Caribbean Nations Balk At Possible New EU Financial Guidelines

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Caribbean governments say they are upset with the European Union for changing the rules regarding aid granted to the region and former colonies in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).

Under new rules the EU’s parliament is currently debating, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and its 15 member nations and the Dominican Republic could be “graduated or differentiated” from funds under the European Development Fund (EDF) because the Europeans will now be looking strictly at gross domestic and gross national product figures to determine which countries should get help.

Officials say that most of the region – with Haiti perhaps being the only exception – will no longer be regarded as countries that need help because their GDP and GNP figures will categorize them as middle- and upper-middle-income countries, making them ineligible to qualify for grant aid and cheap loans.

CARICOM nations say the old criteria, which included other factors like national vulnerabilities to hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, will no longer be applied, and that considering only economic statistics and constructs is a backward step.

Community Secretary General Irwin LaRocque called the new system “disquieting,” but the region plans to raise the issue at a mid-December summit of ACP leaders in Equatorial Guinea, where all aspects of relations with the EU will come up.

He said the proposed arrangements “will cast a shadow” over relations with the EU, as these had “matured and broadened to the benefit of both parties.”

The bloc is known to complain bitterly about the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund using similar criteria to “graduate” some of the more prosperous member states like Trinidad, Barbados, the Bahamas and Antigua from concession loans. Now the region fears that the EU is on the same track, but the EU is contending that the new system will ensure money goes to the poorest of the poor rather than to nations that could fend for themselves.

Both the ACP and CARICOM have, in recent weeks, waged a public relations campaign against the EU plans as its parliament debates the issue. Fears remain, however, that all the traditional concessions dating back to the colonial era are being slowly but surely chipped away by the ACP’s former colonizers.

CARICOM’s main purpose is to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared and to coordinate regional foreign policy.

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