CARICOM Leaders open Intersessional Summit
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders began their 31st Intersessional Summit here on Tuesday with issues relating to public health, regional integration, crime and security high on their agenda.
With the global health threat posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19), chair of the 15-member grouping, Mia Mottley, highlighted the importance of regional institutions in safeguarding the health and security of the region.
“When we left Castries in July last year, we had no clue that we would be facing a potential pandemic in the world with COVID-19. We didn’t have any idea that our ability to function as a single domestic space would be threatened by that development.
“Equally, we didn’t realise that we would be able to rely on one of our regional institutions to be first, the front-line protection, and another regional institution to be the platform and bedrock upon which we can fight this virus,” she said.
She hailed the work of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in spearheading efforts to guard against the virus entering the Caribbean.
“CARPHA, a relatively new regional institution as well, has proven its worth to us by being able to ensure that along with the Pan American Health Organization, a number of our countries are today now in a position to be able to test quickly for whether persons within our jurisdiction have been infected with this dangerous virus.”
Rethink governance and funding models
Mottley also told her colleagues the time has come for the 15-member grouping to rethink its governance and funding models to ensure the sustainability of the region.
According to her, the CARICOM Secretariat is now functioning with EC$30 million (one EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) less than it did 10 years ago, and with 40 people less than it did three decades ago.
“I ask us today whether the time has not come for us to recall the Rose Hall Declaration in Jamaica in 2003 that led to Prime Minister (Ralph) Gonsalves leading a prime ministerial subcommittee on the entire issue of governance within our community, and our ability to be able to ensure effective execution and seamless implementation of decisions taken by heads of government at this our highest decision-making body within our community.
“Indeed, I ask us to reflect on the parallel with our own sovereign entities to have parliaments without an executive that is functioning, is to have an idle exercise in frustration for our people. It simply could not work.
“And for us to believe that we could have a heads of government conference twice a year that will allow us to make decisions that have the force of law without the capacity to seamlessly execute, is an idle exercise for us as well,” Mottley said.
On the issue of funding, Mottley also called on the meeting to ensure that the CARICOM Development Fund, which was set up to assist disadvantaged countries, to discuss ways of facilitating access to funds regionally and internationally.
“Indeed, the reality is that we have discussed on so many occasions that there are over US$50 billion in savings within this community, most of which are attracting no more than 0.1 per cent, and we give the return on investment to foreign depositors when we pick up foreign loans, but we are not finding a way to unlock the savings of Caribbean people, to finance the development of Caribbean people.
“We trust and pray that this conference will make appreciable progress in that regard this day and tomorrow,” she noted.