UNITED NATIONS, Sept 28, CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says the global economic and financial meltdown is continuing to adversely affect the Caribbean.
Addressing the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly on Friday, Gonslaves said the “meltdown” is felt “most acutely by the poor, the youth, the elderly and the vulnerable, who bear no responsibility for the rampant financial speculation and unregulated movement of capital that spurred the crisis.
“Today, four years into an externally-imposed meltdown, which has produced negative or marginal growth across the Caribbean, our region is forced to contemplate the implications of a potential lost decade of development.
“Our region is not immune from the economic pressures and fissures that have turned other parts of the world into tinderboxes of social unrest and political upheaval,” he said, adding “our citizens, who have nobly struggled under the weight of externally-sourced contraction, austerity and hardship, are not possessed of limitless patience or endurance”.
Gonsalves warned that as a result, the region’s “hard-won developmental gains are in jeopardy” and its “settled political stability is in possible peril”.
He urged the international community not ignore the region’s plight “based on a distorted calculus of middle-income status and relative prosperity, or on simplistic, even offensive, stereotypes of Caribbean paradises”.
Gonsalves said small, highly-indebted middle-income developing countries, like those in the Caribbean, which are very vulnerable to natural disasters and international economic convulsions, have “especial concerns which the international community is obliged to address properly in partnership with the people of our region”.
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister said external shocks, “derived from nature or the workings of an uneven casino capitalism, are not merely episodic” to the Caribbean, adding that they are a “constant feature of our regional economies”.
He said central to the urgent re-examination and reconfiguration of the existing economic apparatus is the recognition that “our modern context and individual national characteristics do not lend themselves to strict classical or Keynesian economic prescriptions or their variants”.
He said the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the region, their peculiarities of size, openness and vulnerability require “uniquely home-grown economic policies that are rooted not in any prevailing ideology or fashionable theories from outside, but in a sensible, flexible and focused practicality.
“We have little interest in esoteric arguments about the role of the State in economic activity, because, historically, our national governments have been a force for good in the stimulation, diversification and growth of our economies in tandem with the private and cooperative sectors,” Gonsalves said.
He said while the Caribbean welcomes and solicits assistance and consultation with relevant institutions and organisations, such consultations must be free of the type of textbook “orthodoxies or formulaic prescriptions that are inapplicable to our times and circumstances,” adding that the region’s path to development must be its own.
Gonsalves said the cause of development, as a goal and as a right, has suffered from the neglect of the international community in recent, post-crisis years, stating that within the United Nations system, for instance, the current budget for peacekeeping dwarfs the resources allocated to fostering development, even though most conflict is rooted in underdevelopment.
He said the “age-old” pledges of developmental assistance have been “skirted and their fulfillment delayed by states that cite their own struggles with the global economic fallout”.
As a result, even as the world contemplates post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, Gonsalves warned that it is “painfully apparent” that the UN’s Millennium Development Goals will not be met across “large swaths of our planet”.
He said the poor, especially those in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean can hardly be expected to wait any longer for relief and sustainable development.
He said St. Vincent and the Grenadines is thankful to the nations and organizations that have found it possible to “continue extending their hand in cooperation with our people, even in difficult economic times.
“The support and assistance of these States and organizations [are] a mark of their friendship, solidarity, and strong global citizenship,” he said.
Gonsalves warned that the prolonged global economic uncertainties have propelled the international economy into a “dangerous new phase,” noting that event the International Monetary Fund has so concluded.
In the process, he said the crisis has found the principals “wanting, even innocent of the extant condition, with no clear idea as to the way forward” and cautioned that at “large but immense” challenges arise immediately from at least four pertinent queries.
“First, is the transition manageable or must it be played out in a chaotic manner. Secondly, assuming that the transition is manageable how is it to be managed in the most efficacious way, and in whose interest.
Thirdly, is this a transition to a dead end? And fourthly, given that the transition itself, like all human condition, is dynamic, what is the destination of this transition?” Gonsalves asked.
He urged that “arrogant and unbridled power, from whatever source,” be contained, adding that it is always wise to remember that “the greatest exercise of power is the restraint in the use of that powe”.
Gonsalves called the UN community to “harness that essential moral courage to produce change in a world whose potential is limitless, and whose problems are soluble.
“The rhetoric of change and hope may lack the cachet that it enjoyed hitherto, but we still believe that our peoples and governments possess within us the courage and conviction collectively to change and materially improve the condition of our nations’ citizens,” he told the world body.