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Caricom appeals for more “easily accessible” grants, soft loans

Officials at the Launch of the Caribbean Community Regional Aid for Trade (AfT) Strategy from left to right at head table- Honourable Oliver Joseph, Minister of Economic Development, Planning, Trade and Cooperatives of Grenada and Chairman of the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development; Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of CARICOM; His Excellency Michel Martelly, President of the Republic of Haiti and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community; Mr. Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organisation and Honourable Wilson Laleau, Minister of Finance and the Economy and Minister of Trade and Industry of Haiti in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, 11 June 2013. (CARICOM photo)

Secretary General of the 15-nation Caribbean Community, Irwin La Rocque on Tuesday called on the international community to dole our more grants than loans to member states most of whose classification as “middle income” states does not mirror their poor performing economies.

“It would be desirable for them to provide additional sources of financing, especially in grant form and in a manner that is easily accessible,” he said in Haiti at the launching of the Caribbean’s Aid for Trade (AfT) strategy.

Coupled with rising international prices, many tourism dependent Caribbean countries have been suffering from declining revenues because fewer North American and European tourists have been coming due to the economic downturn in their own countries.

He said that the the contribution of AfT to the growth and development of Caricom countries hinges significantly on the acceptance of the international community, and its development partners in particular of the realities of our situation.

The Caricom Secretary General explained that many member-nations were being hamstrung in accessing soft loans and grants because of “graduation and differentiation” as Middle Income States.

“Unless urgent action is taken to change the criteria and adjust the policies which created this untenable situation, the debt per capita of some Member States, already among the highest in the world, could escalate, virtually rendering useless any loan based assistance, particularly at this time of severe fiscal and economic challenges,” he added.

He identified the need for innovative mechanisms in order to supply the requisite financial and technical support to regional member states.

Caricom hailed the strategy as one that is very people-centered in its creation and benefits.

Aid for Trade refers to the flow of development finance from developed countries and multilateral funding agencies to developing countries to enhance their participation in the multilateral trading system. The Caribbean Strategy, which was developed with the assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), aims to create consensus within CARICOM on priorities for ensuring growth and a more diversified regional economy. It presents a coherent approach to obtaining funding and provides a framework for collaboration among CARICOM Member States and international development partners (IDPs) or investors with an interest in providing support for the Region’s development.

The IDB, along with the International Trade Centre (ITC), the WTO and the Caribbean Export Development Agency all have collaborated with the CARICOM Secretariat for Tuesday’s Launch under the theme “Turning Market Access Into Market Presence”.