The Caribbean Policy Development Center (CPDC) says a silent debt crisis threatens the way of life of people in the Caribbean. Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) suffer the most from the debt crisis, experiencing little or no economic growth and rising public debt levels. SIDS like the Bahamas are facing increasing threats from climate change and natural disasters. Therefore, the CPDC has launched a pilot project which will pave the way for widespread regional action towards tackling debt.
The Bahamas is one of three CARICOM countries which are participating in the pilot project. Civil Society Bahamas (CSB), the apex body for Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) in the country, is leading the charge for The Bahamas, aiming to bring widespread awareness and spur action to address the impact of increasing debt in The Bahamas.
Debt is considered sustainable if it is below 60 percent of what a country earns – its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At least twelve SIDS are already above that level, and six countries have debt over 100 percent of their GDP. According to the CPDC, during colonization, profits were sent to colonial powers with little or no money being invested in the Caribbean’s economic development. Thus, following Independence, in order to advance these young nations and empower the people in the international economy, these countries had to borrow.
Due to the location of Caribbean SIDS in the North Atlantic Basin, approximately $30 billion USD in damages were caused by 854 named storms between 1950 and 2021, the CPDC says. The frequency and intensity of these natural hazards, heightened by recent devastation and external shocks, have caused these governments to borrow money for response, recovery and reconstruction. Therefore, this debt accumulation happened gradually and almost unnoticeably for the decades.
The pilot project to address this silent debt crisis is known as: “Confronting the Caribbean Debt Challenge, Building Resilience for Sustainable Development”. Led by the CPDC, it is supported by the Funders Organized for Rights in the Global Economy (FORGE), in partnership with Debt Justice (formally Jubilee UK). The CPDC will mobilize Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and communities throughout the region, giving them a more active role in collaborating on the debt campaign.
CSOs have been agitating for the rights and protection of the citizens they represent since their existence. A project such as this will build their capacity to do their work in terms of unjust debt in their respective countries, and will create partnerships and skills that will outlast the project. The pilot begins with three CARICOM countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and The Bahamas.
The project was officially launched in The Bahamas on February 6, 2023 in a hybrid event hosted by the CSB, led by its President, Dr. Anthony Hamilton, along with the CPDC. It was sub-sponsored by the Agriculture Alliance of the Caribbean (AACARI). Representatives of Non Governmental Organizatons (NGOs) throughout The Bahamas attended the event, held at the BCPOU Hall on Farrington Road, New Providence.
The pilot project is being launched against a background of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also ongoing challenges facing the region in the form of natural disasters and the effects of climate change. The CPDC points out that unsustainable debt continues to plague the region as governments work to recover from natural disasters and offset costs associated with healthcare and other external shocks that constrain the already fragile economies.
A Caribbean coalition of CSOs will work together at the grassroots, national and regional levels to influence an agenda for debt relief for Caribbean countries within the international policy arena. This coalition will center around affected communities across Caribbean society, reflecting the wide-ranging impact of debt and ensuring wider reach.
All NGOs and Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) within The Bahamas are encouraged to register with CSB if they have not already done so, and participate in CSB goals. They include: the betterment of individuals through improvement of their general social, economic, spiritual and mental welfare; influence National Policy and promote greater collaboration with Government; and advocate for a National Good Governance Plan that involves Government, Civil Society and the business community. To learn more about CSB, visit https://www.civilsocietybahamas.org.
Source: Felicity Darville