Hon. Gaston Browne 
Minister of Planning Implementation and Public Service Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda

at the International Conference on Financing for Development

Monterrey, Mexico 
18th-22nd March 2002

Mr. President,

This Conference on Financing for Development provides a welcome opportunity for the International Community to affirm the critical importance it attaches to global development. It should also serve to confirm the obligations and responsibilities of developed and developing countries in achieving the objectives of the Millennium Summit. I wish to remind the international community of the words of my Prime Minister, the Honourable Lester Byrant Bird, who in his address to the Millennium Summit, called on the international community "to surprise all the millions of people who live in abject poverty". Now is the time for us to show the world that we are serious about addressing the twin issues of poverty and development, by putting our words into action.

Mr. President,

I wish to endorse the statements made by His Excellency President Hugo Chavez and the other developing countries that have already spoken. There are, however some, specific concerns that I would like to highlight from the perspective of a small island developing state. The Monterey Consensus fails to acknowledge the heterogeneous nature of developing countries. It also overlooks the fact that there is a subset of developing
countries, namely small island developing states (SIDS), with peculiar vulnerabilities and characteristics because of their size; i.e. small domestic markets, limited resources, excessive dependence on international trade and overall fragile physical environment.

Mr. President,

As a small island developing state, we are aware of our obligations and have over the years utilized our limited domestic resources, official development assistance (ODA) and Foreign direct Investments (FDI) optimally to develop our health care, educational system, utilities, telecommunications, air and sea ports. This resulted in unprecedented rates of growth during the eighties and early nineties. However, today, in the absence of ODA and declining FDI we have experienced a substantial reduction in the rate of growth to a low of 1.5 % for 2001.

Mr. President, It is obvious that despite our commitment and creative efforts to manage and develop our economies there are certain exogenous factors mitigating against development in small states such as Antigua & Barbuda.

We have played by the rules of globalization, while the developed countries have exempted themselves, particularly in the areas of agricultural and textile production which are still subsidised and protected. We have opened up our economies to the goods of developed countries but instead of benefiting from increased trading opportunities and investments we have experienced a reduction in the export of goods and services and a redirection of investment flows to developing countries with larger populations, greater economies of scale and hence profit potential.

We have sought to diversify our economy into offshore financial services to reduce our vulnerability and to provide jobs for our people. But again, rather than reaping the benefits of economic development, we were subjected to the aggression of the OECD. Mr. President we are fully supportive of efforts toward creating a sound international financial services architecture. However, these efforts must be made equitably, in the spirit of true partnership.

Mr. President,

Antigua & Barbuda like other small island states is faced with a number of developmental challenges including an unsustainable debt burden. AS a consequence of,

an extremely small tax base, 

the lack of natural resources 

lack of access to ODA,

substantially reduced foreign direct investment flows and

lack of access to capital markets,

we have had to borrow at commercial rates of interest to finance our development. In addition we have had to bear the consequences of increased exposure to global environmental risk and as a result have been struck by five hurricanes during the past seven years. This has resulted in repeated borrowings at commercial rates of interest to reconstruct our damaged socio-economic infrastructure.

Mr. President,

We hereby call upon the international community to expand the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative to include debt relief for vulnerable small island states. It is my fear that in focusing exclusively on HIPC, the international community may fail to support the efforts of the vulnerable middle. What good would the Monterrey Consensus serve if it allows these vulnerable middle income countries to degenerate into poverty?

Mr. President,

Whereas we welcome the increased pledges by the European Union and the United States, It is regrettable that developed countries as a whole, despite their virtual monopolization of global resources and unprecedented prosperity, have, after three decades failed to meet their commitment of ODA of a mere 0.7% of GNP. If the past is any guide to the future, It would suggest to me that Monterrey will be yet another talk shop. But I am hopeful that Monterrey may be that point of departure for a new world order in which developed and developing countries will work in partnership to rid the world of poverty

I thank you, Mr. President.

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