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(BARBADOS TOADY) – The Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Chair – Prime Minister Mia Mottley – has expressed dissatisfaction with the failure of some member governments to provide their citizens with “social rights”, which she believes is hindering regional progress.
Health care and education are key social rights the Prime Minister zeroed in on as she addressed the 50th anniversary thanksgiving service for the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) at the Frank Collymore Hall on Sunday.
She also called on the regional financier to shift its focus by addressing contemporary obstacles to regional development.
During a wide ranging address, Mottley once again identified the universal provision of education and healthcare as a social good which ought to be standardised across the region.
She said: “That minimum floor must include education and basic healthcare, because much of the xenophobia that has constrained our pace of progress as a regional community has come because of people’s fear of carrying those who are less fortunate than themselves, rather than seeking to recognise that we need all that we have and more in order to build out this community to be the great civilisation that it has the potential to be,” declared the Prime Minister.
“If we want to maximise what it means to have a single domestic space with a single market and a single economy to be built, we need to commit country by country, even those not in the CSME, to a minimum floor of social rights.”
Last March, Barbados extended contingent rights to spouses and dependents of CARICOM skilled nationals through the Caribbean Community Amendment Bill 2019, which extended basic rights to the spouses, children and dependent parents of skilled CARICOM nationals. These included the provision of education both at the primary and secondary levels as well as access to primary healthcare.
The Prime Minister also challenged the CDB to evolve in its role as a financier of regional development.
But while praising the institution for its role in reducing the percentage of citizens living below the poverty line and driving key industries, she urged the bank’s directors to spearhead its reinvention as new challenges threaten the region’s existence.
Mottley said: “There is no doubt that the bank has made an indelible mark on the region.
“The question is, do we play the same shots at 50 that we played at five, 10 and 20. I want to suggest to all gathered that at this time, when the climate crisis is doing its utmost best to create not citizens, but refugees of Caribbean people, we have an obligation to do a few things now and well.
“The climate crisis is claiming havoc with our water.
“At the same time, the process of time means we no longer have the ability to rely on our distribution systems inherited from those who colonised us, built for the most part in the 19th century and for the most part for too high a percentage for high-revenue water simply because the mains are old and because we have not been able to maintain them and in any event, many of them are built of materials that we would do best not to think about on a good day.
“But when the British built those distribution systems…they had empires.
“We simply have countries and with that, we have limited resources and with that requires the ability to pool together those resources and diversify as far as possible and to reduce the cost of capital.”
The Prime Minister then turned her attention to the impending energy boom set to pump millions of dollars into the economies of newly oil-rich nations like Guyana and Suriname.
While she believes this is desirable from a purely economic standpoint, the CARICOM chair has urged the regional bank to better support efforts to develop a viable renewable energy industry.
Mottley declared: “I am comfortable and confident that within the walls of the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Community, other regional institutions and our governments, we have the capacity to come up with the financial instruments that can result in our populations and our people benefiting in real ways from the profits to be determined from the exploitation of the sun, the water,and the wind that can be used to power our nations as we fight the battles against the climate crisis
“We need all of our societies playing their part to ensure there is no increase in greenhouse gases.
“We must meet the expectations of those who fought for independence, those who gave us our independence and those who built after independence to be able to allow us to make people who never thought they would know what it is to be true and full citizens in their nation to so achieve, rather than to be tenants in their land.”