During the panel session held under the theme, 'Leave No One Behind: Building An Equitable Recovery For Island Communities', Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie delivered his keynote address at the Island Finance Forum held virtually from April 25 to 29.
In his speech, he encouraged his audience to embrace the true meaning of rebuilding and restoration, specifically for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
He pointed out that most countries in the global economy are on a path of early recovery from the ravages of the COVID 19
pandemic, but for SIDS, recovery is complex. Hon. Fahie
explained that even during our recovery process, where we are anticipating economic growth, we are presented with new and existing issues.
“Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in particular have the dual challenge of recovering from the pandemic, while at the same time managing climate risks such as hurricanes and sea-level rise. They must also cope with the external shocks to their small open economies that are currently being negatively impacted by rising inflation and the sharp spike in energy and fuel prices. The combination of these things has actually increased the vulnerability of SIDS which must be taken into account by our international partners when it comes to concessional financing,” he noted.
He maintained that the pandemic was not only responsible for compounding issues for SIDS, but it uncovered and placed emphasis on the social dimensions of inequality in our societies.
The Premier proposed that if our societies are to be rebuilt and be stronger, there needs to be deliberate action to confront and alleviate these inequalities.
The most vulnerable communities like women and youth, need to be protected to ensure that we ensure that the community at large is safeguarded.
“We need stronger social safety nets to protect the vulnerable, especially persons that are low-wage workers in the Hospitality Sector who are the most likely to be laid off or have their hours and income reduced during a crisis. Among other things, it is imperative that SIDS put in place permanent unemployment insurance schemes of some kind to make their economies more shock responsive,” Hon. Fahie
also revealed the Government is putting steps in place to extend a safety net of social security to those persons who contribute to economic growth, but are a part of the informal labour markets.
This involves working with the International Labour Organization to ensure that this group of workers are accounted for on the path to recovery. He also spoke about the importance of retraining workers from the hospitality industry to take on new roles in other sectors like construction and renewable energy which was done by his ministry as a result of the pandemic. However, this flexibility and diversification of skills can also assist workers during the “slow season”.
closed by reminding his audience not to only focus on the weaknesses of our societies.
He stated, “Islands are resilient and we will recover from the pandemic, but we must seize the opportunity before us to address the structural imbalances and inequalities in our societies for an inclusive and equitable recovery based on sustainable development. SIDS share common challenges and there must be a paradigm shift in terms of national life and our response to those challenges. Continuing to share our experiences with each other is critical because we are all in this together.”