CARICOM reiterates commitment to implementation of COP 21 Agreement

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Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have agreed to maintain the diplomatic engagement at international levels in support of the 1.5°C goal coming out of the COP 21 Agreement signed in Paris, France, last year.

Prime Minister of Belize and Chairman of the Community, the Hon Dean Barrow, referred to the commitment while speaking about climate change during the closing press conference of the Twenty-Seventh Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government the CARICOM in Placencia, Belize, on Wednesday 17 February, 2016. PM Barrow said the Task Force on Sustainable Development, led by Dr. the Honourable James Fletcher, and the team of negotiators and experts would continue their work to facilitate the implementation of the Agreement reached in Paris.

The Chairman also disclosed that the Heads would participate in the high level signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement, to be convened by the United Nations Secretary-General, on 22 April, 2016, in New York.  He said that to underline their commitment to ensuring its implementation, they would sign the Agreement and deposit their instruments of ratification at that time or soonest thereafter.

COP 21 refers to the 21st Conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. The result of the last COP 21 which was held in Paris, France in 2015 was an international agreement on climate change to keep global warming below 2°C.

Summit decides on measures to curb Zika virus spread

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Zika_virus_carphaPrime Minister of Belize and Chairman of the Conference of the CARICOM Heads of Government Hon. Dean Barrow on Wednesday announced a series of actions that CARICOM Member States will take to confront the Zika virus that is affecting the Region.

The course of action includes continuous public education, implementation of measures at ports of entry, health facilities, schools, private enterprises (such as hotels and tourism facilities), factories and other businesses. He said entities would be encouraged to do whatever was necessary including fogging to render them free of aedes egypti breeding.

The Chairman also outlined that governments were being asked to reduce import tax on essential public health supplies such as insecticide-treated bed nets and insect repellent for the duration of the epidemic in the Region which they estimated would be approximately two years.

Prime Minister Barrow also announced that the second week of May would be designated as ‘Caribbean Mosquito Awareness Week’. (more…)

All options to be pursued for solution to banking sector threat – CARICOM Chair

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Prime Minister of Belize and Chairman of CARICOM, the Hon. Dean Barrow, engages the media at the Press Conference at the conclusion of the Twenty-Seventh Intersessional Meeting of CARICOM
Prime Minister of Belize and Chairman of CARICOM, the Hon. Dean Barrow, engages the media at the Press Conference at the conclusion of the Twenty-Seventh Intersessional Meeting of CARICOM

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will employ the full gamut of options available to it to confront the banking crisis that is threatening the Region Chair of the Community and Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon. Dean Barrow said. He underscored the necessity of collective action, sensitisation and mobilisation.

There is no doubt that as a group and acting collectively we can achieve far more than if we try to go individual routes. We must never lose sight of or let go of the ultimate need for us to move together as one Community.” – Chair of CARICOM, Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon Dan Barrow

Among the steps Heads of Government have decided on at their Twenty-Seventh Intersessional Meeting which concluded in Belize on Wednesday, was to establish a high level advocacy group, led by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, the Hon. Gaston Browne. Prime Minister Browne’s mission is to represent the Community’s interest at all levels, including with the the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the United States Congress.

The goal is to underline to all the key players, including the US Congress “how absolutely existential this issue is for us”, Prime Minister Barrow said. A letter under the Chairman’s hand is also to be dispatched to the President of the United States.

The threat relates to the possible loss of access to the international financial markets by mainly the Regional indigenous banks. Several international banks, mainly in the US and Europe, have signalled to client banks in the Region an unwillingness to continue carrying their business. The so-called ‘de-risking’ by the global banks threatens to impact several critical services including remittance transfers. International trade, the facilitation of credit card settlements for local clients are among the other effects the Region faces.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Placencia, Belize, Prime Minister Barrow dealt at length with the issue of correspondent banking relations and conceded that there was no simple solution. (more…)

CARICOM SG calls for action against security, economic, health threats

CARICOM Secretary-General AMbassador Irwin LaRocque
CARICOM Secretary-General AMbassador Irwin LaRocque

Crime, unproved categorisation of the Region as a financial high risk area and the potentially devastating effects of the Zika virus were the threats identified by CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in his urgent call for action to keep the Community’s well earned reputation safe and secure.

Ambassador Irwin LaRocque made this call to the official opening of the 27th Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, in Placencia, Belize, last evening.

As we move to enshrine Security as the fourth pillar of integration in our Treaty, it is important that we demonstrate our resolve by formalising the Regional legal framework and supporting institutional infrastructure that would help us fight the menace of crime and threats to our security,” Ambassador LaRocque implored CARICOM Heads of Government.

He said another existential and immediate threat arose from the withdrawal of correspondent banking services due to the arbitrary and unsubstantiated categorisation of the Region as a financial high risk area.

CARICOM Member States were faced with this categorisation, even though they are compliant with the institutional and regulatory standards established by the FATF, the Global Forum and other international bodies, he noted.

Yet, the global banks have reacted to the heightened regulatory emphasis in their own jurisdictions with de-risking strategies which either result in the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships or restrictions on those services.  Our Region is inarguably one of those most adversely affected by these de-risking strategies and our people have already begun to feel the consequences of such arbitrary decisions.”

This situation threatens the financial and economic stability of our Region. It is having an impact on the ability of our people to receive their remittances and transfer their funds for trade and investment transactions.  This state of affairs demands that we act collectively to address this issue with the relevant regulatory authorities and the international community,” he added.

Regarding the threat from Zika, Ambassador LaRocque said 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.

 The Agency has been discharging its responsibility “purposefully and professionally,” providing laboratory testing services and sharing its expertise at both the national and regional level, he added.

 Touching on the issue of efficiency and responsiveness, the Secretary-General stated “the Community is working for us.” He noted, however, the need for improved efficiency and responsiveness, which he said were at core of the Community’s Reform Process which has begun in the Secretariat and cascading out to the Community Institutions and Organs and Bodies.

 This Reformation is not merely about cosmetic change where we tweak or adjust a few processes.  It is transforming the way we do business in the Community and will enhance the delivery of the benefits of integration to our people,” he told the meeting.

CARICOM Heads began their first working session today, 16 February, and in addition to the above referenced issues, heads will also deliberate on issues regarding financing for climate change. The meeting ends tomorrow, 17 February.

 

Finance sector threat to get regional attention

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Head Table
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Antigua and Barbuda Hon. Gaston Brown (2nd right) chairing this morning’s meeting. He is joined at the Head Table by CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque (2nd left), Assistant Secretary-General Mr. Joseph Cox (right) and Evelyn Wayne , CARICOM Secretariat.

Placencia, Belize, 15 Feb, 2016:   Ahead of Monday night’s Opening of the CARICOM Heads of Government Inter-Sessional meeting in Belize,  Finance Ministers are deliberating  this morning on a regional response to a threat to the banking sector in Member States.

The issue is the threat to correspondent banking relationships, or the possible loss of access to the international financial markets by mainly the Regional indigenous banks. Several international banks, mainly in the US and Europe, have signaled to client banks in the Region an unwillingness to continue carrying their business. The so-called ‘de-risking’ by the global banks threatens to impact several critical services including remittance transfers.

CARICOM Heads established a Committee of Ministers of Finance on Correspondent Banking, chaired by Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Hon. Gaston Browne, to lead the response to this issue. The Committee is supported by leading regional institutions including the Committee of Central Bank Governors (CCBG), the Caribbean Association of Banks (CAB) and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).

The recommendations from the Committee’s meeting this morning are expected to go before the Heads during their deliberations on Tuesday and Wednesday in Placencia, Belize.