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Mar 4, 2022

Relevant Issues for Belizeans During CARICOM Inter-sessional

Why should Belizeans care about what happened in San Pedro at the CARICOM and SICA meetings over this past week? Was it just another high level political meeting with all talk and no action? News Five’s Paul Lopez was covering the story and has important moments that could indeed matter for Belize.

 

Paul Lopez, Reporting

Fifteen states across the Caribbean are members of CARICOM, five are associate members. Among these members and associates, commonalities are shared in terms of both interests and challenges. Take, for example, the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They are advancing in the cannabis industry, an effort Belize can learn from.

 

Sabato Caesar

Sabato Caesar, Minister of Agriculture, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

“We have witnessed the first exportation of cannabis from St Vincent legally. And I must note that this cannabis is only for medicinal purposes, because we have gone the way whereby the legal space in St Vincent is only for scientific research and medicinal purposes.”

 

In January, St. Vincent exported one hundred and ten pounds of cannabis to Germany. Dairy production in Jamaica is another example of an industry relevant to Belize. Jamaica has significantly increased its dairy production, so much so that it can supply the entire region with its dairy products, including something used by almost every Belizean household.

 

Kamina Smith

Kamina Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jamaica

“We have just successfully had approval, after a three years process to supply condensed milk to the region, for example. It will be a major supplier for condensed milk.”

 

And then there is poultry. People across the Caribbean share an appetite for chicken. The President of Guyana conducted a study to show what foods can be produced and sold within the region.

 

Prime Minister John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño

“We import poultry. There is no need for us to be importing poultry. Or some of the meets like corn and beans, the different meats, all of that can be grown here in the Caribbean.”

 

Mia Mottley

Mia Mottley, Prime Minister, Republic of Barbados

“President Ali also looked at a number of root crops; a number of vegetables are the main ones that we import into the region, broccoli, pumpkin, cauliflower, etc. In addition to that, he then took three products which there is great potential value added. There is a lot of palm oil for example imported into the region. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be using coconut oil, which in any event has particular health benefits. I am satisfied we have the capacity with the agro processing done in the region and which there is a healthy market to be able to expand that.”

 

Which is why decreasing the region’s food import bill from non-CARICOM countries was on top of this week’s agenda. Consumers will begin to see more regional food brands in their local market over the next three years. As production increase across the Caribbean so will employment. Government earnings will also benefit from this move. In this week’s meetings it was decided that the President of Suriname will be the lead head focusing on greater production integration. On the common challenge of climate change, Belizeans are witness to the negative impacts of increasing global temperatures. Sea levels are rising, and across the Caribbean property and lives are being lost annually.

 

Prime Minister John Briceño

“Climate change continues to be a big issue for us, which we continue to put at the center of our work. This is vital.”

 

Warm water is fuel for hurricanes. Take for example the hurricanes Irma that struck the islands of Antigua and Barbuda in 2017 as a category five hurricane, or Hurricane Maria that struck Dominica in September of 2019 destroying ninety percent of the island’s structures. Hurricane Dorian caused an estimated three point four billion dollars in damages. In Belize, the situation could become the same or worse, unless the world acts fast.

 

Colin Young

Colin Young, Executive Director, C.C.C.C.C.

“A landmark report was again published by the U.N. that says for countries like us, the impact from climate change is so severe that in some cases we are unable to adapt, and that the changes and impacts we are seeing are even faster than we thought.”

 

This week Heads of State issued the Ambergris Caye Declaration which outlines the region’s priorities on tackling climate change. Still, the challenge of holding the countries that make up the G20 accountable for rising temperatures remains.

 

Mia Mottley, Prime Minister, Republic of Barbados

“This is very much uncharted territory that is why the diplomacy remains the primary weapons, especially on the issue of loss and damage. In the Paris agreement there was reference to the Warsaw Mechanism for loss and damage. That is why in Glasgow we made the point that we were not happy that there has been no appropriate framework for loss and damage.”

 

On the COVID-19 front, Heads of CARICOM zoned in on the vaccination rates of its member states. A decision was taken to mount a regional campaign against misinformation related to vaccines.

 

Prime Minister John Briceño

“The reopening of our economies and our education systems will be greatly assisted by an improvement in the rate of vaccination.”

 

Prime Minister John Briceño was congratulated for his chairmanship of the meetings over the course of the week.

 

Paul Lopez

“Do you feel confident that you guys accomplished what you guys wanted to accomplish at this meeting?”

 

Mia Mottley, Prime Minister, Republic of Barbados

“Relatively so, relatively so; building CARICOM Integration is a process. It is a relay. We do things in stages and I am really happy with the progress we made here.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.


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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