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EDITORIAL: PM’s plea to World Bank

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: PM’s plea to World Bank

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BARBADOS will have its turn today at the podium of the United Nations General Assembly to tell the world body what the island thinks about many of the major international foreign policy issues.

And when the country’s leader, Fruendel Stuart, addresses a half-filled hall, don’t be surprised if he devotes much of his time to the economic challenges confounding developing countries, especially small island states like his own while he warns against the adverse impact of climate change. Both issues are inextricably linked.

Yes, he may speak once again about financing for development and may even touch on Wednesday’s raising of the Palestinian flag at the UN, a controversial subject on which Barbados surprisingly abstained when it came to a recent vote in the Assembly. But the economic issues are likely to take precedence over the others and for good reason.

Experts never cease to remind us that our foreign policy is an extension of our domestic concerns. That’s why it stands to reason that with our economy in the doldrums, Mr Stuart would wish to place the case for small island developing states on the UN table for consideration. Indeed, he started the process last week when he told the UN there was a clear need for debt relief for those countries saddled with mountains of outstanding loans that must now be paid back.

And while he was careful not to mention Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia and others in the region with estimated total debts that exceed 100 per cent of their gross domestic products, you don’t have to be an expert physicist to work out that he had them in mind. The trouble for Barbados is that many decision-makers in the international financial institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank aren’t convinced that Barbados is taking the hard decisions needed to catapult its economy towards robust growth. They are correct and therefore should continue to press Barbados for tougher policies that would produce desired results.

In any case the financial institutions aren’t in a mood to listen to the merits of the argument for debt relief which Barbados, Jamaica, Antigua and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean have placed on the agenda for consideration. ECLAC, for instance, wants some form of long-term debt forgiveness but that’s a non-starter, pure and simple.

In his address last week, Mr Stuart urged the international community and the financial institutions to re-examine “the bases for the graduation of our countries of our region from access to concessional financing”. He may repeat that plea today. Such a second look is urgently required because it is penalising Barbados, the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago for their social development successes.

Still, he should persist with the plea which boils down to asking the World Bank to stop using per capital income figures to decide which countries should get loans with low rates of interest. Barbados has been making that request every year for almost a quarter of a century but without any success. Even so, it should continue until common sense prevails in Washington, London, Paris, Berlin and elsewhere.