BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, February 20, 2020 (CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Leaders have ended their two-day Inter-Sessional Summit, here, agreeing on a number of initiatives, ranging from holding a conference on crime in Trinidad and Tobago, to pushing forward the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of people and goods, across the 15-member regional grouping.
Host Prime Minister and CARICOM Chair, Mia Mottley, told the end of summit news conference that the leaders had been able, during their deliberations, to “continue to advance the work of the region, to the benefit of Caribbean people”.
“This conference will come to be remembered as one, in which we laid the footsteps for a number of key decisions,” she said, emphasising that many of these decisions “must have relevance to our people”.
She said she regards, as one of the most significant initiatives benefitting Caribbean people, the work, undertaken by Grenada’s Prime Minister, regarding roaming charges across the region.
“The conference has agreed, that Prime Minister Mitchell’s technical committee will now meet with the telecommunication companies, and we will await the final implementation of the regime, as well as the other areas of digital governance, for which Prime Minister Mitchell has responsibility,” she said.
Mottley said, as a result of the CSME, the regional leaders had discussed a number of issues, adding “we are firm of the view that we need to enhance the governance mechanisms”.
She said as a result, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, has been tasked to pull on the technical working groups, whose recommendations may have to be revisited again, “because of the need for us to guarantee implementation, across all the member states”.
“To that extent, therefore, we anticipate that a report will come to the next heads of government meeting that will review those technical working groups, which came out of the Rose Hall Declaration, in Montego Bay, in 2003,” the CARICOM Chair stated.
She said the leaders have also asked Dominica Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, who has lead responsibility for free movement within the quasi-CARICOM Cabinet, to “bring back up a review of all of the processes, to further simplify how people move and whether there should be further categories of persons, who should be allowed to move….”
She said she expects the report will be presented to regional leaders, in July, at their annual summit.
Mottley said another aspect of the CSME was the “comprehensive report”, undertaken by the regional private sector and the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), that had been presented to the meeting, describing it “as one of the most pleasing things to me”.
She reminded the media that a year ago, regional leaders had agreed to allow the regional private sector and labour movement to become associate intuitions within CARICOM, and had given them a task, which would look at production, integration across food security, renewable energy, air and maritime transport, and Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).
“The report that came sets out a pathway towards our being able to work towards substituting 25 percent of our food import bill, which at the current moment, stands at about five billion US dollars,” she said, adding “that we would look to cut out 25 percent of that, within the next five years”.
“What was heartening is that they had a clear plan, across livestock and crops, seven key areas that would save the region US$420 odd million, but also would have the potential to be able to earn foreign exchange, outside of the region”.
She said this would require action on the part of private investors, at all levels, as well as governments and CARICOM, and a s a result, “we believe if we can stay the course on these issues, that the people of the region, in the same way that we hope they will see credible benefits to their telecommunications spend, shortly, that they will also see, in the course of the next few years, a Caribbean that is committed to feeding more than it has in the last recent years”.
“We also agreed that this plan, and the plan by the Caribbean Congress of Labour, would come to the Prime Ministerial sub-Committee, because, in both instances, both plans were extremely comprehensive, and now require the distillation of the sub-committee that I Chair, to be able to report back to Heads, on the basis of an implementation plan, and we have confidence that this will add serious value,” she added.
On the issue of crime and violence, across the region, Mottley said that the leaders had come to the realisation that it is not a matter, strictly for governments, and, as a result, would be inviting other stakeholders to make contributions to dealing with the situation.
“To that extent we believe that it is critical that we bring together, not only the Heads of Government of the region in a summit, but also partners….in order for us to have full and frank discussions about how we, as a region, not as individual governments… will begin to contain the difficulties that individual communities and countries are experiencing, because of a change in behaviour, a change in values, a change in attitudes.
“We believe that the conversation cannot take place, simply at the level of government or law enforcement, but that if we are in the battle, in the medium term, that we need to treat to this as a national and regional discussion and action plan, that will seek players, across every sector of society being invited’.
She said Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, who has lead responsibility for security, has agreed to host the first such meeting and it is hoped that it will take place “in the near future but we will await the Secretariat’s communication, as to what is convenient for everyone”.
Mottley also announced that the leaders had agreed to re-visit the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF), “particularly with all of the challenges the region faces, at this point in time”, and to look at ways of raising individual funds, whether from individual member companies, institutions and countries.
In addition, the leaders also decided to meet, more than twice yearly, and are exploring the idea of holding meetings, using available technology, monthly.