Distinguished colleagues,
My partner, [First Lady Arya Ali]
Prime Minister,
Speaker of the National Assembly,
Former Presidents and Prime Ministers,
Former Prime Minister Kenny Antony is also performing a very important duty for the region; he is chairing the Eminent Persons Group in relation to Haiti and ensuring that we advance in the interest of the people of Haiti because our Region has one interest when it comes to Haiti, that is the people of Haiti. We will not deviate from that interest, the people of Haiti. Anything that impedes the interests of the people of Haiti is of immense concern to the leadership of this region. We spent most of this morning on the issue of Haiti. We are committed as a region to ensuring that the people of Haiti can also realise their full potential in peace, security, and with good governance. We owe this to the people of Haiti. Sometimes, as a region, we are in tough positions, and we have to take tough measures, but the region’s toughness is always in the interests of the region’s people. That is fundamental for the region.

You have enjoyed the brilliance of Culture. In this region, culture is our staple. Culture is that common thread that brings us together. If there is anyone in this room who did not feel uplifted even to the point of wanting to move with the rhythm of the drums, then something is wrong with your energy level. We in Guyana have made a very conscious decision to ensure that we invest in culture as a tool and mechanism of unifying our people and as a tool and mechanism of telling the story of who we are as a people. In this region, we owe it to the generation ahead of us to keep our culture alive and to invest in it because culture distinguishes us from any other region. Our culture is distinctly different from any other region.

And I want to make this point to all those who would have enjoyed the drumming; the lyrics of our region. We do not need lyrics that promote violence in this region. We have the ability to promote good lyrics that will move people in a positive direction and move people to think and behave positively. As leaders of this region, we have to take this situation very seriously and ensure the lyrics of the region are the lyrics of Bob Marley, the lyrics of positivity, and the lyrics of positive living and positive change. We must take this responsibility on today.

For some, this may seem a soft issue, but this is a fundamental issue.
Only recently, Prime Minister Rowley and I were having a conversation. When many young people, young brilliant people, question the decision of not having a certain artist perform in the country because that artist is on an Interpol Red List. We cannot allow our culture to be captured in this narrative. We have to lead a revolution against this narrative and reposition our culture in the way it was conceived, that is, for positive living and positive upliftment. This is not about anyone or against anyone; this is for our region and for the future of the young people in this region.

I want to pause to recognise our distinguished guest from the US. Only in CARICOM can we bring the US, Saudi Arabia, the UN, and Canada so closely together. What a picture! Saudi Arabia and the US shoulder to shoulder. In the interests of a stable and secure world, let us all put our shoulders together. This Region can lead by example.

There is no war too big for us to stop. What we need is the willpower. What we need is the courage. What we need is the determination. What we need is a constancy of our moral compass; that is what we need. And if we have constancy of our moral compass, then we can stand up every day and sing from the same hymn sheet without worrying about what others are thinking about us because our actions are consistent every day of the year.

Any leader in this region can go to a temple, a mosque, a church and be comfortable because we do not see religion as a mode of separation but as a tool for bringing people together and inspiring them. Prime Minister Mottley offered the world the opportunity to utilise a historical site in Barbados to build an International University of Peace and Tolerance in a region that understands how to live in peace and tolerance. We have this natural ability as a region, and I believe that every time we acted collectively as a region, we were able to bring positive change in this world. For this reason alone, CARICOM is a critical organisation, and we should all be proud of CARICOM because there are many examples in the history of the world when CARICOM acted together; when CARICOM moved together, we saw positive changes and positive movements in our global environment.

Today, I was contemplating what I should say; I’ve already said enough. I think the people in our region sometimes question what we do when we travel. As a region, what do you accomplish? I can tell you for all my colleagues here every time we go, we go on a mission, and Prime Minister Skerrit was very modest, but 2023 delivered tremendous successes for CARICOM, and we should be proud of what 2023 delivered for us. It opened up many opportunities, but just in the interest of accountability to the region, because when we gather here as Regional leaders, we have a sense of accountability to the people of the region. Just to ensure that we fulfil our responsibility to the people of the region, I want to highlight a few things, and I want to put our friends also on the accountability compass because our friends would have also made commitments and it’s also important for a region to understand what those commitments are and how it will be delivered.

Food Security

If you look at the issue of food security, which remains a priority for the region, and by the way, I’m positioning these remarks in the context of the agenda for the next year. I did this in consultation with the incoming Chairman after my tenure in the interest of democracy. So the 25 by 2025 remains a top priority. However, we are of the view that we must now focus on ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030.

We are proposing to bring together the human assets that this region has nurtured into international fame, to bring their goodwill together as Ambassadors to mobilise international financing of support so that we can end hunger and malnutrition in this region by 2030. We have the capability. We have Usain Bolt. We have Chris Gayle. We have all the Clive Lloyds, and all the big names, big leaders. We have to use these assets to mobilise resources and create an ambassadorial mission so that we can raise resources and revenue to address the issue of hunger and malnutrition.

Around 57% of the population in this region, are affected by food insecurity, indicating a significant rise of 1.3 million compared to February 2022. This is an alarming number, and of course, we do not need to go into the reasons for this: important inflation, the increased costs of fertiliser, forget about the increased costs, the availability of fertiliser, and the availability of agrochemicals. All of this hinders our development.

To this end, within the cycle, we’ll be working with Canadians, and this is the first partner I am going to put on notice. We are going to work with the Canadians to accelerate and implement projects from their Agri value-added program. We held discussions already with Minister Hussen, who is here, and he is responsible for the investment in agri value-added programs and projects. For this region, this is important because we have to build our food system for resilience and sustainability against many different shocks compared to the rest of the world.

The Minister has committed to not only engaging us but also working with us in the coming weeks to finalise projects and programs to be financed by the region, focusing on youth and women’s involvement in innovative agriculture. So, Minister, you’re not here only for the opening ceremony; there is serious work ahead.

Secondly, we have submitted a regional sustainable resilient agricultural project to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at a cost of USD 25 million. We are in the advanced stages of finalising this investment to be made within the region that would focus, again, on youth, women and innovation in the food production system.

His Excellency, Minister Jabir, we already had discussions around this, and we are hoping that in the coming weeks, we will finalise arrangements to have this US$25 million disbursed in the region to support our food production system. And, I want our partners to know that we are also taking responsibility.

Thirdly, Guyana is investing in a Center of Excellence equipped with a situational room and a state-of-the-art data analytics platform to support regional food security and regional food production. The platform will focus on research and development, real-time data technology, and predictive decision-making modules to help our farmers. We are doing this in conjunction with IICA and FAO as a regional project.

Fourthly, the private sector – The low-interest US$100 million facility by Republic Bank Limited has been activated, with the first US$17 million disbursed already in food and agriculture projects within the region. We’ll be launching a program soon—a development workshop—for the region to better position itself and for its private sector to benefit from this low-interest facility from Republic Bank.

Fifthly, we are working with EMBRAPA of Brazil to rebuild our citrus sector in the region, focusing on having one million citrus seedlings available within the first year, that is by the end of December. So, we can revitalise the citrus industry in the region.

Sixthly, we are working on building out of the regional food hub to integrate production, processing, packaging and distribution within the region and connected to Northern Brazil.

Seventhly, we are working to have the region fully self-sufficient in corn, soya, blackeye peas, and red beans by the end of 2026, and we are going to achieve this. Without a doubt, we are going to achieve this. Further, we are working with CAPSO in positioning our poultry sector in the region to be fully self-sufficient with full backward and forward integration, including the production of hatching eggs within a five-year window. This is the real work that we’re doing in CARICOM. This is the real work that your leaders are engaged in, making a huge difference in the lives of this generation and the next generation.

Eighthly, we are working on the expansion of our breeding program for livestock to scale up quality and production to meet increasing regional demand.

Ninthly, we are working on the integration of our rules and phytosanitary requirements and regulations to have a common regime but, more importantly, building out our testing and laboratory infrastructure.

Tenthly, we are working with the Lavio Pharma company [veterinary products] in conjunction with Bio-Cuba Pharma, for the production of biopesticides and by-products for agriculture and the use of natural products in support of our livestock industry and food production.

The eleventh point, we are continuing work to address the removal of trade barriers within member states. And the people of CARICOM must put pressure on the leaders of CARICOM to remove the trade barriers. It is of no use and purpose for this region. We are too small to be competing against each other. People of this region, call upon your leaders to remove these barriers. Let them hear you loudly; these barriers need to go and must go urgently. I don’t think we can be more accountable than that.

Regional Digitisation and Youth

Member States are currently working on the digitisation of government services to allow for
seamless transactions, movement of goods and services and reducing bureaucracy in government.

We need to urgently develop a digital and AI strategy for this region because if we are to integrate that digital platform, it must be integrated from conceptualisation to implementation. We cannot all operate on different platforms; it will not help integration, and we have to take this very seriously.

In addition, I believe that the region must work immediately on developing regulations to govern AI and the use of AI within this region. We must have a common rule-based system, regulations and legislation to deal with AI. It is going to be disastrous if we do not manage this now and have the infrastructure established to manage it now.

The One CARICOM Skills Development Program

Today, I had the honour of launching with Canada the digital job platform for Guyana. We have already completed a Regional digital platform presentation—a project to the sum of 30 million USD. Through the One Caricom Skills Development fund, we will ensure that over 10,000 Citizens of CARICOM receive skills development training in their country to match the labour market, and the training will be linked to jobs. The initiative will help to address the labour shortages being experienced by multinationals across the world. Again, Canada has committed to us that they are ready to examine this project in matching investment initiatives; that is, whatever the country puts up, they will match it so that we can advance this project and program. This is ready for implementation across the region.

If I am not staying true to the commitment, you can raise your hands and object, but I’m saying these things here not lightly because all of us need to be accountable for the commitments we are making, and all of us must work together to realise the commitments that we’re making.

UAE – One Million Coders Initiative

Through the growing levels of cooperation between CARICOM and the United Arab Emirates, they have now proposed to train 1 million young CARICOM nationals who will be eligible to sign up online for the Coders’ Initiative FREE of cost over a three-year period in the following areas:
Programming Fundamentals, Data Science Fundamentals, and Android Developer Fundamentals.

They are willing for us to implement this in our primary and secondary school system, targeting 1 million children across the region.

The Ferry Service

We would have coined the term the ‘Coalition of the Willing’, and the region is willing to move forward with this ferry service. With the help of Trinidad and Tobago, we have advanced work on the implementation of a regional ferry service. Tremendous progress would have already been achieved.
We are now working on a commonality of systems and customs, like the sanitary systems and immigration systems, so that it will be seamless. We will have a single window operating in all the countries. We’ve started with Guyana, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago as the test, and not only announcing that, we are already getting tremendous private sector interests to take this in a wider region, and this will be an important development for our region.

In a single window operation that we are looking to achieve, we want when a container is on that ferry, or on that ship from Guyana to go to another destination in the region, it must be pre-cleared, through a rules-based system because we’ll have customs of everyone sharing offices within the region—for ease of doing business, improve competitiveness and reduce delays and all of these are cost-saving measures for the private sector in our region.

While we’re doing this, we understand that we need to be deeply connected with northern Brazil, Suriname, and French Guyana. For this reason, President Santokhi and I are pushing ahead with the building of a bridge across the Corentyne River, and then President Santokhi is working on a project to link French Guiana to Suriname, and we are building forty-five roads in the first phase of the highway to northern Brazil, so that we will be re-engineering the transport and logistics hub through Nothern Brazil, through Guyana into the region and all the way up to North. For this, the distribution sector in the region needs to rethink its strategy, and we are saying that the distribution sector in the region needs to position itself with these developments that are taking place.

Regional Security

Regional security is also a major concern for us. We are working with the US. We are working with the UK. We are also working with our friends in CELAC to enhance regional security, but it remains a daunting task because we have expansive waters to cover, and the security of this region ensures the security of important development partners. Therefore, investment in the security of this region is an investment in your own security also, and we need to advance this conversation on how we mobilise investment in security in this region to ensure that you are also secure. Our United States friends and Cabinet members are here; I think this requires serious and immediate attention.

Energy Security

I believe that we have the capability and the capacity now with what is taking place in Suriname, Guyana with renewables, and Trinidad and Tobago to build an energy infrastructure that will ensure this region becomes energy secure long into the future. We need to sit down and articulate a regional energy plan that guarantees regional energy security, just like we’re working on a plan that guarantees regional food security. This is an important agenda item that we must confront.

The Adaptation Fund

In relation to the Adaptation Fund, let me first say that we support firmly, the Bridgetown Initiative. We support as a region, the Bridgetown initiative. We believe that this initiative must now form the basis to restructure existing financing within the region and outside the region for the developing world and also be the fundamental pillars that the conditions of new financing must come with. And we also have to take responsibility for ourselves.

To this end, I want to say that to support these efforts—the adaptation efforts of the Region—Guyana is committing 2 million USD out of our revenue earned from the sale of carbon credits as part of our LCDS to the regional adaptation fund.

In keeping with our announcement of building prosperity for the region, we are pleased to also announce that 3 million USD is committed by the ExxonMobil Global Trust Fund for sustainable projects to build resilience and improve productivity within the region, including food security.

With this support, the Regional Adaptation Fund will have an investment of 5 million USD to start with.

I met with Minister Hussen, Canada’s Minister of International Development, and we agreed on the importance of ramping up access to climate financing at scale and using efficient mechanisms to do so. In saying this, I reminded the Minister that there is a substantial commitment that was made to Heads at the Canada-CARICOM Summit, and we are now looking in the coming weeks to activate that commitment to have those funds dispersed and ready to support the region’s adaptation and resilience strategy.

Foreign Relations

In foreign relations, we intend to activate fully the participation of CARICOM in Kenya.

The CARICOM house in Kenya is already activated, with Barbados taking up their position. We are going to work to have as many CARICOM countries in the CARICOM house in Kenya so that we can have a wider and fuller presence there.

We’re strengthening the relationship with the African Union, including the integration of the work of the two Secretariats, and we will look to revitalise the OACP. We have to re-vitalize this organisation.

Saudi Arabia:

  • As ongoing, 650 million USD was approved for projects in 2023—650 million USD of projects under implementation in this region.
  • 150 million USD in projects already approved and in the process of disbursement.
  • A Third 100 million USD for projects is approved and awaiting formal sign-off.
  • And we have 400 million USD in the pipeline to be discussed and finalised with Saudi Arabia.
    This is a project portfolio that we have in Saudi Arabia.

The CARICOM Secretariat

This term, we’ll be addressing the continued strengthening of the CARICOM Secretariat to ensure greater financial stability and the build-out of a CARICOM office complex annex.


Prime Minister Motley laid down the realities in our last meeting. We have One hundred thirteen pages of decisions under the CSME that are awaiting implementation. 113 pages of decisions! We must correct this. We cannot move forward without correcting this. We have a responsibility to correct this.

I started my brief presentation by alluding to the fact that I believe we have to be accountable to the people of this region. I’ve demonstrated areas in which we are working, areas in which we are committed and we are publicly stating these commitments.
Your leaders work tirelessly. Sometimes I see the comments. It is not easy in this complex and challenging global environment to get the attention of anyone for this region; it’s not a God-given right to get anyone’s attention. Every day, we go there fighting for the attention of this region in the interests of the people. That requires diplomacy, hard work, networking, and building relationships; you can’t do that sitting at home.

These frank conversations all of us must speak about so the population of this region understands the realities that we are faced with.

Thank you, and God bless you