Foreign Minister of Suriname Albert Ramdin and Benito Wheatley, special envoy to the premier, pose together at the 29th session of Caribbean Development Cooperation Committee, held from Oct. 12-14 in Paramaribo, Suriname. (Photo: GIS)

This month, the Virgin Islands completed its vice chairmanship of the Caribbean Development Cooperation Committee, a subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The vice chairmanship concluded with the handover of the chairmanship from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Suriname at the 29th session of the regional body, held from Oct. 12-14 in Paramaribo, Suriname, according to a press release issued by Benito Wheatley, special envoy of the premier.

“Among the roles we played on the previous CDCC Bureau as vice chair was that of advocate for the associate members to ensure that within ECLAC our challenges received the needed attention, especially as it concerned sustainable development,” said Mr. Wheatley, who attended the biennial meeting. “Through the efforts of all the relevant parties, the associate members are now much more integrated into the regional sustainable development framework of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

‘More borrowing’ in VI

The special envoy told the committee that the VI faces the prospect of “more borrowing” in order to complete the recovery from the 2017 hurricanes, which he said has been hampered by pandemic-related economic difficulties and other issues.

“Presently the impact of high inflation and high fuel and energy costs is consuming public resources as limited funds are expended by government to assist families,” he said. “We are left to do more borrowing if we want to complete the task of recovery.”

Mr. Wheatley thanked St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the outgoing chair for its leadership and congratulated Suriname and its Foreign Minister Albert Ramdin on assuming the chairmanship.

Budget allocations

Additionally, he called on the new leadership of ECLAC, under new Executive Secretary Jose Manuel Salazar Xirinachs, to increase budget allocations to the ECLAC Subregional Headquarters for the Caribbean.

With a bigger budget, he said, the body could “regularise the technical assistance available to associate members” as part of the “logical expansion” of the Caribbean First Strategy ratified by the UN in 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Port of Spain office’s responsibility for 13 member states and 13 associate members should be reflected in its budgetary resources,” Mr. Wheatley continued. “It will be difficult to sustain engagement with the associate members if it is not clear that ECLAC can assist them in some way.”

VI chairmanship

The VI — an associate member of ECLAC — served as vice chair of CDCC from 2020 to 2022, completing three consecutive terms during the 2020-2022 biennium.

In that role, the government chaired the first High-Level Meeting of the Associate Members of ECLAC on their challenges in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the ECLAC-University of the West Indies Development Partners Forum on Investing in Higher Education to Build More Diversified and Resilient Post-Covid Economies.

The government also presented the official report of the CDCC at the 38th Session of ECLAC.