By Shermain Bique-Charles
Prime Minister Gaston Browne is giving high ratings to a recently held virtual meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris, but warns that he hopes it wasn’t just all talk.
Harris met with leaders of 15 Caribbean nations last week Friday to discuss economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic, the existential climate crisis, and the transition to clean energy, along with strengthening security throughout the region.
“A good first meeting, [and] I hope it’s not just one of those diplomatic exercises because some of them just want to say they engage the Caribbean, and year after year, we see nothing substantive from them. I also home that Kamala will deliver, and I hope there will be a subsequent summit with President Joe Biden. The United States needs to treat us better,” Browne said recently.
He explained that the failure on the part of the US to assist small island states could work against America.
“They need to understand that if our people are left to languish, they will end up having refugees from the Caribbean. I am sure they don’t want that,” he added.
CARICOM heads also made a pitch for the United States to consider increasing its supply of fossil fuel in light of the escalating oil price on the international market, according to PM Browne.
“So, we have asked them for the US to consider increasing its supply of fossil fuel, and to get other countries that have spare capacity to do so, so we can increase the supply of fuel and reduce the price,” he said.
The decision according to Browne is a critical requirement at this time in order to curb inflation, “Otherwise we are going to continue to see an escalation in inflation which will create significant problems, especially for the poorer countries and their populations. (We need them to) use their influence to encourage countries like Saudi Arabia to increase their supply, and even Venezuela” he said.
Antigua and Barbuda also brought to the attention of the Vice President, the issue of debt.
“The issue of debt is a serious problem. The United States should try to consider some level of support to assist us on a bilateral basis, or use their influence with the international financial institutions and the multilateral banks to help us to get some form of debt restructuring, or for that matter, to help us with debt cancelation and grants,” PM Browne said.
Other countries participating in the meeting included the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago.