Wed | Jun 16, 2021

UK champions better access to finance for SIDS

Published:Thursday | October 22, 2020 | 2:34 PMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad.
British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad.

THE UNITED Kingdom (UK), working with Fiji and Belize, yesterday brought together Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in a virtual round table to broker better access to finance and identify solutions for a resilient recovery from coronavirus.

SIDS face unique challenges, which global systems tend to overlook. Small island states are on the front line of climate change and are already bearing the brunt of its impacts.

They have a high vulnerability to natural disasters and will suffer even more as sea levels rise and fragile ecosystems and biodiversity come under threat. They also face significant challenges for employment, government revenues, and export income, most acutely from tourism and remittances which are highly vulnerable to economic shocks and climate change. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these issues, putting more pressure on small islands’ finances and diverting resources from ongoing work to protect against natural disasters and climate change.

This is true of Jamaica, where the hard-won economic gains and successful transition out of the International Monetary Fund programme are now threatened by COVID-19, as well as the underlying vulnerability to hurricanes and unstable geology.

The conference aimed to find practical recommendations for improving access to concessional finance to support continued progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In her opening speech, Baroness Sugg, UK minister for the Caribbean, said that they were committed to supporting small island developing states now and in the future.

“We recognise the twin impact of climate change and COVID-19, and we co-hosted the meeting today so we can drive real progress to secure vital access to finance,” she said.

The UK is supporting Jamaica and other small island states in their recovery from the pandemic, as attested to by the British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad, who praised Jamaica for its commitment in the fight against climate change.

“Jamaica can be rightly proud of the commitment made to further action to combat the impact of global warming. It is one of the first Caribbean countries to commit to ambitious action in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference that Glasgow will host in November 2021,” Ahmad said.

“Prime Minister [Andrew] Holness has a track record of engagement, both within the country and in the international arena, highlighting the risks as well as specific opportunities for mitigation and action, including climate finance.”

He said further that Jamaica has helped itself with careful macro-economic policies as well as pioneering access to finance and disaster-risk insurance.

“The UK has provided critical support to Jamaica and our SIDS perspective and action will strengthen in the years ahead,” Ahmad stated.

The UN lists 58 countries and territories on its informal list of Small Island Developing States, with many sharing common characteristics of acute economic vulnerability to natural disasters and to the effects of climate change.