23 April 2013 – H.E. Ms. Lois Young Permanent Representative of Belize addressed the Economic and Social Council special meeting held today at UN Headquarters on “External debt sustainability and development: Lessons learned from debt crises and ongoing work on sovereign debt restructuring and debt resolution mechanisms.” Based on a brief by Special Envoy Ambassador Mark Espat, she shared Belize’s experience with the country’s recent debt restructuring with a distinguished panel that included Noble Prize Laureate and President of Columbia University, Joseph Stiglitz.
During the debt restructuring process, Ambassador Young pointed out that Belize was offered only one option of MORE AUSTERITY which would have amplified the impacts of the recession and driven more Belizeans into poverty. She noted in comparison the very lenient approach now being offered to the United Kingdom in which much LESS AUSTERITY is being demanded. “We felt the force of Mark Twain’s pen, A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain,” she said.
Ambassador Young proposed six points for consideration in the debate namely:
- The need for greater voice and participation for emerging economies in multilateral financial institutions.
- The need to tailor solutions for small states to allow for the use of a broader mix of development financing and debt instruments.
- The need to ensure that the post 2015 development agenda rewards conduct that is conducive to the very survival of the Planet.
- The need for a ‘fiscal recovery room’ for small states, not just an ‘emergency room.
- The need to address the volatility of small states’ economic fundamentals – GDP, tax revenues, exchange rates, and terms of trade – and to consider debt structures that make public finances less susceptible to externalities as well as indexing repayment of principal and interest to small states’ exports, commodity prices, stage of development, terms of trade, rate of economic growth, and even to incidents of natural disasters or the inescapable business cycles, like recessions.
- The need to match the fetters now available for borrowers with fetters for unscrupulous lenders.
In the current state of international affairs, sovereign debt was proving to be a problem for developed and developing countries alike.
Ambassador Néstor Osorio, president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) said “To achieve sustainable development, the international community needs to promote responsible borrowing and lending, along with improved debt management,”
Today’s meeting comes one day after ECOSOC hosted a special high-level forum with the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on “Coherence, coordination and cooperation in the context of financing for sustainable development and the post-2015 development agenda.” At that meeting, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Belize, H.E. Mr. Mark Espat, participated and delivered a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister.