The countries of Port of Spain – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were urged on Monday to “deal with the elephant in the room” and put in place strategies that will ensure the financial stability of regional organizations, such as the Regional Security System (RSS), as regional leaders discussed the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on the Caribbean.
The Trinidad-based CARICOM Crime and Security Implementation Agency (IMPACS) hosted a five-day virtual conference aimed at identifying the impact of the pandemic on crime and organized crime and implications for the future.
The event takes place under the theme “Securing our Caribbean Community in the Age of Covid-19 and Beyond”.
CARICOM President and Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, told the conference that despite the financial situation caused by COVID, countries in the region would have been stranded without the work done by regional institutions, including the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) IMPACS, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) among others.
He reminded his colleagues that when the pandemic was declared in the region in January, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley (left) said that “the antidote to COVID-19 is the CARICOM, the regional integration process â.
âIn everything we do, we just simply have to get our work through our regional institutions and when we make representations, the World Bank, the IMF, the European Union to the governments of the United States, Canada and of Great Britain and the like. . . that we do it as CARICOM.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley stressed the need for stability, adding âwe cannot ignore the elephant in the room which is the need for funding for these regional entities that go beyond the call duty to make our life easier at the national level.
âWhat IMPACS does for us, there isn’t a single Caribbean country that can provide us and has the capacity to provide advanced passenger information. . . both against INTERPOL and against US government entities.
“These things are critical, not only for the low end but also for the high end issues that are known to the international community for which we must always be sensitive and vigilant to ensure that it is not imported into our States to create an additional problem beyond public health, beyond the climate crisis to security issues that may be beyond our capabilities.
âI think the time has come for us to address the issue of. . . funding and I hope Prime Minister Gonsalves will bring his long tenure as President of the Caribbean Community to enable us to finally face this elephant in the room after decades of avoiding it, âMottley said.
Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell (right) told the conference the region “would have been in no man’s land” had it not been for the work of the various regional entities to respond to the pandemic, adding that “this pandemic has demonstrated the importance of security in the region”.
He noted that before the pandemic, Grenada, for example, had not recorded the number of killings it now commits since March.
âWe see two and three murders every month, which is a strange phenomenon for Grenada, and what is more significant is that they are all small personal arguments. People’s temperature seems to be high right now, they can’t tolerate each other, âhe said, noting that any small difference in opinion leads to killings.
Mitchell said churches and other organizations are now meeting with social partners to address the situation.
During the conference, Gonsalves noted that the economies of Caribbean countries will be severely affected by the pandemic, noting that some of the developed countries are expected to see their economies shrink by minus eight percent this year, down from nearly two percent. Last year.
âIn our part of the country, there will be a contraction between 10 and 20% in 2020 before starting to recover in 2021,â he said of the Subregional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States ( OECS), acknowledging that he was not aware of the situation. in Barbados and Jamaica.
âThe main risks to be expected in the recovery include a delayed global rebound, permanent job losses and business closures, natural disasters. . . and increasing credit and liquidity risks in the financial sector â.
Gonsalves predicts that the region will have “real problems with the stability of the financial sector because the data shows that while the banking sector remains stable, the fact is that banks and credit unions are experiencing a significant increase in deposits.” risks, market risks and liquidity risks â.
He said all Caribbean countries will take on debt to finance essential support to economies “during this difficult time, so the combination of economic transactions and the need for additional borrowing means an increase in debt to GDP. . [gross domestic product] short term report.
âWe don’t know what will happen to tourism in the new season. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the context of the vaccine and there is a program we all need to put in place, a program of action for recovery and resilience.
Gonsalves regretted that Prime Minister Mottley, during his chairmanship of the group, had laid the groundwork for an interface with some of the international financial institutions and that the World Bank and the IMF “are now trying to alleviate some problems”.
âNow may not be the time for us to move forward in the Bretton Wood institutions and with developed countries to make them understand the nature of our vulnerability and to help change some of the rules to balance it more in favor. of the small states, âGonsalves added.
Prime Minister Mitchell used the forum to dismiss US concerns over the use of Cuban doctors in the fight against the virus, stating “I don’t know how you could translate this into human trafficking” and need for the Caribbean to be able to train more staff in various fields.
Mitchell also pushed for lower air taxes in the region, saying âthe base population is there for serious transportation between our countries.
“But what happened, I think we pulled out of the market,” he added. (CMC)