HANGING IN THE BALANCE

The Caribbean trade group Monday said it is opposed to plans by the European Union (EU) to amend the criteria used for disbursement of development aid, saying nearly all of its members, barring finance-starved Haiti will largely be disqualified from accessing concession aid loans if the European Parliament approves the new system.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque told a regional forum in the Dominican Republic that the new so-called process of “differentiation” will see the EU looking at economic indicators like gross domestic and gross national products to determine which countries should still qualify for development aid while ignoring age-old vulnerabilities like hurricanes and other national disasters.

He described the new EU approach as “disquieting”, arguing that if the policy is applied without considering other factors “this will have a negative impact on certain programs and the levels of assistance to some of our member states” currently getting financial assistance from the European Development Fund (EDF).

The issue is to be discussed in detail when leaders of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of former European colonies meet in Equatorial Guinea from Dec. 10 to discuss aid and trade relations with the EU.

LaRocque 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 (IMF) 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 which could fend for themselves.

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

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