April 16, 2010
PM: World Bank missing in action

THE World Bank, a traditional ally of the Eastern Caribbean, is missing in action at a time when the Caribbean needs it most to assist with its economic recovery, says Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.{{more}}

Ironically, states Gonsalves, it is the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that has come to the aid of region.

At a press conference on Monday, April 12, 2010, which came on the heels of last Friday’s Third Meeting of the Joint Task Force between the OECS and the Monetary Council, Gonsalves noted that the World Bank continues to address its existing projects, but there is no sense of urgency on their part in assisting the developing countries within the Caribbean.

“Now I remember after 9/11 in 2001, the head of the regional body (i.e. the World Bank’s representative) was on my doorstep within two weeks with a team looking for ways and means ‘What can we help you with in this difficult period’,” said Gonsalves.

The Prime Minister stressed that though there was tremendous loss of lives during the 9/11 period, the financial economic impact then has not been as severe as the meltdown in international capitalism.

“We haven’t seen them on our door steps. We get a lot of words, but you have to ask where is the beef,” Gonsalves exclaimed.

On the other hand, Gonsalves stated the IMF, which has been traditionally reviled by the political left, is one of the international bodies that has come forward to lend its support.

“That is because of the change in configuration in Global Capitalism with the rise of other countries which are putting pressure on the IMF,” said Gonsalves.

Meanwhile, Gonsalves disclosed that the Eastern Caribbean currency remains stable even though financial recovery in the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is taking a while.

The Prime Minister gave this assurance earlier this week.

Regarding the OECS, the economy which suffered the most from the global financial meltdown was that of Antigua.

In 2009, Antigua suffered an economic decline of 30 per cent and this slippage has continued into 2010. St.Vincent and the Grenadines is a bit more fortunate, Gonsalves said, as its decline measured 5.8 per cent in 2009.

“Dominica’s and ours held up just about the best, but even so the circumstances are tight,” said Gonsalves.

“What happens in Antigua is of immense significance to us for the simple reason that it is twenty five per cent of the Gross Domestic Product of the currency union,” Gonsalves stated.

Gonsalves disclosed that though there has been some progress in sectors of the American economy and Europe, there is a time lag where recovery in the Caribbean is concerned.

“It is one of the features of our economy, the regional economy that is, that the impact of a meltdown in the advanced economies of the world is met with an immediate adverse impact in our region but the recovery doesn’t have the same impact immediately; you have a time lag,” said Gonsalves.

In January 2009, a two day meeting was held in St.Kitts to set up the task force to oversee, monitor, superintend and to take initiatives in relation to responses to the international economic crisis which has seriously affected the economies of the Eastern Caribbean.

So far the work of the body has proven to be instrumental in stabilizing the forward movement of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, Gonsalves said.(HN)