Caricom chairman and Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, says the Caribbean has been uniquely affected by the covid19 global health crisis.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday, Mottley said apart from the region being heavily reliant on tourism for the majority of its gross domestic product, the effects of climate change plague the Caribbean with sargassum, drought and hurricanes.
She called for unified global leadership to deal with the fallout from covid19.
“This is a peculiar moment for Caribbean states, not just Barbados. It is one in which we hope we could summon the rest of the global community to recognise that it is now, more than ever, we need to recognise that global leadership is needed, and we need to accept that these islands, as well as those in the South Pacific, are vulnerable.”
Mottley described the covid19 crisis as the most destabilising event for Caricom countries since World War II (WWII). Seventy-five years ago, after WWII, the United Nations (UN) was created on October 24 to “bring countries together to protect the most vulnerable and the weakest,” Mottley said.
From this, the Bretton Woods institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – were set up. Mottley said the region relies heavily on these institutions. However, Caribbean countries are above the necessary income bracket to access certain funding from the Bretton Woods institutions. She said this way of measuring regional wealth is unrealistic.
“We are told that we can access concessional funding or grant funding only if we have the per-capita incomes that are below certain levels. That’s like telling me I should use my blood pressure readings from two years ago to determine whether I’m vulnerable tonight to a stroke. That is absolutely futile.”
Mottley wants these funding initiatives restructured for the covid19 economic fallout. The Caribbean is a “highly indebted” region, she said, owing, for this year and next year, US$8.8 billion. She said this was because the region is one of the most travel and trade-dependent regions in the world, with almost half of GDP coming directly and indirectly from tourism.
“Where we are feeling it more than ever is in the shutdown. To have a hotel with no revenue coming in, to have no airplanes landing, from Jamaica, Bahamas in the north, right down to Barbados and Trinidad in the south – these things are having a devastating impact, particularly on the smaller islands in the Eastern Caribbean.”
The region, she said, was at risk in terms of public health, lack of security and migration.
“We are also on the cusp of a climate crisis. In fact, we are four weeks away from the beginning of the hurricane season. But, what is little spoken about is that the climate crisis has also resulted in droughts and sargassum which has affected a number of hotels, restaurants and establishments that were already suffering before the pandemic.”
Mottley is one of ten global advocates working on a UN roadmap to post-covid19 recovery. The UN recently launched the Rise for All initiative, which brings together female leaders to contribute towards the recovery framework. Rise for All will help guide the UN Recovery Trust Fund, which is designed to support the most vulnerable countries, including small island developing states in confronting the impacts of the pandemic.
When Amanpour asked what about female leadership Mottley would like to “tout,” Mottley said: “Simply, we care.
“We are happy to care, because in the same way that we want people to take care of the most vulnerable in the household, we want it in the country, and I’m asking you to help us do it internationally.”