LOS ANGELES, CA – Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Friday called on the United States to join the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as a development partner as part of President Joe Biden’s just announced Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.
He made the call while addressing the second Plenary Session of the ninth Summit of the Americas, as he also called for relief for countries in the Caribbean countries that have heavy debt burdens.
On Thursday, President Biden told the Summit about the planned Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity that involves steps to promote trade and investment in clean energy and encourage regional collaboration in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“My government encourages President Biden to include, in this new partnership, the US joining other development partners as a member of the Caribbean Development Bank, which services all CARICOM countries, and is indispensable to our needs,” Browne said.
He further called for genuine international cooperation to remedy the challenges of climate change and other ills which have persisted relentlessly, forcing many small states to cope by borrowing on commercial terms.
“This borrowing to repeatedly repair infrastructure damaged by the impact of climate change, and, more recently, to finance extraordinary expenditure incurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has enlarged our debt burden, leaving little fiscal space to build resilience, and to construct necessary physical infrastructure,” the Antiguan leader said.
“Contracting more debt is not the answer. I also remind that, for no good reason, six CARICOM countries are denied membership of the Inter-American Development Bank Group and, therefore, access from their lending and investment.”
He noted that many Caribbean countries have now exhausted their borrowing capacity to respond to exogenous shocks and need debt relief and post-COVID recovery assistance to shore up their economies.
In this regard, he welcomed the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity and the fact that one of its aims is to “mobilize new financing, and to revitalize multilateral development banks, revamping their lending policies to better meet the specific needs of the majority of our nations”.
“My government applauds and celebrates renewed, revigorated, and sustained US attention to the mutual economic prosperity of the US and the nations of our hemisphere.
“President Biden is providing much-appreciated leadership in this regard. But we recognize that the United States alone cannot do everything. Hence, we urge cooperation between the US government and other governments, such as China, which is playing a constructive role throughout Latin America and the Caribbean,” Prime Minister Browne said.
He said collaboration between the US and China could accelerate the pace of economic transformation in the region in the areas of infrastructural development and the buildout of renewable sources of energy.
Browne was one of several CARICOM leaders attending the Summit despite their disagreement with the US government’s exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from the June 8-10 meeting over concerns about human rights violations and lack of democracy in those countries.
Addressing the issue on the final day of the Summit, while he regretted that invitations were not extended to all leaders of countries in the Americas, the crucial issues, confronting the global community, demand urgent and collective attention.
He expressed the hope that this would not occur for future summits.
Browne, as CARICOM Chairman John Briceño did at the first Plenary Session on Thursday, called for an end to the trade embargo against Cuba, describing it as “harmful to the promotion of peace and prosperity in the hemisphere”.
“Similarly, we urge engagement with the government of Venezuela, allowing the country to use its resources for its people’s needs, and to play a peaceful and constructive role in our region.
“To achieve this, there is work to be done by all sides to narrow differences, and establish cooperation, in the interest of advancing the economic, social and political well-being of all the peoples of our hemisphere,” the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister added.