Delinquent member states hitting CARICOM in the pocket
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
As member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) start the 39th Heads of Government Conference in Montego Bay, St James today, there is a call for delinquent countries to pay up outstanding contributions to the regional body.
The CARICOM Secretariat has expressed concern regarding members states which have delayed, or not paid, their financial contributions which is affecting its ability to function effectively.
Member states have been urged to reduce their arrears and pay their contributions in a timely manner.
Director of Finance at the Secretariat Dawn Baldeo-Koylass has reportedly said that because of the delayed payment of contributions by some member states, the Secretariat's budget was negatively impacted as well as its ability to fulfil its mandate in a timely manner.
The concerns were expressed in a report from the 21st meeting of the Budget Committee of CARICOM.
The Heads of Government are expected to use the meeting in Montego Bay to approve the budget and work programme of the Secretariat for the financial year 2018.
A comparison of unpaid contributions for the budget years 2012 to 2016 shows that 84.3 per cent of the approved budget was unpaid by member states in 2016.
This compares with 49.4 per cent in 2012.
At December 31, 2016, the total outstanding contribution from member states stood at EC$46.3 million.
The only other year when outstanding contributions exceeded that of 2016 was in 2014 when the debt, as at December 31, was 87.6 per cent or EC$47.5 million.
The proposed budget for CARICOM this year is EC$54.9 million, a similar sum for that of 2017.
Secretary-General of CARICOM Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has indicated that in light of the current economic and social challenges, there would be no increase to the proposed budget.
Antigua and Barbuda has requested a waiver of contributions for a three-year period because of the devastating effect of Hurricane Irma on that country last year.
The eastern Caribbean island is also asking for a three-year moratorium on payments of its outstanding obligations to the Secretariat and all other institutions of CARICOM.
The Heads of Government will consider the request this week.