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Portia to miss CARICOM Heads of Government meeting on ZIKV

Published:Saturday | February 13, 2016 | 11:16 AM
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller

Busy on the campaign trail, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller will miss this week's CARICOM Heads of Govern-ment 27th Inter-Sessional Meeting in Placencia, Belize.

Instead, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade A.J. Nicholson will lead the Jamaican delegation to the two-day meeting, where advancing the regional response to the Zika virus (ZIKV) threat will be among key matters discussed.

The heads are also expected to focus on measures to position the region to benefit from the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, including access to climate finance.

The Belize meeting comes a fortnight after the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern".

The suspected Zika virus link to cases of microcephaly in parts of Latin America, with babies born with underdeveloped brains, has also heightened public concern about the virus.

Jamaica is among at least five CARICOM member states which have diagnosed cases of the Zika virus.

The Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency, which has been providing testing and prevention and control guidance to member states, is expected to help the meeting determine the future actions in the ZIKV fight.


The meeting also gives the CARICOM Heads of Government an opportunity to build on the favourable outcome from last December's COP 21 Paris Climate Change conference, for small-island developing states (SIDS), which include CARICOM member states.

CARICOM climate-change negotiators in Paris, using the popular mantra '1.5 to Stay Alive', successfully promoted the rise in temperatures as an existential issue for the region, and were able to have language included in the historic final agreement, which takes account of the 1.5?C option.

The CARICOM negotiators, including Nicholson, also pushed the special circumstances for scaled up financing for the implementation activities in SIDS, and the agreement includes a baseline contribution of US$100 billion annually for both adaptation and mitigation.

CARICOM Heads are also expected to continue deliberations on the implications for the regional banking sector from loss of corresponding banking relationships.

Of particular concern is the region being labelled as a high-risk area for financial services. This could lead correspondent banks in the United States and major banking centres in Europe to weigh risks versus rewards in deciding whether to do business with the region's indigenous banks, and banks in its offshore sector.

The Heads of Government last year established a Committee of Finance Ministers to work with the Caribbean Association of Banks to develop a plan to deal with this matter.

That committee will meet tomorrow ahead of the Inter-Sessional Meeting to deliberate on a regional strategy to go forward to the Heads.