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(BARBADOS TODAY) – Just over US$2 billion in pledges, including $2 million from Venezuela and a quarter billion from Haiti, were made as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the United Nations jointly hosted a high-level pledging conference on Tuesday.
Nearly 400 high-level representatives from governments, multilateral and civil society organizations and the private sector gathered at UN headquarters for the conference held in support of the reconstruction efforts in countries devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria back in September.
To help affected islands build back better, the UN said more than US$1.35 billion was pledged from the region and beyond, and more than US$1 billion was offered in loans and debt forgiveness, in response to the hurricane-hit countries’ urgent needs.
The pledges included: $702 million from The Netherlands; $352 million from the European Union; $140 million from the World Bank; $78 million from Canada; $30 million from China; $27 million from Mexico; $12 million from Italy; $4.3 million from the United States; $4 million from Japan; $1 million from Kuwait; $2 million from India; $1 million from Venezuela; $1.2 million from Belgium; $1 million from Chile; $500,000 from Denmark; $300,000 from Colombia; $250,000 from Haiti; US$ 250,000 from New Zealand; $200,000 from Brazil; $150,000 from Kazakhstan; $100,000 from Romania; $100,000 from Portugal and $20,000 from Serbia.
The Inter-American Development Bank pledged U$1 billion in loans; Italy, US$30 million in soft loans; and Venezuela forgave US$1 million in debt.
According to the latest needs estimates, recovery costs surpass US$5 billion. In some cases, the impact was 3.5 times the gross domestic product (GDP) of affected countries, such as in the British Virgin Islands.
The principal economic sectors of tourism and agriculture have been significantly affected, according to assessments made public during the conferencek, which was organized by CARICOM with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), working with sister UN agencies.
“The magnitude of reconstruction will require significant levels of financing which we are unable to generate on our own. Countries are highly indebted, with limited access to financing due to their middle-income status,” said CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque at the conference.
“The task of rebuilding is beyond us.”
UN Secretary General António Guterres also stressed that countries in the Caribbean needed support now to rebuild, and to take effective climate action.
“We need a new generation of infrastructure that is risk-informed, to underpin resilient economies, communities and livelihoods,” he said.
Climate-vulnerable islands were decimated, like Barbuda, the smaller of the two states that make up the twin island of Antigua and Barbuda; and Dominica, with deep social, economic and environmental impacts. Other severely affected islands were Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands. Haiti and St Kitts and Nevis also suffered damage. Sint Maarten/St Martin as well as Cuba and the Dominican Republic were impacted, in addition to Puerto Rico.
In Barbuda, damage surpassed US$130 million with recovery needs of over $220 million, according to the latest post-Irma assessment. The tourism sector, which is crucial for Antigua and Barbuda’s economy, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of GDP, was severely affected, bearing 76 per cent of losses.
“Climate change recognizes no borders, size of country or religion of its people. All are involved and all are consumed; but the small, vulnerable, poor are the most affected,” said Antigua and Barbuda prime minister Gaston Browne.
“We Small Island Developing States will never achieve the Sustainable Development Goals unless there’s funding for climate-resilient communities.”
In Dominica, Hurricane Maria decimated decades of development gains, impacting over 200 per cent of the island state’s GDP. Poverty levels risk rising above 60 per cent. Nearly 60 per cent of damage relates to housing and transportation infrastructure, with recovery costs estimated at around US$1.3 billion.
“We have the goal of rebuilding Dominica as the world’s first climate-resilient country,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. “It’s an existential matter for us; it’s the only way forward.”