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Newly elected Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has suggested that CARICOM should rethink the use of the Petroleum Fund, diverting it to critical areas such as the health of the region’s children.
The Petroleum Fund was established by Trinidad and Tobago in 2004, to provide relief to CARICOM member states experiencing economic hardship as a result of persistently high international prices for crude oil, and petroleum products.
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar urged the leaders of the English-speaking Caribbean to use the Fund to set up a Children’s Life Fund, as she delivered her first address to the opening of the 31st regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, held at the Half Moon Hotel, in Montego Bay, St. James on Sunday (July 4).
“I’m sure the citizens of every one of our territories would welcome such an initiative, so that children in need of urgent medical attention can access it. Imagine what it means to a parent to be told that their child is going to die because the medical attention required cannot be accessed,” she implored.
Mrs. Persad-Bissessar also suggested that the funds could be used to promote women’s issues, address parenting challenges, or fund a sustained regional environmental initiative.
Turning to Trinidad and Tobago’s role in CARICOM, the country’s leader said while there will be changes in her country’s policy direction under the new administration, Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to CARICOM remains unchanged.
Meanwhile, Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Jamaica, Hon. Bruce Golding congratulated Mrs. Persad-Bissessar on her achievement of being the first female Prime Minister of her country. He expressed confidence that Trinidad and Tobago would continue to support its Caribbean neighbours, disclosing that he in fact was scheduled to have talks with her following the conference.
“I want to express my thanks to her because I invited her to remain behind after the conference for a short working visit because there are so many important things that we need to discuss, and I am pleased that she has agreed to do so, and she will be spending a day in Jamaica having discussions with myself and other officials of government,” he said.