MEXICO CITY – Substantial debt relief is a necessity for Caribbean nations as they struggle to cope with external economic shocks and their own extreme vulnerability to climate change, the head of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or ECLAC, said on Wednesday.
The commission is asking wealthy nations, multilateral lenders and the private sector “to consider the issue of Caribbean debt in a serious way,” Alicia Barcena told delegates to the 36th ECLAC assembly.
“It’s not a question of forgiving the debt in its entirety,” but of writing down a significant portion of the obligations, she said.
Debt relief would free resources for creation of “a resilience fund” to help Caribbean countries confront external shocks and the effects of climate change, Barcena said.
Between 2000 and 2014, natural disasters such as storms and floods caused more than $26 billion in damage and economic losses to Caribbean countries, according to ECLAC data.
Jamaica’s public debt “equals 140 percent of gross domestic product, higher than Cyprus” and the government must devote 60 percent of revenue on debt service, Barcena said.
“A country cannot be sustainable” under those conditions, she said.