After months of lobbying, the United States has leveraged its leadership at the International Monetary Fund to provide $1.7 billion in new emergency funding for Caribbean countries, as a direct response to COVID 19.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley made the announcement yesterday during the Twentieth Special Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, (CARICOM), which was held virtually, as she demitted chairmanship of the Caribbean Community to Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
Ms. Mottley told fellow Heads of Government that both US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, had officially signed a letter to support the funding grant, and promised that if requested, the United States would support temporary access to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, for COVID-19 related assistance for the Bahamas and Barbados, the two Caribbean graduates from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
She said the emergency funding from the IMF was also expected to address the humanitarian and economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the poorest countries in the region, and would see Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines also benefiting from assistance.
Ms. Mottley added that the Department of Treasury’s technical assistance office was ready to provide help in areas ranging from economic reforms, tax administration, public financial management, capital, market development and infrastructure.
“Let me say that we have been arguing this case for over two years. And we have made it more recently again, in all of our correspondence to the heads of the international financial institutions, and to the heads of government across the entire global community …. That at the very least those countries in the Caribbean that have been graduated from access to concessional funding from the World Bank ought to be given access now, largely because of their needs and a pandemic, or the needs coming out of a hurricane, as was the case with the Bahamas with Hurricane Dorian, require that they have access to concessional funding that will allow us to meet the most urgent demands of survival first, and then thereafter to begin the journey of transformation,” she noted.
Ms. Mottley said that the United States Government had pledged to develop a “multi-faceted framework” that would help the region address its “immediate humanitarian needs”, as well as assist in long-term recovery in light of COVID-19.
The United States has advanced the G20 and Paris Club debt service suspension initiative, with five CARICOM member states being currently eligible, specifically Saint Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti.
Ms. Mottley noted, however, that the “ball was in the court” of the Caribbean community to determine what they were prepared to accept within the context of the support that they were finally receiving.
She stated that regional leaders now had to negotiate and see how the assistance could work in the best interest of the region, “on our terms in circumstances that allow us to be able to frame what is best for us, and how best do we restructure aspects of our economy, aspects of our debt, to be able to allow us to meet the needs of our population going forward”.