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Caribbean Solidarity

Thomas C Famous. Photo: VINO/File
By Thomas C. Famous


“Unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.”

What does that mean during a pandemic?

Well for 20 Atlantic/Caribbean leaders, it meant sitting down in front of electronic devices and having an emergency CARICOM meeting to discuss the following items relating to COVID-19:

●      Country by country experiences

●      Regional experiences

●      Regional resources

●      Advice from regional bodies.

Last week Wednesday, April 15, 2020, approximately 100 persons logged on to a Zoom meeting hosted by the Secretariat of CARICOM.

This included all 14 Prime Ministers of independent Caribbean nations and 6 Premiers of Overseas Territories.

One by one, each leader spoke, briefly, of the challenges they were facing with balancing both, health risks and containing economic fallouts, of economies that, with varying degrees, are shut down or near shut down.

Fortunately, for the region, there has been relatively low amounts of community spread and subsequent loss of life.

However, the economies, based mostly around tourism and respective support services, have taken a severe hit in each country. 

Regional Bodies

“The Leaders received presentations from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Archbishop Jason Gordon.

Dr Joy St John, Executive Director of CARPHA, indicated that the Region had done fairly well in its response to the pandemic which was a direct result of the early implementation of measures which helped to contain the virus. She recommended a co-ordinated approach as the Region prepares for the next phase of the virus.

The CDB presented the economic implications for the Community of the pandemic and ideas for stimulating economic activity in going forward.

The UWI researchers included projections for the future of the virus in the Region.”

Key decisions

Three definitive decisions were taken in the meeting that stood out to all listening.

The first was that all member states, both large and small, would continue to act in unison throughout the pandemic. Whatever knowledge and resources available to any given state would be shared amongst all states.

We have seen clear evidence of this, in the sharing of testing kits, by the Caymanian government to sister islands, Bermuda and Barbados.

The second unanimous decision was that the region must move towards improving the digital economy and government administration. As we have witnessed around the world, government ministries have had to move quickly to have their staff working from home in order to prevent a total collapse of administration.

So too, in the Caribbean, thousands of civil servants, have had to adapt to doing the people's work, from the safety of their living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. 

For some ministries, such as finance ministries, this would have been near seamless, as most of their work is administrative. Whilst for others, such as vehicle registration departments, who rely on dealing with clients, face to face, on a daily basis, this has proven to be a challenge.

In order for governments and the region on a whole, to be able to function throughout a pandemic and or natural disasters they will have to have digital capabilities.

Therefore, each member state committed to not only boosting their individual infrastructure but to assist others.


Without a doubt, the most important decision made was to boost regional food security. 

Over the years, the Caribbean, as a whole, has allowed itself to have less and less domestic food production.

Here are some key takeaways from a great piece written in Forbes, by Daphne Ewing-Chow

“Most Caribbean countries are Net Food Importing Developing Countries—that is, imports are the dominant source of food energy.”

“Lack of local production means that Caribbean people tend to eat more highly processed foods”

“Lack of local production is bad for local economies.”

The Caricom leaders undertook a commitment to increase regional food production in countries with vast space such as; Belize, Dominica, Guyana and Haiti.

In order for this to work there had to be a further commitment for better inter-regional air and sea transportation.


The people of the Atlantic / Caribbean, whilst not in the best economic position as of late, are blessed to have leadership that has bonded as one to ensure that we see ourselves through this pandemic and emerge stronger as a region.

As an elder Caribbean statesman, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr The Hon Ralph E. Gonsalves always says; “Solidarity!”

2 Responses to “Caribbean Solidarity”

  • ... (27/04/2020, 15:05) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
  • E. Leonard (27/04/2020, 22:08) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Good read. The Hon Thomas Famous mentioned some points made by Daphne Ewing-Chow, a Barbadian writer, in an article, “Five Overlooked Facts About Caribbean Food Security,” published on February 20th in Forbes magazine. I will try to expand on a few additional points:
    a. 2018 Caricom countries food import bill was $4.75B and anticipate to skyrocket to $8-10B in 2020, which is approx 60% of region food bill; some counties import 80% of food; only Guyana, Haiti and Belize produces more than 50% of their food;
    b. Caricom countries not meeting food potential;
    c. Caricom countries showing an indifference to the land and food production is declining;
    d. Caricom countries imports and consumed lots of processed foods laden with high calories, sugar, sodium;
    e. Caricom countries have the highest obesity rate in the Ameticas;
    f. High import bill and large volume of processed foods adversely impact regional economies and health; and
    g. Agricultural contribution to GDP diminishing

    Opportunity for Caricom countries to reduce food import bill, enhance food security and provide my needed employment. The BVI may not be self sufficient in food production but it can reduce food import bill and enhance food security.

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