ST. JOHN’S, Antigua & Barbuda – 13th July, 2023…Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne has sounded yet another fervent appeal for the grave issues that his country and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are being forced to tackle, to be addressed with a new sense of urgency.
The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister held very little back as he delivered the keynote address via livestream on Monday from St. John’s to the United Nations High Level Political Forum SIDS session on Sustainable Development. The SIDS event is convened yearly in order to seek solutions to many of the grave concerns which exposes the island nations to a variety of external shocks, and limits their ability to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The rising tide of debt for example is a major burden which many countries like Antigua and Barbuda have struggled to overcome. Prime Minister Browne likened it to a “weighted vest dragging us further down. It is not the life jacket it pretends to be.”
“We are asked every year to demonstrate, remonstrate and find new ways to justify our call for debt relief,” Prime Minister Browne said in a clear expression of frustration. But despite the very best efforts, solutions to lift island nations from the debt crisis remain out of reach. “…to be perfectly frank, these are all rehearsals for what is really needed. The things nobody ever want us to say out loud but I am going to say them anyway,” he declared.
“We need grant based finance. We need debt forgiveness. We need others to know that these requests do not constitute handouts. Most of all, we need to be believed and we need you to honour your commitment to us,” Prime Minister Browne further stressed.
Prime Minister Browne is the co-chair on the High Level Panel of the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI), which has been identified as a practical tool for developed countries to get an accurate measure of the needs of these countries so as to determine the scale of assistance they require.
“It provides the unbiased justification SIDS need for International Financial Institutions like the World Bank and the IMF to no longer simply ignore our light when we are inevitably struck by crises beyond our control,” Prime Minister Browne noted.
He was quick to add however that the MVI is not yet where it needs to be, but called it absolutely necessary. “We will be banging on the door for another 30 years without it. In the face of multiple global shocks and new and emerging shocks, 30 more years we simply do not have,” the Prime Minister stated.
Antigua and Barbuda will host the 4th SIDS Conference next year, a major opportunity for island nations to accelerate the process towards the future that their countries need. Hailing it as a unique opportunity, Prime Minister Browne said it will “ensure that the next 10-year blueprint for SIDS is one that delivers ‘resilient prosperity’ for all SIDS.”