Press Release: The Honourable Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Sir Molwyn Joseph has called on regional financial institutions to put in place enabling infrastructure to allow Caribbean countries to tap into emergency funding to respond to pandemics, such as COVID-19.
Sir Molywn made specific reference to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) which he says must play a pivotal role in providing the financial resources to help countries like Antigua and Barbuda to respond in situations such as a pandemic.
Speaking on day two of the 14th Caribbean Conference on National Health Financing Initiative, Sir Molwyn lamented that the region should not have to go beyond its borders for financial support to address a pandemic.
He called for a fundamental shift in perspective adding that self-determination and preservation are required in solving regional issues.
In recounting Antigua and Barbuda’s COVID-19 experience, Sir Molwyn noted that at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no emergency fund from the international community, and global solidarity was low, yet all decisions to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic had financial implications for the Government.
He noted as well that the ability to seek financial support overseas was compounded by Antigua and Barbuda being considered a “middle to high-income country”.
Sir Molwyn revealed that the government of Antigua and Barbuda spent one hundred million US dollars putting infrastructure in place to handle the pandemic; monies it had to find on its own.
He is therefore calling on the establishment of a funding facility at the regional level to facilitate the financing of any future pandemic.
In a presentation following the Minister of Health, the Deputy Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Dr Valda Henry indicated that the ECCB provided regional member states with financial support during the pandemic through a US 4-million-dollar grant and gave greater access to credit.
Dr Henry made a number of policy recommendations in her presentation on the Macro-Fiscal Challenges in the Caribbean: Is There Space for Increased Investment in Health, including prioritizing healthcare investment at the primary level.