Rowley calls for further integration to help push COVID-19 recovery in region

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) Chairman Dr Keith Rowley yesterday called for the integration process to be further advanced to help propel COVID-19 recovery, and insisted on the need for regional countries to get access to concessional financing to aid in recovery and resilience.

Addressing the opening of the 32nd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom, being held virtually, the Trinidad and Tobago prime minister noted that the novel coronavirus pandemic has precipitated major economic fallout, stagnation and decline, throwing the global economy into a tailspin with very little sign of early recovery.

Rowley said while the Caribbean has achieved relative success in its fight against COVID-19, it is identified as one of the regions most vulnerable to the virus, especially when considering the effect that travel bans have had on the tourism sector which is crucial to the survival of many Caricom member states and associate members.

“This year, as the community commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), we must continue to advance and strengthen the integration process and harness the CSME to propel our economic recovery and build back better,” he said.

Prime Minister Rowley also noted that the pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities of Caricom and those of many other small island developing states, and insisted that international financial agencies must take these kinds of situations into consideration.

“To ensure our post-pandemic recovery we must continue to call for the broadening of existing economic vulnerability indices that take into consideration the impact that climate change, natural disasters and global pandemics have on our development,” he said.

“This will permit small island developing states access to much needed concessional financing to aid our recovery and build our resilience.”

The prime minister, who participated at a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on COVID-19 last week, said he had reiterated the region's call for the convening of an “international convention of the world's people's representatives” to commit to the equitable sharing of available COVID-19 vaccines.

“I would like to thank the director general of the WHO and his team for their continued efforts to ensure vaccine availability equity. I also acknowledge and welcome the commitments made by the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, France and Germany to the global mechanism, COVAX and to equitable allocation of vaccines,” Rowley added, as he noted that regional countries were all anxiously awaiting their first shipments of the life-saving vaccines from the COVAX experiment.

Meantime, in his address at the start of the two-day summit, Caricom Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque reiterated the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine in the fight against the highly contagious virus.

“The resilient recovery we seek cannot materialise until we tame the beast of COVID-19. This will allow our citizens to resume their productive lives, and our children to continue their education without interruption,” he said.

“The road to recovery cannot wait until 2022 or 2023 as some are predicting. The urgency of now applies to vaccine access. We will continue pursuing all possibilities to ensure equitable access to vaccines for our populations. Caricom repeats its call for a global Summit to address equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, which should be conducted in the context of the World Health Organization's ACT-A Facilitation Council.”

Ambassador LaRocque said that over the next two days, proposals will be presented to: revive the tourism industry; to promote the agriculture sector; advance implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) which remains the region's best platform for sustainable growth and development and to address the fiscal challenges. The social partners will share their perspectives on the way forward.

However, he said, underlying all this remains the control, management and reduction of the impact of COVID-19.

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