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REMARKS DELIVERED BY THE HON. C. SANDRA HUSBANDS ON OCCASION OF THE PUBLIC LECTURE BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF UNCTAD, DR MUKHISA KITUYI, UWI CAVE HILL CAMPUS, LECTURE THEATRE 1, 23 FEBRUARY, 2019

TITLE: CHALLENGES  FACED BY SMALL VULNERABLE ECONOMIES IN AN UNCERTAIN TRADING ENVIRONMENT

Hon. Edmund Hinkson M.P., Minister of Home Affairs

Hon. Marsha Caddle M.P., Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs

Dame Billie Miller, Ambassador at large and Plenipotentiary

Secretary General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development – UNCTAD- Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi;

Members of the Diplomatic Core,

Head of the Department of Social Sciences, Dr. Justin Robinson;

Other Deans of the Cave Hill Campus

Other Specially Invited Guests,

Other members of the Campus Community

Members of the Media;

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

I am certainly honoured to be here amongst you at Cave Hill this evening as we engage on matters which is not only critical for the prosperity of Barbados, but for all other small vulnerable economies on the whole. So I wish to join others in welcoming Dr. Kituyi to Barbados. Secretary General, I look forward to hearing from you and discussion with you with great anticipation the thoughts which you will share with us here today.   

It also gives me great pleasure to welcome back, all be it temporarily, Dr. Pamela Coke Hamilton, who is a true daughter of the Caribbean and who now is employed at the United 

Nations Conference for Trade and Development.  It has been the pleasure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to partner with the University of the West Indies in this venture and we look forward to continued collaboration in the area of international trade.

This evening, I have chosen to share a few thoughts on the challenges being faced by small vulnerable economies in an uncertain trading environment. Trade and development, ladies and gentlemen, are the foundations upon which poverty eradication, social cohesion and long lasting prosperity have their genesis.  These are the fundamental goals of all governments, but they elude many developing countries especially the small and vulnerable among them. 

 There are, however, some international institutions, such as UNCTAD – which stand ready to assist our developing states in a myriad of economic development areas.

 It is no small secret that small economies face challenges in the area of climate change. For instance, this region is prone to natural disasters which have increased in capacity over the recent past.  We have seen the impact of such disasters which can set back development goals of small economies in the space of twenty-four hours.  Climate change must be taken seriously because we are all in danger of becoming climate refugees. 

The graduation policies of some countries is also a cause for concern.  Access to finance to support development needs is constrained by the policies of some of our development partners.  We applaud those who continue to support us without these conditionalities. The 

strict reliance on GDP as the main determinant for access to finance must be addressed and we commend UNCTAD for its work in this area. I want to be able to pledge Barbados’ support to assisting you in this area in any way possible. 

We are living in a world which is constantly being reshaped by decisions taken, more often than not, by a select few.  Occasionally, we as small states are party to these decisions.  On other occasions, we are mere by-standers.  What is clear, however, is that some of these decisions adversely affect the economic development of our small states, Barbados obviously included.  It sometimes appears as though we are being penalised for the advances we as countries have made in the face of strenuous global pressures. 

This pressure has become even more acute given the advent of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the operations of two of its major doctrines, trade liberalisation and non-discrimination.  As a result of these two critical components of international trade, the margins we enjoyed in our preferential export trade are slowly diminishing.  This is a matter of concern to small developing states such as Barbados as we strive to become competitive in the global market.

Barbados and other small developing states in the region are also deeply concerned about the challenges to our international financial services sector.  We reiterate that our tax system is transparent.  We have sought to comply with the demands of our partners who have challenged us on this basis.

When one assesses these global trends over time and marry them with yet another major blow to our economies, the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships, many may wonder how we as small states will survive.  Many of our businesses, both in Barbados and in the region, have been hard hit by the withdrawal of correspondent banking.   This action alone by these large commercial banks can certainly destroy the economy of a country in very short order. 

So again, I pose the question, how do we as small states survive?  This is a question which I am constantly asked and which I choose to answer in this way: “we as small states have no choice but to meet these challenges frontally.  We must look for avenues through which we can manoeuvre and we must seek out development partners who understand our challenges as small developing states.  We must seek out development partners who are willing to assist us both financially and with technical assistance.  We need partners who will make interventions for us in the right fora.  We must fully develop the confidence of our people to operate on the world stage. Our citizens expect nothing less of us.”  

In the multilateral arena we have always sought out like-minded groups to support us in those areas of trade which matter greatly to us.  Before I go further, let me state clearly here today that Barbados remains deeply committed to the fundamental principles of the multilateral trading system.  We remain confident in the system to regulate all global trade matters and adjudicate all trade disputes in a fair manner, irrespective of the size or wealth of the country.  Unfortunately, the multilateral system is at a cross-road and there will therefore be a need for the membership to consult among themselves as to how best their concerns can be resolved. 

Let me state that Barbados stands ready through its Mission in Geneva to lend assistance and its voice to any discussions which are being crafted to break the dead-lock in all its forms at the WTO.  We believe that this institution and its mandate on trade, especially the Doha Development Agenda, are too important for developing states to be held in abeyance for so long. 

There are some who now speak about the irrelevance of the multilateral trading system and have embraced the trend towards bilateral trade.  Indeed, quite a large number of bilateral trade agreements are being signed and this can arguably be linked to the slow moving process in the WTO.  A solution must be found.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very concerned about what can befall Barbados and our CARICOM neighbours due to these changing global dynamics.  We must be seen as vulnerable small states who are constrained not just by our size but by our resource capabilities as well.  Despite the fact that we do not have the resources of large developed countries, rarely would you see us lament over this fact.  Many small states simply face the challenges and seek to resolve it in the best way possible.    We must make the best with the resources that we have.

The characteristics of small states dictate that we be treated differently.  Hence the continued existence of special and differential treatment treatment.  Our limited resources, low product differentiation and great susceptibility to natural disasters must be acknowledged.    

UNCTAD remains one of the few institutions which appreciates the vulnerabilities of our small states.  They have been at the forefront of development in small developing states now for many years.  This is where international organisations such as UNCTAD are needed by small developing states such as ours.  This is where we need such organisation to champion the cause for our states. 

Let me thank the Secretary General for the sterling job he has done so far, not only for Barbados, but for the large number of developing states which need to build capacity in areas such as trade, economic development and climate change.

I also wish to thank UNCTAD for the support which has been provided to Barbados in the areas of the sustainable use of marine resources, E-Trade Readiness and Electronic Commerce Strategy.

Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, I will like to leave you with one thought.  The future of Barbados and other small vulnerable economies depends on what we do today.   The future must be shaped today.  We have institutions such as UNCTAD which are willing to help us shape that future.  Let us grab hold of this offer. 

I thank you.