(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) -- Season’s Greetings to all, and may you enjoy the festivities in the spirit of togetherness that is the hallmark of family and community.
Our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) exemplifies that spirit, when we celebrate our achievements in different fields of endeavour and when we stand in solidarity with those who are faced with adverse circumstances.
We celebrated with the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines as they recorded an overwhelming vote at the United Nations to sit on the Security Council in the coming year. It engendered great pride in both the country and CARICOM, demonstrating that there is still space at the highest global forum for us as small states.
We stood solidly at the side of the people of Grand Bahama and Abaco in The Bahamas as they were ravaged by Hurricane Dorian. It was heart-wrenching for me to witness first-hand the aftermath of that catastrophe which claimed many lives and demolished property and infrastructure. However, it was heart-lifting to see the response, as once again, the other Members of the Community, both individually and regionally, rallied to the support of a sister state in distress, under the direction of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
It was another reminder of the effects of climate change which our Region continues to experience with devastating consequences. It made all the more relevant the Castries Call for Collective Commitment and Action on Sustainable Development, adopted by Heads of Government, which signalled the Community’s support for continued international cooperation and collaboration to address global climate change and provide adequate resources to assist in the achievement of sustainable development.
As we enjoy ourselves over the season let us not neglect our responsibility to maintain the environment. Let us, for example, take heed of the global anti-plastic campaign which includes avoiding the use of plastic bags, single-use plastics and Styrofoam.
Taking care of the environment is one element in building our resilience to mitigate the threats posed by climate change and other issues which threaten to derail our development efforts.
We continue to build our economic resilience with the CSME as its cornerstone. We are seeking to ensure that its benefits are enjoyed by all our people. Steps that we have taken will benefit families and businesses.
Families that move with skilled nationals taking up jobs in other Member States can have access to social services such as primary health care and education up to secondary school level on the same basis as nationals. An agreement that allows for open bidding on government contracts among all participating CSME countries opens a market estimated to be close to one billion US dollars for the private sector including small and medium enterprises.
We have also moved to institutionalise the relationship between the Councils of our Community, the private sector and labour with the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) and the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) being designated as Associate Institutions of the Community. It is critical for the two organisations to work in harmony if there is to be sustained progress in advancing the CSME.
The strengthening of our internal arrangements and our actions in concert have been critical in our attempts to minimise threats to the viability of our economies and financial sector, such as those posed by blacklisting and denial of correspondent banking. The disruption to daily life and commercial transactions by those actions is a significant fetter to stability and prosperity.
We took up this challenge head-on with the help of Romania in the European Union (EU) with respect to blacklisting and with the assistance of Congresswoman Maxine Waters in the United States, in regard to correspondent banking.
Our outreach to the international community is an important element as we seek to win friends and influence outcomes in global fora that would advance our interests. The Prime Minister of India, the Honourable Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of Norway, Honourable Erna Solberg; the President of Estonia, Her Excellency Kersti Kaljulaid; and the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), His Excellency António Guterres, all engaged with us on climate change, the difficulty in accessing development financing and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), in particular.
I must thank my colleague Heads of Government, and the Secretary-General and his staff for their support during my tenure as Chair of the Community and I assure my successor, the Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, of my fullest support.
The future of our Community is as bright as the season we are celebrating. May you all have a Merry Christmas and look towards a happy and productive New Year.
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