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Premier seeks to reduce social inequities among SIDS

Premier seeks to reduce social inequities among SIDS

Premier Andrew Fahie has issued a call for a reduction in the social inequities that exist among Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and said the most vulnerable persons among these populations are those that are being hurt the most.

The Premier was at the time giving the keynote address at the Island Finance Forum which was held virtually this week.

The forum provides an opportunity for stakeholders to exchange knowledge to drive investment for island communities and Small Island Developing States.

According to the Premier, comparatively speaking, SIDS have managed the pandemic very well. But he noted that COVID-19 has highlighted some structural weaknesses and inequalities in many SIDS that must be addressed as they recover and if more resilient societies are to be built based on sustainable development.

Premier Fahie expressed that the social sector has been the most affected, with many persons becoming vulnerable during the pandemic.

“In this period of recovery,” Premier Fahie said, “we must find a better balance in our societies that reduces the social inequalities that create crime and a widening gap between the haves and have-nots.”

The territory’s leader argued that it is important that potential solutions address the actual needs of those who are hurting most, and stated that administrative barriers that would prevent support from reaching those persons due to bureaucratic entanglement must be avoided.

Permanent unemployment insurance needed

Meanwhile, the Premier cautioned that stronger social safety nets are needed to protect the vulnerable, especially persons that are low-wage workers in the hospitality sector who are the most likely to be laid off or have their hours and income reduced during a crisis.

Premier Fahie said it is imperative that SIDS put in place permanent unemployment insurance schemes of some kind to make their economies are more shock responsive and to limit the extent of economic and social damage to local communities by external events.

“We also cannot forget workers in the informal economy and must find a way of extending some form of social safety net to them as well,” he added.

The Premier continued: “Among SIDS there are also the problems of youth unemployment and the gap in the level of pay between men and women. In the recovery process, greater advocacy for youth and women is needed, accompanied by targeted interventions and policy changes. Young people need better preparation to join the economy as opposed to fading away into the informal sectors that carry great risks.”

SIDS coping with external shocks

Premier Fahie also stated that there is no straightforward answer to the question of what type of recovery will be seen post-COVID-19 by SIDS.

SIDS in particular, the Premier argued, have the dual challenge of not only recovering from the pandemic but at the same time managing climate risks such as hurricanes and sea-level rise.

“They must also cope with the external shocks to their small open economies that are currently being negatively impacted by rising inflation and the sharp spike in energy and fuel prices,” he said.

“The combination of these things has actually increased the vulnerability of SIDS which must be taken into account by our international partners when it comes to concessional financing to respond to recovery from the pandemic and also to fund climate resilience and sustainable development,” the Premier noted.


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