His Excellency Brigadier (Retired) David Granger, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica and Out-going Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government;
Other Heads of State and Government;
Other Heads of Delegation;
Representatives of the Media;
People of the Caribbean Community.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Twenty-Eighth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community.
A special welcome to His Excellency Jovenel Moise, President of Haiti who is attending his first meeting. Mr. President, your clear-cut victory in the first round of elections, was an indication of the confidence that your people have in your ability to lead them to a better life. I look forward to working closely with you and your administration towards Haiti’s further integration into CARICOM.
I also take this opportunity to thank the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica, for his leadership during his tenure as Chairman from July to December last. Prime Minister, your dedication to the task through the period, demonstrated your commitment to advancing our integration movement. I benefitted greatly from your guidance and advice. Thank you, Prime Minister.
Mr. Chairman, Heads of Government, there are without doubt several pressing issues which are competing for our urgent attention at this time. The agenda for this meeting addresses three broad areas - economic development, crime and security and international relations.
There is little doubt however, that the search for sustained economic growth and development is foremost among them. The majority of our Member States have been grappling with low growth, high debt and the consequent pressure on the fiscal position.
The efforts to combat these challenges have been hampered by such matters as de-risking and the continuing damaging effects of climatic events, among other things. Pursuing the course of action to emerge from that situation is therefore of paramount importance.
I contend, that dealing with those and other challenges, demands more than ever, that we work collectively and pool our resources.
The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas outlines the requirements for establishing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Our Community has identified the CSME as the best vehicle to promote our overall economic growth and development.
Considerable progress has been made in implementing the CSME. This can be seen in the legal and institutional measures and mechanisms to support the free movement of goods, services, skills, and cross-border establishment of businesses. However, there is still much to be done.
That work has been supported by the rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which is providing the legal certainty so necessary for the operations of the CSME. Such Community jurisprudence becomes even more important, as we deepen our economic and commercial relations.
With all that is before us, it is relevant and timely for this Meeting to consider a comprehensive review of the CSME, as agreed to last July. Ideally, a review of the CSME must not only be about what has been done, or not done, and what might have been the constraining factors; it should also be about the impact and how it has measured up to intent and expectations, and therefore how the shortcomings might be addressed.
Gauging the impact of integration is an integral part of the Reform Process underway in our Community. That Reform is driving the change in the way we do business and aims to make the Secretariat, the Regional Institutions and the Member States more accountable in the conduct of their roles as Implementing Partners in the integration process.
Key to that accountability is the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation and reporting system based on the principles of Results-Based Management (RBM).
With a US$500,000 grant from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), a consulting firm has been working with us in developing a Gender Sensitive CARICOM Results-Based Management System. That System includes performance scorecards, as we seek to ensure that we use an evidence-based approach that will focus on results, and allow us to track the progress of integration.
We will be able to judge through indicators just what we have achieved and what are the roadblocks deterring us. It will foster a results-oriented culture, aimed at increasing the pace of regional integration and its impact on the lives of the people of our Region.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Heads, the people of the Caribbean are looking to us to provide them with a safe Community and one which provides opportunity for social and economic progress. We have taken up that challenge but some of our best efforts are being hindered by delays in our system. Starkly put, we are not delivering results as fast as we should in a number of areas.
Our Crime and Security agenda is affected by this. Crime and Security is not just a national issue but a regional one. The critical regional legal instruments that are awaiting finalisation would assist in the battle at the national level. The time is past due for the outstanding matters to be concluded with a degree of urgency.
Winning the battle for a safe and secure society brings with it more opportunity for economic growth and development. It will also provide a boost for one of our major economic sectors, Tourism. This sector is one of the prime drivers of economic growth, attracting major investment, creating jobs and boosting the creative industries, among others. Proposals for sustainable tourism development in our Region are therefore welcome and will be considered at this Meeting.
An exciting prospect to enhance our socio-economic development, rooted in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), is being recommended for your approval. I refer to the Roadmap towards creating the Single ICT Space.
ICT is both an enabler of development and a sector in its own right. The establishment of a Single ICT Space will provide harmonised ICT policies, legislation, regulations, technical standards, with affordable networks and universal access. This would positively affect such issues as roaming rates, as well as address spectrum and broadband matters. This will not happen overnight as it will require human and financial resources and technical infrastructure but the end product will be of tremendous benefit to consumers and businesses alike.
Internationally, recent developments in our Hemisphere and in Europe have caused a certain amount of global uncertainty and could herald further shifts in the international balance of power.
Some of our traditional partners are at the centre of these developments. In evaluating the circumstances, we must consider such longstanding arrangements as the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the future of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).
It is imperative, therefore, that in this changing and unpredictable global environment, we consolidate our co-ordination of foreign policy and refine our strategies to safeguard and advance our interests.
Mr. Chairman, Heads of Government, the agenda before us allows ample scope to address those pressing issues to which I alluded earlier. The results of our discussions over the next two days would guide the Community further along its path to sustainable development for the ultimate benefit of the people of our Region.
I thank you.