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(PRESS RELEASE) – As he delivered his outgoing address as Caribbean Community Chairman, Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet called for increased attention on climate change, blacklisting by the European Union, the adversities facing small island states in the international community, the ongoing situation in Venezuela and the withdrawal of correspondent banking services from the region.
Prime Minister Chastanet took over the Chairmanship in July 2019, and gave an account to the 31st Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community underway in Barbados.
On the issue of Correspondent Banking, Prime Minister Chastanet explained that last November, “as a direct result of our Saint Lucia meeting, a delegation from the Community led by the distinguished Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda took the issue of correspondent banking and de-risking to Washington in light of the threat of our financial institutions losing critical relationships with US banks.”
PM Chastanet reported that CARICOM had moved the needle on de-risking and that the OECS is working on a single compliance department.
“We were able to draw the attention of the members of the Financial Services Committee of the United States’ Congress and senior representatives of major US banks, to the catastrophic effect which the stringent measures being imposed on domestic banks by correspondent banks in the United States and the negative impact which the withdrawal of such services was having on economies in CARICOM Member States,” he noted.
He also reported that another CARICOM delegation interfaced with the European Union on the troubling issue of black listing.
The Saint Lucia Prime Minister also touched on the lack of resolution to the ongoing situation in Venezuela.
He noted: “So far all efforts at mediation have failed; in fact from all indications conditions in Venezuela continue to deteriorate despite a recent lull and this is likely to make finding a solution even harder. The involvement of outside forces in the controversy, however, could only escalate the crisis and make a resolution that more difficult, while at the same time testing and stressing our own attempt at a common position on that issue.”
Prime Minister Chastanet noted the challenges in finding solutions to the long standing difficulties in Haiti.
“While understandably we have ring-fenced some of Haiti’s rights and privileges in our Treaty, more importantly we must be honest brokers and admit that we, like many others, have failed in our attempts to find a solution and need to collectively chart a new course,” he said. “We owe it to the people of Haiti who deserve much more, given our common histories.”
Strengthening Ties with Canada
A special guest at the CARICOM meeting was Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Francois-Philipe Champagne and PM Chastanet spoke to the strong ties between the region and Canada.
“As impressive as our ties have been I believe there is still more that can be done . . . We need Canada’s voice and leadership on climate change, de-risking and blacklisting. Despite the withdrawal of some Canadian Banks from our region, we continue to see major Canadian investments through both public private partnerships and privately. We are also keen on the reinstatement of visa-free access to Canada and support from Canada in fields where it has achieved world class status such as Education, Health Care and Security.”
Disaster Risk Financing
A key area for Prime Minister Chastanet has been mobilizing funds to tackle the issues of disaster risk financing as a consequence of climate change.
“On climate change, we must continue to press for the re-classification of SIDS by the OECD, to take into consideration our vulnerability and the adverse implications of current protocols governing debt classification and our access to financing. Moreover, we must redouble our efforts towards the establishment of a dedicated fund for SIDS.”
Prime Minister Chastanet also spoke to opportunities for CARICOM post-Brexit amid discussions already ongoing between CARIFORUM and the United Kingdom.
The Outgoing Chairman also took the opportunity to thank the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Regional Security System (RSS) for assisting Saint
Lucia with getting immediate testing of samples, amidst the Coronavirus concerns of the region.
“We are so thankful as a nation to the RSS and CARPHA for going above and beyond. This reminds us of the importance of being part of a union; being part of a group that in times of emergency have your back. You had Saint Lucia’s back and we thank you. This is what being part of CARICOM is about.”
As he closed his speech, Prime Minister Chastanet called for stepping up regional integration.
“Let us move more purposefully and decisively in advancing the cause of this movement and implement those measures that are required to give it a new direction, vibrancy and purpose that will serve to guarantee its future and the future of our people on the whole.”
Prime Minister Chastanet expressed complete faith in new CARICOM Chairperson Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and thanked the staff of the CARICOM Secretariat for their cooperation and assistance during his tenure.