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US$ 250 Million needed to rebuild Barbuda

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PM-Gaston-Browne-at-UNBasseterre, St. Kitts, Friday, 22nd September, 2017 (MyVueNews.com) – In what was one of the most stinging presentations made at the United Nations by an English Speaking Caribbean leader in many years, Antigua & Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, scolded the more developed countries for what he categorized as unfair and unjust financial practices that hurt small nations like those in the region.

 

Browne used his 2017 speech to the UN General Assembly on Friday, 22nd September, to berate international financial organizations and governments for policies that work against the interest of Antigua & Barbuda and other small states.

 

He also made the case for financial assistance for his country, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma on 6th September, resulting in the total evacuation of 62-square-mile Barbuda, where over 95% of homes and other structures were either totally destroyed or severely damaged.

 

He said his country has estimated that it would cost some US$250 million to rebuild the island. 

 

This is a massive task he intimated, that would require what is equivalent to 15% or more, of his country’s Gross Domestic Product, (GDP), of 1.5 Billion Dollars.

 

This, stated the prime minister, is simply a stretch beyond their reach.

 

The devastation of Barbuda and the limited damage caused in mainland Antigua, which was spared any major impact, has put the islands under great strain to provide for social services.

 

For instance, explained Browne, the education system on Antigua is now forced to find places to facilitate some 600 students relocated from Barbuda.

 

In addition, medical services have to be provided for the elderly and means of income, (jobs), have to be found for able bodied adults. Over 1,400 people were moved from Barbuda to Antigua, increasing the population of the larger island by over 3%.

 

Barbuda is now said to be unfit for human inhabitation and there is no potable water and electricity. This is the first time in over 300 years that the island has no living humans.

 

What is urgently needed for the sister islands, is assistance from the international community, including help from international development and financial institutions, to accomplish the vital task of rebuilding Barbuda.

 

But Prime Minister Browne hastened to add that his country is not outstretching the palm of its hands because they crave; rather they are pleading because they are in need.

 

“Barbuda is not only a natural disaster. It’s a humanitarian crisis that now consumes Antigua,” said Browne.

 

He likened the suffering of the people in the islands, impacted by the recent major hurricanes-Irma that destroyed Barbuda, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, St. Maarten (Dutch and French), and Maria that decimated Dominica and Puerto Rico-as victims of climate change.

 

The Caribbean leader made the case that irrespective of the position being taken by any nation state, the evidence of global warming is now irrefutably stronger.

 

Two Category 5 hurricanes within 12 days, argued Browne, can no longer be dismissed as the vagaries of the weather, nor can they be explained as nature’s doing.

 

He said, hurricanes are becoming stronger and larger because they are absorbing moisture from increasingly warm cities, caused by global warming.

 

It was quite revealing when he indicated that all of the 14 Caribbean Community nations, (combined), produce less than 0.1% of global emissions.

 

“We are the least of the polluters but the largest of the casualties,” stated the Antigua leader.

Therefore, opined Browne, international financial institutions need to provide access to financing at concessionary rates without artificial impediments.

 

If this does not happen, warned Browne, the subsequent cost in life and property, is too frightening to contemplate.

 

He described small states like his as victims of an international economic and financial system that regards such countries as merely a numerical statistic or mere nuisance.

 

He stated that, “We are measured by the level of our income, even though it is an insufficient and unreasonable criterion for establishing vulnerability, poverty and need.”

 

He said small developing states like his and others in the Caribbean, are categorized as high income, thus denying them access to concessional financing and grant funding from international agencies.

 

He added that access to such funding is an imperative that would give them a great leap forward.

 

While large developed countries are able to borrow on their internal markets at 3% per annum, small countries like Antigua, are forced to borrow at 125 per annum. “Where is the justice?” asked Browne.

 

It is irrational and punitive to graduate small island nations that cannot pay their debts, to high income status, thereby precluding them from much needed developmental financing.

 

“My country and its citizens do not want to beg for a living. We want to work for it. We want to earn our living, but we cannot do so if the international system refuses to provide us with the means and tools to build our future.” Stated the Antiguan leader.



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