Maurice Merchant , Director-General of Government Communications
On 26th February, 2019 the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, held bilateral talks with Her Excellency Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid, President of the Republic of Estonia on the margins of the 30th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) held in St. Kitts and Nevis.
In his opening remarks, PM Browne thanked the President of Estonia for the opportunity to engage the government of Antigua and Barbuda, and for the invitation extended to Minister Melford Nicholas regarding e-Government and IT solutions. Prime Minister Browne inquired about e-Government and software development for which Estonia is renowned throughout the world. He acknowledged that due to this level of expertise, Estonia was perfectly poised to assist Antigua and Barbuda in its efforts to build capacity in ICT and the e-Government platform.
Moreover, Prime Minister Browne called for additional scholarships to be extended to Antiguan and Barbudans, along with training for young persons, specifically in ICTs within the twin-island state as a means of encouraging entrepreneurship. Of significant note, the Prime Minister mentioned matters related to derisking and corresponding banking relations, a critical issue which impacts on the economic development of Antigua and Barbuda and the wider CARICOM. He called on President Kaljulaid to advocate on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean Community for the support of the European Union (EU) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in coming to a swift compromise on these issues.
In her response, President Kaljulaid thanked the Prime Minister for his welcoming remarks and stated that she hoped to build upon existing relations between both nations. The President raised the issue of cyber security and the need for the region and the wider globe to address this matter which could pose to be a significant threat to global security. She also called for the Caribbean to develop a regional digital ID which would result in capacity development.
In concluding remarks Prime Minister Browne suggested that Antigua and Barbuda should sign a cooperation agreement with Estonia, which was well received by President Kaljulaid. He also mentioned Antigua and Barbuda’s plans to utilize blockchain technology to further spur the growth of the economy and enhance services offered by the government. The Prime Minister further called for Estonia to establish an Embassy in Antigua and Barbuda which would lead to a greater presence of Estonia in the region.
The additional members of the delegation of Antigua and Barbuda consisted of the Honourable E.P. Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade, His Excellency Colin Murdoch, Senior Advisor, Office of the Prime Minister, His Excellency Dr. Clarence Henry, Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to CARICOM and Mr. Kurt Williams, Foreign Service Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade.