LONDON, June 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — On June 18th, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) held an online ceremony for the opening of its 69th meeting. The leaders of the subregion’s member states meet every year on this date. It marks the anniversary of the 1981 Treaty of Basseterre, revised in 2010, which established the OECS. This year, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Dr the Hon Roosevelt Skerrit, was named the new Chairman of the authority.
OECS Director General, H.E. Dr Didacus Jules, congratulated attending leaders on their efficient response to the pandemic. He commended their containment measures, upgraded healthcare, and education contingency plans. Dr Jules encouraged accelerating the regional integration agenda of OECS as an economic union based on pillars of free movement of people, goods, services, and capital.
“Because the heads of governments of the OECS acted swiftly, decisively, and with a high degree of cohesion in ensuring early containment, reliable identification, effective contact tracing, the region has been recognised for effective management of the contagion,” says Dr Jules. “The upgrading of our medical laboratories, our intensive care facilities, and our triage processes, among other dimensions of our health infrastructure, has been a positive outcome of this crisis,” he added. “While the Revised Treaty of Basseterre did not foresee this dynamic, its prescription of an economic union upheld by the pillars of free movement of people, free circulation of goods, services and capital, in fact represent the best solution our current circumstances,” Dr Jules advised.
PM Skerrit recognised the unprecedented challenges, focusing particularly on inequality and inefficiency. He called on empowerment and a united approach to reopening borders, in collaboration with external partners. He touched on acting on the widely discussed food security issues, particularly in light of the region’s proneness to hurricanes. Finally, he expressed confidence in the OECS countries’ capacity to overcome these challenges.
“We meet today at a significant juncture in human history, at a time when the entire world community has been galvanised for a global pursuit of justice, respect and fairness, even as it faces the uncertainty brought on by a once in a hundred years pandemic that has already changed the way we live and that will deeply scar the economic landscape for a very long time,” PM Skerrit said. “If there is anything that we should learn from this pandemic, it is that inequality and inefficiency are the corrosive ingredients that will erase quicker the significant gains we have made in the modern era,” he added.
As the newly appointed Chairman of the OECS, Dr Skerrit addressed the immediate issue of reopening borders, being mindful of preserving the regions good results as regards containing the spread of the virus. “Immediate for us is this dual challenge of how to keep our people safe even as we seek to reopen sectors of our economy, and, particularly right now, the reopening of our borders. There are no best practice manuals we can reference on how to balance lives and livelihoods in these circumstances,” the PM said. “As we all seek to reopen our borders, there is the urgent need for close coordination among our countries, working in collaboration with our international partners. We need to think through clearly on the required protocols and, as far as possible, get uniformity in the region. To do otherwise, I believe, will be to our disadvantage,” Dr Skerrit explained.
Drawing on lessons learnt after three months of anti-COVID-19 measures, the Dominican Prime Ministers considers digital access a right and that connectivity can drive equality and empowerment. “It has become clearer that our people must have connectivity to access government services, financial services, educational services, and general information pertinent to their wellbeing,” he said. “Lining up for services in this major era of social distancing equates to the inefficiency I alluded to earlier, that can lead to further inequality. Digital access is fast becoming a right in this new economy. Connectivity shall be the driver of equality in our region.”
PM Skerrit calls on a shift in perception in facing weather challenges: “Over the years, we have done well in disaster management and coordination. These are areas, unfortunately, through our repeated experiences, we have become well practiced in. It is clear, given our geographic location, that mitigation must not be approached merely as a policy goal, but as a developmental tool.”
In conclusion, PM Skerrit said: “we have a lot of urgent work to do, my dear friends, but I believe we shall mindfully continue with the task in the name of our people and to the value of empowerment. For a subregion which has consistently punched above its weight, I am hopeful as ever that we are capable of meeting every single challenge.”
Dominica is often quoted as a success story after overcoming the devastating category 5 Hurricane Maria in 2017. The Nature Isle of the Caribbean immediately embarked on an admirable journey to become “the world’s first climate-resilient nation”. To sponsor recovery and its remarkable transformation, the government used multi-million proceeds from the country’s Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme. Vetted foreign investors have become economic citizens for life after contributing at least US$100,000 to the Economic Diversification Fund or making a minimum US$200,000 investment in pre-approved real estate, which established a thriving ecotourism sector on the island. Relying on high transparency, accountability of CBI funds, tangible impact on the native population, and integrity of applicants, to date, Dominica remains the best country for citizenship by investment and a model for climate resilience.