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Address by the Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and Chairman of CARICOM

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS AND NEVIS – The Government and the people of St. Kitts and Nevis are honored to welcome our sister countries of CARICOM to participate in this annual summit.

This meeting comes at an auspicious moment when the already instituted CARICOM Single Market is celebrating at the same time as the 25th Anniversary of the Treaty of Basseterre, which created the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); as you know a sub-region of CARICOM among countries that enjoy common services.

While six OECS countries have not yet signed on to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), our commitment to its principles and the deepening of the integration process within CARICOM remains most unshakable.

Fellow Heads of Government, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, those of us who occupy the political stage today as leaders, from time to time unwittingly tend to forget that regional integration within this Region has a long and checkered history.

We remind ourselves of the Montego Bay Conference of 1947 through the short lived Federation of the early 1960’s, the formation of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) and its evolution into CARICOM, all revealed a continuing and strong tendency on the part of the people of the Region to be integrated into one economically viable entity.

The case for unification and harmonization of polices and practices in our Region have been ably put by the progenitors of regional unity for over 50 years. There have been many setbacks in the realization of this objective, but still the dream of regional unification never waned nor died.

There is a belief today in some quarters in our Region, that globalization constitutes the sole rationale for economic integration in the Caribbean. But as I indicated earlier, this is belied by the regional integration movement, which existed long before the concept of globalization, as we know it in contemporary terms, came into every day usage.

Our Region is well known for its human and natural diversity, and therefore, melding the disparate groups that inhabit our Region is no easy task. Regional integration has always represented the wisdom of a small group of microstates, pooling their respective resources, rather that being engaged in destructive internecine conflict.

None of us is naïve enough to believe that the creation of a Single Market and Economy by itself will enable us to compete on equal terms with mega states including the emerging national giants. What integration will do is enable us to pool our own resources, to find joint solutions for our problems and to exercise greater control over our lives and our destiny.

All of the imperatives of decolonization as a basis for achieving Caribbean unity are as valid today as during an earlier period. Relationships with CARICOM even with maximum accession to the CSME treaty will not for one single moment alter the fact that competition between CARICOM and most of the rest of the world will be asymmetrical.

But unification, however, will create a better sense of our self. It will help us to purge our society of the psychological problem of colonial subordination and it will help us command greater respect from other national entities.

The establishment of CSME therefore, is not a unique modern phenomenon but a descendent of the predecessor organization, which our political forebears had already created.

No economic or social grouping can be morally justified unless it brings about qualitative improvements in the lives of the ordinary people. Therefore, it behooves us to create a compassionate orientation as the hallmark of any grouping. A commitment to dignity and a commitment to equality for all must be our cherished goal.

To achieve this end, it must be recognized that there are disparities among the various Member States of CARICOM. Development in the OECS in many respects, does not match that of some of the bigger countries. We must make a commitment to ensure that no part of the CSME has any room for countries having a Cinderella status.

The Government of St Kitts and Nevis subscribes to a rational deployment of the economic resources of our Member States acting collectively. Rationality however, includes the notion that no part of the CARICOM family should cause under-development in another part. The Government of St Kitts and Nevis subscribes to the principle of freedom of movement of our nationals within CARICOM, but we also believe strongly that our regional economic planning and programs should be of the nature that does not force our nationals to leave their own homeland for another part of CARICOM if their preference is to make a living where they were born. In short, even-development for all Caribbean entities must be one of the goal to which we all must aspire.

The Government of St Kitts and Nevis subscribes therefore to the establishment of the regional Development Fund. While we are disappointed that the regional Development Fund could not be operationalised at the launch of the CARICOM Single Market, we are now satisfied that sufficient progress has been made to give us the assurance that this Fund will become an integral and critical part of the CSME.

From our perspective, optimal use of the Fund requires careful targeting of its resources to achieve balanced development in every Member State of the Community. It is therefore essential that the arrangements put in place for the governance of the Fund take full cognizance of this important objective, and that these arrangements be sufficiently flexible and also sufficiently nimble to effectively deal with unanticipated imbalances and symmetries that will arise from time to time as the provision of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas are in fact implemented.

But the regional Development Fund will not solve every problem that OECS countries will encounter as Members of the CSME. Any union involving a country such as St Kitts and Nevis with a population of under 50,000 people, and other countries with populations that are more than twenty times that of St Kitts and Nevis, is bound to be somewhat lopsided; and it is highly unlikely that the regional Development Fund will generate enough resources to smooth out all of the bumps and unevenness that will emanate from this huge imbalance. In such circumstances, it becomes critical that small countries of the Region such as St Kitts and Nevis enter into a sub-union that is even more integrated and tightly knit than the Single Economy of the wider Caribbean region.

Such a sub-union would allow such countries to jointly assert their rights and also protect their interest in the CSME; to participate in the CSME in an even more meaningful and viable way by pooling their production and marketing capabilities; it will also assist to enhance their administrative capacity by centralizing various administrative functions, some of which could not be effectively carried out in a cost-effective manner at the national level. Indeed, the strengthening and pooling of administrative resources in the sub-union would enhance the capacity of the smaller countries to discharge their treaty obligations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the context in which the OECS has embarked upon a program for the creation of an OECS Economic Union by July of 2007. Already, our countries are reaping great benefits from pooling our administrative resources in relation to judicial matters, central banking and financial sector supervision, pharmaceutical procurement, civil aviation, foreign representation, and telecommunications regulation.

As we increase our participation in the CSME and take up the challenge of globalization, the inefficiencies in our relatively small and disparate administrative structures will become even more glaring, and more and more areas for cooperation and centralization will be identified in the countries of the OECS. It is already quite evident that the economies of scale can be achieved in areas such as Crime and Security, Customs Administration, the regulation of Public Utilities, Legal Drafting, Trade Negotiations and Investment Promotion.

The OECS Economic Union would establish a framework for greater cooperation in all of these areas, and would thereby enable our countries to carry out the functions of Government even more effectively without jeopardizing the fiscal stability of the countries of the Caribbean region.

But it is not our intention that the integration of the OECS run counter to the integration movement in the wider Caribbean. Indeed, as we accelerate and deepen the integration process in the OECS, it is our aim that the OECS Union would be seamlessly integrated into the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. In other words, it is our intention that the OECS Economic Union Treaty would give due recognition to the provisions of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, and that in creating the Economic Union we would be able to build on the legal framework already established in respect of the Single Market and Economy.

However, for us to achieve this objective, it is also quite necessary for the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to accommodate the need for OECS countries to establish special relationships with each other, and to give due recognition to the OECS Economic Union as an entity that will contribute immeasurably to the attainment of the goals of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.

It is in this context that the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines renewed the mandate of the distinguished Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who secured a second term to continue in his own pioneering efforts of the OECS Economic Union. It is also in this context that the people of Montserrat repose their confidence in their new Chief Minister, Hon Dr. Lowell Lewis to secure for Montserrat the necessary legal instruments that would allow her to be fully integrated as a member of the CSME.

Fellow Heads of Government, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the Caribbean Community must also be responsive to the needs of other countries that have peculiar difficulties. During the past year CARICOM has grappled with the thorny issue of Haiti, one of our Member States. We in the Region have always had a profound respect for the people of Haiti. In particular, we have learnt much from the rich cultural heritage of our sister country. It is a heritage that makes the people of Haiti unique in post slavery societies in the Western Hemisphere.

Haiti was the only country in the Caribbean where the slaves effectively defeated the imperialist power that had enslaved the African population as well as those European countries that subsequently tried to re-establish slavery.

All our records will show that the great General Henri Christophe lived in St Kitts, if not born in St Kitts, in the early days of his life. We recognize that the uniqueness of Haiti in this respect has resulted in unceasing attempts to discredit every government of that country from the days of Toussaint L’Ouverture.

In recent times, CARICOM made its position unequivocal to the whole world that we would not treat with regimes other than those which reflect the wishes of the people of Haiti. In particular, we stoutly rejected the manner in which a former elected President was removed from office.

Consistent with that, CARICOM, in spite of some dissent, held fast to the position that no representatives of Haiti would sit in this august body unless the people of Haiti legitimized such a representation today. His Excellency President Rene Preval has satisfied this condition by winning a free and fair election in Haiti. I take this opportunity to extend my heartiest congratulations to His Excellency President Preval and warmly welcome him and Haiti back to our CARICOM deliberations. I must add that for myself, I missed the quiet and very cool dignified contributions which Haiti has made to our deliberations over the years. I look forward to a continuation of this constructive contribution from President Preval who was once here with us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this brings me to the issue of the necessity to harmonies our foreign policies. I am encouraged by the progress that is being made in this direction. The unanimous support that this organization has given to our sister state Trinidad and Tobago, to be the centre and headquarters of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), when the relevant treaty comes into being, is an indication of this Region’s commitment to the harmonization of its foreign policy. We have seen that commitment to support Trinidad and Tobago enhance the prestige of CARICOM countries, and despite Trinidad’s relative small size compared with many of the other countries that would participate in the FTAA, our sister country remains a formidable contender to achieve this goal. It is clear then that it is not only in World Cup Football that Trinidad and Tobago makes us proud, as a people of the Region.

However, Ladies and Gentlemen, as we enhance our role in international institutions, we must at the same time strive to build and strengthen our own institutions, and to establish mechanisms for CARICOM’s problems to be solved by CARICOM. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has been established to assist in this regard, and all of our member countries are committed to a solution of problems and disputes within the CSME Treaty, by using the Court’s original jurisdiction.

I am aware that the majority of our member countries have not signed on to a commitment for the Court to be our first Appellate Court for this organization. We understand that history, uncertainty, the size of our communities and other factors have produced hesitation for the CCJ to be used as our Court of last resort. These fears and reservations, they are expressed in my own country, the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis. We, however look forward to the day when all of these reservations would be dissipated and the Region can have an indigenous entity as its court of last resort. My government of St Kitts and Nevis is moving towards such an objective.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the object of all governmental activity within this Region should be the improving of the conditions of our citizens.

We recognize that a necessary pre-condition for achieving that is to make our citizens maximally productive. An informed and productive citizen must be healthy, and one of the greatest challenges to a healthy population has been the scourge of the AIDS pandemic.

As the CARICOM Prime Minister with the responsibility for health matters, I am alarmed at the continuing threat of HIV/AIDS. The CARICOM region remains a place with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. I am therefore quite pleased that after extensive consultations in the countries throughout the Region, we have developed a Caribbean Regional Roadmap which establishes clear targets. It lists a range of planned activities, and it assigns important roles to the key actors in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is our aim to dramatically step up the activities aimed at the prevention of HIV/AIDS, and to ensure that the Caribbean achieves Universal Access to information and for prevention, treatment, care and support for the people living with HIV/AIDS by 2010.

And so, Heads of Government, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is clear that the agenda for regional development is quite extensive despite the excellent leadership provided by our outgoing Chairman, Hon Patrick Manning, the distinguished Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. I have only mentioned a few of the relevant issues, but our deliberations over the next few days will go well beyond these issues, and will touch on virtually every problem or concern that impacts in a significant way on the life of Caribbean people. I look forward, therefore, to the new insights that the Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller, Prime Minister of Jamaica will bring to this august forum. I welcome you to St Kitts and Nevis, and I invite you to join your colleagues from around the Region in our untiring quest to bring a better quality of life to every Caribbean man, every Caribbean woman, and every Caribbean child.

Heads of Government, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.

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