Friday 20 September, 2019

Caribbean cannot fight disasters alone

FILE - Prime Minister Keith Mitchell.

FILE - Prime Minister Keith Mitchell.

The need for small island developing states to build resilience to weather-related shocks has become even more important, says Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell.

He reiterated this call as he addressed the Caricom Development Fund’s (CDF) Sixth Annual Meeting of Contributors and Development Partners in Barbados this week.

PM Mitchell said it has become a fundamental necessity to address up front the countries' vulnerabilities, which is now a matter of “life or death,” not only in socioeconomic terms but in physical and emotional terms as well.

Calling this the stark reality in the Caribbean, he said the region must make it clear to the international community that there can be no true development of the Caribbean, if it remains as vulnerable as it is to weather and other shocks. He added the international community must recognise the region’s unique situation in this regard and fashion development support accordingly.

In addressing the financial constraints of the region in the midst of natural disasters, PM Mitchell said just as people cannot survive without food and water, so too, vulnerable regional countries cannot survive without concessional financing.

“Let us never confuse movement with progress. While our GDP per capita may move from one range to a higher one over a given period, this movement does not equate to progress if in the space of less than 24 hours, a country can be set back 20 years or more by the passage of a monster hurricane."

Citing that these are no ordinary times, he was clear in pointing out that “no ordinary solutions would do.”

He said the Caribbean needs real solutions to the real problems that it faces, since according to him at this current stage in the region’s collective histories, climate change poses a potential threat to all.

It is a threat that he was stressed cannot be dealt by any one country or organisation; neither by borrowing at market rates. 

“When we ask for concessional financing, we are not asking to be treated differently; we are asking to be treated appropriately. I will keep making this point until the international community gets it, especially because we know that our contribution to climate change is negligible compared to the developed world,” he asserted.

Reiterating that the Caribbean did not create this problem, he said,“We have certainly signed on to help correct it, unlike certain advanced countries; yet and still, we are the ones paying the price.”

He said it is a price the region cannot afford to pay and so an urgent need is there to change course and reconsider the criteria for qualifying for concessionary financing.

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