PM Browne wants debt forgiveness, not restructuring

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has made the case for small island developing countries such as Antigua and Barbuda to be granted debt forgiveness rather than debt restructuring as a way out of the debt crisis they now face.

Speaking in an interview with CNN International on Thursday, PM Browne confirmed that Antigua and Barbuda as well as other Caribbean states have accumulated heavy debt burdens as they have been forced to borrow to cope with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of the countries ran large deficits as they had to borrow extensively, thus exacerbating their already debt crises. Therefore the issue of debt cancelation that we spoke about months ago remains a central issue for us in the Caribbean. We all have unsustainable levels of debts and we need assistance to reduce our debts through cancelations. Additionally, countries in the Caribbean still require official development assistance. We did receive support from the International Monetary Fund, but this only represents 10 percent of what’s needed,” he explained.

The prime minister made it clear that his call is for debt cancelation given the heavy debt overhang with which many countries are now coping.

He also emphasised the need for traditional assistance to help countries in the Caribbean navigate the difficulties ahead as the world seeks to emerge from the many crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

PM Browne was also asked to address the issue of vaccine mandates imposed on all government employees. He said the decision to go that route was informed by the need to protect lives and livelihoods in the country.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure that we keep the deaths and hospitalizations down to a minimum and we also had to ensure that we had a safe environment, not only for our local population but for visitors as well,” he remarked.

Effective today, all public sector workers are required to have received at least one dose of the anti-COVID vaccine or face the possibility not being paid if they remain so for an extended period of time.

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