Obama announces energy fund

Simpson Miller welcomes normalised relations with Cuba

BY STEVEN JACKSON Business reporter jacksons@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, April 09, 2015

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US President Barack Obama announced the formation of an energy fund to finance clean energy projects at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) US Summit yesterday.

The meeting discussed issues of competitiveness, security and energy as a means to develop the region.

"Caribbean countries have one of the highest energy costs in the world," Obama said at the start of the Caricom-US Summit which he co-chaired at UWI Regional Headquarters in Kingston. "Today we are announcing new partnerships and a new fund to mobilise private sector projects in clean energy for the Caribbean and Central America."

Obama described high energy costs as a major challenge to growth within the region. The energy fund would form part of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative which aims to reduce the region's reliance on fossil fuels. That initiative was solidified in January at a high-level meeting between Caribbean leaders and US Vice President Joe Biden in Washington DC at the Caribbean Energy Security Summit.

"We are going to make sure we deepen our cooperation to economic growth, making sure that our governments are open and transparent while upholding human rights for all citizens, and combating transnational crime," Obama said at yesterday's multilateral summit.

The Energy Security Summit in January marked a shift in US policy towards supporting the development of concessional financing for the region in three defined areas -- energy, climate change and disaster management. Caricom views the lack of access to such financing as a major impediment to the region's growth prospects. Many member states have been deemed ineligible for such funds having been graduated to middle-income status by international financial institutions and some development partners with the use of GDP as a primary criterion.

"This meeting should mark a new and positive beginning for the CARICOM-US relationships with a mechanism for partnership in place for the progress of our region and people," stated Perry Christie co-chair at the meeting and prime minister of The Bahamas in his address.

The summit also reflected on the lingering effects of the Western financial crisis and the absence of real growth in much of the Caribbean.

Cuba

Prime Minister of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller utilised part of her welcoming remarks to congratulate the US on its shift towards normalising relations with Cuba.

"You have already broken new ground in US and Cuba relations. You are on the right side of history. You are, I believe, the first US president to engage with our regional body on three separate occasions. This is part of your legacy," Simpson Miller stated at the Summit. "We welcome the improvement to US and Cuban relations."

The Caricom US summit on Thursday is part of a two-day official visit by President Obama to Jamaica, preceding the involvement of both parties in the 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama on 10-11 April, 2015. That summit will involve
high-level discussions with representatives from Cuba.

"Mr President, people across the Caricom region followed both your election campaigns with heightened interest, particularly in 2008. Your slogan, 'Yes we can', was repeated in every [household]. Your photograph has pride of place in living rooms. Your victories have been our victories," said Simpson Miller about Obama, the first black president of the US.

Thursday's meeting was the third time that Caricom leaders have met with President Obama. Previous meetings took place in the margins of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009 and Colombia in 2012.


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