Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has called on the International Monetary Fund to address debt burdens facing Caribbean countries.
He said the Fund must step up to the plate and assist with this necessary initiative to convince policy-making institutions like the Organizations for Economic Cooperation and Development and G20 countries of the need for policy changes.
He was at the time addressing an IMF Forum at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, Trinidad recently.
Rowley said the region will not achieve faster economic growth and sustainable development unless the problem of the debt overhang is addressed.
While Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, and St. Kitts and Nevis recently obtained significant debt service relief, in the context of Fund-supported programs, which also carried a large fund financing, the prime minister said the relief did not go far enough as it did to reduce the outstanding debt stock.
He noted that the debt levels are still high with 90 percent of the gross domestic product for Antigua and Barbuda, 140 percent for Jamaica and 65 percent for St. Kitts and Nevis.
These persistently high debt ratios, he said, will continue to jeopardize growth performance, especially for Trinidad and Tobago where “our debt ratios are approaching that of St. Kitts and Nevis.”
Rowley said the region’s debt burden, among the highest in the world, has meant high borrowing costs, and discouraging private investment because the high-debt-service ratios, have sharply reduced flexibility.
In 2015, the average debt-to-GDP ratio for all countries in the region was about 77 percent, he noted.
The forum brought together regional Prime Ministers, Finance Ministers, and Central Bank Governors as well as leaders from the private sector.