PM calls for debt relief, tells leaders stop spending on useless wars

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Prime MinisterGaston Browne is calling for the international community to provide debt relief for middle-income countries like Antigua and Barbuda whose status no longer qualifies them for certain types of assistance.

The prime minister made the impassioned plea while addressing a high-level forum on middle income countries at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

He recommended a global partnership on debt relief, telling the UN that “there must be a willingness to write-off or reduce debt, particularly by the Paris Club, especially as, in many cases, it is decades of compounded interest that enlarges the debt.”

The country’s leader said, “servicing that debt, amid frequent disasters, persistent diseconomies and external shocks, restrict spending on education, training, new technologies and improving competitiveness, resulting ultimately in underdevelopment.”

Added to that, he called for debt for climate swaps to reduce debt burden in accelerating transition to green energy, to reduce carbon foot print, improve energy security, climate and economic resilience. 

Browne told delegates that with a unified vision of global development, the international community can help to address the developmental gaps in middle income countries in many ways.

He called for the current criterion of using per capita income for measuring development to be overturned, arguing that it is “deeply flawed.”

Such a move Browne argued will provide middle income countries with much needed access to developmental financing. 

He made the case for a genuine methodology to be urgently formulated for determining vulnerabilities and it must include size, susceptibility to climate change, poor terms of trade, remoteness, high cost of transactions, the narrow base of productive activities, and high debt.

“Concessional financing must be provided to curb the reversals already now in train and to facilitate our efforts to continue the development of our nations,” Browne said.

The prime minister encouraged the wealthy countries to spend less on artillery in support of senseless wars and useless conflicts; the savings of which should be utilized to advance human development at home and abroad. 

His plea to the international community also included a call to recognize  climate change as the demon that it is. 

“The world’s worst polluters must admit, that it is they who have unleashed this demon, and it is they who must commit to containing and stopping it; not just in words but in deeds, especially by delivering the necessary adaptation and mitigation financing.,” Browne said.

“Unless such a commitment becomes a binding commandment and Climate Change is halted, no amount of resilience building will help. 

Small island states, such as mine, will be among the first victims; but we will not be the last.

It is therefore, in the best interest of humanity that we work collectively, in building a transformational model of cooperation for sustainable global development. 

Within the only world body – this United Nations – the consciousness of the world and its collective conscience must act, and act now,” he added.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Once again a well delivered speech from our Prime Minister. It is sad though that these wealthy countries do not care and don’t really listen. Why can Venezuela and China forgive debt but the PARIS club refuse to do so when it comes to the poor Caribbean countries. However Ireland and Greece have been forgiven billions of dollars. Compared to our debt this is like a drop in their bucket. They wouldn’t even miss our debt.

  2. Some people have the gaul to ask for debt relief. The same idiot that said he will borrow Antigua&Barbuda out of debt. He is now at the UN asking for debt relief, the ALP and now ABLP borrow the people money don’t pay back anything for over 40 years and now come begging for relief. They should do us a favor and put you in a political jail.

    • Actually he said grow, via the use of debt to invest in projects which return value for money. A good example was the WIOC purchase. Anyway as they say, while the dog barks, the cart moves on

      • I see the website removed the like and dislike symbols.
        By the way don’t think he doesn’t know it. He is just spinning and hopes no one catch on to him

        • When I look on from the sideline, the oldest profession in the world is still alive and doing well on Antigua. “It’s called prostitution”. I am hoping the prostitutes blogging on this site will not be on the sideline between 46 north street and popes head street, because selling ones self comes so easy to them, Wendy’s don’t need the competition.

      • Oh my look who have risen from the dead. “Ten man” my grandfather once said to me a long time ago a birdman will always be a birdman no matter how hard them kick him. Anyway as they say, you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

  3. while i agree overall that the speech is timely and well delivered , i do believe that the continued emphasis on per capita income being a flawed measure of development needs to be contextualized . Firstly no one used per capita income as a measure of economic development rather its a measure of economic growth . However , i do agree that to be developing u must be growing and as a result per capita incomes becomes becomes a key component of economic development . Secondly not being able to demonstrate why in Antigua’s case one should not form a link between GDP. and the ability to service the public debt is also lacking every time the statement is made . For example one can argue that the bulk of our activities that makes up Gdp originates from tourism related sector which requires continuous tax concession to attract investment in that sector. To put more simply , its means that to attrack a new hotel for example all taxes must be waved for 20 years . During that 20 years, activity is generated but not tax .When taken on a macro level this results in a low Tax to GDP ratio hence curtailing our ability to service debt while meeting our key commitments to the citizen welbeing . At the same time it must also be demonstrated that the government is being fiscally responsible , the rate of tax compliance is high, committment on a fiscal stance that dont increase debt especially where that new debt is not capital related and efficiency in expenditure. In summary it is when we can show that we are doing most things right in terms of our fiscal poicy , growth policy , PFM policy , and yet still unable to meet current obligation, we will be taken seriously that just looking at a country’s percapita income should not deprive that country from accessing certain grant funding, concessional financing and debt relief ..

    • It was not about servicing the debt. it is about having access to concessionary financing. Once your GDP is in a certain bracket to exclude you from these so called cheap type of borrowings, and send you to the capital market to borrow at hugh rates. That is why we have to continue to borrow from friends like China and Venezuela. They are the only ones providing the concessionary loans. And remember IMF doesn’t lend for developmental projects. That is why they are called the lender of last resort. Presently the USA is perhaps the most indebted country in the world, but lenders have no fear to keep lending them so that they can keep fueling their economy. Mainly with military spending. Because everything else seems to be coming out of China.

  4. Why don’t we start trying to pay these loans first then ask for debt forgiveness? For decades we have had this mentality to borrow and not pay back…. Unlike china and Venezuela these wealthy countries do not need anything from us, they just want us to learn proper fiscal management that has been lacking for years…. When we have debts from 1979 still unpaid it begs to question why haven’t these debts been serviced…. Yet we can curse off the IMF for the fiscal structures….. We owe China almost $1 billion EC…. These are supposed soft loans that have a 25 or life…. Will we ever be able to pay these back? We need more short term loans that we actually service that will bring more development to our country and not poverty all the Chinese money comes with ridiculous conditions…. Our development projects are built by Chinese with minimal jobs for our people…. How are these debt sustainable?

    • Yet under this administration or debt to GDP ratio has moved from 104% in 2014 to now 68%. You don’t do that without paying debt and also advancing your economy

    • The problem with the PARIS Club debt is that you keep playing catch-up. You pay interest upon interest. The loan is a heavy burden and you should understand the days that days loans were taken these guys were like loan sharks, They know you couldn’t pay it back but they saddled you with the loans nevertheless. But as a desperate little nation at that time we had no choice. Those were loans for development like our Deep Water Harbour. And believe me the payments we have already made have paid back the principle quite a few times back. But again once you understand how these loans are structured you almost never can get out of it. Unless you start implementing austerity measures and than what will happen the people will suffer. So it is not that simple of paying back the loan. Look at the Credit Swiss loan that the UPP took at 13% interest without an out clause. That means we will have to pay back that loan with interest whether or not we have the money to buy it out for a loan with a lower interest rate. That is a real loan shark. There should be a court where you can take banks like these. Because it is pure wickedness. Reminds me of the loan sharks that saddled people up with mortgages in the US and we saw what the consequences were. A complete meltdown of the financial sector worldwide.

      • I love how you all know what the UPP did but forget what ALP did and now what this inept ABLP is doing like paying off a 1% loan, then saddle the people with a Chinese 100 million loan at 3% but I guess we have the two brightest bulb in the room. What you call that gymnastics financing?

  5. I agree with PM Browne on this topic 100%. The USA and the EU continue to hurt Antigua by forcing us to pay high interest loans and debt for human services.

    China has forgiven loans to Antigua and also provides us grants instead of loans. China is a much better friend to Antigua than the EU or USA will ever be.

    The PM is totally right when he talks about certain countries (clearly talking about the USA) using money for global wars rather than global assistance to help others.

    Good job PM, support on this line of thinking 100%.

    • Yep China understands that focusing on economic growth will not only remove the need for welfare programs. it will also aid in better governance since persons have now passed the level of wanting basic needs.

  6. The country’s leader said, “servicing that debt, amid frequent disasters, persistent diseconomies [AND OF COURSE THE LITTLE CORRUPTION) and external shocks, restrict spending on education, training, new technologies and improving competitiveness, resulting ultimately in underdevelopment.”

  7. Once again the comrade speaks Truth. This man seems to have the spirit or Vere Cornwall Bird Sr. upon him. He leads in the manner of our late Papa Bird. Antigua first! God is with him. It’s wonderful to be a part of all of this. God bless Antigua and Barbuda.

    • Well said brethren. It was VC who first pushed the similar idea of entrepreneurial capitalism. We have learned from him and will carry the baton further.

      “Then raise the scarlet standard high
      Beneath it’s folds we’ll live and die
      Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer
      We’ll keep the red flag flying here”

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