Bloomberg — Vice President Kamala Harris will commit $100 million to address security and climate change in the Caribbean during a visit on Thursday, the latest effort to shore up relations in a region where China is making increasing inroads and leaders have felt neglected by the US.
Harris is heading to the Bahamas on Thursday to take part in the US-Caribbean Leaders Meeting in Nassau, co-hosted by Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis, who is also the chair of the Caribbean Community, also known as Caricom.
The one-day event, while brief, carries historic significance for Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant. It will be her first trip to the region since taking office and marks the highest-ranking visit to the island by an American official since the Bahamas gained independence from the UK in 1973.
Harris and Caribbean leaders met in April and June 2022, establishing working groups and an initiative to bolster climate-change resiliency and accelerate the region’s transition to green energy — an effort the White House is committing about $22 million to during the Harris trip.
The meeting will largely focus on those efforts, the result of heightened concerns about climate change in a region already prone to natural disasters.
Assistance will include $15 million from the US Agency for International Development to assist with disaster response and preparedness and $5 million from a Defense Department initiative to address climate and national security challenges.
On Friday, senior US administration officials will join a summit, hosted by the Atlantic Council, to connect the private sector with Caribbean governments seeking clean-energy investments. Carnival Corp., Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd., and UGT Renewables are among the companies expected to participate, along with Coca-Cola Co.’s Caribbean System, a sponsor of the event.
Zhivargo Laing, a former Bahamas finance minister and now executive director of the Government and Public Policy Institute at University of the Bahamas, said Caribbean officials are seeking financial help from developed countries who have been major contributors to global warming to cope with climate shocks.
“They’re wanting to seek a stronger partnership with the US and trying to get this relief that is required,” he said.
The intention of the vice president’s trip is to fulfill a promise she made in 2022: to convene with regional leaders every year, a response to nations calling for more sustained engagement.
Countries in the region have been turning to China for capital, particularly for infrastructure projects through loans US officials have described as exploitative. Caribbean nations, along with other developing economies, have sought US assistance to remove barriers to accessing financing.
World Bank President Ajay Banga is expected to appear virtually on Thursday.
Hanging over the Bahamas gathering is the instability in Haiti, where the 2021 assassination of Prime Minister Jovenel Moise sparked widespread violence.
Harris will announce $53.7 million for Haiti through USAID to address food insecurity, provide care for survivors of gender-based violence and improve access to safe drinking water and health care.
“The situation in Haiti is absolutely fundamental to address,” said Jason Marczak, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.
As a leader of Caribbean-descent, there are high expectations for Harris’s visit. The trip is likely to draw parallels with her trip to Africa earlier this year. That weeklong tour carried geopolitical goals but was also loaded with political and cultural importance for Harris and Black voters in the US before her reelection bid alongside President Joe Biden.
“Her ethnic connection to the region might bring for a greater receptiveness to the issues of the region, and perhaps more advocacy,” Laing said.
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