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Feb 16, 2016

Day 1 of Intersessional Meeting of Regional Heads of Government Concludes in Placencia

The opening ceremony for a gathering of CARICOM heads of government in southern Belize, complete with cultural presentations showcasing the ethnic diversity of the Jewel, was held in Placencia on Monday evening.  In attendance were government ministers, as well as other senior representatives from fourteen member states.  While the delegates were all treated to music, dance and local cuisine, important matters affecting the region were also brought to the fore.  Those issues are centered primarily on regional and citizen security, correspondent banking and public health.  A News Five team has been on the ground since Monday covering the three-day event.  Reporter Isani Cayetano has the following story.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Twenty-Seventh Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM is underway in Placencia.  The convergence of high-level delegates is to discuss a number of issues affecting the region, including challenges within the financial and health sectors, as well as citizen security.  While those meetings commenced this morning, today’s closed-door sessions were preceded by an official ceremony on Monday night.  CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque spoke on the need for a unified approach to dealing with those concerns.

 

Irwin LaRocque

Irwin LaRocque, Secretary General, CARICOM

“We must maintain the standard set for how we should act in concert to address other challenges.  That proven capacity for collective action which brings success has to be mustered as we engage frontally, the challenge posed to our society.  All of our Member States are affected in varying degrees, as the scourge of crime threatens our societies, our economies and our citizens’ security.  It is imperative that we take action as a region to stymie the efforts of those who seek to destroy our well-earned reputation as safe and secure societies.  As we move to enshrine security as the fourth pillar of integration in our treaty, it is important that we demonstrate our resolve by formalizing the regional framework and supporting institutional infrastructure that would help us fight the menace of crime and threats to our security.”

 

The greatest danger being faced at present however, involves the economic security of the Caribbean Community.  Threats to the banking sector as a result of what is known as de-risking have the potential of negatively impacting the region’s financial well-being.

 

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow, Chairman, CARICOM

“Under pressure from their regulatory authorities in Europe and especially the US, banks in those jurisdictions have been closing their correspondent relationships with our indigenous financial institutions.  This deprives our banks of the ability to keep US deposits, do wire transfers, facilitate credit card settlements for their local clients and our economy.  The implications of this for our international trade, for our remittances, for our structures of production, consumption and investment, are so obvious as to require little further elaboration. It is therefore no hyperbole to say that, especially in an environment where the value of our imports and exports taken together equals or exceeds our GDP, any attenuation, not to say complete cutoff, respecting our trade and remittance flows, constitutes a clear, present and compendious danger.”

 

Other risks, particularly in the area of health, include the threat of Zika.  According to Ambassador LaRocque, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has been working tirelessly with member states in dealing with Zika.

 

Irwin LaRocque

“At this time, we are also grappling with the Zika virus in some of our countries and the potentially devastating effects on the people of our community.  Our specialized CARICOM institution, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), has been at the forefront working with member states and other institutions in dealing with this challenge as it did with Chikungunya.”

 

Today’s session saw a review of recommendations from a meeting of the Committee of Finance Ministers on Correspondent Banking, held on Monday.  They also reviewed proposals for further action by the region to combat the threat of Zika. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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