Author: Joy-Ann Gill/BGIS
With the implementation of the Brokopondo Programme between Barbados and Suriname having been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both countries are working to get it back on stream.
This was alluded to by the countries’ Foreign Affairs Ministers, as they addressed the Barbados-Suriname Dialogue: Renewing Mutual Interest and Strengthening Bilateral Relations, today, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC), Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.
Barbados’ Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Dr. The Most Honourable Jerome Walcott, recalling the origins of the initiative, said before the pandemic, the programme had the potential to change, in a very profound and fundamental way, the relationship between Barbados and Suriname.
Pleased with the gathering at the LESC, he said the meeting would serve to bolster the relations and advance discussions on issues of mutual interest in many areas of endeavour as we move into a post-Brokopondo situation.
“It will provide not only for discussion but allow for follow-up on matters which may have been agreed upon before this meeting. Going forward, planned and focused follow-ups will be critical if the areas of collaboration and cooperation identified in the discussions today are to have a lasting positive impact on Barbados-Suriname relations, and on developments within our two countries,” said the Minister.
While also noting the dialogue was taking place at a most challenging time, he said it was appropriate therefore that cooperation, in the context of building resilience in a post-pandemic economic recovery, should form the foundation of its deliberations.
He also stressed this against the backdrop of the protracted and multi-dimensional effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, noting this must compel the two to have a constructive dialogue to find creative ways to better collaborate with the private sector and international partners “in order to find durable solutions to the challenges we face as small states”.
Adding that the relationship had paid special attention to collaboration in priority areas of agriculture, trade and investment, tourism, renewable energy, natural resources and education, and had looked at ways to facilitate and enhance connectivity between the two countries, Dr. Walcott urged that the opportunity be taken to bring into “sharp focus the urgency of food and nutritional security to us in this region”.
He further recalled that Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, in her closing remarks of the recently-delivered Budget Proposals and Financial Statement, had emphasised that food and nutritional security was a priority for the medium-term transformation of Barbados.
“We simply must eat for health and wellness, and fresh and wholesome food is the daily medicine that is needed to tackle the high incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases which afflict the entire region.
“The Prime Minister’s vision for cooperation in the sector speaks volumes to an understanding of the multidimensional role that Suriname can play as one of our region’s food baskets,” said Barbados’ Foreign Affairs Minister.
Meanwhile, his Suriname counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation, Albert Ramdin, echoing similar sentiments, agreed they both had a new opportunity and gave the assurance that Suriname would ensure the execution of the Brokopondo Programme, signed in 2018.
He noted Suriname’s relationship with the region and Barbados could only be “the just foundation for working together”, and the shared history bode well for them.
Adding that Barbados also shared similar values on international cooperation, he stressed: “Both countries are based on the values of democracy; have democratic institutions; respect for human rights and political rights; a strong independent judiciary and good governance, and I think that is the foundation on which countries can speak to each other.”