MOST HON P.J. PATTERSON, ON, PC, QC, MP
PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA
TO STUDENTS OF THE SIR ARTHUR LEWIS
2 JULY 2004
I am always energized when my official duties include an opportunity to interface with young people. I have no doubt that many of you, who have the privilege of an education at this distinguished institution, will become leaders of the Caribbean Region and make your own unique contribution to its political, economic and social advancement.
There is a popular saying that “greatness is measured by the quality of one’s legacy to posterity”. Sir Arthur Lewis, after whom this prestigious college is named, and whose remains are guarded on this very site, has certainly bequeathed to us all not only to his native St. Lucia a rich and valuable legacy. This legacy is not confined only to the field of Development Economics and related disciplines. Your brilliant Nobel Laureate serves as a role model “par excellence” for the youth of this Region because of his recognition of the inestimable value of the Caribbean spirit and the richness of its creative imagination.
It is important for you to remember that Sir Arthur achieved greatness, in a less than ideal environment. The opportunities you enjoy today were not available in his time. It was through his own ambition, his own initiative and his determination to succeed created a path for himself. He pursued his goals, with persistence, commitment and vigour.
He was convinced that education was a vital component of the strategy towards Caribbean development. His award of the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his outstanding service and accomplishment in the field of Economics, coupled with his sterling contribution to the advancement of tertiary education and Caribbean integration, has continues to inspire us in the Region, in the Diaspora and the rest of the developing world. He opened up to our possibilities -
These achievements have brought to the fore, the important investment we have made in establishing a strong regional infrastructure in education and clearly demonstrate the far-reaching impact this can have on our labour force and human resource capabilities.
This College is, of course, one of the beneficiaries of this investment, offering a wide range of educational products so that you can equip yourselves with the knowledge and skills necessary to leave your own stamp on Caribbean development.
I hope that am not the only one who will be doing the talking today. I know that Caribbean youths have much to offer, including an ability to reason, and that you have an important contribution to make, as we seek solutions to the challenges our Region faces. I am also aware that many of our older students, with their vast experience, are well placed to put forward their own valuable views on some of the issues I will raise today. I, therefore, look forward to an interesting and stimulating exchange.
Allow me to take a few minutes to share my own perspective on the important role you should play in the regional development process.
The Value of our Human Resources
I have often said, in the forums I address in the Region and around the world, that our people are the Region’s most valuable resource and that you, our young citizens, have a crucial role to play in our capacity to fulfill the dream of a vibrant Caribbean Community which will improve the quality of life for all.
The fundamental changes in the global economy demand greater emphasis on the development of human capital to ensure that the Caribbean produces persons equipped to respond effectively to the challenges of a knowledge-based economy and the ever-increasing technological advances.
These changes have created conditions in which economic well-being has become increasingly dependent on the availability of a well educated and highly skilled labour force, capable of meeting new demands in the work place. For this to happen, we need an enabling learning environment at all levels of the education system. In creating a viable knowledge-based environment, the aim is to establish the most appropriate mechanisms that would ensure:
It is for this reason that Heads of Government at their 18th Meeting in 1997 emphasised the importance of the linkage of human capital to economic development. We recognized that international and regional imperatives demanded a re-thinking of the way in which human resource development is conceptualised, developed and implemented.
It is also within this context that the Community has embarked on an aggressive youth programme, aimed at stimulating action, particularly at the national level. We seek to ensure continuous dialogue and engagement resulting in greater participation of our young people in the decision-making process of the Region.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the Human and Social Development framework, which we are currently building in CARICOM, through our activities in the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD), seeks to develop an inter-sectoral agenda. This agenda addresses issues in an integrated manner across the various social sectors, including education, health, culture, labour, youth, sport, gender, and crime. The integrating theme: Investing in Human Resources with Equity, promoted at COHSOD IV and V, remains a valid objective for us to work towards, notwithstanding the challenge of implementation.
This innovative approach facilitates the necessary linkages between the policy-making aspect and the community stakeholders to better take advantage of the many opportunities presented for appropriate training and upgrade of our human resources. It also creates an environment that allows us to better manage our human resources. It puts us in a position to more appropriately deal with problems and to match skills with economic and social needs.
The Role of the CSME
I am sure that you have all been hearing a great deal about the soon to be implemented CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), which will have an important role to play in the framework I have just described. The CSME not only provides for the removal of barriers to trade in goods, but will facilitate free movement of regional services, goods, capital and people. This will allow the peoples of our Region to maximise their talents and resources, leading to greater efficiency and increased gains in economic growth as well as international competitiveness.
Ease of travel throughout the Region will bring tangible benefits:
Access to human resources is, therefore, a fundamental pillar of the CSME and, as you can imagine, will create new and rewarding options for young entrants to the world of work. It will also as open up new opportunities for employment and for re-training for our more seasoned professionals to acquire new skills. In this way, we create the type of economic and cultural linkages which hitherto have not been possible.
Notwithstanding the myriad of opportunities for social and economic advancement, it would be naïve to think that they are devoid of challenges and responsibilities. Crime and violence, a contracting labour market, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, poverty and the brain drain from the Region, are but a few of the negatives with which we have to contend.
Finding the right responses to these challenges is crucial, requiring an effective institutional framework, the building of partnerships and innovative and creative ideas. However, what is most important is knowing that you have the capacity to bridge that gap between what I like to refer to as “aspiration and fulfillment: the potential for betterment and the reality of betterment”. The widening or narrowing of that gap will depend on how prepared and equipped you are to confront the frontiers of change.
Against this background it is critical that, as you pursue your respective disciplines here on this campus and the efforts at the national level to create an environment that is conducive to your meaningful participation, you take the time to consider seriously the ways in which you can contribute to the decision-making process of the regional integration movement and the development of this Region.
Contact in the region exists to a great extent mainly at the official and the business levels. People to people contact must be encouraged. West Indies cricket, which engages the entire population of the region is an example of the spirit of unity that can exist among our people. CARIFTA, our cultural festival is another example of regional contact at the people level. We also participate in regional sports competitions among you youths in a variety of sports but we need to do much more.
The CARIFTA Games also contributes but we need to do much more to strengthen regional interaction. Our proposed youth exchange programme is yet to be fully developed.
This may be an initiative which you at this institution might wish to take up and promote. As we see you as the creative thinkers of today.
You, our students, need to know that we see you as the creative thinkers of today, for whom we as leaders have a responsibility to ensure a bright tomorrow. With your wealth of ideas, spontaneity, enthusiasm, and willingness to take risks, you are a valuable asset to nation-building, a symbol of hope, as we increase efforts to fashion a CARICOM community that encourages your involvement and promote your ideas.
However, there are certain imperatives that should guide your involvement. I maintain that every generation must be driven by some over-riding ambition or have a vision of what it would like to accomplish for self, for country or the Region. There needs to be serious consideration of how these aspirations or ideals will be realized.
This self-searching evokes many questions:
These are all issues to be contemplated, if we imagine a sustainable future. Continuous engagement at all levels is vital as you advocate for a greater say in nation-building, empowered to take over the reins of leadership when the time comes.
Sir Arthur Lewis was able to not only have a vision, but to realize it.
You too can have a vision. You too can fulfill your dream of Caribbean unity, development and prosperity!
I did say that our encounter today would be in the form of a dialogue. Once again, I am honoured to have had the opportunity to address you.
I am now ready to begin our discussions and welcome your questions or comments.
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