UN Secretary General calls for revisiting of concessionary loan policies to Caribbean

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 21, CMC – The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, Tuesday called for a revisiting of the policies that have led to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries being excluded from concessionary development loans as the region appealed to the international community for assistance in rebuilding following the passage of two destructive hurricanes in September.

António Guterres
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Most of the Caribbean countries are categorized as middle- to high-income and are largely ineligible for concessional development financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), due to the use of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita as a principal criterion.

Guterres, who was addressing the CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference, said that on his visit to Dominica and Barbuda, two of the countries worst affected by the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria through the Lesser Antilles in September he had never seen “ such a level of devastation…in my life”.

The UN Secretary General told the conference that the international financial institutions and donors “can coordinate risk sharking and concessional lending terms,’ adding “this is why I am happy to see so many development partners here today, including business, financial institutions, bilateral partners and others”.

He said while there need for a full response, countries should simultaneously start risk resilient medium and long term recovery and reconstruction efforts.

He told the international community to build long term resilience, there is need to explore eligibility for concessional finance, re-insurance mechanisms and ways to leverage the remittances received by the regional countries.

“It is time for long term mechanisms that recognise vulnerabilities as the new normal, we can no longer rely on exceptions and ad hoc decisions,” he said, noting that countries that are disproportionately vulnerable to disaster and economic shocks must be able to access finance on terms and conditions that are appropriate to their specific needs and circumstances.

He said the policies now meant that Caribbean countries are “paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

“This is unnecessary and unjustifiable in the digital age. It is unacceptable in the face of the hardships that people face across the region. Disaster insurance has also proven inadequate to the unprecedented hurricane season,” he said noting that the combination of the efforts of the insurance industry and the international community “must allow us to come up with more robust approaches for insurance”.

He said that instrument should be sensitive to the ability to pay and have catastrophic clauses built in. In short we need a new and better deal for the Caribbean if these countries are to build climate resilience and achieve the sustainable development goals.”

In his address, Guterres said that women should also be allowed to play a meaningful role in the future development of the region.

“Women who are predominantly head of households in the Caribbean region must have a central role in the survival and resilience families and communities.

“So in our joint recovery efforts we must ensure that women as change agents in their communities are meaningfully engaged in discussions, decision making and implementation of programmes on disaster response and economic recovery including female employment,” he said.

The Caribbean is seeking millions of dollars in assistance in order to rebuild with the Antigua and Barbuda government indicating that it would need in excess of 200 million dollars to rebuild the island of Barbuda where the estimated 1,800 inhabitants had been evacuated following the passage of the Category 5 storm.

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UNITED NATIONS, Nov 21, CMC – The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, Tuesday called for a revisiting of the policies that have led to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries being excluded from concessionary development loans as the region appealed to the international community for assistance in rebuilding following the passage of two destructive hurricanes in September.

António Guterres
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Most of the Caribbean countries are categorized as middle- to high-income and are largely ineligible for concessional development financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), due to the use of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita as a principal criterion.

Guterres, who was addressing the CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference, said that on his visit to Dominica and Barbuda, two of the countries worst affected by the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria through the Lesser Antilles in September he had never seen “ such a level of devastation…in my life”.

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The UN Secretary General told the conference that the international financial institutions and donors “can coordinate risk sharking and concessional lending terms,’ adding “this is why I am happy to see so many development partners here today, including business, financial institutions, bilateral partners and others”.

He said while there need for a full response, countries should simultaneously start risk resilient medium and long term recovery and reconstruction efforts.

He told the international community to build long term resilience, there is need to explore eligibility for concessional finance, re-insurance mechanisms and ways to leverage the remittances received by the regional countries.

“It is time for long term mechanisms that recognise vulnerabilities as the new normal, we can no longer rely on exceptions and ad hoc decisions,” he said, noting that countries that are disproportionately vulnerable to disaster and economic shocks must be able to access finance on terms and conditions that are appropriate to their specific needs and circumstances.

He said the policies now meant that Caribbean countries are “paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

“This is unnecessary and unjustifiable in the digital age. It is unacceptable in the face of the hardships that people face across the region. Disaster insurance has also proven inadequate to the unprecedented hurricane season,” he said noting that the combination of the efforts of the insurance industry and the international community “must allow us to come up with more robust approaches for insurance”.

He said that instrument should be sensitive to the ability to pay and have catastrophic clauses built in. In short we need a new and better deal for the Caribbean if these countries are to build climate resilience and achieve the sustainable development goals.”

In his address, Guterres said that women should also be allowed to play a meaningful role in the future development of the region.

“Women who are predominantly head of households in the Caribbean region must have a central role in the survival and resilience families and communities.

“So in our joint recovery efforts we must ensure that women as change agents in their communities are meaningfully engaged in discussions, decision making and implementation of programmes on disaster response and economic recovery including female employment,” he said.

The Caribbean is seeking millions of dollars in assistance in order to rebuild with the Antigua and Barbuda government indicating that it would need in excess of 200 million dollars to rebuild the island of Barbuda where the estimated 1,800 inhabitants had been evacuated following the passage of the Category 5 storm.