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On March 26th 2020 Barbados reported that it had 24 coronavirus cases, up from the last official figure of 17. This precipitated the Barbados Parliament to convene on March 27th, 2020 to amend the Emergency Management Act, Cap 160A of the laws of Barbados. This Act gives the Government power to declare emergencies in certain circumstances and to establish a structure for their management.
As one would imagine the existing legislation focused on the potential emergencies known to Barbados such as hurricanes, floods and other meteorological hazards. The amendment to the Act therefore contemplates the declaration and management of public health emergencies in order to address the issues arising from this coronavirus.
Section 2 is amended to change the definition of “emergency” to include a public health emergency declared under section 28A(1) of the Act. Section 28A being a new section which was inserted as we shall discuss further below. New definitions are also inserted at section 2 to accommodate (i) communicable diseases (ii) notifiable diseases (iii) public health emergencies.
The newly inserted Section 28A gives the Governor-General the power to declare a public emergency for one month and no longer than six months as may be determined by the House of Assembly although it can be extended as warranted. When a proclamation of a public health emergency is in force, it becomes lawful for the Cabinet to make any orders whatsoever it considers desirable in the public interest.
When such a proclamation is made the Chief Medical Officer becomes responsible for emergency management as opposed to the Director of Emergency Management as is the case with respect to other emergencies.
Orders can also be made pursuant to the Emergency Powers Act, Cap. 161; section 6 and 7 of the Quarantine Act, Cap. 53; section 3 of the Miscellaneous Controls Act , Cap. 329; and regulation 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 of the Heath Services (Communicable and Notifiable Diseases) Regulations, 1969 (S.I. 1969 No. 179).
This amendment to the legislation was debated and passed in one day. While Barbados wishes to do all necessary to ensure that residents are protected from COVID-19 whenever freedoms are to be circumscribed it merits wide public debate. There was virtually none in this case
The Cabinet, the Executive arm of Government, chaired by the Prime Minister has the power to make any Orders it considers to be desirable in the public interest.
This takes the power away from the elected officials and puts in the hands of the Executive which is really one of the chief partisan political representations of the Government structure.
This is draconian in nature and is worthy of debate.
The Heads of Government of CARICOM met in Barbados during the period February 18-19, 2020. Among the critical issues for discussion was the continued blacklisting of many Caribbean countries by the European Union.
There was a call for the establishment of an appropriate regional body to deal with the issues which countries now faced.
One would recall that that in the early 2000s when this issue first arose the International Tax and Investment Organisation (ITIO) was established. It comprised mostly small states but also other states. The body however seemed unable to sustain itself after the OECD created the Global Forum and invited members to participate.
We await further information on this initiative.
BLACKLISTING, DE-RISKING AND WITHDRAWAL OF CORRESPONDENT BANKING
Heads of Government view the strategy of blacklisting and de-risking which lead to the withdrawal of correspondent banking services, as an existential threat to the economic security of CARICOM Member States.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet with members of the United States Congress Financial Services Committee to address the deleterious impact of de-risking on CARICOM Member States. That meeting resulted in a number of outcomes aimed at building the capacity of respondent banks in the Community and changing the risk perception of CARICOM States by US Government agencies.
Heads of Government commended the CARICOM Ambassadors in Washington DC, USA, for their sterling work in advancing the CARICOM Advocacy against De-Risking. Heads of Government deplored the ongoing unilateral, arbitrary and non-transparent blacklisting strategy employed by the EU and now by individual European States like France and the Netherlands.
They noted that while some Member States have been delisted, other Member States are still negotiating with the European Union (EU) to be de-listed or to avoid further blacklisting. They stressed that the defensive tax measures threatened by the European States could have serious financial repercussions on vulnerable CARICOM States and their ability to attract the investments needed to build resilient economies.
The measures have the potential of causing devastating economic, social and political consequences for our States as a result of the harm that will be inflicted on our global image, our economic competitiveness and resource mobilization efforts. Heads of Government agreed that the ongoing actions of the European Union constitute a blatant violation of their sovereignty.
They reiterated the call for the creation of an appropriate intergovernmental tax body with the adequate means and powers to set standards and rules which support an equitable and universal approach to an international tax governance infrastructure.
Heads of Government expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda on behalf of the Region with respect to correspondent banking.
There were several important issues on the agenda for the 31st meeting of the Heads of Government of CARICOM. You can review the entire communique here: