Debt sustainability a critical issue, says Barbados PM

By Sharon Austin

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) — Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has identified debt sustainability as a critical issue for many of the small island developing states (SIDS).

Stuart also expressed the view that the third international conference on SIDS, which will be held in Samoa in 2014, must be used to find and share solutions to this challenge, which is a major constraint to these states achieving sustainable development.

The prime minister made the comments on Monday while delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of a three-day SIDS inter-regional preparatory meeting in Barbados.

He suggested that the entity in the UN which has responsibility for coordinating SIDS issues should convene a meeting of the finance and economic ministers to discuss those matters and put forward specific recommendations to be considered as part of the outcome of the international meeting.

“In addition to supporting the call for this proposed forum, the government of Barbados pledges to remain fully engaged on this matter at all levels as we journey on the road to Samoa,” he told his audience.

Stuart said that inter- and intra-regional SIDS cooperation and collaboration across the three SIDS regions, as a fundamental principle underpinning the Barbados Programme of Action 1994 and the Mauritius Strategy of Implementation 2004 seemed to be one of the weakest elements of the implementation process of the two core initiatives for small island developing states.

“I, therefore, wish to submit that greater attention must be paid to the identification of tangible, implementable and targeted interventions to strengthen opportunities for cooperation and collaboration across the three SIDS regions. Notwithstanding our many vulnerabilities and constraints, collectively we have had unique experiences and have provided solutions to many problems. Surely, we can share these experiences and solutions as best practices,” he remarked.

The prime minister noted, however, that achieving this level of cooperation and collaboration would require commitment and resolve from SIDS, as well as from the international community.

“We need to be brave enough to put in place the appropriate mechanisms, both institutional and financial, for this to become a reality,” he insisted.

He further stated that the small island developing states technical assistance programme (SIDS-TAP), which was originally proposed in 1994 and agreed to in the Barbados Programme of Action, had not lost its potential nor its significance. According to him, it could assist Barbados and other SIDS to transfer their skills, knowledge and experiences across the SIDS and he expressed the view that the SIDS-TAP concept should be revisited and integrated in the follow-up to the 2014 conference.

Stuart pointed out that there would be a need for a supporting funding mechanism to assist in the operationalisation of SIDS-TAP.

“Though we share the view that SIDS themselves will be required to make a contribution, innovative partnership-based financing mechanisms will have to be put in place, especially in light of the loss of concessional resources. Such mechanisms can be considered a major contribution to the building of real capacity in SIDS and across SIDS regions,” he explained.

Barbados hosted the first United Nations Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in 1994 and, since then, the country has expended much effort in ensuring that the sustainable development of SIDS remains a leading issue on the multilateral negotiating agenda.

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