PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) sub-regional headquarters for the Caribbean has taken steps recently to advance its debt for climate adaptation swap initiative. A mission led by deputy director, Dr Dillon Alleyne, met with senior government officials and policy makers in Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines to discuss progress and to build support for the initiative.
ECLAC has long argued that the high debt burden and debt servicing costs of many Caribbean economies have continued to constrain the ability of governments to meaningfully confront their development challenges. The Caribbean’s debt dilemma, it is argued, should not be viewed simply as the result of policy missteps. Rather it should be more considered a consequence of the increased expenditures required to address the impact of extreme climactic events, such as hurricanes, as well as negative shocks.
ECLAC advances its debt swap proposal as a strategy that the Caribbean can assist economies in, with financing, adaptation and mitigation projects, and in jump starting economic growth, while at once easing the burden of debt.
Between November 20 and 22, 2018, the ECLAC team held meetings in Antigua and Barbuda with representatives from the ministry of finance, the ministry of foreign affairs and with Prime Minister Gaston Browne. In St Vincent and the Grenadines, meetings were held with the minister for finance, economic planning, sustainable development, industry, information and labour, Camillo Gonsalves, together with representatives from the planning, budget and debt management departments of the finance ministry and the Sustainable Development Unit.
Browne and Gonsalves both reaffirmed their continued commitment to pursuing the debt swap initiative with ECLAC.
The mission addressed modalities for the sharing of critical data required to fully understand the debt challenges of these countries. The meetings also offered an opportunity to update the governments on progress being made on shaping the initiative, including recent discussions advanced by ECLAC Caribbean director, Diane Quarless, with the Green Climate Fund during its structured dialogue with the Caribbean, held in Grenada during November 6-9, 2018.
As part of the continuing mission to advance the initiative, Quarless met with representatives from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) on November 28, 2018, to discuss the next steps. The ECCB is a member of the task force set up to facilitate strategic engagement leading to the successful launch of the debt for climate adaptation swap initiative.