Barbados PM Mottley, CARICOM Chair interview with CNN's Amanpour on Covid 19
Barbados PM lays out the challenges of Coronavirus.
Sunday Guardian 3 May 2020
Caricom’s Chairman Pitches for a New International Order
It has been a long time since the thought of Caricom as an alive and viable institution for regional cohesion and economic development has crossed my mind. Seeing and hearing Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados and Chairman of Caricom, place the interest of small developing states firmly on the international agenda during her interview on CNN International, impressed me.
Fluent, informed, and armed with an agenda, PM Mottley resisted being circumscribed to Barbados, a traditional Caribbean tourist attraction now impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, by internationally-known journalist, Christiane Amanpour.
PM Mottley asserted herself as chairman of Caricom and her deep interest in the future of the entire region. It is a disposition she inherited from the likes of Norman and Michael Manley, Barrow and Adams, Eric Williams – except when he felt his country was going to be left to salvage and carry the Federation, and the likes of Bradshaw, Vere Bird and the moderns, Patterson and Manning.
Indeed, PM Mottley launched into the common condition of the region facing the coronavirus and the Covid-19 pandemic when Amanpour wanted to find out narrowly about Barbados’s struggle with the virus and disease, and what she must have felt was Mottley’s pitch for traditional forms of assistance.
“Now we have the pandemic we need global leadership similar to what we had post-WW 11; a plan that protects not just the strongest amongst us, but also the most vulnerable,” responded Mottley.
And in this respect, the Caricom chairman challenged the international predisposition for “building large military constructs while being incapable against a mosquito and a near-invisible virus to the naked eye. The Chairman called on the international community to “re-purpose” the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions (IMF and World Bank) to meet the “real” needs of the international community.
Specifically, the Caricom chairman talked about the inability of countries such as those in the region to access soft funding and grants based on misleading per capita measurements – an objective that Caricom has been pursuing for decades. The Caricom chairman also pointed out the disadvantaged condition of developing countries at the World Trade Organisation.
Given the opportunity by Amanpour to conclude on what she perceived as the way forward, the Caricom chairman pursued her regional agenda and the interest of the developing world. She called for “global leadership”, but resisted Amanpour’s bait to enter into contestations over President Trump’s quixotic leadership.
Instead, Mottley called for “a global leadership initiative”, and the re-creation of the Bretton Woods system to react to the problems which are “real”, and those which impact nations such as the ones in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the developing world.
Distinguishing about PM Mottley’s appearance on the international stage on one of the most widely viewed television stations, and to be interviewed by a very well-known and respected journalist, was her decision to present the problems of the region and small developing states.
In so doing, she declined to play petty national politics, which is an almost reflex condition of “small” leaders. In this way, Mottley made sure that she told the world of the enormity of the problems facing large sections of the developing world, historically disadvantaged by the structures and policies of the large and powerful international institutions, and dictated to by the domineering nations.
In this way, PM Mottley made a case, not for the 290,000 people on her island-nation, but for hundreds of millions spread across continents.
Preparation for the interview was evident. It was not a case of a small-time leader of a mini-state craving for narrow political mileage by being on international television. She showed herself to be well-primed on the 75-year old international institutions and how they have under-served the developing world. And above all that, the Caricom chairman offered a way forward not merely out of the Covid-19 pandemic, but for the realisation of an advanced model for the international parliamentary institutions if that “New World” – a 1960s aspiration of the Non-aligned Movement is to emerge out of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Caricom has pulled together on occasion to achieve special preferences in trade and has contributed to international agreements. It has also used its 15 votes strategically at international fora. Sure the world is today different, but if chairman Mottley can persuade her colleagues to unity, the region, linked to other similar developing regions, can still wield influence.