PLACENCIA, Belize, Wednesday February 17, 2016 – Crime, categorization of the region as a financial high risk area and the potentially devastating effects of the Zika virus were the threats identified by CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in his urgent call for action to keep the Community’s well-earned reputation safe and secure.
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque made this call to the official opening of the 27th Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government, in Placencia, Belize, on Monday night.
“As we move to enshrine Security as the fourth pillar of integration in our Treaty, it is important that we demonstrate our resolve by formalising the regional legal framework and supporting institutional infrastructure that would help us fight the menace of crime and threats to our security,” Ambassador LaRocque implored CARICOM Heads of Government.
He said another existential and immediate threat arose from the withdrawal of correspondent banking services due to the arbitrary and unsubstantiated categorisation of the region as a financial high risk area.
CARICOM Member states are faced with this categorization, even though they are compliant with the institutional and regulatory standards established by the FATF, the Global Forum and other international bodies, he noted.
“Yet, the global banks have reacted to the heightened regulatory emphasis in their own jurisdictions with de-risking strategies which either result in the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships or restrictions on those services. Our region is inarguably one of those most adversely affected by these de-risking strategies and our people have already begun to feel the consequences of such arbitrary decisions.
“This situation threatens the financial and economic stability of our region. It is having an impact on the ability of our people to receive their remittances and transfer their funds for trade and investment transactions. This state of affairs demands that we act collectively to address this issue with the relevant regulatory authorities and the international community,” he added.
Regarding the threat from Zika, Ambassador LaRocque said the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has been at the forefront working with Member States and other institutions in dealing with this challenge, as it did with Chikungunya.
“The agency has been discharging its responsibility “purposefully and professionally,” providing laboratory testing services and sharing its expertise at both the national and regional level, he added.
Touching on the issue of efficiency and responsiveness, the Secretary-General stated “the Community is working for us.”
He noted, however, the need for improved efficiency and responsiveness, which he said were at core of the Community’s Reform Process which has begun in the Secretariat and cascading out to the Community institutions and organs and bodies.
“This reformation is not merely about cosmetic change where we tweak or adjust a few processes. It is transforming the way we do business in the Community and will enhance the delivery of the benefits of integration to our people,” he told the meeting.
CARICOM Heads began their first working session yesterday. The meeting ends today.