GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom), Prime Minister Allen Chastanet says the regional grouping exemplifies the spirt of togetherness “when we celebrate our achievements in different fields of endeavour and when we stand in solidarity with those who are faced with adverse circumstances”.
In an end-of-year statement, the St Lucia prime minister, noting that the “future of our Community is as bright as the season we are celebrating”, said for instance that the Caribbean celebrated with St Vincent and the Grenadines when it won a seat on the United Nations Security Council earlier this 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.”
Chastanet, who will be replaced at the start of the new year by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley as the Caricom chairman for the subsequent six months, said the Caribbean stood solidly at the side of The Bahamas following the passage of Hurricane Dorian that left nearly 70 people dead, several others still missing and damage estimated at US$3.4 billion.
“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).”
Chastanet said that the destruction was another reminder of the effects of climate change which Caribbean countries continue to experience with devastating consequences and it made all the more relevant the “Castries Call for Collective Commitment and Action on Sustainable Development” adopted by regional leaders at their summit in St Lucia in July.
He said the declaration “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”.
He said while the region celebrates the Christmas season, he is urging the population not to 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.”
Chastanet said that the Caribbean is continuing to build its economic resilience with the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the region, 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.”
He said Caricom has 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.