Amidst controversy swirling around Trinidad and Tobago’s refusal to agree to a waiver on hurricane-hit Dominica’s fees to the Organisations of American States, Barbados Government Minister, Donville Inniss, said CARICOM members should pay their dues.
Inniss, the commerce and business minister called no names when he said, “I have been a Cabinet minister for 10 years and I have attended many CARICOM meetings and have been involved in some of the most robust debates with other territories only to find out later that the ones keeping the most noise have not paid their dues.”
Inniss’ midweek statement at the opening ceremony of the 32nd Meeting of the Council of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality in Barbados, comes in the middle of Trinidad government’s efforts to find out why its Ambassador to the OAS, Anthony Phillips-Spencer protested Dominica’s request for a waiver of fees to that body, pleading hardship stemming from Hurricane Maria devastation last year.
Trinidad continues to roll in embarrassment from Phillips-Spencer’s response to the Dominica request last week, though the other OAS nations had agreed to the waiver.
The Trinidadian envoy said that instead Dominica should get, “the option for the deferral payments of contributions, and where possible the implementation of a payment plan subject to annual review.”
The resulting furore across the Caribbean at Trinidad’s rebuff of a sister CARICOM island in need, has seen the Keith Rowley government appoint retired diplomat, Christopher Thomas, to find out how this was allowed to happen.
Dominica’s fee waiver request, while the island rebuilds, amounted to a figure between US$15,000 to US$20,000.
There is uncertainty on whether it was a case of poor timing by the Barbados government minister, or his remarks were directed to other cases similar to the OAS issue.
Inniss told the CARICOM meeting in Barbados, “we are making too many excuses because we can find the money to pay dues to extra-regional bodies and to go to meetings — half of which sometimes are not necessary — but yet we find all reasons why we can’t pay $5,000 to regional organizations. That must come to can end.”
The outspoken senior Barbados government member added, “I have also travelled extensively outside to meetings and I have to be frank. Sometimes you see cabinet ministers and public officers from delinquent islands, sometimes the fees that they owe is sometimes as low as US$5,000 per year, but yet they fill the front of the aircraft with officers at a rate of almost US$7,000 per seat, then you add to that accommodation cost and per diems and I say to myself that we got wrong priorities.”