Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said the billions of dollars in Caribbean loans should be reclassified by the IMF while countries rebuild their communities after a devastating hurricane season.
"No one is calculating the millions of dollars that are being lost on a daily basis; and no one is giving consideration to the fact that there is no expenditure taking place in Puerto Rico; and the closing down of the cruise shipping industry on some islands, because ports have been destroyed and they can't get in. St Maarten is literally closed," Chastanet said at a roundtable discussion on tourism on the first day of a summit of the Partnerships for Sustainable Development taking place in St. James.
Chastanet has lobbied the International Monetary Fund to make an exception to the rules given the circumstances, namely Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The event was attended by members of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the World Bank Group and the Inter-American Development Bank Global Conference on Jobs and Inclusive Growth.
Chastanet told the assembly in order to rebuild regional economies, the Caribbean needs concessions and a private fund for island nations to use, free of the typical bureaucratic governance.
He continued to say that middle income on smaller island states must be recalculated in order to open concessional funds to destitute citizens, adding that funds that would normally go to repay the IMF are also being applied to the Caribbean’s main source of income: tourism. The regional tourism marketing is in need of refinancing, he explained, something which will reflect the Caribbean’s resilient character.
"We have no choice but to spend the money because resilience is the insurance that investors need following the devastation to the region, caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria," said Chastanet who is also the chairperson of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
Although funds from both the United Nations and the U.K. have significantly helped with rebuilding the Caribbean, it’s simply not enough, Chastanet said.
“We’re going to fight with the IMF to say that we cannot borrow that money to build the resilience, that money cannot be on top of the debt we already have,” the prime minister said.
“We need a dedicated set of funds to help this region build resilience … the world cannot punish the Caribbean twice … if you care about the Caribbean, you must change the rules of engagement and allow us to help ourselves.”