutting ties with some Caribbean countries amid tighten banking controls and hefty fines over allegations of money laundering. Known as “de-risking,” the phenomenon is global and intensifying, with the Caribbean bearing the brunt, regional leaders and international financial institutions have said.


The Caribbean, which continues to struggle with COVID-19, can also use more vaccines, oxygen and testing kits, especially as the omicron variant begins to spread in the region, the leader noted.


They have had no direct access to the major pharmaceutical companies to purchase vaccines and have been crowded out by the richest countries, which bought and stockpiled vaccines, Browne told the virtual audience.


The Pan American Health Organization, the World Health’s Americas region office, has singled out several Caribbean countries for having some of the lowest vaccination rates in the region and not meeting a target of 20% of their population vaccinated by the end of this year.


While vaccine hesitancy is partly to blame for millions of people in the region still being unvaccinated, vaccine inequity continues to divide the region, PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said this week.

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  1. Hey “Handle your home”. Get your nose out of this. You sound like a TRUMPer. Maybe you should mind your own business.

    • @Conrad the Red: In the United States unlike Antigua and Barbuda we do pay FEDERAL INCOME TAXES. If Gaston Browne as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance for the past 7 years. If he did not squander the Finances of the Country. Perhaps Antigua and Barbuda would be in a better off financial situation. The monies derived from the sales of Passports alone should have sufficed.DO not blame the PANDEMIC for the Financial demise being seen in Antigua. Antigua’s Finances were going South before the PANDEMIC.Has Gaston Browne as Prime Minister ever blamed himself for anything that went wrong on his watch in Antigua and Barbuda?

      • Wharf Rat the PM is right with what he says so don’t get too political. It would be OK if the US wasn’t dictating to the Caribbean and Latin America what they should do, and who they must talk to. The US conducts its foreign policy to the Caribbean and Latin America like a man leaving a nice peaceful wife at home and go prostituting in Afghanistan and the Middle East with the very taxe dollars you spoke of. I’m paying taxes in the United States also.

  2. A sinister chuckle resonated when I read the headline of this article.
    We’ll ain’t that a bitch you literally ban me from my country of birth because I refuse to inject my body with a substance that I’m not comfortable.
    The same help that you’re talking about will mostly if not fully be paid from the sweat of my tax dollars..
    My brother and I are willing ,able and ready to return home to open a first of it’s kind business but, refuse to be part of a vaccination requirement to enter.. If this illegal and unethical forced mandate to enter the country continues we will look at other places to do business which seriously is rather heartbreaking.
    Not even the U.S. ban us from entering a land that we adopted as a children.

    • JAJ, if you were in Antigua going to the United States you would have to show proof of vaccination. Find other things to be critical of, not the same requirements the United States are requiring.

  3. Out of one side of his mouth he cuss and lambast dem then out of the other side he turn round and beg for money and help. This man have no shame. SMH

  4. Gaston Browne, don’t be a hypocrite, you’re saying the U.S have failed us. What about you failing your own country men, the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda. “Democracy and Human rights are not achieved in conditions of Poverty and want”. Eat your words Dictator. What goes around comes around. You’re such a fool.

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