Outgoing Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque says CARICOM has done “fairly well” in its overall response to Covid-19.
Ambassador LaRocque spoke as a virtual guest on Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit’s Annou Pale Talk Show on Sunday.
“From the health aspect when you look at the figures and you compare per capita with other regions and other countries and given the fact that we were behind, we didn’t have the resources to do what we wanted to do, I think we have done very well, we have coordinated very well. CARPHA as being the advisors for member-states in the region,” he stated.
According to the Ambassador, citizens have the responsibility to do their part and observe the protocol, “ and I am afraid that it is not always the case in some of our member states where protocols are not totally observed, but other than that, I think from the perspective of coordination and work of the member-states, I think we have done fairly well.”
He went on to say that it will be challenging for CARICOM states to bounce back from the economic impact of the pandemic.
“I think it’s going to be quite a challenge,” he said. “First and foremost the international financial institutions, IMF in particular and others, have said that our region is the most affected region economically in the world, given the fact that we are so heavily dependent on tourism.”
As it relates to the tourism industry, the CARICOM official said that industry was decimated over the period of last year.
“There is some reopening going on now. We’ve seen revenues decline in member-states by as much as 50% while expenditures went up,” LaRocque noted. “We have seen last year the impact on GDP of almost 20% among many of our member-states, the average being 15% of the region.”
He said the only country that didn’t suffer that much is Guyana and that is because of the oil resources found there.
Meanwhile, Ambassador LaRocque is encouraging people in the region to get vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.
“Some of the analysis is suggesting that by 2024 if we are able to get the vaccine and administer them accordingly, we will be able to get back to where we were pre-Covid, but of course a lot is dependent on achieving herd immunity,” he said. “The vaccine hesitancy we are experiencing in our region I just hope that people understand that the vaccine saves lives and it also saves jobs.”
Ambassador LaRocque will vacate the position of CARICOM Secretary-General in August this year after serving the maximum of two terms in office.
He assumed the office of secretary general of the CARICOM in 2011 and before that, he served at the CARICOM Secretariat in the position of Assistant Secretary-General for Trade and Economic Integration.
Prime Minister Skerrit in announcing Ambassador LaRocque’s departure on his Sunday talk programme, said the outgoing CARICOM official, a Dominican national, had a very proud history in Dominica’s public service where he served in several capacities.
He served as permanent secretary in various Ministries for more than fourteen (14) years, including the Ministries of Trade, Industry, Enterprise Development, Tourism, and Foreign Affairs where he headed the diplomatic service.
He was formerly the Assistant Secretary-General for Trade and Economic Integration at the CARICOM Secretariat, a position he assumed in September 2005 and also has some private sector experience.
Ambassador LaRocque is the seventh Secretary-General of the CARICOM.