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October 31, 2020
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October 31, 2020

Heads of Government of CARICOM hold 41st meeting virtually due to COVID-19 pandemic

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Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2020. 9:56 am CST.

By BBN Staff: The 41st Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was held on Thursday, October 29. Belize was represented by Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte and the panel discussed a host of issues affecting the region, including COVID-19, economic recovery, a joint regional tourism plan, tax haven blacklisting and ongoing border disputes between Belize and Guatemala as well as Guyana and Venezuela.
 
Other Members of the Conference in attendance were: Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne; Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Dr. Hubert Minnis; Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, Q.C, MP; Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit; Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Keith Mitchell; President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali; President of Haiti, His Excellency Jovenel Moise; Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Andrew Holness; Premier of Montserrat, Easton Taylor-Farrell; Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Timothy Harris; Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Allen Chastanet; the President of Suriname, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi; and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley.
 
The Heads of Government acknowledged the relative success of the Community in its fight against the multi-faceted challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic which they attributed to the application of functional cooperation, one of the core principles of regional integration and which was adopted from the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus.
 
The Heads of Government welcomed the COVAX Facility as an initiative to secure access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines that will afford countries the best opportunity to fast-track access to COVID-19 vaccines but  expressed deep concern that despite being in the midst of a global pandemic, the per capita income criterion was still being used to determine how countries accessed financing from the COVAX Facility.  They mandated the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to explore, in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat and PAHO, other financing options to cover additional costs for the vaccines.
 
The Heads of Government noted that the economic prospects for the Caribbean had worsened and cited a report by the International Monetary Fund that the Caribbean is the most affected globally by this pandemic, given that it is the most tourism and travel dependent Region in the world.
 
Heads of Government noted that the pandemic would also exacerbate already high deficits and debt in many countries in the Region and building back better would have significant capital requirements which required a multi-faceted financing plan. In that regard, Heads of Government agreed to the concept of a Caribbean Economic Recovery and Transformation (CERT) Plan, which has been devised by a regional team of experts under the leadership of the Prime Minister of Barbados, Honourable Mia Amor Mottley.
 
They also agreed that a Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee (PMSC) on Tourism be established to provide political oversight for the preparation of the Joint Tourism Policy and other related issues.  The Prime Minister of The Bahamas, as the Lead Head of Government for Tourism in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet, will preside over the Sub-Committee which will include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica and Saint Lucia.
 
The Heads of Government also received an update on the most recent developments on the Belize – Guatemala border issue. They noted the extension of the time limits for the submission of the Memorials and the Counter Memorials to the International Court of Justice by Belize and Guatemala, respectively. Heads of Government urged Belize, Guatemala and the OAS to continue implementing fully the Confidence Building Measures that have been in place since 2005, pending the resolution of Guatemala’s claim at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
 
Heads of Government noted that the undertaking by both countries and the Organisation of American States (OAS) to engage in the design and development of a mechanism of co-operation for the Sarstoon River is still outstanding, and called on both countries and the OAS to reinvigorate their efforts to this end.
 
They also expressed support for the significant role of the OAS in the process aimed at resolving the dispute arising from Guatemala’s claims on Belize, and further called on the international community to continue supporting the OAS Office in the Adjacency Zone. The Heads re-emphasised their steadfast support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Belize.
 

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