Holness calls for greater ties among Caribbean, Latin American countries

SANTIAGO, Chile (CMC) | Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness has called for deepening cooperation ties between Caribbean and Latin American countries. In delivering the keynote address at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Holness, who is on his first official visit to Chile, also gave his backing to the Caribbean debt relief proposal. “I am convinced that the path to prosperity must be forged through expanded trade and investment, and deeper regional cooperation between countries,” said Holness. He also recognised the contribution that ECLAC has made to Latin American and Caribbean economic development, “as a beacon of thinking in the region,” and indicated that Jamaica has followed this school of thought based on the structural change of economies, productive transformation, and equality at the centre of development.

“We reaffirm our commitment to the ideas and principles of ECLAC,” said the Jamaican leader, fully endorsing and backing ECLAC’s proposal for debt relief for English-speaking Caribbean nations.

“Jamaica supports and encourages this proposal,” he said, referring to the initiative first presented in late 2015 that contemplates the creation of a regional resilience fund to finance measures for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Holness also endorsed the organisation’s assessment of growing evidence that the Caribbean public debt has reached unsustainable levels, creating a situation that compromises the sub-region’s economic growth if it is not specifically addressed, according to ECLAC.

“I am here to fully endorse that assessment,” Holness said. Along with supporting the initiative by ECLAC, the prime minister called on the commission to make the case for highly indebted Caribbean countries in all relevant international financial forums, and invited other governments from Latin America to join this cause to protect the viability of the region’s economies.

ECLAC said Louise Arbour, the United Nations secretary general’s representative for international migration who was a special guest at the forum, urged the Jamaican leader to “participate actively in the Global Compact,” a UN initiative on safe, regular and orderly migration. “I invite you to participate in this and many other initiatives related to migration that are crucial for this region and the entire world,” she said.

“We need your leadership to ensure that much of the negative narrative that ‘poisons’ public opinion about migration is counteracted by a much more appropriate understanding of the benefits of human mobility,” Arbour added.

Holness, the first Jamaican leader to visit this United Nations regional organisation, was received by ECLAC’s Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, who welcomed him and highlighted Jamaica’s commitment to moving ahead on achieving the goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “in an adverse economic and environmental context”.

“We know very well the challenges that Jamaica has due to its vulnerability to external economic and environmental shocks, and how you have bravely faced the consequences of a heavy debt burden, which has fallen from 140 per cent to 115 per cent of GDP [Gross Domestic Product] in recent years, in a context of declining investment and trade and a contraction in financing,” Bárcena said.

She noted that Jamaica suffers “the circumstances of highly indebted middle-income countries in the Caribbean”, adding that “precisely because they are unjustly classified as middle-income, they face difficulties to access financing.”

Based on that evaluation of highly indebted middle-income Caribbean countries, Bárcena said ECLAC has launched the Caribbean Debt for Climate Adaptation Swap Initiative, “which involves using resources from the Green Climate Fund to reduce that debt”. ECLAC, meanwhile, praised Jamaica’s leadership in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its goals (SDGs), as well as its commitment to “leaving no one behind”.