Transcript of remarks by Mia Amor Mottley, QC, MP, Prime Minister of Barbados, during the High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond, organized by the United Nations under the co-chairmanship of the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica.
[00:00:00] Thank you very much.
[00:00:01] I’d like to thank the Prime Minister of Canada, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, and the Secretary-General of the UN for facilitating this session for us all.
[00:00:09] I recognize that for most of us, we are in agreement with the things that have to be done with respect to the most vulnerable. And we say as countries that those most vulnerable are the poorest among us. We agree entirely that there ought to be a debt standstill for those who are the most poor.
[00:00:27] But we also recognize that the institutions that were created 75 years ago, do not take into account the realities of our countries today. And for many of us in the Caribbean, where we are perhaps the most travel-dependent and tourism-dependent and trade-dependent region in the world, we now face a trebling of unemployment and indeed a reduction by more than half of government revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
[00:00:56] This requires us to take fresh guard. And I’m happy that the Prime Minister of Canada has spoken about thinking outside of the box. But we need to go further than beyond words and build back better must not simply be something that is delightful to the ears in terms of alliteration, but must now also mean a recognition that the criteria and the definitions that we have used to determine access, access to goods in a COVID-19 crisis, access to credit in a COVID-19 crisis or post COVID-19, have now to be reflected again on the basis of countries’ actual needs rather than simple definitional criteria that makes it easier for economists to categorize where persons should go.
[00:01:43] And what do I speak of? We have many middle-income countries in our region and in fact among the small states of the world, and many of us are excluded from access to concessional funding even in the midst of this pandemic, when we need access to money to boost our health systems more than ever, when we need access to credit to be able to offset the dislocation that has come from zero revenue from tourism, zero revenue from air travel. And what we are not assured of is early access to rapid tests that will allow our countries to open back up safely and to ensure that our population is not exposed in a way that is injurious to them simply because we want them to have their livelihoods in tourism.
[00:02:29] We accept, therefore, that the time has come for more than words at this stage because time is not our friend. And indeed, we hope that this session will bring the world to the commitment that there is need for a global leadership initiative. The co-morbidities that we talk about from chronic NCDs, make our citizens more vulnerable to serious conditions and to death with respect to COVID-19. But yet there is not a development plan that allows us to meet these chronic NCDs favourably for enough of our citizens.
[00:03:04] We need certainty with respect to the debt instruments. If we don’t, we will have a disorderly unravelling of debt and a sovereign debt crisis when in truth and in fact, as Barbados has shown, if we include certainty in our debt instruments, as we just did coming out of a debt restructuring, we now have natural disaster clauses that will allow us to suspend our principal payments on debt and to capitalize the interest so that when we get out of this pandemic period or the crisis coming from a natural disaster I should say, we are then in a position to resume our obligations to debt in an orderly manner. These things are too simple and we wonder why there has been no decisions being made on it.
[00:03:49] A time will come when those will ask, what did we do in the period of COVID to be able to make the world more equitable, more just, and to make countries better capable of meeting the other existential threats of the climate crisis and indeed of the behaviour of our citizens towards maintaining themselves? I hope that the countries of the world can respond that just as 75 years ago, we created institutions that were appropriate to the time that we can say, that we created definitions and also modalities that really helped countries and citizens live in a COVID world rather than simply be collateral damage to the larger countries of the world.
[00:04:34] If multilateralism is to mean something in our world today, then there must be fairness and equity, not only among our citizens in a democratic society, but among our countries in a world that is fair and democratic as well. I hope that this high-level session will not simply be the record of glorious speeches, but will trigger action that is needed badly by many of our citizens and many of our countries across the world. And the Caribbean Community stands ready to play its part in ensuring that the shaping of the modalities will be appropriate to the needs and realities of our people, not just here, but in all small states across the global arena. I thank you.