“We see a role for the UN as a central multilateral forum to consolidate efforts and promote coherence and international cooperation on issues that will support domestic resource mobilization,” said Wilfred Elrington, Belize’s Attorney General and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, in addressing the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly Debate.
“Because of its universal nature, the UN is best poised to foster a more inclusive transparent and consultative process to address issues as international cooperation on tax matters and the broader question of financing for sustainable development,” he added.
Notwithstanding Belize’s best efforts, Elrington said meeting the costs of implementation will not be possible from its domestic resources alone, stating that it relies on our bilateral partners from the North and South.
He said Belize has also developed strong working relationships with multilateral development banks, but said that, with its current status as a middle income country, the country’s access to grant and concessional financing is “severely constrained.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister said Belize is in the “unenviable position” of being a heavily indebted middle income country.
He said external public debt stands at 70 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (US$2.3 million) and domestic debt at 22 percent of GDP.
Left without viable alternatives, Elrington said the Belize Government remains reliant on loan financing for development at market rates.
But he said the world of international private finance is “not a world that places high priority on public policy, especially the public policy of a foreign government.”
He noted that the Caribbean is experiencing this reality with the ongoing crises of the withdrawal of correspondent banking services to indigenous financial institutions.
“It matters not to the likes of Bank of America, or JP Morgan Chase that ending correspondent banking relations with a national bank or a central bank effectively excludes that country from the global financial system,” Elrington said.
“And the response from the country where those banks are located is mere sympathy.”
He said this is a major concern not for the Caribbean alone but for all developing countries, “given the universal pivot to the private sector to finance the development agenda.”
He said it, therefore, “behooves the United Nations to develop a participatory framework for the private sector to account for their commitments and action to advance the global goals.”
Elrington said the High-level Political Forum offers a useful platform to integrate such a framework.
He also urged the United Nations to develop appropriate capacity to track the alignment of private financial flows with the 2030 Agenda.
In addition, the Belize Foreign Affairs Minister called on the global body to accelerate progress in re-defining development metrics that take into account the anomaly of heavily indebted middle income countries, particularly those with unique challenges as small island developing states (SIDS).
In welcoming the UN Secretary General’s commitment to SIDS, Elrington commended him for holding a special session on Hurricane Irma.
“I wish to extend my own government’s pledge of solidarity to our Caribbean family that was devastated by that unprecedented storm and more recently Hurricane Maria,” he said.
“Irma and Maria exposes at once the acute humanitarian challenge and the equally acute development challenge that SIDS face.
“That challenge is, without question, a global challenge as the Secretary General has rightly stated,” he added.
“We look forward to engaging in action oriented discussions to facilitate the piloting of finance for sustainable development initiatives across SIDS, such as debt swaps for climate action, and the expansion of climate risk insurance to support adaptation measures at the individual through to the national levels.”
Elrington said the UN can serve as “a global incubator for genuine and durable multi-stakeholder partnerships that can foster innovation and entrepreneurship in SIDS.”
At the country level, he said Belize is “ready to engage in discussions on how to ensure that the United Nations on the ground is fit for our country purposes as we aim to implement the ambitious 2030 Agenda and develop country specific solutions for sustainable financing.”
- Countries: Belize