GEORGETOWN, Guyana, July 5, 2021 - As CARICOM Heads of Government hold their annual meeting this week to review the state of the Caribbean Community, Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque says the Region needs to design a post-pandemic recovery programme that will not only revive economies, but enhance resilience as well.
Addressing the opening of the Forty-Second Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, Amb. LaRocque noted that the COVID-19 virus and the protocols that are in place to control its spread and to maintain the safety of populations in the Region, have dealt a debilitating blow to Caribbean economies, many of which are heavily dependent on tourism and the hospitality sector.
“Mr. Chairman, Heads of Government, as we mourn the continuing loss of life and count the cost of lost livelihoods from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must design a recovery that will not only resuscitate our economies but also enhance the resilience of our Community.
“It is our duty to fortify our Community against the factors that threaten its viability and the sustainable well-being of our people. That is the priority which not only has brought us here at this time, but which is the driving force of our integration movement,” LaRocque said.
Highlighting the scope of the impact of the pandemic, the Secretary-General pointed to the International Monetary Fund categorisation of the Region as the worst affected in the world.
“The predictions speak to a recovery by 2023 at best, and that is dependent on an immediate and adequate supply of vaccines, at least to provide herd immunity,” he said.
Amb. LaRocque referred to other challenges the Region was facing including the recent passage of Hurricane Elsa which has affected six CARICOM Member States including loss of life; severe flooding in Suriname and Guyana which caused widespread damage to housing, agriculture and infrastructure; and the eruption of La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He reiterated that climate change was a “lived reality” for the Region that fuelled the urgency to build resilience.
“This is why there is an urgent need for small vulnerable states like ours, whether low, middle or upper income, to have access to concessional development financing in order to achieve resilience prior to a disaster and not wait until after it strikes,” he said.
COVID-19 and its impact on the Region, as well as natural disasters that the Caribbean is facing, are high on the agenda of the Meeting.
The CARICOM Secretary General was one of three speakers at the opening of the two-day Summit which was jointly hosted on line by Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, and outgoing Chairman, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley.
The 42nd meeting of the Conference will be Ambassador LaRocque’s last in the role, as he is set to be succeeded by Dr Carla Barnett, the first woman and Belizean to be selected for the post. She will assume office on August 15 and become the 8th Secretary-General in CARICOM’s history.