Enabling environment vital to trade between CARICOM and Cuba—Pres. Ali
President Irfaan Ali said that greater focus should be placed on an Agriculture and Food Security strategy during his address at the 7th virtual Summit of the Heads of State of CARICOM and the Republic of Cuba.
In his inaugural speech at the summit, the Guyanese President also emphasised on the strong bilateral relations between Guyana and Cuba, in several areas, including technical cooperation, collaboration to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic, disaster risk reduction as well as agriculture and trade.
“I further support Prime Minister [Mia] Motley’s call for us as a region to relook at our food security issue, to relook at our food strategy, at our agricultural strategy. And to do so in a way that will enable us to fulfil, as a region, our food requirement. To have the right mix of investment, to have the right agricultural portfolio that would meet the requirements of our regional food needs.”
He explained that within the Region, food and nutrition security are essential for well-being and for ensuring greater human dignity among citizens.
The President also pointed to the importance of not only strengthening the agricultural sector, but creating the right environment to facilitate greater trade between CARICOM and Cuba, particularly in agricultural products, an endeavour which the CARICOM/Cuba Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (TECA) supports.
The President noted that in expanding agriculture and in making greater capital investment in the sector, the need arises for bigger markets.
“And of course, Cuba plays an important part in terms of the size of our market. We can do this together, we can strategise together, and we can formulate this plan together. But importantly, as Prime Minister Motley said, we have to move into action, we have to move into a new decade of action, so that we can see in the near future, the results of these strategies.”
COLLABORATION TO COMBAT COVID-19
With regards to the Health Sector, President Ali reiterated Guyana’s commitment to the global efforts aimed at bringing an end to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
He pledged the country’s continued collaboration with like-minded states and partners to protect the health of all citizens, ensure equitable access to quality essential health services, safe and affordable medicines, as well as access to vaccines when available.
“Cuba’s experience in public health is greatly respected. It is inconceivable for our Region to confront such a deadly pandemic without utilising the public health experience and expertise of Cuba.”
In the area of technical cooperation, the President reminded all of the strong ties between CARICOM and Cuba which have prompted cooperation and collaboration at various levels. This Summit, he said, therefore allows for reflection and reformulation of a programme of continued engagement between Cuba and our Community.
He also conveyed gratitude to the Government of Cuba for their efforts in facilitating the realisation of a Regional Centre for Stimulating the Development of Children, Adolescents and Young People with Special Educational Needs Associated with Disabilities, located in Guyana.
The Centre aims to train persons to manage individuals with disabilities through evaluation and diagnosis, language therapy, occupational therapy, psychological treatment, prevention, rehabilitation and social integration services with a pedagogical and socially inclusive approach.
“This Centre allows us the opportunity, with adequate training, to build a more inclusionary society. I therefore wish to once again place on record our thanks for the valuable technical assistance made available by the Government of Cuba to facilitate the establishment of this Centre. I wish to emphasise my Government’s commitment to the fulfilment of the Centre’s objectives.”
In addition, the Guyanese Head of State also acknowledged the benefits of continued collaboration and engagement in the area of Disaster Risk Reduction. Natural disasters, he reminded, are now among the greatest threats to long-term development worldwide, and more specifically, here in our region.
“Guyana welcomes the dialogue with Cuba in respect to reducing our Region’s exposure to natural hazards and the concomitant risks to people, property and the natural environment. This dialogue can only aid in improving our preparedness for such events.”
In closing, President Ali reiterated the call by the Barbadian Prime Minister for CARICOM countries to ensure they do all they can to convey meaning to the Group’s 5oth Anniversary by bringing forward the next summit, slated for 2023, by one year.
The Caribbean Community and Cuba continue to enjoy a strong relationship since diplomatic relations were established in 1972 with Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The relationship has been underpinned by several formal institutional links including the triennial meetings of the Heads of State which commenced on December 8, 2002.
CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque opened the Summit in the virtual presence of President Ali, Heads of State and Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community and the Republic of Cuba.
The 7th CARICOM- Cuba Summit is being convened against the backdrop of a global environment dominated by the Coronavirus Pandemic and its multifaceted repercussions. Cuba has been pivotal in providing assistance to CARICOM members States by dispatching heath care personnel. (Office of the President)