BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - CHAIRMAN of the Caribbean Community, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet is reminding that the region is still at the forefront of climate change, as he reflects on 2019, which saw the devastation of two islands in the Bahamas from Hurricane Dorian.
In his review speech, Chastanet said that the devastation was another reminder of the effects of climate change that the 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.”
Figures from the Bahamas showed that at least 70 people were confirmed dead with over US$1B in damage recorded from the storm that topped 200 kmh and stood several days over Grand Bahama and Abaco.
“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),” Chastane said.
In his review as well, the St. Lucia PM reminded that everyone in the region celebrated with St. Vincent and the Grenadines when that country ascended to the UN Security Council.
“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.”
He spoke to the issue of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and the free movement of skills throughout the region - a topic that was again on the agenda of the Heads of Government Meeting in July.
“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.”
Reflection was also paid to the growth of the region’s relationship with powerhouse India, after that country’s Prime Minister held a meeting with several regional leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September.
“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,” added Chastanet.
Chastanet, whose tenure as Head of CARICOM ends in February 2020, intimated that the future of the Community is “as bright as the season we are celebrating”.