Inaugural Meeting of the CARICOM-Canada Foreign Ministers’ Group
–Intervention for Minister Hugh Todd, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Guyana
–Session 2 – Economic Recovery and Inclusive Growth
Honorable Ministers, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Guyana welcomes this opportunity to address the issue of Economic Recovery and Inclusive Growth, particularly given the challenging situation that countries find themselves in.
Concomitant with the health and recessionary impacts of COVID-19 on the global economy, CARICOM Member States have seen increased pressures on public health systems and social structures, escalating public debt and a decline in productive activities. Our economies have had as the IMF describes it a ‘Cardiac Arrest’ and this is due to the economic dislocation associated with the pandemic.
The region’s vulnerabilities have been compounded and our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda have been significantly hampered to the extent that it will take the region longer to claw back recent gains that had been made.
The region faces a significant financing gap. Despite this, efforts have been undertaken by my country and other CARICOM Members States to provide some relief to our populations, among other policy considerations including a range of health, economic and social measurers. These developments, previously unforeseen, have placed demands on the scarce resources available and obliged anadjustment of our development strategies while at the same time seeking to create fiscal space.
Given the continued uncertainty regarding the virus and associated economic impacts, it is incumbent upon us to provide policy support for recovery that centralizes long-term resilience-building and inclusivity in the focus. We must address the high degree of informality in our services sector; lack of diversification in our production and export sectors; over-reliance on primary products; a high food import bill; preponderance of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs); and embrace e-Commerce.
Resource mobilization, keeping global markets open for food and health care supplies, and foreign investment flows are among the key areas of support required to address the economic, health and security challenges posed by COVID-19.
As highly open economies with substantial reliance on external capital, access to concessionary financing from multilateral financial institutions and bilateral partners will continue to be critical to our recovery efforts. In this regard, I wish to fully support the CARICOM financing proposals which call for:
- an increase in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) allocation;
- the refinancing of COVID-19 related debt into long-term instruments with fixed lower interest rates and long moratorium of seven (7) to ten (10) years;
However, the region must also continue to work together to build our collective resilience, through a stronger macroeconomic governance framework, a modernized financial architecture, upgrading the regional agri-food system for increased food and nutrition security and other regional priorities, to set us on a path to economic growth that is more resilient to exogenous shocks.
The countries of the G7 and G20, including Canada, have a critical role to play particularly given their access and clout in shaping the macroeconomic governance framework. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like ours require fair and equitable consideration and access. A more collaborative approach is needed and we therefore would urge and welcome Canada’s support and advocacy on access to financing and debt-restructuring. This is necessary if the region is to redouble its efforts to achieve the SDGs.
Colleagues, I thank you for the opportunity to make this intervention and hope that our discussions today prove mutually beneficially.