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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

The COVID-19 vaccine which the Caricom region will receive will not be an immediate panacea for the ills brought upon the Caribbean by the virus – and 2021 must be the year to let Caricom work for member countries.

“2021 must be the Year of Caricom,” said Prime Minister Keith Rowley in his message to Caricom as he assumed chairmanship of the regional body for this year.

His stint with Caricom is among his many tasks for 2021 and where his regional leadership skills will come into play.

Rowley said, “The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) enters this New Year 2021 with renewed hope for emerging from the darkness of the past year. The promising light at the end of the tunnel provided by the vaccine for COVID-19 provides the possibility of relief from the health and socio-economic challenges posed by the pandemic.

“The Community has signed on to the COVAX Facility and looks forward to receiving its quota as soon as it becomes available in the New Year. However, it will not be an immediate panacea for the ills brought upon us by the virus.”

But he added, “The relatively successful management of the health aspects of COVID-19 by the concerted effort of all arms of the Community—member states, institutions and the citizens – demonstrated without a doubt that the answer to COVID is CARICOM!

“In the recovery phase, we must employ the same collective, coordinated and focussed actions that allowed us to control the spread of the virus. Chief among these is the discipline to maintain the protocols that help to avoid being contaminated. The less strain we put on the health systems will directly benefit the economic and financial situation.”

Rowley said that even as Caricom states vigorously pursue the possibilities of support from the International Financial Institutions and other avenues,” We must look at making full use of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) as our principal means of recovery. It is that confidence in ourselves and our institutions, our intellectual capacity and creativity, and the platform we have laid which will lead us on the path to recovery.

“Pursuing the plans to advance the CSME that may have been side-lined by the urgent needs of the past year must be a priority to help propel us out of the negative socio-economic outlook that has been forecast.

“Harnessing all of our resources, human, natural and financial, to lead this recovery process will be a clear signal of our maturity as an integration unit approaching its 50th anniversary. The example has been set time and again in adversity. That is the approach that we must adopt across the board to transform our Community post-COVID and beyond.”

Rowley added,” Let this be the year that we make CARICOM work for us, as we build back better and construct the resilient society that will provide a safe, prosperous and viable Community for all of us. We have the tools to do it. 2021 must be the Year of CARICOM.”