Proposed MOU between regional body and Facebook could see quick removal of misinformation

by Linda Straker

  • Virtual meeting of OECS Authority and Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union was held on 15 March 2020
  • Arrangement with Facebook to remove fake news about Covid-19 was discussed
  • ECCB to invite commercial banks to consider moratorium on interest rates, fees and charges

The removal of fake news about Covid-19 on the social media platform of Facebook is one of the objectives of a proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the OECS Commission, Ministries of Health in the OECS, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and Facebook.

The MOU is yet to be made public but according to the communiqué issued after the Special Meeting of the OECS Authority and the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) which was held virtually on 15 March 2020, the arrangement with Facebook was discussed.

“The authority noted with satisfaction the MOU between the Commission and Facebook and received a report on the proposed collaboration between the Commission, Ministries of Health, CARPHA and Facebook that will result in massive exposure of official releases, the removal of fake news and unscientific prescriptions, and help to replace fear with knowledge,” said the communiqué under the sub-heading Psychological Impact.

The meeting was called by Chairman of the Monetary Council and Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr the Rt Hon. Keith Mitchell, to discuss the Covid-19 situation and its impact on the OECS. In attendance were Heads of all OECS Governments, officials from the OECS Commission as well as Dr Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS; Timothy Antoine, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB); Dwight Lay, OECS General Counsel and the various OECS Commissioners.

“The meeting agreed on the absolute importance of having a documented OECS strategy for the dissemination of information. Heads mandated that the OECS Commission work with the Ministers of Health, their CMOs and CARPHA/PAHO on this matter,” said the communiqué which was disseminated on 17 March 2020.

In the area of Macro-Economic Impact, the OECS Heads of Government received projection reports on major economic sectors, such as tourism, trade and agriculture and the authority also considered 3 containment scenarios as presented by the ECCB governor.

“Under the best-case scenario (containment by the end of June 2020), real GDP growth for the ECCU for 2020 will slow to 2.1% – down from an initial estimate of 3.3%,” said the communiqué which explained that under a moderate case scenario (containment by end of summer), ECCU real GDP growth is projected to decelerate to 1.5%.

“In the worst-case scenario (global recession), a contraction of 1.9% is projected. In respect to tourism, a decline of 20% is currently projected but this could be worse with an unprecedented shutdown.” The communiqué pointed out that the Heads expressed concern that funds in circulation may be gravely affected by the projected economic situation. Against that background, the leaders directed the ECCB to invite the commercial banks to consider a moratorium on interest rates; relax regulations by financial institutions, and consider the reduction or elimination of certain fees and charges.

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