Weeks after the Caribbean island of Barbuda was “devastated” and “desolated” by the “ferocity of Hurricane Irma”, the country’s President Gaston Browne, criticized the international financial system for making it more difficult for a nation like his to rebuild after a disaster like Hurricane Irma.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Browne said “The world cannot survive with a wealthy few controlling resources,” adding that concessional financing is denied to countries like Antigua and Barbuda, which are cast as “high income states” due to foreign investment from expatriates.
This, the president continued, racks up the debts these countries owe to financial powers like the United States after each natural disaster, because they must borrow at a much higher, commercial rate to finance reconstruction.
The president highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars it still owes to the Paris Club — major creditor countries — after nearly four decades, much of which is accrued interest.
“The per capita system of measurement is discriminatory and must end,” he pressed.
Browne also called out the United States for its failure to settle its trade dispute with Antigua and Barbuda, which it has refused to do since 2003, a further display of the country’s “might is right” arrogance, noted the Caribbean leader.
Irma’s destruction, which has left Barbuda uninhabitable, having destroyed 95 percent of its buildings, and leaving it without electricity or clean water, will take US$250 million to rebuild, said Browne.
This, while the “Caribbean is the least of polluters”, but faces the brunt of global warming’s “casualties”, noted the president.
“Evidence of global warming … can’t be explained as severity of weather … or nature’s doing,” said Browne in his address, who also called out the world’s wealthiest nations for polluting and consuming the most. “For the first time in 300 years, there is no permanent resident in Barbuda.”
Barbuda’s population of 72,000 have been taken to the country’s neighboring island of Antigua, Browne highlighted the strain Antigua now faces with the surge in numbers.
In the wake of the destruction, he also thanked the countries that have provided assistance, including “first responder, the Bolivarian nation of Venezuela, that went beyond the call of duty to assist”, along with China, Cuba, the UAE, Qatar, Canada the Dominican Republic and its “sister states in the Caribbean.”