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WASHINGTON – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it is acutely aware of the urgent need to assist the Caribbean countries to build resilience, particularly in the context of the recent hurricanes that swept through the Lesser Antilles killing scores of people and leaving billions of dollars in damage.
“And we stand ready to do whatever we can help,” said Gerry Rice, the director of the IMF Communications Department.
Speaking at the IMF news conference, Rice was responding to a statement alluded to the St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet in which he is quoted as telling the Washington-based financial institution that “if you care about the Caribbean, you must change the rules of engagement and allow us to help ourselves”.
Chastanet is also quoted as saying that “the billions of dollars in Caribbean loans should be reclassified by the IMF”.
In his response to the statements, Rice told regional and international journalists on Thursday that “by way of context, we recently had a major conference on the Caribbean just less than two weeks ago where a number of these issues were covered.
“But let me just summarize. We’re obviously, acutely aware of the urgent need to assist the Caribbean countries to build resilience, particularly in the context of the recent natural disasters,” he added.
He said that at the Caribbean forum held in Jamaica and attended by Chastanet and other Caribbean leaders, the IMF managing director Christine Lagarde “actually proposed convening an event with all the major public and private stakeholders to explore options for building resilience in the region, including risk mitigation, debt management and use of catastrophe bonds.
“So the call by Prime Minister Chastanet, I think, reiterates a plea made by Caribbean leaders at the time of the annual meetings to adjust eligibility criteria for concessional lending to take greater account of the Caribbean’s very high vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change”
Rice said that while the IMF cannot currently reclassify countries to make them eligible for concessional Fund borrowing, “a review of the Fund’s low-income facilities is currently underway and that will examine how well these facilities are addressing the needs of vulnerable small states and will propose changes if needed”.
Caribbean countries have been categorised as middle- to high-income and are largely ineligible for concessional development financing and Official Development Assistance (ODA), due to the use of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita as a principal criterion.
The region has been engaged in a campaign to end the use of the dominant criterion of GDP per capita to measure development, citing the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters they said will exacerbate already high debt levels which is due in large measure to exogenous shocks including severe climatic events. (CMC)