Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2022. 11:24 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Outgoing CARICOM Pro-temp chairman and Prime Minister of Belize John Briceño has handed over to Surinamese counterpart Chan Santokhi during the 43rd Regular Session of Heads of Government in Paramaribo, Suriname.
Addressing fellow heads of government at the official opening of the summit on Sunday, the Prime Minister said, “As my chairmanship expires COVID-19 continues, climate changes and conflict rages. Our collective response to the dual emergencies of the climate and the pandemic was shattered on the 24th of February when Russia invaded Ukraine. The emerging food, energy and financial crisis are immediate and direct in their impact on our most vulnerable populations and yes, I agree that we also in Belize have spent many times in Cabinet talking about the price of bread and how we can keep it down, or the price of fuel. The Minister of State in Finance just told me last night that taxes on fuel are just on the pennies right now and that is one of our biggest revenue earners and like us in Belize pretty much all of us in the Caribbean are dealing with those pressing matters every single day.”
In regional news, Prime Minister Briceño insisted on the need for the United States to lift the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba more than 60 years ago as well as sanctions on Venezuela: “Later this year we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cuba and CARICOM countries. This historic milestone calls for a dedicated effort by us to bring an end to the illegal blockade imposed on Cuba which has been in place for seventy years. Fuel prices have been too high for too long. We in the Caribbean call for the immediate lifting of the sanctions imposed on Venezuela so that the revolutionary PetroCaribe program can be reinstated providing our economies with much-needed relief. New military establishments are being built in our region [and] these can become flashpoints. We must continue to strongly advocate for and ensure that the Caribbean remains a zone of peace.”
Secretary-General of CARICOM Dr. Carla Barnett emphasized that coming off two recent major summits – the Summit of the Americas and the G7 Summit, which each had the potential to greatly impact Caribbean development, “As much as the insights gleaned and the promises made at those fora can assist us, in the final analysis, it is what we do for ourselves that will make the difference. And, making that difference in the lives of the people of the Community is what has been the impetus driving the initiatives which we have been undertaking.” She cited efforts to cut regional food import bills by a quarter before 2025; address climate change impact and financing for sustainability; and make a difference in the lives of youth.
Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis touched on the second topic in his address to fellow leaders. Davis said that while it is striking that so many of the region’s most urgent struggles derive in great part from external pressures, “we are each responsible for making our individual countries stronger and more resilient to the impact of external events. But the history of our region makes clear that we can have a greater impact if we also join forces and stand together. … We have heard, for many, many years, about the good intentions of others. I know you join me in seeing the urgency of moving beyond promises and pledges. It’s time for action.”
Davis during his address invited his regional colleagues to participate in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Regional Heads of Governments meeting to be held in Nassau from August 16-18, ahead of the Conference of Parties meeting in November.
A closing press conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Belize time from Paramaribo.
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