Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. (Picture by Sandy Pitt.)
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LONDON – Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on Wednesday said that the Commonwealth is uniquely placed to advocate on behalf of its members, particularly small states on issues that threaten their survival such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Addressing a virtual meeting called to share solutions and ways of working that can help to combat the impacts of COVID-19 that has killed more than 473 000 people and infected nearly 10 million otherwise, worldwide, Skerrit said also that the 54-member grouping must also provide leadership on the issue of debt relief for small states and creative ways to reduce their debt burden.
Skerit told the conference that the Commonwealth must continue to advocate for a vulnerable index for small states, to replace the gross domestic product (GDP) capita criteria applied to determine eligibility for grant or concessional financing.
“There has to be a way to unlock the funds that they were told have been set aside for dealing with issues relating to climate change,” Skerrit said also, adding “we must address the issue of banking restrictions and sanctions and find workable solutions to de-risking
He said the pandemic has exposed the” inequalities in our society particularly as it relates to access to digital services” and “it is imperative that we have internet connectivity to access government services, financial and educational services and general information for the well-being of the people”.
The Dominican Prime Minister said that as a result of early planning and quick action Dominica was able to implement a series of COVID-19 “containment measures that enabled us to restrict our infection rate to a total of 18 persons all of whom have subsequently recovered
“We implemented closure of all our ports of entry to passenger traffic, instituted strict curfew measures, shut down all non-essential services and implemented work from home protocols,” Skerrit said, in addition protocols for the wearing of masks, hand hygiene and social distancing were observed.
He said while these measures worked “the economic impact to our country has been significant and impactful.
Skerrit said sadly, while small island developing states like Dominica continue to face several inherent challenges,” the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have further exacerbated difficulties, including the limitation of funds to protect the health and wellbeing of citizens.
In a statement issued following the conference, the Commonwealth said many member countries are facing unprecedented challenges due to the global health emergency and its economic and social ramifications.
It said these issues combined with the long-term threat of climate change and the ongoing cyclone, and impending hurricane season, means that COVID-19 is seen as a substantial “tipping point” threat that has the potential to push member states into a period of significant crisis if swift and coordinated action is not taken.
The meeting was held after the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat received significant support for such a meeting from a majority of Commonwealth member states. (CMC)