CARICOM Heads stress need to act now to ensure post pandemic recovery

Photo by Aron Visuals 

CARICOM Heads of government, meeting virtually on 24-25 February, have stressed the need to rapidly address past implementation failures and involve the Caribbean private sector in planning for post-pandemic economic recovery.

Expressing concern about the continuing lack of progress on implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), Heads “agreed to review urgently the entire consultation and decision-making processes at all levels in the effort to establish the most effective strategy for effecting increased levels of implementation”.

In doing so they urged all CARICOM states to remove non-tariff barriers to trade between each other to boost regional economic output, and to simplify administrative procedures relating to the free movement of people.

Despite similar past summit conclusions, multiple reports on CSME implementation and recognition of the need for a change in approach, the summit’s outcome was strikingly different as it laid stress on the need to resolve critical issues impeding the development of the region’s private sector, on which, Heads said, it is “depending to fuel the recovery of its economies and which needed to be fully engaged at both the national and regional levels”.

In an attempt to speed up outcomes, Heads mandated the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, to lead the review and said that Finance Ministers would meet no later than the end of March 2021 to resolve outstanding issues and reach the still awaited agreements on the CARICOM Financial Services Agreement, the Regional Securities Market, and the Community Investment Policy and Credit Reporting.

In other decisions related to shortcomings pointed up by the pandemic, they “urged” COTED – CARICOM’s Trade Council – to expedite and make recommendations by this July on the establishment of a single ICT Space, on reduced roaming rates, enhanced access to broadband, and the feasibility of establishing a Single Regional Telecommunications Regulator. These measures Heads said were fundamental to advancing a Caribbean digital economy.

They also “instructed” COTED (Transportation) to take the action necessary with member states to create “an effective air transportation system” and to build maritime capacity particularly for transportation of agricultural produce, and to review existing port facilities in CARICOM to better support intra-regional cargo.

The meeting also discussed the development of a joint tourism policy aimed at addressing the negative impact of the pandemic on industry’s revenues, employment, foreign exchange retention and currency stability. In doing so, they agreed to an Emergency Tourism Plan and a subsequent more detailed policy and strategy being developed by the third quarter of this year. They also agreed to the development of a Tourism Reserve Fund, financed by a levy “contributed by a coalition of willing Member States”.

Other decisions taken during the meeting included:

• The creation of an agri-food strategy through a strategic partnership with regional private sector bodies that would promote the commercialisation of the sector;

• The creation of a Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security to work closely with the private sector on an action plan to follow-up and monitor implementation of the strategy; and

• The convening of a high-level summit of member states and regional multi-sectoral partners on crime and violence as a regional public health issue

CARICOM heads also issued statements on the establishment by the UK of a Commission of Inquiry in the BVI which expressed concern about the lack of consultation; and another expressing dissatisfaction with the inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for Small Developing States.

The conference communique and statements can be read at