Addressing an international conference on Building Resilience to Natural Disasters, LaRocque said that “it has been recorded that between 2000 and 2017, member states of our community suffered at least seven major disasters in which damage ranged from 33 to 226 per cent of the affected country’s gross domestic product (GDP)”.
LaRocque made reference to the 2017 experience where the estimated cost of reconstruction after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria was put at five billion US dollars.
“For us, therefore, especially with the prediction of more intense and frequent storms, seeking to build resilience against that phenomenon is urgent,” he told the conference that is also being attended by several Caricom foreign ministers.
Romania, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, is using the conference for debate and exchange of good practices regarding resilience to natural disasters, and to identify and develop cooperation models between states in order to reduce the effects of global warming.
LaRocque, in highlighting the factors required to build the necessary resilience, stressed the importance of having access to concessional development financing well in advance of a disaster.
But he bemoaned the fact that Caricom countries, because of being labelled middle-income countries, cannot access this type of financing, since the principal criterion used is GDP per capita.
“From our perspective, there is urgent need for the international community and international financial institutions to change the criteria for access to concessional development financing by middle-income Small island Developing States.
“Substantial weight must be accorded to our vulnerability in this regard. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) has begun looking at the issue. We need the support of all OECD members,” the Caricom secretary general told the conference.
He also made reference to the ongoing threat to the region’s financial services sector from what he described as the ‘unwarranted labelling of some of our economies as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions by the EU”.
LaRocque said that financial services sector is a significant contributor to public finances in many Caricom states and a source of funding for building resilience.
On Tuesday, the EU listed six Caribbean countries in a new list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions which the Europe said was based on an “an intense process of analysis and dialogue steered by the commission”.
LaRocque told the meeting here that the EU blacklisting “amounts to an attack on our economies”, and acknowledged Romania’s understanding of Caricom’s concerns with regards to the EU’s actions and processes and its assistance in bringing them to the attention of the appropriate EU authorities.