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CSME, food security, health & more on the agenda for 44th CARICOM Heads of Government regular meeting

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by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – Heads of Government of CARICOM are in The Bahamas from 15-17 February for the Community’s 44th regular meeting.

On the agenda, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), food security, climate change, climate finance, health, and security are among the major topics.

The three-day Meeting will be held under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, the Hon. Philip Davis. 

CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr Carla Barnett, said Heads of Government would emphasise the Community’s progress on the CSME, the Region’s flagship programme.

Additionally, the Heads of Government will discuss the progress to achieve regional food and nutrition security. So far, Member States have achieved 57 percent of the target to reduce the region’s high food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.

The Heads of Government will engage with the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and the heads of international financial and trade organisations. 

Prime Minister Trudeau said he would like to discuss Canada and CARICOM could support the people of Haiti, strengthen the Caribbean region, and build a better future for people and businesses in Canada, the Caribbean, and around the world.

Heads of Government will be briefed on CARICOM’s golden jubilee observances this year. The Caribbean Community was established with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas on July 4, 1973.  

CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, CARICOM Single Market and Trade Ambassador Wayne McCook, said the Single Market and Single Economy are important aspects of the regional integration architecture and must be given constant attention.

An amendment to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas is expected to cater for mergers and acquisitions in the Community and discuss updates on the two CARICOM trade instruments, the Common External Tariff (CET) and the Rules of Origin (ROO). 

Work on those tariffs is expected to be completed by the middle of 2023.

Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Dr Terrance Drew, at the Opening Ceremony, Dr Terrance Drew highlighted several challenges facing Small Island Developing States, especially the Caribbean, as he gave remarks to the delegates of CARICOM states.

“Vulnerability to the external economic shocks, heavy dependence on a few products or services, frequent and more intense natural disasters, high costs associated with debt and climate change adaptation and mitigation, economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, disruption in supply chains and steady increase in the cost of imports and production, exacerbated by the ongoing war in Ukraine and limited access to grants and concessional financing mechanisms to enable us to recover from external economic, and environmental shocks. These overlapping challenges are cross-cutting, and in effect, they impact all sectors of the economy, forcing us to play catch up as we advance our respective development agenda?”

To address the issues, the Prime Minister said more emphasis should be placed on the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index, which allows for concessional financing despite the Caribbean’s classification as middle or high-income countries. Instead, our consideration for concessional financing should be based on our remoteness, economic concentration, and dependence on external flows such as remittances, foreign direct investment and tourism revenues.

Dr Drew also indicated the need to address the elephant in the room that is hampering the further progression of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), intra-regional travel.

“It is difficult for us to extol the virtues of the CSME without addressing the proverbial elephant in the room, intra-regional transport. The reality is that it is too difficult and too costly for the people of the region to move and exercise their rights within the single space created for them to do so at optimal levels. For example, coming to this meeting in the Bahamas is a classic case in point. Many of us had to fly to Miami overnight there before taking a flight the following day to our destination here in Nassau, Bahamas. It takes no less than 24 hours to move from country to country within our region at times, compared to other nations (developed countries) with highly developed transport means and modalities. We in the Caribbean remain at a disadvantage in realising the benefits of the CSME that the framers of the CARICOM Treaty envisaged. Moving from New York, for example, to Washington DC takes a mere four hours by car and less than two hours by aircraft. The contrast is a stark reality of the challenge we face on an ongoing basis here in the Caribbean.”

The Prime Minister urged the Heads of CARICOM to work towards addressing the challenges and deficiencies and to strengthen the collaboration between countries to develop the region.

Remarks given as Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, at the Opening Ceremony of the Forty-Fourth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM),held at Atlantis Bahamas.

Posted by Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew on Thursday, February 16, 2023

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