Intervention At Panel On Building Forward Better In The Caribbean Post-Covid-19: ‘Critical Issues To Keep The 2030 Agenda In Sight’ By Premier And Minister Of Finance The Honourable Andrew A. Fahie




His Excellency, Christian Guillermet-Fernández, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica

Her Excellency, Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC

Her Excellency, Marsha K. Caddle, Minister of Economic Affairs and Investment of Barbados

His Excellency, Dean Jonas, Minister of Social Transformation and the Blue Economy of Antigua and Barbuda

His Excellency, Frank Anthony, Minister of Health of Guyana

Diane Quarless, Chief of the ECLAC subregional headquarters for the Caribbean

Distinguished  Delegates

Ladies and gentleman,

Good afternoon.

I would like to begin by thanking ECLAC for providing an international platform for the Caribbean as a group of Small Island Developing States to present our challenges, as well as for creating spaces for us to dialogue on solutions to the very real problems that the Caribbean faces. Too often when Caribbean Governments are simply seeking international support to address challenges in response to circumstances beyond their control, we are met with resistance, dismissal or administrative hurdles. This remains a problem that we will have to grapple with as we seek greater understanding from our international partners and institutions. Much more compassion is needed. Alicia Barcena, thank you for being an advocate for the subregion during these very difficult times. You have done so not just for the Members of ECLAC, but also for the Associate Members, for which I thank you again.

Excellencies, the British Virgin Islands very much supports building forward better from COVID-19. I believe like everyone present today that we cannot afford to be paralysed by the current crisis. We must be even more determined to overcome our challenges and find a way back to the path of sustainable development. This is the approach we have adopted in the British Virgin Islands as we take steps to accelerate post-pandemic recovery and simultaneously continue to recover from the destruction of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

From the vantage point of a post-disaster society, the British Virgin Islands sees the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as the path forward to achieve the resilience, sustainability, green growth and prosperity of our society that we desire. For this reason, we are currently in the process of public consultations on the development of a National Sustainable Development Plan that will guide our national development in the decade ahead and ultimately help us to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. ECLAC has generously provided the consultant who is leading the process, Dr. June Soomer, former Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States. I thank ECLAC for this assistance.

In terms of post-pandemic recovery, we have taken some initial steps forward based on the improving public health situation on the ground. Firstly, we are down to zero cases of COVID-19. We are consolidating this position through our COVID-19 vaccination programme that is proceeding rapidly. Within the next two months we hope to have 70% percent of the population vaccinated. This will significantly improve the social outlook of the society and allow all of our students to return to school. Beyond the education sector, reaching the 70% vaccination threshold will allow the society to begin to resume normal social interaction. We are of course grateful to the UK and the Commonwealth of Dominica for donations of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to the British Virgin Islands. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Republic of Cuba for the incredible work of the Cuban Medical Brigade that has been with us for many months.

In terms of the economy, as the health risk from COVID-19 decreases, we expect our economic outlook, particularly in the tourism sector, to improve. Our current arrangements in place to contain the virus, have provided a good foundation on which to build and accelerate the growth of the economy. We reopened the tourism sector for businesses on 1st December 2020 under robust health and entry protocols, including a testing regime of three tests and quarantine. These include a test before arrival, a test upon arrival and a test after quarantine of four days. This system has proven incredibly successful in netting and isolating cases of COVID-19 before infection can spread to the local community. A final test is required before departure from the islands. We believe our model may provide good insights and lessons for other economies that also rely heavily on tourism.

While the tourism sector remains at the very early stages of recovery after a border closure of nine months, we estimate that the tourism sector, and wider economy, will make a modest recovery within the next 12 to 18 months. This is welcome news for us after a GDP decline of 18% in 2020.

Importantly, in May 2020, my Administration rolled out an economic stimulus package after the onset of the pandemic in order to provide economic and social support to those affected. Today we continue to assist the vulnerable with social assistance and to provide financial support to struggling businesses.

Our inclusion in the UN’s COVID-19 Multi-Country Response Plan for the Eastern Caribbean has been a tremendous help which has provided us with vital technical and financial assistance to promote social protection and economic resilience.

Excellencies, ladies and gentleman, despite the challenges facing the Caribbean today by the COVID-19 crisis and climate emergency, I am confident that with creative solutions, solidarity and new and imaginative partnerships, we can emerge from the pandemic positioned to achieve the sustainable development goals. The British Virgin Island will of course be a reliable partner in this process.

In closing, I would like to commend you Diane for all the work that you and your team are doing to assist the region, as well as the strong commitment of the Executive Secretary and Chair of ECLAC to supporting Caribbean Small Island Developing States and Associate Members.

I thank you.

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