Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne, on Friday, joined other regional leaders at a Caribbean and Americas Regional Commonwealth Leaders’ Roundtable organized by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles tagged “Accelerating Economic Recovery and Sustainable Markets.”
The Roundtable, which was also attended by the President of Rwanda, HE Mr. Paul Kagame and the Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma, COP President Designate, addressed issues of green recovery, accelerating a sustainable transition across the decade and opportunities for joint-action in the lead up to COP26.
In addressing the gathering of leaders, Prime Minister Browne said that there is a need for the international community to help the region build capacity to adapt and mitigate against the effects of climate change.
“We recognize that there are opportunities going forward in terms of seizing the green recovery that will follow as we all seek to accelerate our transition into green energy. But transitioning into green energy is expensive. This transition into green energy, if we are to achieve the commitments that we have given, obviously the funding is beyond our means and it would have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic,” Prime Minister Browne stated.
He outlined that he is delighted to hear that the U.K., and President Biden are willing to meet their commitments and in many instances, increasing their commitments.
Remarks were also given by the Prime Ministers of Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Jamaica, St. Christopher and Nevis, the Commonwealth of Dominica, and the President of Guyana.
We are pleased to present below the full text of the Prime Minister’s remarks.
Prime Minister the Honourable Gaston Browne
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda
HRH The Prince of Wales
Caribbean and Americas Regional Commonwealth
Accelerating Economic Recovery and Sustainable Markets
Friday, 23rd April, 2021
Thank you very much.
Your Royal Highness.
I acknowledge my colleague heads and other distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
Your Royal Highness. Let me thank you for arranging this leaders’ round table. As you are aware, the Caribbean region has been among the hardest hit globally, by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the COVID -19 pandemic is as insidious in its reach and impact compared to climate change. So many of our countries are literally teetering on the edge of despair. Access to vaccines has been a challenge and we are doing all we can to access vaccines so that we can have a very robust recovery.
The prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines spoke about the concept of small states exceptionalism, and obviously that requires special and differential treatment. In fact, within the Caribbean region itself, there are also microstates states that have populations that range between 60 and 150,000 people and obviously there are systemic problems. As a consequence, we are not as competitive as other countries and we are certainly very vulnerable, obviously very vulnerable to climate change. So, there is a need for the international community to help us to build capacity to adapt and mitigate against the effects of climate change.
We recognize that there are opportunities going forward in terms of seizing the green recovery that will follow as we all seek to accelerate our transition into green energy. But transitioning into green energy is expensive. This transition into green energy, if we are to achieve the commitments that we have given, obviously the funding is beyond our means and it would have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. So I’m very happy to hear that the U.K., and based on the commitments that were given by the states during the recent round table by President Biden, that they are willing to meet their commitments and in many instances, increasing their commitments.
Your Highness, I am hoping that the funding will trickle down to the smaller states within the Caribbean region, because if we are to benefit from a green recovery, then evidently we need funding. That has been a major problem, especially for the countries that are characterized as middle income and high income countries. In fact, in the case of my own country, we have been utilizing very scarce resources to transition into green energy applications. Within the last few years, we have spent about 60 million U.S. dollars to acquire solar and wind applications. But within the last year, we have had to utilize funding that were committed to accelerate the transition into green energy applications, to fund COVID-19 expenses. So evidently, our capacity to accelerate the transition into green energy and even in the blue economy, obviously would have been affected by COVID-19. So the need for funding and access to funding is very important and we continue to argue for there to be changes so that multi-dimensional vulnerability index is established to bring an end to the denial of much needed assistance to these small states in the Caribbean, especially during a time of crisis.
We hope that within this forum that we will be able to get Your Highness and certainly Mr. Sharma and others to help us to advocate the need for this multi-dimensional vulnerability index to ensure that vulnerable countries within the Caribbean, that we get some level of access to funding, especially those of us who have been precluded even during a time of global crisis.
Your Highness, even though we are small states, we have a lot of ocean space, so we are a relatively large ocean economies and that is an area in which we wish to transition and to get the necessary technical expertise so that we can explore the opportunities that are available in the blue economies. That is outside of the traditional ones so that we can obviously increase revenue from the blue economy and to help to have a stronger recovery that will be based on opportunities of both the green and blue economy sectors.
Colleagues, those are critical areas for us to lead strong and sustained recovery. We also need foreign direct investment. We are hoping, too, that foreign direct investments could be redirected our way, because, the reality is, cash flows that are generated within our societies would have been significantly reduced, having been decimated by the effects of COVID. In order to fund an internal recovery, it would be very difficult, so we need to attract foreign direct investments, especially in green energy, and the oceanic sector of the economy in order to exploit those opportunities so that we can have more robust growth and development and recover jobs that we have lost. In fact, many of our countries would have seen unemployment rising to in excess of 30 percent.
These are real issues affecting us that require bespoke interventions. Even in terms of the international financial institutions, they need to establish bespoke financing instruments that would take into consideration the needs of these countries instead of this one size fits all approach. In addition, suspend some of the bureaucratic impediments to include the per capita income criterion, which obviously would have precluded very vulnerable countries from much needed assistance.
Your Excellencies , we are hoping that those are some of the good opportunities that we’ll be able to exploit and, of course, get more investment in the green energy sector so that we can expand our economies more rapidly and to achieve a level of resilience and sustainable growth in order to have a strong recovery.
I thank you again for this very important forum and to advise that Antigua and Barbuda is ready to accept any private sector investor who would be interested in looking at the various projects that we have here, a number of dynamic projects, because we know that private money is also very important. We also look forward to hearing the next steps and how we can engage with the international investors that you are likely to bring to the table so that we in the Caribbean can have a brighter and certainly more prosperous future.
Thank you very much, Your Highness.