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Governments and International Organizations Come Together to Address Economic Challenges and Sustainability

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NEW YORK, 28 May 2020 — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, will convene world leaders and international organizations today in a joint initiative to sharpen and accelerate our global response to the significant economic and human impacts of COVID-19, and advance concrete solutions to the development emergency.

This pandemic requires a large-scale, coordinated, comprehensive multilateral response to support countries in need, enabling them to recover better for more prosperous and resilient and inclusive economies and societies.

With more than 50 Heads of State and Government participating, the High-Level Event on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond is the most inclusive gathering of countries to focus on the socio-economic recovery and financing needs from the pandemic. We must continue to coordinate these efforts to avoid a devastating impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

We all face economic strain in responding to this pandemic, particularly low- and middle-income countries, many of which are seeing their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set back.

The High-Level Event looks at six urgent areas of action to mobilize the financing needed for the response and recovery. These include expanding liquidity across the global economy; addressing debt vulnerabilities; stemming illicit financial flows; increasing external finance for inclusive growth and job creation; and strategies for countries to recover better, achieve the SDGs, address climate change and restore the balance between the economy and nature.

“The pandemic has demonstrated our fragility,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “We are in an unprecedented human crisis, because of a microscopic virus. We need to respond with unity and solidarity, and a key aspect of solidarity is financial support.”

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness said “the COVID-19 pandemic demands that we take immediate action to address its impacts on the economies of all countries, in every region of the world and at every stage of development.” He added that he welcomes the six thematic areas of focus, including the “necessity to address the urgent need for increased liquidity, particularly for low- and middle-income countries.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that “all countries are being tested by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it threatens to undermine our hard-won development gains. We know the best way to help all our people and economies rebound is to work together as a global community. We want to support collective and individual actions to enable a recovery that leads to more inclusive, sustainable and resilient economies, where no one is left behind.” 

The cost of the pandemic
World Health Organization (WHO) figures show that the COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed more than 340,000 lives, with more than 5.4 million cases globally. Unless we act now, UN projections indicate that the pandemic could slash nearly $US8.5 trillion from the global economy over the next two years, forcing 34.3 million people into extreme poverty this year, and potentially, an additional 130 million people during this decade. 

Failing businesses are already causing a surge in unemployment. The International Labour Organization (ILO) expects that global working hours in the second quarter of 2020 will be 10.5 per cent lower than before the crisis, equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. Women are particularly affected, as they are overrepresented in sectors that have been the most affected with initial job losses. They are also the majority of those employed in the informal sector globally and on the whole tend to hold less secure jobs with fewer protections, less savings, and are more likely to live in, or close to, poverty.

The pandemic is causing economic distress even in countries that have not yet experienced the health impact in large numbers. Falling exports and growth are rapidly undermining the debt sustainability of many developing countries, particularly those that are heavily dependent on commodities, tourism revenues or remittances. Growing debt distress poses an enormous challenge to these countries, further constraining their ability to implement stimulus measures.

Even prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, almost half of all least developed and other low-income countries were in, or close to, debt distress. Debt servicing costs for these countries more than doubled between 2000 and 2019, to 13 per cent of government revenue, and reached more than 40 per cent in a quarter of all Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Effective domestic resource mobilization will be crucial for rebuilding economies. Yet trillions of dollars are thought to be held in undeclared offshore financial holdings. The cost of money laundering has been estimated at around $US1.6 trillion a year.

Meeting the challenges
In the face of this unprecedented health, social and economic crisis, many governments across the world have rolled out large fiscal stimulus measures equivalent to an estimated 10 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP). But most developing economies are finding it difficult or impossible to implement sufficiently large fiscal packages, which have so far averaged less than 1 per cent of their GDP.

In April 2020, the G-20 agreed to suspend debt service on bilateral official debt to 76 low-income developing countries to help increase liquidity to deal with the impacts of the crisis. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) offered further debt service relief to 25 of the poorest countries, and the World Bank has been coordinating with regional banks to discuss COVID-19 support, joint initiatives, co-financing, and ways to maximize net flows to the poorest and most vulnerable countries. But far more is needed, and quickly.

The High-Level Event will discuss a wide range of inclusive solutions, seeking input from the countries feeling the most impacted.

Rebuilding sustainably
In the initial containment and crisis phase of the pandemic, nations have prioritized the health of people before turning to the economic and labour market consequences.  As each nation charts its own course to recovery, countries are seeking to limit the economic fallout by taking steps to protect enterprises, jobs and incomes, and to stimulate the economy, and to do so in a way that protects women and families, young people, and the most vulnerable in our societies. 

We must raise our ambitions in order to recover better, by building more prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable economies and societies. Countries cannot afford to leave unattended the underlying fragilities at the core of our current economic and social systems. We cannot wish away systemic risks, from the climate crisis to high and persistent inequality. Everyone will benefit if we address these risks by investing up front. 

The Event will include a High-Level Segment in which Heads of State and Government will express their commitment to finding multilateral solutions to the global economic crisis and its effects on the most vulnerable. In addition, a High-Level Panel of leaders from international institutions will discuss the challenges and opportunities for urgent, decisive action. Following the Panel, the High-Level Segment among Heads of State and Government, and partners will continue.

Six critical areas of focus
The Event will also launch a collaborative effort to enable discussions on concrete proposals to overcome challenges in six areas, and progress will be reported back at the margins of the High Level Political Forum in July, the General Assembly in September, and at the end of the year that include:

  1. The need to expand liquidity in the global economy and maintain financial stability to safeguard development gains. 
  2. The need to address debt vulnerabilities for all developing countries to save lives and livelihoods for billions of people around the world. 
  3. The need to create a space in which private sector creditors can proactively engage in effective and timely solutions.
  4. Prerequisites for enhancing external finance and remittances for inclusive growth and creating jobs.
  5. Measures to expand fiscal space and foster domestic resource mobilization by preventing illicit financial flows.
  6. Ensuring a sustainable and inclusive recovery by aligning recovery policies with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The outcomes of the High-Level Event include the formation of six discussions groups, a collaborative effort that aims at providing concrete proposals by mid-July.
There is no time to lose. Solutions cannot wait, and decisive action is required.

Courtesy of Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaica

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Bahamas News

DO NOT USE, CONTAMINATED  says FDA about artnaturals hand sanitizers

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October 8, 2021 – FDA has tested certain artnaturals scent free hand sanitizer labeled with “DIST. by artnaturals Gardena, CA 90248” and found unacceptable levels of benzene, acetaldehyde, and acetal contaminants. The agency urges consumers not to use this contaminated product and has added artnaturals hand sanitizer products to the list of hand sanitizers consumers should not use.

To date, artnaturals has not responded to multiple FDA attempts to discuss the contaminated hand sanitizers, including identification of the manufacturer, possible recalls, and the scope of the contamination. Therefore, as of October 4, FDA is urging consumers not to use any artnaturals hand sanitizers.

Benzene may cause certain types of cancer in humans. Animal studies show acetaldehyde may cause cancer in humans and may cause serious illness or death. Acetal can irritate the upper respiratory tract, eyes, and skin. While the exact risk from using hand sanitizer containing benzene, acetaldehyde, or acetal is unknown, FDA recommends consumers do not use products contaminated with unacceptable levels of benzene, acetaldehyde, or acetal.

Consumers who have products on this list of hand sanitizers should immediately stop using the product and dispose of it, ideally in a hazardous waste container. Do not pour these products down the drain or flush them. Contact your local waste management and recycling center for more information on hazardous waste disposal.

FDA reminds consumers to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose. If soap and water are not readily available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent ethanol (also referred to as ethyl alcohol).

 

PRESS RELEASE

 

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Bahamas News

Bahamas Prime Minister Speaks at 76th Session of UN General Assembly

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SATURDAY, 25 SEPTEMBER 2021

“Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to

the needs of the planet, respect the rights of

people and revitalize the United Nations” Introduction

 

 

#TheBahamas, September 26, 2021 – Esteemed Colleague Heads of State and Heads of Government, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen;

Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres;

President of the General Assembly, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives:

On September 16th, Bahamian citizens took to the polls to make their voices heard.   It is an honour to meet with you fewer than ten days after this peaceful exercise of the democratic process.

I wish to extend congratulations to the

Maldives, a sister Small Island Developing State, on their election to the helm of this General Assembly. Know that you will find The Bahamas to be a strong, engaged and thoughtful partner for the road ahead.

We also congratulate Secretary-General Gutteres on his re-election to a second term, and wish him every success.

Colleagues, we are meeting at a most extraordinary time. We come here from different corners of the earth, with our theme — “building resilience through hope” – reflecting our shared determination to pivot from crisis to opportunity.

These crises are inter-connected and multifaceted, and need a global response.    We must collaborate to end the Covid-19 pandemic and address public health issues.

We must co-operate to mitigate the effects of climate change.

And access to development financing must be equitable and fair.

An inadequate response to these issues will have dire consequences for the global economy.

 

Collaborating to End the Pandemic

The world has changed enormously since we first learned about the COVID-19 virus.

This crisis made abundantly clear what has always been true: we’re all in this together.

In every country, we have lost loved ones. We have seen our healthcare workers battle bravely. We have contended with disruption, uncertainty, and grief.

We have benefited from extraordinary cooperation and achievements in science, but we also had to contend with misinformation and disinformation,  and insufficient attempts to curb bad actors propagating the same. Bad information has flowed across borders, undermining public health and public trust.

The pandemic has been very difficult for countries like mine. We face an extraordinary need for new resources in health and education and housing just as our economy is contracting dramatically.

Our inter-connected world means that we will only be safe when all countries, including mine, have the tools needed to fight this virus.

This requires the equitable distribution of vaccines. That includes distribution to Small Island Developing States, who are not manufacturers. Stockpiling for self-preservation is a fallacy.

You will only be safe when we are all safe!

I wish to thank the Government and People of the United States for their donations of vaccines to The Bahamas and the wider Caribbean region.

This gift, alongside donations received previously from India, China, Antigua & Barbuda, and Dominica, will save many Bahamian lives. This is in addition to the ongoing support of PAHO, CARPHA and the COVAX facility and the regional collaboration among CARICOM countries.

But this is still not enough. We need more. Our demand for vaccines has significantly outstripped supply.

Along with vaccines, it is important that safe treatments and therapeutics, are made accessible and designated as public goods. We need to fortify critical global supply chains, and distribution mechanisms, so that we can win this battle, and be better prepared for the next one.      You will only be safe, when we are all safe!    The Bahamas joins those reiterating the need to fully fund the ‘Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator’ and its COVAX facility. And we reiterate our alignment with CARICOM’s call for continued high-level engagement to urgently address access to vaccines.

When vaccines are deployed to reduce transmission, everyone is made safer –  not just the direct recipient.  We can, by doing so, reduce the opportunities for new and more dangerous variants to emerge. This virus is  global and requires a global response. COP26 Matters/ Disasters Response

Colleagues, even before COVID-19 shut down my country’s borders, we were dealing with a catastrophic shock to our economy and our country.

Two years ago this month, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic caused catastrophic damage to our islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Hurricane Dorian was strengthened by waters that were well above average temperatures; the earth’s changing climate means that hurricanes like Dorian linger longer and cause more damage.

The devastation caused by this storm is part of our country’s landscape; the physical and emotional wreckage are still with us.

Recently I spoke with a woman who lost her husband and her three children in the storm. Every rainfall is a reminder of the horror. How can we continue to do nothing in the face of such tragedy?

The very worst thing about Dorian is our sense of foreboding – our sense that this hurricane, which took so much from so many – is only the beginning.

None of us believe this is a once-in-a-generation storm. Instead, we know it is a nightmare that could easily recur – tomorrow, next week, next month.

To any leader who believes we still have plenty of time to address climate change, I invite you to visit Abaco and Grand Bahama.

For island nations such as ours, climate change is here. And is a real and present danger.

Before Hurricane Dorian in 2019, we faced hurricanes: in 2015, in 2016, and in 2017.  We cannot survive this “new normal”.

Thus, we are not here to call for measured steps. We are here to say that big and radical change is the only response that can save our country. We are out of time.

We stand with CARICOM countries and Small Island Developing States to remind the world that those who are hit hardest by the impact of climate change, are the least responsible.

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report warned that avoiding the worst outcomes requires immediate action; this is, as the Secretary-General noted, a ‘Code Red’ moment.

Our countries disproportionately bear the burden of the “Recovery Trap”, in which we attempt to rebuild to the tune of billions – billions we never had, even before COVID.

 

Colleagues, in a few short weeks, we will meet in Glasgow, Scotland.

The 26th Climate Change Conference cannot be like the twenty-five that preceded it – we cannot pretend that incremental change is sufficient. We cannot set goals we have no intention of meeting. We cannot keep postponing the change we need for countries like mine to survive.

If we are the serious leaders these times require, we must raise our ambitions, and make real commitments to cut emissions.

We must make real progress on bridging the divides in investment, and access-to-technology and skills, especially in areas relevant to climate mitigation and adaptation.

We must strengthen technical assistance for creating, nationally-determined contribution (NDC) commitments, along with commensurate ‘implementation financing’.

We must give teeth and substance to the mechanism for loss and damage if it is to be a meaningful tool for supporting fair recovery, and not simply an exercise in defining and highlighting disaster risk.

Along with our sister nations in CARICOM,

The Bahamas calls for greater climate financing and the need for more engagement and progress on a Climate Investment Platform.

And, as a matter of priority, more innovative financing and debt solutions are needed, including debt for climate adaptation swaps. We also look forward to the capitalization of a Caribbean Resilience Fund. We also need adequate resourcing and timely access to the ‘Green Climate Fund’ and the ‘Climate Finance Accelerator’.

In our just-concluded campaign, we called for new renewable energy initiatives in our own country. We are going to build structural and economic resilience, in a green recovery, with plans to invest in climate-smart infrastructure and environmental protection.

The Bahamas will lead on wetland and ocean preservation, and we will seek re-election to the International Maritime Organization. We look forward to the Biodiversity Conference

next month; we are committed to the successful conclusion of negotiations towards an international treaty to conserve marine bio-diversity.  Advancing an MVI/ Affordable, Accessible Development Financing

Colleagues, the compounding impact of economic, environmental, and now public health shocks, means that access to affordable finance will be the real driver of progress in the near and long term.

The global development financing gap for meeting Sustainable Development Goals by

2030, estimated in 2019 to be $2.5 trillion, is only increasing.

Today we reiterate our country’s support for the inclusion of a Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index in the decision-making of international financial institutions, and the international donor community.

On a related front, we believe that access to the global financial system and tax cooperation should not be undermined: by ad hoc and consistently shifting and arbitrary goal posts, and threats of exclusion from the global economy.

Financial Services is a crucial component of the Bahamian economy. We see an indispensable role for the UN in leveraging its universal jurisdiction for greater oversight of global antimoney laundering, de-risking and tax cooperation matters.

Cuba

On a separate note, I wish to convey The Bahamas’ rejection of the ongoing economic blockade of our sister Caribbean nation of Cuba.

Conclusion

As I conclude, I recall the words of our nation’s first Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling, as he stood here 48 years ago this month, on the occasion of our nation’s accession to the United Nations.

He spoke about the journey of our people, from slavery to colonialism to sovereign independence.

He spoke of our country’s wish to be neither dominated nor coerced, and our wish to build friendships with nations who respected our freedom.

He could not have foreseen at that time the challenges we face today, with intensifying hurricanes and a deadly virus that has left no nation untouched. But he saw already that “no nation is an island unto itself” and spoke of the interdependence of all countries.    That interdependence has never been clearer.

Rest assured, colleagues, that in The Bahamas you will find a trusted partner, committed to moving forward on our collective goals for sustainable development, security, and peace.

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Health

US Changes its mind, now all FOREIGNERS must be Vaxxed

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#USA, September 21, 2021 – The US Embassy yesterday confirmed in a press release that foreign travellers to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated for Covid 19 and the new rule will come to force in early November.

Specifically the update informed:  “As announced by the White House on September 20, beginning in early November, all adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States by air must demonstrate proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.”

The Monday announcement is touted as an equalizer, but could also be the reason the vaccine-hesitant finally give in to the jabs.

“This requirement will end the need, as of early November, for travelers from certain geographic regions to obtain national interest exceptions under the current presidential proclamations in order to travel to the United States.”

It is reported that already, in places like The Bahamas lines were longer with news that the requirement for vaccination is mandatory in order to travel to the United States by flight.

“Adult foreign nationals will be required to be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S.-bound international flight.”

Already enforced for cruise lines, which resumed in June, is the requirement for all passengers to be fully vaccinated and pre-tested before boarding.

Increasingly, vaccine mandates are becoming the norm for travellers, club-goers, for dine in at restaurants and on the job.

Turks and Caicos on September 1 activated its vaccinated tourists only policy, which requires travellers over 16 to be fully inoculated with one of four of the top-rated vaccines.

The CDC has not yet advised with vaccines will be on the accepted list; the US Embassy office in Nassau said:  “We will look to CDC to guide which vaccines will be accepted, as part of their standard role in determining who is considered fully vaccinated for the purposes of recommended or required international travel protocols.”

We will provide further information for visa applicants and U.S. citizen travelers as it becomes available on our website: travel.state.gov.

In the meantime, Americans who are not fully vaccinated, are cautioned to stay put.  In fact the notice advised: “With the new order, unvaccinated U.S. citizens and LPRs or legal permanent residents who return to the United States will be required to do the following prior to boarding a U.S.-bound flight: one, Provide proof of a negative test result taken within one day prior to their departure and Provide proof that they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival.”

 

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