Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, announces plans to establish a fixed roaming rate within the region on Day 1 of the 31st Intersessional CARICOM Meeting. (BGIS)

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has announced that a new fixed single CARICOM roaming rate will be introduced sometime this year.

Ms. Mottley, who is the current chair of CARICOM, made this disclosure today as she addressed the 31st Intersessional Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Ms. Mottley said regional communication that was affordable and accessible was an absolute priority.  She noted that this was necessary as the digital economy could play a new and powerful role in the development of our economies.

“Our teams have been working with operators in the telecommunication sector across the region.  Indeed … Keith Mitchell, who is the lead Prime Minister in this area, has along with the CSME team, worked with the operators to shortly announce a modest fixed single CARICOM roaming rate for all CARICOM nationals, to cover the cost of data for popular social media platforms, including those that offer messaging and calls.

“The rate will include an amount for local and regional voice calls and over time, this CARICOM rate will include more services.  This is what it means to be family taking decisions ….  Once we have reached agreement on the rate of service level, the operators will make the necessary technological changes, and we have full expectation that the new fixed single CARICOM rate can go live in … 2020,” she stated.

She noted that at last year’s regular meeting in Castries, the Heads agreed that the roaming rates within this region were punitive, and some people were bankrupted when they went from country to country.  

She added that this new roaming rate was necessary as regional governments continued to create a more seamless opportunity for doing business and moving and living in this region.

During her wide-ranging address, Ms. Mottley said it was imperative that Caribbean people be safe from cyberbullying, disinformation, graphically violent language and images, hate speech, as well as discriminatory, racial and xenophobic speech.

“Prime Minister Mitchell’s team shall be working with all of the other organizations within the region and the international community to ensure that we keep abreast of these developments,” she assured.

Barbados’ Prime Minister and Chair of CARICOM, Mia Amor Mottley (third from left) speaking at today’s opening session of the 31st Intersessional Conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. Also pictured are CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque (second from left); St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet (third from right); and CARICOM officials. (B.Hinds/BGIS)

She stressed that there was a need to resolve the issue of transport, and described it as a work in progress.  She said LIAT had a new board and its renewed mandate was to ensure that regional affordable transportation was made available to Caribbean people.

“To run a country without transport is to condemn that country.  Similarly, to run a community without affordable transport is to condemn that community ….  We look forward, however, not just to being able to resolve matters of air transport, but we also want to move aggressively towards the resolution of the maritime transport issues,” she stated.

The Prime Minister said the private sector would present on the production integration plans later in the day.  However, she noted that there was a need to have the logistics of the movement of goods and people in place, if there was to be success with respect to expanding the economic pie of the region through the private sector’s continued investment.

Ms. Mottley also spoke about the CARICOM Development Fund, stating that with the best will in the world, it could not be sustained purely from the contributions of the more developed countries. 

She expressed hope that today’s meeting would reflect on the best way to ensure that the CARICOM Development Fund was capable of better accessing funds regionally and internationally, to ensure that those affected or disadvantaged could benefit by having access to concessional funding.

The CARICOM Chair reiterated that there was over $US50 billion in savings within this community, but a way had not been found to unlock those savings to finance development.

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