The reality of increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters could exacerbate already high debt levels across the Region, particularly in the absence of development support.
Prime Minister of Grenada, Chair of the World Bank Small States Forum and Chairman of CARICOM, Dr. The Rt. Honourable Keith Mitchell, stressed the severity of the region’s plight using Dominica as an example – still not fully recovered from Tropical Storm Erika, which struck in 2015, the country was devastated by hurricane Maria in September of this year.
“The estimated damage and loss from Maria amounts to almost 200 percent of Dominica’s GDP.”
“Our experience is that you borrow to rebuild. Another climatic event destroys what you are rebuilding and you have to borrow to build again, even as you have not yet paid off the first set of debt,” Prime Minister Mitchell noted.
He insisted that a critical requirement for the reconstruction effort has to be access to concessional financing and technical expertise, and that vulnerability be included as a major criterion in determining eligibility.
“In a very almost diabolical way, construction adds to your GDP; hence your per capita income increases and our countries are labelled as middle income. Therefore, they cannot access concessional development financing. It is a trap for countries like ours,” he lamented.
The CARICOM Chairman acknowledged that there have been some positive signals coming from the international community with respect to a temporary relaxation of the eligibility criteria for development financing but reiterated the need for urgent action.
“Time is of the essence in accessing those funds, as events such as these hurricanes are occurring more frequently. Reconstruction must therefore be climate resilient in time for the next event.”
Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Chairman of the OECS, Hon. Allen Chastanet, echoed the sentiments of urgency stating that the time for talking has run out.
“These storms are already upon us and they have already created a devastating effect. We do not have the luxury of waiting anymore. We need the resources to be made available.”
“We are hopeful that we can leave COP with a motion, that has passed, that allows the SID Countries to be treated differently and that timelines are going to be expedited,” said Prime Minister Chastanet.
A Report published by the UNDP in 2015 confirms that Caribbean SIDS have limited fiscal capacity and flexibility to meet the investment requirements for recovery from, and rebuilding for longer term resilience to catastrophic events such as Hurricanes Irma and Maria.