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CARICOM Chair preaches regionalism at opening of Heads of Government meeting

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Posted: Thursday, February 25, 2021. 9:20 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Opening virtually the two-day Thirty-Second Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley, the chairman of the grouping, reminded his colleagues that the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a reminder of the importance and relevance of regionalism, multilateralism and South -South cooperation in the world today, particularly, during times of crisis.  

Also speaking were outgoing CARICOM chair and Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, and Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.

Rowley cited the work of regional institutions under the CARICOM banner such as by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), and the sharing of personal protective equipment (PPE) gear and more recently, the distribution of vaccines among CARICOM member states from countries receiving donations from elsewhere.

“The generosity of the Governments of Barbados and Dominica in sharing their vaccine gifts, received from the Government of India, is particularly noteworthy and commendable. Prime Minister Mottley your pioneering role in securing the Community’s access to vaccines through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) showed great ingenuity, foresight and stamina,” Prime Minister Rowley said.

He also expressed his “sincerest appreciation” to the Governments of India and of the African Union for “their benevolence” in allowing a pathway for the Region to access much-needed vaccines. He praised the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and his team for their continued efforts to ensure vaccine availability equity and the commtiments of long-time partners as the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany to support the COVAX global mechanism for allocations and distributions of COVID-19 vaccines.

Economically, said Rowley, the region was still trying to recover from the tailspin of tourism due to travel bans, while pointing out that the pandemic had disrupted every segment of society, and noting that the region still had to deal with climate change, external economic shocks, blacklisting and de-risking of financial institutions.

He called for vulnerability indices that took into account the impact climate change, natural disasters and global pandemic had on their development.  

The government leaders’ agenda includes preparations for vaccine rollout; the status of implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and any outstanding issues which need to be resolved to ensure that full benefits from the CSME are realized; advance the regional agenda on food and nutrition security; the framework for a joint Tourism Policy for CARICOM and relations with the new United States administration; reparations and regional security.

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