The designation of middle-income country a double-edged sword: Jamaica

Ambassador Raymond Wolfe, Jamaica's representative

NARRATOR: The designation of "middle-income country" could be regarded as a double-edged sword.

The warning comes from Jamaica's Representative Ambassador RAYMOND WOLFE. He told the General Assembly's Economic and Financial committee that while the classification recognized progress a country had made in drawing closer to achieving some of the internationally agreed development goals, it also masked some real and pressing challenges.

TAPE: Despite the differences among us, in terms of our ability to influence or respond to the vagaries of the global economy, it is imperative that we acknowledge the fact that more than a third of the world's poor live in MICs, including these major economies. It is further, imperative that we take steps to ensure that in treating with this categorisation, which is based almost exclusively on per capita income, we do not push Middle Income Countries into the margins of the development agenda.

NARRATOR: Ambassador Wolfe underscored the importance of the work of the UN system which, despite its limitations, serves to bolster the efforts of the Jamaican Government, and those of other Governments in the sub-region, to advance their domestic development agendas. This, in the face of great fiscal constraints and of the very real challenges of poverty and persistent inequality.

TAPE: The middle-income Countries in the Caribbean Community are characterized by socio-economic inequalities, persistently high poverty levels and heavy dependence on commodity exports. This situation is not unique to Jamaica and its sub-region partners, as a significant number of our neighbours in Latin America, which are also categorised as middle-income countries are facing similar challenges in the pursuit of their development agendas. However, the challenges faced by CARICOM Member States, including Jamaica, are compounded by the fact that we are also Small Island Developing States (SIDS), whose geographical characteristics render us acutely vulnerable to a wide range of environmental challenges, including natural disasters which are occurring with greater frequency and which, time and again, have served to undercut our economic progress in a range of areas.

NARRATOR: Ambassador Wolfe said the region is also vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and to exogenous shocks such as those unleashed by the global financial crisis, and to which they are even more susceptible in the current globalised economy.

TAPE: For Jamaica and its CARICOM colleagues, the most pressing challenge posed by our middle-income country designation is the extent to which it has significantly curtailed our access to concessionary financing and debt alleviation. A significant number of the countries in the region continue to struggle with debt to GDP ratios averaging over 100%, with several having the dubious distinction of being ranked among the most highly indebted in the world. The burdensome nature of our debt to GDP ratios has served to reduce our fiscal space and limit the range and quality of the public services which our Governments are able to provide.

NARRATOR: Ambassador Wolfe concluded that this will undoubtedly continue to constrain the region's ability to attain its development goals.

He said the international community and international financial institutions in particular should move towards the provision of debt relief and concessionary grants and loans to middle-income countries. Additionally, those entities should consider the peculiar confluence of vulnerabilities faced by the Caribbean region.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration:  3’25″

Filed under Caribbean News.
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