During a meeting with government representatives from 15 Caribbean countries she said concessional funding and debt relief is urgently needed to face the COVID-19 crisis.
Bárcena chaired the meeting where heads of governments discussed the impact of the pandemic on their respective economies.
She said: “Considered as middle or high-income countries, Caribbean countries face a lack of access to liquidity on concessional terms. This is why policy proposals to support economic recovery with a people-centered approach are urgently needed.”
he Prime Minister and Premiers who were present at the meeting voiced concern about the Caribbean’s vulnerability and urged ECLAC to support their attempts to get concessional financing.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said: “The economic burden for our countries has been unsustainable because of the high levels of debt. We don’t have the capacity for printing money and our policy instruments are very limited. What is required at this point is some level of support from international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. ECLAC can help us advocate and raise its voice for us.”
He proposed that consideration be given to having credit extended to countries which have already invested in green technology. This he suggested could be applied through debt relief. He informed the meeting that Antigua and Barbuda was already exploring this option.
On March 30 PM Browne wrote to the IMF and World Bank requesting financial support for Caribbean states struggling under the enormity of the pandemic and its effects.
Responding to the challenges being faced by each Caribbean territory, Barcena said: “We have heard from all of you that you need immediate action. Borrowing is not the answer to confront this crisis. Caribbean countries need grant support fast. There is need for urgent intervention to ensure liquidity. Let me say that we are very much on board. We are part of this. A game plan for the short term is needed and we have to work on this, together with CARICOM, ACS and OECS.”
She said ECLAC will continue to advocate for debt relief, grants and concessional funding for Caribbean states, while addressing the issues openly with one voice.
“We heard you loud and clear. We will make sure that the Secretary-General of the UN (António Guterres) and his team receive this information with a view to their supporting us at the international level.”