President of Suriname Chandrikapersad Santokhi, the outgoing chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), declared that the region made significant progress in his outgoing statement. He reflected on the past few months of 2022 and CARICOM’s achievements. He mentioned preparations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of signing the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the critical decision to amend the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to provide enhanced cooperation among Member States. The amendment allows us, for the Member States that are ready to implement decisions, to proceed with these, while the others can join when they can. He continued to emphasize how the amendment will significantly accelerate the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) progress. In that regard, the movement of skilled workers received a boost as the Heads of Government agreed on definitions of and qualifications for household domestics, agricultural workers, and private security officers. In the case of agricultural workers, it could not be timelier, as the boosting of production. That work is being spearheaded by the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, the Lead Head of the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet for Agriculture, who guides the Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security (MTF) in advancing the CARICOM Agri-Food Systems Agenda. Here are some other highlights:
· Cuba will join that Task Force following our Summit meeting held in December.
· Given the potential to expand production in non-food items that are most heavily imported into the Community, it was decided that a new portfolio of Industrial Policy be added to the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet of Heads of Government.
· Suriname was assigned the portfolio and is in dialogue with the CARICOM Secretariat and specialized institutions, in preparing a draft action plan, in respect of Industrial Development in the Community, for presentation to the Conference of Heads of Government at the earliest opportunity.
· The protracted challenges of our Member State, Haiti, continued to demand our attention.
· And a CARICOM Leadership Group on Haiti, comprising Suriname, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines, has been focused on the issues.
· In pursuit of a resolution, Heads of Government have held discussions with the Prime Minister of Canada, the Honorable Justin Trudeau. Ministers and technical teams have been engaged with their counterparts in Haiti, Canada, and the United States.
· A high-level political mission is being organized to meet with Haitian stakeholders.
· The outcomes of the major international conferences were not entirely satisfactory for our Community.
· But emerging from COP27 was an agreement to establish a Fund for Loss and Damages, a significant achievement for Small Island and low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS), such as our Member States.
· At the Summit of the Americas, a meeting with US President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris resulted in establishing three Joint Committees to address cooperation on Finance, Food Security, and Energy Security.
· The celebratory meeting in Barbados of the 50-year Cooperation of CARICOM with Cuba has also highlighted the solidarity that binds all Caribbean nations
· We have come to the end of a year that has seen us begin to emerge slowly from the shadows of the adverse social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
· The threat of the virus has not evaporated, and neither has the debt crisis nor the climate crisis.
· The attack by Russia on Ukraine has complicated the recovery from the Covid pandemic and has slowed a return to normalcy in a Post-Covid world.
In closing, His Excellency stated that, despite everything, “we have shown that we can overcome the challenges that confront us with determination and the creativity that lies within Caribbean peoples. Every incremental gain, no matter how small, is a step toward achieving our goal of a resilient, sustainable, safe, and viable Community for all.” He also wishes for Happy Holidays and a bright and prosperous 2023.