COVID-19 vaccination for CARICOM’s 18.4 million people is expected to dominate talks among leaders when they meet virtually for their half-term summit next Wednesday.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley is to lead Barbados’ delegation to the 32nd Inter-sessional Meeting of the bloc’s Conference of Heads of Government, currently chaired by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Prior to the start of the two-day videoconference summit, Mottley and fellow heads will adopt the agenda and deal with a number of procedural matters before discussing the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the Caribbean Community.
Barbados and several CARICOM states have already started a campaign to vaccinate citizens against the coronavirus. Since March 2020, when the first COVID-19 case was reported in the region, 1,719 people have died from the disease in the 15-nation community and five associate member states as the total number of cases push past 88,000, putting severe stress on public health systems and wrecking economic activity.
Implementing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, for which Mottley has lead responsibility in CARICOM’s quasi-cabinet, is expected to be a key topic. The leaders are also expected to examine the CARICOM Development Fund and approve the final report of a CARICOM Commission on the Economy.
CARICOM heads are also expected to discuss the region’s food and nutrition security, as the pandemic takes a firm grip on farming and food supplies, a joint tourism policy and regional security.
They are also to examine how to deepen their engagement with business, labour and civil society.
In closed-door sessions, the heads of government will meet on a number of “hot-button topics” including the Caribbean Economic Recovery and Transformation (CERT) and engaging with the new Joseph Biden administration in the US – described as “optimism tempered with realism”, the CARICOM Secretariat said.
They will also get a report on the state of the trust fund that supports the running of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which is CARICOM’s court as well as the final court of appeal of four CARICOM states, Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica.
The CARICOM Heads are to ratify draft decisions coming out of their annual July summit which was pushed down to last October and a special emergency meeting held in January 2020, just as the pandemic was beginning to grip the region’s attention.
The leaders are to attempt to seek common ground on the Belize-Guatemala and Guyana-Venezuela border issues.
Before the summit, Prime Minister Mottley will chair the Tenth Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CSME on Monday via videoconference.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne is to take over the six-month chairmanship of the Caribbean Community and host the July summit. (SD/BGIS)