BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, APRIL 23rd, 2016 (PRESS SEC) – Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris has met with the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland QC of Dominica who assumed the office of Commonwealth Secretary-General on April 1st, becoming the first woman to hold that position.

Their meeting was held on the fringes of the Signing Ceremony for the Paris Agreement yesterday (April 22nd), Earth Day, at the United Nations in New York.
Prime Minister Harris said his discussion with the Commonwealth Secretary-General was informed by their shared values and concern for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which face challenges to sustainable development such as vulnerability to external shocks.

“We embrace a pragmatic strategic approach that leverages the Commonwealth family in ways that advance the cause of small island states such as St. Kitts and Nevis on a number of matters, including the unfair graduation practice and the resultant exclusion of SIDS of a certain income level from receiving concessional financing by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or OECD member states.”

For instance, levels of official development assistance or ODA funding are determined and distributed to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) using the per capita income approach. This approach views a “high income: non-OECD” Small Island Developing State like St. Kitts and Nevis as having been upgraded, through a process called graduation, by the OECD, the World Bank and other international organizations. Having graduated to high-income level, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is not eligible for preferential borrowing rates that lower income economies can access.

Prime Minister Harris and other Heads of CARICOM and Commonwealth states argue for a fairer system of assessing countries that takes into account their vulnerability. One such system is the structural gap approach, which acknowledges obstacles to sustained growth (“structural gaps”) and their critical impact on SIDS.

For instance, an upper-middle-income SID may be beset by developmental challenges that are out of its control, such as a small population size and vulnerability to droughts, hurricanes and other environmental shocks, and would therefore require special consideration for continued assistance at preferential rates. A case in point is Dominica, where the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland QC, was born. Dominica, which is classified as having an upper-middle-income economy, suffered significant loss to its GDP in the wake of Tropical Storm Erika last year.

The Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General for Economic and Social Development, Mr. Deodat Maharaj of Trinidad and Tobago, said last year, “Tropical storm Erika demonstrates once again the vulnerability of small states.” He added, “As we embark on the Sustainable Development Goals, it is important that the vulnerability of countries like Dominica be taken into consideration in determining both the amount and the terms and conditions of development financing.”

During yesterday’s meeting with the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland QC, Prime Minister Harris said, “The Commonwealth has done a lot of work on developing a vulnerability index for Small Island Developing States, and we have to work strategically to convince the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to use this index.” The Prime Minister added that, “We also have to nurture better partnerships between CARICOM and African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Commonwealth states on issues of mutual interest.”

Of the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth, 31 of them are classified as small states. According to the Commonwealth’s website, “All members have an equal say – regardless of size or economic stature. This ensures even the smallest member countries have a voice in shaping the Commonwealth.”

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