CARICOM leadership commends Guyana

(GUYANA CHRONICLE)AS the world works to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and, more recently, the Russia-Ukraine war, President of Suriname Chandrikapersad Santokhi has called Guyana’s plan “a great example”.

Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for agriculture, agricultural diversification, and food security in CARICOM, and is spearheading the regional body’s quest of reducing its US$5 billion food-import bill by 2025.

President Santokhi, who took over the chairmanship of CARICOM on July 1, 2022, lauded Guyana’s efforts during the opening ceremony of the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Suriname on Sunday.

The Head of State noted that the initiative which involves partnerships with the private sector, particularly in the areas of finance, logistics, and transport, with the aim of improving primary production and agro-processing, and linking markets to produce, is set to significantly benefit the entire Caribbean region.

Guyana’s President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, who heads the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet on Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification, and Food Security, had recently stressed that the time is now for CARICOM to correct the imbalance between consumption and production in the region. And the way to achieve this is through the “25 by 25” target; that is, to reduce the region’s food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.

The policy is set to see strategic cooperation among CARICOM member states over the next few years. The community has been engaged in talks to implement systems that would facilitate an improved supply chain and the removal of trade barriers which are pivotal to achieving this goal.

“With joint investment, and by utilising modern technology, we can guarantee food security for the Caribbean and the region,” President Santokhi said in his address.

The CARICOM Chairman noted that he believes as a region, the CARICOM sister states have to continue working together to create opportunities that would mutually benefit all. He emphasised that an effective state of multinationalism is needed to achieve the goals of CARICOM.

“We can strengthen the cooperation and integration and create opportunities to make the Caribbean stronger. We find ourselves at a crossroads and this is the moment to reassess, refocus and recommit our endeavors to ensure sustainable development and prosperity for the people of the region, ultimately aimed at leaving no one behind. But we require leadership and a willingness to go for cooperation, to go for a creative approach to go for innovation in our approach for new strategies,” he stated.

While adding that the CARICOM economies are facing challenges in the current geopolitical environment with rising inflation expectations, he noted that there is already a notable widening of credit spreads for frontier economies.

The Surinamese President disclosed his country’s proposal for the establishment of a CARICOM private equity fund to support CARICOM enterprises. He opined that CARICOM should facilitate partners to set up private equity and debt funds in the region to bolster employment and growth.

He further noted that this is the time for youth participation in national development, since youths bring new perspectives and innovations which are pivotal for cooperation and ultimately food security.

Meanwhile, Dr. Carla N. Barnett, the Secretary-General of CARICOM, echoed similar sentiments regarding the importance of youths participating in national and regional development.

She disclosed that some 60 per cent of the population of the Caribbean Community is under the age of 30 and said, “Our young people are central to our efforts at building a sustainable and resilient society. We must, therefore, never cease in our attempts to create opportunities to develop and utilise their creativity and innovative skills, and to explore avenues to facilitate youth involvement in planning and preparation for the future.”

Dr. Barnett further disclosed that the CARICOM Youth Forum which was held last month, brought together youth groups, youth leaders, youth workers, and other key stakeholders to examine current youth development needs. She noted that the Dean of the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors will present to the conference, the salient recommendations from that event for the attention of the Heads of Government.

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