Small states forge ahead for better financing opportunities
(Seychelles News Agency) - Commonwealth delegates from fifty-three member states attending the third Biennial Conference on Small States have agreed to work together to acquire concessionary financing and a better trade environment.
This emerged after the two-day meeting in Castries, St. Lucia, where key vulnerable areas were identified to build resilience and sustainability in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
SIDS are defined as low-lying coastal or island states that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments.
Their growth and development is also held back by high communication, energy and transportation costs, irregular international transport volumes, disproportionately expensive public administration and infrastructure due to their small size, and little to no opportunity to create economies of scale.
Commonwealth delegates say they plan to lobby other non-Commonwealth small states ahead of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference to be held in Samoa later this year in order to get support for the use of a "vulnerability index".
"One of the key deliverables therefore that we are seeking following the conference and for the Small Island Developing States conference taking place in Samoa will be the finalisation of the resilience index which can better help small island developing states to access concessional and development financing," said Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam.
"One of the key concerns that have been raised for example is debt and the debt overhang that many island countries have, and it's a question of finding innovative ways to address these issues," Adam.
The group has a six-month deadline to get the "vulnerability index" ready for the September SIDS meeting.
It is hoped that the vulnerability index will give SIDS a better chance of attaining finance at concessionary rates in order to tackle mounting debt problems and enjoy greater fiscal flexibility to fight poverty.
According to the Commonwealth’s Deputy Secretary General, Deodat Maharaj, the issues discussed, will be fed into the upcoming G20 development forum, in which the Commonwealth plays a key technical role.
"What is valuable of that forum is that we also have other important partners – not only the G20 countries but also institutions such as the World Bank,” said Maharaj.
The delegates seemed determined to make the voices of small island states heard on a global stage, working on the Commonwealth’s five key pillars of resilience to adopt a blueprint towards protecting their fragile nations from shocks: building of macro-economic stability; micro-economic market efficiency; good governance; social development and cohesion; and sound environmental management.
"The Commonwealth is ideally placed to play a lead role in transforming development perspectives for islands and small states in general. But small states must also stand up and be counted. Seychelles has sought to bring practical ideas to this conference to move the debate forward, and we are pleased that concepts such as a resilience index, debt for adaptation swaps and the Blue Economy have been recognized as essential to overcome the obstacles to affordable development financing," said Minister Adam.
Seychelles Minister of Finance, Trade and Investment, Pierre Laporte, also attended the conference and shared Seychelles experiences of economic reforms as a platform for reinstating sustainable finances.
"Seychelles’ record on economic reform shows that with the right focus and determination, small islands can radically transform their perspectives. But we believe that more effort is needed to further facilitate the access of SIDS to better financing mechanisms that recognize their vulnerability to external shocks," the minister stated.
During the meeting, the ministers also highlighted climate change as a key challenge that is inadequately addressed in the current development framework.
"Because of SIDS exclusion from many of the finances proposed for climate change adaptation due to GDP per capita criteria, funding for this adaptation remains a 'glorious myth' as far as islands are concerned. We have to address this issue with urgency. We must also be innovative such as through debt for adaptation swaps that can further mobilize funding to fight climate change," Adam added.