The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is being warned to prepare for the impact of imported inflation as the ongoing increase in the cost of living which is being fuelled in part by rising petrol prices, among other things, is set to continue unabated, according to Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley.
Mottley, who was addressing the closing press conference of the 44th Regular CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Nassau, The Bahamas, on Friday, noted that with an easing of freight costs and other contributory factors to the cost of living, overall, prices have started to fall but the region is not likely to enjoy the full benefits.
“Regrettably, as we know, in our region and perhaps in other parts, when prices rise they hardly ever come back down. In our own country, we have tried to enter into a voluntary compact with the private sector and the labour movement to see the markups being contained and I say markups because the majority of what we use in this region, we do not produce. So we will import inflation because the inflation is coming internationally.”
Agri-Food Systems Strategy
The region’s annual food import bill hovers at about US$5 billion and Heads of Government of CARICOM have committed to reducing this by 25 per cent by 2025. The implementation of the CARICOM Agri-Food Systems Strategy in the Member States is being touted as an option to help achieve this target, by giving special attention to priority crops and products such as poultry, corn, soya, meat (goat, sheep, beef), rice and niche vegetables which are highly imported products in the region.
Referencing the Barbados Initiative which encourages the inclusion of a natural disaster clause which would stipulate a temporary suspension of interest rate payments on debt owned by a country hit by climate disaster, Mottley called for the provision of additional fiscal space in such an event.
“We need to have better terms of conditions for accessing finance to give us the ability to buy more, do more and to be able to create that space so that we can do for our citizens more. This region is heavily indebted, not because of profligacy or corruption but because we continue to face serious exogenous shocks and also serious problem as it relates to the climate crisis,” she charged.
“Every time a hurricane or storm or flood hits, invariably it’s the governments that are carrying the costs of trying to restore people to stability. To build the houses, to deal with the infrastructure, to protect coastal defences and all of these things that eat into the space that you would normally have to provide access to education, health and to be able to subsidise and promote some level of buffer between the citizens and the increasing cost of living,” she added.