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'We suffer from cash flow problems' -CARICOM Sec Gen

Published:Monday | July 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Irwin LaRocque

Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, secretary general of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), trod carefully when asked about the secretariat's financial health as he contended that it was not broke. The operations of the CARICOM Secretariat have been negatively affected by the non-payment of contributions and delays by member states.

"From time to time, we do suffer from cash-flow problems. I wouldn't say that we are broke because we haven't shut down the secretariat, but we do suffer from cash-flow problems," said LaRocque as he addressed a press conference along with CARICOM leaders in Montego Bay, St James, last Friday.

He explained that the heads of government were aware of CARICOM's financial status, and they were responding to the call for arrears to be cleared.

"Jamaica, for instance, has been making tremendous strides in bringing down its arrears; others have, as well, to varying degrees," LaRocque said.

When asked to quantify the debt, the secretary general responded, "Not off the top of my head, but it is not inconsiderable. ... I cannot put a figure to it, but it is not inconsiderable."

Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica's foreign affairs minister, announced in March that the country owed CARICOM just under $500 million, and $150 million was set aside to pay down that debt in the 2018-2019 financial year.

Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley pointed out that CARICOM's Council for Finance and Planning had been tasked with exploring new financing mechanisms.

She argued: "I don't want us to get dissolved into a twist when the truth is heads (of government) have taken a decision to accept our reality and to look at the best options ahead of us, and I think that in fairness, should be respected because we accept that it takes cash to care, and it takes cash to execute."