The Caribbean is in need of increased connectivity as it seeks to recover following the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was stressed by the President of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr Hyginus “Gene” Leon in their Annual Press Conference held in Barbados on Wednesday.
The CDB president made the call for regional governments to step up with regard to the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.
“Given the region’s experience over the 2020 to 2022 period, now is the time for us to re-imagine regional co-operation and integration. And what this could mean for us as Caribbean citizens. I, therefore, call for a renewed commitment to advance the implementation of the Caricom and Single Market Economy CSME, thereby improving the lives of the region’s citizens through one, increasing market access for goods, services and people providing economies of scale, offering greater employment and business opportunities and providing a platform for increased innovation and digitalisation,” said Leon, who also urged the government to step in to fill the void left following the liquidation of Liat in 2020, as he explained the absence of the airline has left transportation within the East Caribbean at crisis level.
“The demise of Liat in 2020 meant the loss of airlift from an average of 500 weekly flights in 2019 to 50 flights in 2022. CDB, therefore, views dependable and cost-effective air transportation services as essential for the transformation of several of the region’s economies. Consequently, to safeguard the region’s future, governments need to take decisive and integrated action to reform the air transportation operating environment,” Leon said.
Food security was also a concern raised by Leon, who echoed concerns raised by Caricom leaders about the need to reduce our food import bill.
“Recent global data from the United Nations indicates that the cost of a healthy diet is highest in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the Caribbean, currently importing more than 80 per cent of the food we consume. Food sovereignty must be a key collective objective,” said the CDB president.