President Muizzu Calls for Stronger Support for SIDS

In a compelling address at the High-level Closing Ceremony of the SIDS Global Business Network (GBN) Forum 2024, held during the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Antigua and Barbuda, President Dr Mohamed Muizzu urged for enhanced support and strategic partnerships to bolster the economic resilience of SIDS.

Addressing a distinguished audience, President Muizzu expressed gratitude for the platform provided by the Forum. He highlighted the critical role of the private sector in driving innovation, technology, and market trends, particularly within SIDS.

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“The private sector has the most important role to play in any economy. From innovation to technology. From community empowerment to market trends. And this role, I believe, is even more critical in SIDS,” stated Dr Muizzu.

A Call for Action: Supporting Entrepreneurs and Local Enterprises

In his speech, President Muizzu issued three pivotal calls to action aimed at strengthening the economic fabric of SIDS. Firstly, he advocated for substantial investments in micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and young entrepreneurs. Emphasising the need for a conducive business environment, he called on governments to ensure ease of doing business, facilitate capacity building, and open new avenues for financing.

“Governments must facilitate easier cross-border trade. Open up new markets for MSMEs. This is how we invest in them. And contribute to their growth,” he asserted.

Prioritising Inclusivity and Empowerment

Dr Muizzu’s second call to action focused on the importance of inclusivity and empowerment of local communities. Highlighting the unique role of local enterprises in SIDS, he noted that these businesses are essential in catering to societal needs that governments alone cannot meet.

The President shared a significant initiative from the Maldives, announcing a $6.5 million loan facility for women entrepreneurs, with a quarter of the fund specifically allocated for women with disabilities. “Investing in women’s economic empowerment will ultimately lead to our sustainable development,” he affirmed.

Forging Partnerships for Sustainable Development

The final call to action emphasised the necessity of creating platforms for partnership and experience sharing. Dr Muizzu highlighted the challenges faced by SIDS, including limited access to affordable financing, small markets, and vulnerability to debt distress. He urged the private sector and financial institutions to foster continuous dialogue and create platforms for engagement, making finance more accessible and tailored to the needs of the private sector.

“Finance should not be a barrier but a bridge to prosperity for all,” he declared, calling upon banks and multilateral institutions to prioritise actions that enhance financial accessibility and sustainability.

SIDS Conference

The SIDS Global Business Network Forum 2024 takes place against a backdrop of multifaceted crises affecting small island nations. The ongoing impact of climate change, the economic and social repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a crisis of debt have severely strained these nations. With the global lockdowns decimating tourism—a critical revenue source for many island economies—efforts to advance the Sustainable Development Goals have faced significant setbacks.

As weather-related disasters have doubled in the past two decades, the urgency for climate action has intensified, with SIDS being both the most vulnerable and the least responsible for climate change impacts. The international community’s gathering in Antigua and Barbuda seeks to review progress and propose robust partnerships and solutions to accelerate the path towards resilient prosperity.

President Muizzu’s remarks resonated with the Forum’s overarching goals, echoing a collective commitment to partnership, inclusivity, and sustainable development. “The Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS can be achieved only when we, the governments of SIDS, partner with the private sector,” he concluded, urging a collaborative approach to realising resilient and inclusive prosperity for all.

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