Senior Finance Minister calls for global solidarity to overcome COVID-19

– reiterates urgent financing needs of the most vulnerable countries

Senior Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh yesterday called for global partnership and solidarity in confronting the challenges arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasised the urgent need to address the challenges faced by Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in accessing financing to meet their development needs, especially in light of the targets set by the developed countries.  

The Minister made this call while virtually attending the 2021 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Financing for Development yesterday.  

The purpose of the forum was to encourage a high-level political engagement to advance priority actions that will set the world on track for the recovery and beyond, and to allow for the promotion and sharing of concrete national, regional and global experiences and initiatives on financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a rapidly evolving context.

The Senior Finance Minister, while reminding the forum that that the global community has entered the last decade before expected delivery of the SDGs, noted that it is also a uniquely challenging time in human history since ‘COVID-19 has wreaked more havoc worldwide than any other public health issue in living memory, exacerbating pre-existing systemic challenges in the global economy’.

As a result, Dr Singh said the unavoidable consequence has been widespread economic contraction and sharp reversal of previous hard-won development gains. He added “…vulnerable countries, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and low-lying coastal states such as Guyana, are still grappling with these pre-existing challenges, while we now confront the harsh and lasting socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic’. 

“I reiterate the heightened urgency with which the official development assistance targets set by developed countries now need to be met. I also repeat the call for the use of a vulnerability index to supplement the criteria for determining access to concessional financing,” Minister Singh said while noting that the immediate and most urgent challenge is stemming the pandemic but highlighting that Guyana is concerned that developing countries are encountering hurdles in accessing adequate supplies of vaccines at affordable prices and on fair terms.

“Achieving herd immunity in our population is absolutely critical to our economic recovery. I emphasize the need to ensure affordable and adequate access to vaccines, particularly for the most vulnerable States,” Dr Singh pointed out as he underscored the urgency of upscaling action towards full implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. 

The Senior Finance Minister highlighted that in Guyana’s case, this country has spent heavily on its response to the pandemic, as total expenditure increased by 15.2 percent in 2020 and the Central Government fiscal deficit expanded to 9.4 percent of GDP in 2020 compared to 2.8 percent in 2019.

He said more resources are now required to coordinate health responses, ensure equitable access to healthcare, and invest in recovery while global partnership and solidarity are more critical now than ever before as he added that even as the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic are confronted, the urgency of the climate crisis must ‘remain foremost on our minds’.

To this, he expressed disappointment that the commitment by developed countries to provide $100 billion in climate finance by 2020 has not been met.

“This must be remedied urgently. Further, we must explore innovative financing methods which would require the strong support of development banks at all levels. Guyana strongly advocates enhanced support for low-carbon development models,” Dr Singh urged.  

Conclusively, it was the contention of the Senior Minister that the eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions should continue to drive efforts aimed at sustainable development and he additionally expressed alarm at the conclusion of the recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) analysis which noted that the pandemic “could push the number of people living in poverty to over one billion by 2030.”

He posited though that consistent with Guyana’s commitment to ensuring that no one is left behind, Guyana is leading the CARICOM Agri-Food Systems Agenda, an ambitious initiative to enhance regional food security, and a critical element for poverty eradication and sustainable development.