Sunday 21 July, 2019

Antiguan PM calls for regional unity against unfair economic policies

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, is calling for regional unity against what he calls deceptive acts of economic aggression against Caribbean countries.

Delivering an address on behalf of member countries of the Caribbean at the opening of the Caribbean Development Bank’s Annual Board of Governor’s meeting in Grenada, Bowne said while natural disasters are one thing, man-made catastrophes are another. 

“The man-made catastrophes are mounting.  They include de-risking; the withdrawal of correspondent banking relations which, at best, have pushed up the cost of doing business by our countries and adversely affected our global competitiveness. At worse, we continue to face the real possibility of being excluded from the world’s trading and financial system,” he said.

 “Similarly, we have been coerced into accepting constraints on our capacity to compete in trade in goods and now on financial services.  Those who control the global trade and financial system insist that competition in the areas of their advantage are good, but they deny us the right to compete in financial services, particularly in differentiated taxation to attract investments.  They have sought to deny us our rights to operate well-regulated investor immigration, gaming and offshore banking industries, using the deceptive notion that they are harmful to them.”

 Browne said the reality is, their policies are harmful to the region and designed to keep us in economic dependency. 

“Every niche we seek to establish to diversify our economies and provide for our peoples, they conveniently find harmful.  The question is, what next.  They may soon resolve that our very existence is harmful to them.  To the contrary, it is their policies and threats of sanctions that are harmful to our survival.  We must collectively resist these deceptive acts of economic aggression against our respective countries,” he urged.

Browne said the Caribbean need to seek a more perfect union in its response to these challenges since no island will overcome them alone.

Stating that the fiscal dent caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria will linger on, he said the Caribbean has to plan its economic, social and environmental dimensions incorporating events that might happen, estimating how damaging and costly their effects could be. 

“The task is almost impossible and is unquestionably difficult.  Yet, we cannot simply wring our hands in despair. Within an already constrained fiscal space, we have to conjure the means to save our countries, protect our people and preserve our civilisation,” he said.

 He thanked the CDB for ensuring that its response mechanism, although small in relation to needs, makes financing available in a relatively short period of time. 

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