November 24, 2020

China vows to continue lobbying for Caribbean

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BY PETE SANKEY From Jamaica Observer

BEIJING, China — China says it will stand with small island states in the Caribbean which have been lobbying multilateral institutions that put restrictions on them in receiving concessionary loans and grants because of their designations as middle-income countries.

Zhang Run, the deputy director general at the Latin America and Caribbean Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here in Beijing, made the announcement at a briefing with journalists from the region.

China, a rising world economic power, said that in addition to lobbying multilateral institutions on behalf of small island states in the Caribbean, it will also continue to provide support for the region.

“I fully understand the concerns and China will continue to lobby on behalf of the Caribbean and will collaborate with multilateral institutions for more resources for Caribbean countries,” said Zhang.

Zhang, meanwhile, announced that China recently donated cash and hurricane relief items to , and Antigua and Barbuda. Dominica received $800,000 in cash and relief items and another US$3 million in assistance channelled through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), while Dominica received US$500,000 in cash and another US$2 million through the UNDP.

Jamaica and other members of the have, over the years, complained that the middle-income designation prevents regional countries from getting concessionary loans and other special treatment from multilateral institutions.

Prime Minister of St Lucia Allen Chastanet had earlier this month promised to use “important meetings” in the United States to push the international community to rethink its policies regarding regional countries that are no longer eligible for concessionary loans and other forms of preferential treatment.

 Chastanet, the chairman of the subregional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), who was leading a delegation to the hurricane-battered island of Dominica where he held talks with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, said he hoped the visit later in the month by United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to the hurricane-affected countries would also help provide an impetus for change.

Chastanet also said he hoped the visit would help persuade the international community that small island states are vulnerable and can have their economies wiped out by just one natural disaster, despite their designation as middle-income countries.

“I am convinced, and certainly in the discussions I had with him, that he (Guterres) would become a champion for our cause, and again I am sorry that it is the people of Dominica who have had to suffer to this extent in order for us to make that message known to everybody,” Chastanet said ahead of the UN chief’s visit.

It is, however, not clear what was the outcome of subsequent discussions between the Caribbean Community and multi-lateral institutions in the United States.

However, Guterres, after viewing hurricane devastation in Dominica, said he would make a case for special consideration for mid-to-high income vulnerable states that have been “deprived” of concessional loans.

Dominica, as well as Antigua and Barbuda, which was also hit by a powerful hurricane earlier, due to their high per capita incomes, have advanced or “graduated” from the low-income least developed country (LDC) designation to upper-middle income.

“Most of the countries impacted are middle-income countries and because of that, they are deprived of the form of assistance or concessional loans that low-income countries can have access to,” said Guterres after touring the two hurricane-battered countries.

“The fact is that even though these countries have graduated as middle-income countries, they have a number of vulnerabilities that need to be taken into account if we want them to be sustainable as middle-income countries,” he added.

IMAGE: SALYBIA, Dominica — In a Saturday, October 7, 2017 photo, a woman in Salybia, Dominica, hangs her clothes around what was once her home, which was flattened by Hurricane Maria to just the concrete flooring now covered in tarp. (Photos: AP)

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