Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne on Tuesday, wrote to Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Ms. Kristalina Georgieva and President of the World Bank, Mr. David Malpass for special consideration to be given to Antigua and Barbuda and countries within the Caribbean to stave off the effects of the COVID-19 Virus.
Speaking in a Virtual Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Browne said that COVID-19 will not only result in a recession within the Caribbean, but it is certain that the Caribbean will end up in an economic depression.
In his letter to the two international financial executives, Prime Minister Browne pointed out that the region will require immediate assistance for budgetary support, and after COVID, there will be the need for post COVID crisis stimulus funding in order to stimulate respective economies.
“It is against this troubling background that my Government requests that, in the measures that the Bank and Fund are preparing for the meetings of their Governors in April and for consideration by G20 countries, proposals be included for small and vulnerable economies, including (a) suspension of per capita income as a criteria for concessional financing; (b) debt relief including suspension of debt payments, write-offs of aged debt particularly by the Paris Club; (c) budgetary support through a mix of grants and low-cost loans on a country by country basis,” Prime Minister Browne stated in his letter.
Prime Minister Browne, who is also Lead Head of Financial Affairs in the quasi cabinet of CARICOM Heads, said that each of the nations of CARICOM is struggling to manage the fiscal demands in these externally generated and desperate circumstances and with scarce and dwindling resources, that are not the fault of their policies or failures.
He was quick to point out that countries are acutely aware that, in the best-case scenario, it will be at least a year before the tourism industry will return to any semblance of normalcy in the region. “Many of our economies will shrink by then, recording negative growth and lacking the capacity to provide the fiscal stimulus required for recovery,” he said in his letter.
Prime Minister Browne also reminded the two financial executives of the region’s dependency on tourism and therefore, the stoppage of airlines and cruise ships have devastated the tourism industry. “Hotels and other tourism facilities have been forced to close because of a loss of business as well as domestic measures to try to contain COVID-19 and to arrest its spread. The effect of this is a significant and unsustainable drop in government revenues, including foreign exchange, occurring simultaneously with demands for increased government spending to institute new health facilities and to provide such assistance as possible to families whose only money earner has been laid-off,” noted Prime Minister Browne.
On Thursday, Prime Minister will further advance Antigua and Barbuda and the region’s case during a World Bank High-Level virtual meeting on COVID 19.
The meeting will hear interventions from Prime Minister Browne and other regional leaders on the emerging impact of COVID-19 situation. Mr. Timothy Antoine, Governor, ECCB; and Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) will also provide interventions.
We attach the full text of Prime Minister Browne’s letter to the President of the World Bank and the Managing Director of the IMF.