The ethos of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is grounded in collaboration. Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the sustainability of OECS economies, the OECS Commission charted a robust response mechanism to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the OECS, forging a new type of relationship - partnering with the region’s private sector in the fight against the pandemic.
Digicel and Massy (Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) were two of the Commission’s first partners in its Private Sector Partnership Against COVID-19 in March. Both companies donated USD 100, 000 each to the Commission’s health response. Digicel’s donation was used to procure about 60, 000 masks for nine Member States while Massy Stores’ contribution was used to acquire five ventilators: two for Saint Lucia, two for Dominica and one for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Chief Executive Officer for Digicel (Saint Lucia) Siobhan James-Alexander reaffirmed Digicel’s commitment to working to fortify the region’s resilience.
She said, “We realized that across the region we needed a collaboration and a collective response to the challenges we are facing with COVID - 19. Coming together with the OECS Commission was an ideal partnership. We decided to respond to the needs of frontline workers by equipping them with masks because it is a critical requirement at this time.”
Digicel also contributed USD 40, 000 to the education response which was allocated to closing the digital divide.
For his part, Managing Director of Massy Stores (Saint Lucia) Ltd Martin Dorville said as a leading retailer, Massy’s staff and customers are on the front lines which fuelled the company’s response to strengthening the health sector.
“From the onset of the crisis, we were mindful of the need to be ready to support the national effort, in particular the health sector, in the event of any major health issues and challenges. That is why, when approached by the OECS Commission we seized the opportunity to demonstrate purpose by agreeing to cover the cost of five ventilators for the region.”
Director General of the OECS Dr. Didacus Jules lamented that the COVID-19 pandemic has set the development of the region back by about thirty years. However, Dr. Jules is pleased at the resilience and conscience of the region’s private sector.
“In the Caribbean, there is no way that governments can give massive bailouts to the private sector. But it is interesting that our private sector in the OECS have responded to a call to assist despite the hit to them. That is where we ground our appreciation. Multinationals far bigger than them are asking for bailouts to the tune of trillions. Here they are suffering equally from COVID-19, but assisting the region in every way possible.”
Usually the private sector is excluded from development conversation, leaving development partners and the public sector to engage. The OECS Commission developed a private sector partnership plan as part of a deliberate strategy to advance the Sustainable Development Goals by factoring in the unique contributions of this sector. The OECS Commission’s Sustainable Development Movement (SDM) in September is timely, relevant and brings all change agents to the table. A pandemic is a sustainable development issue and exacerbates the ongoing economic crisis in the Eastern Caribbean. Learn more on the SDM at www.oecssdm.com.