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Debt team checks in

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

Debt team checks in

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Debt management experts from The Commonwealth Secretariat were “on the ground” in Barbados in recent days.

In the midst of a General Election campaign dominated by discussions about debt reprofiling, the Sunday Sun learnt that a debt management team from The Commonwealth visited Barbados between May 7 and last Thursday.

According to the Central Bank’s recent first quarter economic review, Barbados’ gross public sector debt was an estimated $9.4 billion at the end of last year. This included gross central government debt, domestic debt held by the National Insurance Scheme, domestic debt held by the Central Bank and other public sector debt.

As its debt challenges mount, Barbados has been chosen as the first country to pilot a new debt management software called Meridian, which officials said would “help modernise the way public debt is managed, through advanced functionalities and state-of-the-art technology”.

Calling Meridian “a powerful new tool”, officials said the external debt experts visited Government Headquarters to “train country staff in the use of the Commonwealth Meridian software”.

They said the software “is designed to support a modern debt management office, while catering for the transformation of the public debt arena”.

The ten-day mission to Barbados was headed by Commonwealth’s debt systems development officer Joanne Allin.

“This a huge and significant milestone for the Meridian project. The team is very excited to finally deploy Meridian in a country like Barbados so it can start benefiting from a modern debt management system that facilitates more effective and proactive management of its debt portfolio,” she said.

Commonwealth officials said the new debt management software “places strong emphasis on a country’s debt management strategy, as well as the growing importance of the management of contingent liabilities (debts that may occur depending on the outcome of uncertain future events), reporting standards and the need for improved transparency”.

The said the programme was developed over a three-year period and was “trialled in India last year by debt managers from across the Commonwealth, ahead of its launch slated for the first quarter of 2019”.

They added the pilot implementation in Barbados would “verify that Meridian can operate successfully with existing country systems/infrastructure and support debt management processes using actual data migrated from the current Commonwealth debt management system CS-DRMS”.

Antonino Inniss, who is chief debt strategy analyst at Barbados’ Ministry of Finance, was among 18 debt managers from around the world who tested the Meridian software last November in India.

The debt management programme was developed by Indian software development company Infosys Ltd. (SC)