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Dr. Carla Barnett cites economic, health and regional integration issues as priorities as CARICOM Secretary-General

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Posted: Thursday, May 13, 2021. 10:44 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Following the confirmation of her appointment as Secretary-General of CARICOM earlier this week, Dr. Carla Barnett, who takes up her role in August, met virtually with the Belizean press to discuss priorities and plans once she heads to Georgetown, Guyana, to succeed Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.

Dr. Barnett, who was born in Sarteneja, Corozal District, has served as the Deputy Secretary-General of CARICOM, as well as Vice-President of Operations of the Caribbean Development Bank. In Belize, Barnett served as vice president of the Belize Senate, deputy Governor of the Central Bank and in various ministerial capacities; most recently as a Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance.

She told reporters she looks forward to rekindling old friendships in Guyana, but is even more excited about making an impact at the regional level. “…for me, it is really important at this time for the region to be well organized to deal with the many crises we are faced with – the two most important being COVID and the economy.”

Satisfied with the organization’s response to tackling COVID-19 and the economic downturn across the region, she wants to build on that effort, focusing especially on financing for the region to bounce back.

She stated that countries will have to borrow more not only for economic stimulus but also for buying vaccines and other resources. 

At the top of her agenda is to extend CARICOM’s outreach and implementation across member states: “One of the things I would like to see us do is to share more of that information and bring more people on board in terms of communicating the message and the actions and offering ideas about what CARICOM can do and how they feel the impact of CARICOM and so for me there is going to be a lot more outreach even as we deal with the issues of implementation because that is one of the things that we hear a lot of the time too that we are not very good at implementing the decisions that we take and so for me it is the outreach and the focus of implementation as well.”

She continued, “We’ve tended to deal primarily with the private sector, with labour in particular, but we’ve not really had active interventions, active inclusion on the youth population, the NGO sector more widely – people who we really do need to become much more involved in order for them to be able to understand first what CARICOM is doing, but also to carry the message about CARICOM into the next generation, because the youth of today will be running CARICOM when we are gone.”

She noted that there is support for the organization’s work when people know what it is and what it does. She hopes to be a trailblazer for Belize, the westernmost CARICOM member, which hasn’t had a high profile in the organization until recently with, for instance, the contretemps over sugar being imported into the region that is cheaper than Belize’s produce.

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