REMARKS BY THE
HONOURABLE PENNELOPE BECKLES, M.P.
MINISTER OF PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
AT THE LAUNCH OF THE
USAID/ESC SATELLITE OFFICE RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY
BRIARS PLACE, ST. CLAIR ROAD, PORT OF SPAIN
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 06, 2022 AT 10:00 AM
Mr. Clinton White, Regional Representative for Eastern and Southern Caribbean, United States Agency for International Development
Mr. Shante Moore, Chargé d' Affaires a.i., Embassy of the United States of America
Ms. Sharon Ramsaran, Program Management Specialist (Rule of Law), (USAID/ESC)
Mr. Philip Schwehm, Senior Development Advisor, (USAID/ESC)
Mr. Mansfield Blackwood, Partner Systems Country Advisor, (USAID/ESC)
Ms. Megan Kelly, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the United States of America
Mr. John Miller, Political Officer, Embassy of the United States of America
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
I take this opportunity once again to welcome Mr. Clinton White, United States Agency for International Development’s Regional Representative for Eastern and Southern Caribbean (USAID/ESC) to our beautiful shores. On Sunday, I had the pleasure of accompanying him and the US Embassy team on a scenic tour of the five westerly islands that are really six islands but are familiarly called ‘The Five Islands,’ and are also known as Las Cotorras. I’m sure Mr. White will not forget this experience, the journey, the view and the historic value of the islands. I encourage everyone to take some time to visit this historical landmark of ours that is jealously guarded by the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago.
Today, it is my pleasure to be part of this milestone event marking the opening of the USAID/ESC Satellite Office in Port of Spain. I extend best wishes for success on behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. This event reinforces the vision and commitment of USAID and the US Embassy to strengthening the relationship with Trinidad and Tobago and the countries of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean (ESC).
USAID carries out U.S. foreign policy by promoting democracy and broad-scale human progress, expanding stable, free societies, and fostering goodwill abroad. USAID also helps make the Western Hemisphere more peaceful, secure, and prosperous, by strengthening the capacity of governments and private entities to combat crime, improve governance, address climate change, and create economic environments in which the private sector can flourish and create jobs. The Caribbean region has been fortunate to receive this level of support from the Agency, over the last few years.
Trinidad and Tobago, like the rest of the global community, is facing its share of post-pandemic and inflation-related challenges. Our energy sector has traditionally provided us with a bit more “fiscal wiggle room” than many of our neighbours. However, whilst the rise in energy prices will increase Government’s revenues, it will also translate into higher prices for goods and services used by our average citizen. The erosion of purchasing power and effects on their quality of life will further impact the socio-economic challenges that citizens currently face. Given this reality, USAID’s support in building the resilience of citizenry in areas such as climate change adaptation, disaster preparedness, youth empowerment, and rehabilitative justice, is deeply appreciated. Such support will continue to play an integral role in the realisation of the promises of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and its related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with respect to people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. We note that this is in keeping with the goal of the USAID/ESC 2020-2025 Regional Development Cooperation Strategy (RDCS) which is to support the ESC in creating and promoting, quote, “a safe, prosperous, and resilient Caribbean region that supports its vulnerable populations, withstands external shocks, and promotes accountable institutions, economic development, and private sector-led growth.”, end quote.
I would like to extend my gratitude to Mr. White and his team, the Government of the United States of America (USA) and the US Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago, for their continued cooperation and support in these and other key areas over the years. The USAID/ESC works with the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to implement its programmes, and has assisted with several important projects, including:
- The Juvenile Court Project (JCP);
- The USAID John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) programme, conducted in collaboration with the University of West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine campus, and which proposes a dual approach to building capacity for the public and private extension community, and empowers farmers by providing them with an array of technical expertise;
- The national COVID-19 response, particularly through their involvement in the delivery of vaccines through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (C OVAX) facility;
- The USAID Climate Resilience and Disaster Recovery Capacity Assessment for the Caribbean Region - Gaps and Opportunities Assessment Report 2022, which informs a targeted set of recommendations for regional investment that enhance climate change resilience within the region and align with USAID’s Mission and comparative advantages; and
- Hosting a Regional Health Fair in Mayaro, in collaboration with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the Eastern Regional Health Authority (ERHA).
It is noteworthy that these initiatives align with Trinidad and Tobago’s National Development Strategy 2016-2030 (Vision 2030) and the Roadmap to Recovery Reports (R2R).
The decision by USAID/ESC to establish a satellite office in Port of Spain is recognition of the leadership role that this country plays in collective regional action on common development issues and challenges. This was evident as recently as 2021 when our Prime Minister, Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, as Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) tirelessly and persistently sought to procure vaccines for the Caribbean region from various sources including the COVAX facility. USAID was a crucial partner in enabling these attempts attain fruition.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you are aware COVID-19 brought about several challenges, and opportunities worldwide. One of the opportunities the Government is addressing is the transformation of our economy in a manner that supports sustainability and diversification. One key element is the digitalization of the public service and its processes, as the starting point to the wider digital transformation of T&T. I am pleased to be able to inform you that USAID, like other development partners, is very interested in helping us make this transformation a reality, and we eagerly anticipate their support.
As I conclude, I wish to state that I look forward to the establishment of this satellite office facilitating more effective communication and engagement between USAID and island states of the Caribbean. I again thank Mr. Clinton White and his team and the Embassy of the USA for their continued engagement with the Ministry of Planning and Development as we progress through this Decade of Action towards achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda. We trust that we can continue as a Ministry, a nation and a region to rely on the collaboration and support of the USA, its government and its people in the years to come.