- Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
- Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Out-going Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
- Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community;
- Other Heads of Delegation;
- Heads of Regional and International Institutions;
- Representatives of the Private Sector, Labour and Civil Society;
I welcome you all to the 32nd Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
This new normal of virtual meetings, unfortunately does not allow for the in-person interaction which adds so much value to our discussions. However, we have been able to accomplish much through this medium.
I wish to welcome the Honourable John Briceňo, Prime Minister of Belize, who joins us today for his first meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government. Prime Minister, the Community looks forward to your fresh views on the issues with which we are grappling at this time.
I also take this opportunity to thank most sincerely Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for his stewardship of the Community during his tenure as Chair. Prime Minister Gonsalves, your astute guidance at a difficult time was beneficial both to the Community and to me.
Mr. Chairman, Heads of Government, it is about a year that the world has been beset by the woes brought on by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Community has not been spared. We have lost lives and livelihoods. Health systems have been severely challenged. And as the International Monetary Fund has stated, our Region is the worst affected economically in the world.
As a Community, we have been channelling our collective wisdom and creativity to devise strategies to guide a resilient recovery. The fruits of some of that labour will form the basis of our discussions over the next two days.
Proposals will be presented to revive the tourism industry; to promote the agriculture sector; to advance implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) which remains our best platform for sustainable growth and development, and to address the fiscal challenges. The social partners will share their perspective on the way forward.
Underlying all this, however, remains the control, management and reduction of the impact of the COVID-19 virus. The resilient recovery we seek cannot materialise until we tame the beast of COVID-19. This will allow our citizens to resume their productive lives, and our children to continue their education without interruption.
The road to recovery cannot wait until 2022 or 2023 as some are predicting. The urgency of now applies to vaccine access. We will continue pursuing all possibilities to ensure equitable access to vaccines for our populations
CARICOM repeats its call for a global Summit to address equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, which should be conducted in the context of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ACT-A Facilitation Council.
In pursuing the objective of acquiring sufficient vaccines for our people, Member States have signed on to the African Medical Supplies Platform to take advantage of the economy of scale which the facility provides. I want to thank the African Union for making available to CARICOM 1.5 million doses of vaccines through their procurement arrangement.
We have also been in discussions with Development Finance Institutions to make the case for concessional funding to purchase vaccines; and with PAHO to assist in acquiring additional vaccines.
These efforts will supplement the doses allocated to our Member States by the COVAX Facility to vaccinate 20 percent of our populations.
As these initiatives are being pursued, in what could only be described as the essence of Community spirit, Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados and Honourable Roosevelt Skerritt, Prime Minister of Dominica generously shared vaccines with other Member States from supplies donated by India. Thank you, Prime Ministers.
The spirit of such a gesture is a reflection of the collective action that has been the hallmark of the Community’s approach to combatting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without that collective approach it would be difficult to overcome the challenges posed by the virus.
Deliberations over the next two days will no doubt focus on building back better with resilience, as we strive to provide a safe, secure and prosperous society for all our people.
Our Region expects no less.
I thank you