CHALLENGE, COURAGE AND COMMITMENT
ADDRESS BY THE
HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER OF ST. LUCIA
DR. KENNY D. ANTHONY
40TH MEETING OF THE OECS AUTHORITY
ROADTOWN - TORTOLA - BVI
NOVEMBER 10, 2004
CHALLENGE AND COMMITMENT
Excellency the Governor of the British Virgin Islands, Honourable Prime
Ministers, Chief Ministers and Members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean
States, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Members of the
Diplomatic Corp, Distinguished Delegates, Staff of the Organisation of Eastern
Caribbean States, Members of the Media, it is indeed a pleasure to welcome you
to the Fortieth Meeting of the OECS Authority, in the beautiful British Virgin
Before proceeding further, allow me, on behalf of my colleague Heads to extend
our deepest appreciation to the Chief Minister, Dr. the Hon Orlando Smith and
his administration and the people of the BVI, for the warmth with which they
have received us, and the exceptional arrangements which have been put in place
both to facilitate our meeting, and to cater to our comfort. Our sincerest thank
Permit me the opportunity to extend a personal welcome to Mr. Paul Thibault, the
President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and his
delegation, and to thank him for accepting the invitation which I had extended
to him some time ago, to visit the OECS. We expect to sign documents pertaining
to a CIDA/OECS Contribution Framework Assistance Programme tomorrow, during the
morning session of the Authority’s Meeting. The Contribution Agreement speaks to
a project valued at Cdn$3.75m – geared principally at the strengthening of the
capacity of the OECS Secretariat to provide strategic policy support to our
The challenges of these times require a strong secretariat, and we welcome the
covenant of this important institution. We also look forward with interest, to
the exchange of views scheduled to take place between Mr. Thibault, my colleague
Heads and I, tomorrow during the session which I referred to earlier.
Introduction: In Chaos and Crisis
Colleagues, to say that the OECS is at the crossroads is probably an
understatement. To say that we are doing little about it is probably not. Recent
developments in our region offer sad testament of our chronic vulnerability and
the inadequacy of our response capacity.
This meeting takes place against a background of the recent devastation in
Grenada. Our sympathies lie with our sister island, her government and her
people. Of this there can be no doubt. Our sympathies however genuine, are not
enough. What Grenada needs now is our tangible support in meaningful and
material ways. I have been assured by my colleague Prime Ministers and Chief
Ministers that this has been forthcoming but it must be sustained. It will be a
long hard recovery process; one that must be made more tolerable by our
None of us would wish to be in the shoes of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, in
the circumstances which he faces. Keith Mitchell has to face on a daily basis
the consequences of Ivan’s wrath, the destruction of what he created and
produced over several years. But he is a tenacious man, a courageous man, a man
of faith and hope, a man who has been tried and tested. I can only say to him
that we all share his anguish, his unfathomable pain but believe that the
resilience of the Grenadian people will triumph. Grenada will rise again!!!
Leadership and Responsibility
I say this in order to highlight our considerable concern and collective
effort as an organisation, and indeed as a region in this time of hardship. We
readily acknowledge the leadership of the OECS in the multi-agency assessment
mission to Grenada within days of the tragic events of September 7, 2004.
But while acknowledging our speedy response, we should not be so
self-congratulatory as to miss this opportunity to assess ourselves by measuring
the true capacity of our systems to deal effectively with pervasive and
persistent challenges to our sustainability.
There, But for the Grace of God
Considering the force and sheer size of Hurricane Ivan, Grenada’s plight
might easily have been shared by any of its neighbours. This begs the question:
what if two or even three of the OECS economies had been simultaneously ravaged.
What would we muster by way of recovery? What would be left of this fledgling
economic union of supposedly sovereign states? What would be our economic
options, and how then would we persevere with the ideals of integration? These
issues of challenge and commitment will be the central theme of this address.
Regrettably, the last seven years, have been replete with rhetoric, both
public and private, hailing the value of our organisation and its role in
achieving our integration objectives. We can readily refer to the recent review
committees which reaffirmed the ideals of integration and the value of the OECS
organisation in the furtherance of our economic development. Yet, the
commensurate commitment in terms of resources has not followed. The result is a
much-applauded but hopelessly under-financed organisation.
We may also recall that some 4 years ago, firm commitments were given by member
governments to stay current; at that time contribution arrears had peaked at
EC$10 million and massive write-offs were effected. Even as we spoke of
unflagging commitment, our inaction returned our organisation to the same sorry
state. We face today, an equally high arrears position as four years ago. Taking
both the write-offs and the arrears into consideration, this would represent
some EC$20 million in unrealised revenue to our organisation. How then can we
speak credibly of commitment? What message are we sending to our donors and
sympathetic multilateral agencies?
Colleagues, the time has come to resolve this issue once and for all. Let us
tell our regional constituency that we must introduce, collectively, a revenue
measure to meet our obligations to our regional organisations. Let us, as
always, be the example for the rest of the region.
Perhaps we should more fully consider the anticipated dividends to be
realized from integration and cooperation. If it is our expressed view that we
must sustain and deepen the integration process we should also contemplate the
benefits we risk foregoing by our failure to do so.
Despite our agreed charter and our target of 6% growth, the objective reality in
our region is characterised by chronic low levels of real growth. This scenario
is, at least in part, perpetuated by our inability to generate adequate levels
of economic activity to produce such growth. This is, of course, directly
related to the inadequacies of national economic systems functioning as
In many instances, we have nearly exhausted our respective local capacities to
generate adequate growth in the face of the overwhelming externalities which
confront and constrain us: Globalisation, Trade Liberalisation and the resultant
diminishing economic spaces. Against this backdrop, we must acknowledge
diminishing returns from expensive, often archaic public sectors, declines in
traditional exports, creeping poverty, and shrinking recurrent revenues
associated with lower tariffs and dismantled protectionism.
These conspire to constrain public investment, reduce employment and further
entrench low levels of growth. The immediate implications of low growth are
social and economic dislocation with eventual political instability. The
implications of political instability are only too obvious to dwell upon here.
While we readily accept that our future progress is directly linked to our
ability to cement the integrative momentum, particularly with respect to the
external agenda of common interests in trade, we seem unable to translate this
realisation into tangible action. While we are aware of our admirable progress
in such areas as telecommunication sector liberalisation, air space management
and pharmaceutical procurement, we seem unwilling to equip our organisation with
the means to replicate these successes in other areas of endeavour.
In these particular examples, we have created new economic space and realized
considerable savings and other benefits. However, commensurate benefits have not
accrued to the organisation through which these advances were made possible.
While we reaffirm, in principle, the importance of the OECS as a magnet of
cohesion and collective action, the potential of which exceeds even CARICOM, we
have not quantified that principle in practice. The irony of our inaction is
It is equally ironic that failing to invest in our own institution, we become
distracted by the potential gains form alternate alliances outside the immediate
family. In considering our options we should bear in mind that in today’s
environment of reciprocity, all partnerships require commitment and fulfilment
of obligations commensurate with potential benefits.
If we are not to condemn ourselves to economic oblivion, there are some
immediate priorities which should concern us. In the case of Grenada, there is a
need to derive and implement a formula to share among ourselves that burden
which Grenada has to now carry. This is an inevitability to which we must
address our collective efforts.
In that context, we must also address dimensions of our collective capacity
regarding the following: Post-Disaster Management; Emergency Resource
Mobilisation; International Response coordination; and not least, Reinforcement
of National Security Systems for the maintenance of law and order in crisis
situations. Internal to our organisation must be equal consideration of the
leadership role we expect our organisation to play in such crises and the
resources we are prepared to place at its disposal so to do.
Moreover, it is clearly appropriate to begin active consideration of how we can
build resilience systems. That is how we can proactively reduce the region’s
vulnerability. This touches on such areas as redefining and upgrading building
codes; empowering communities to enforce and monitor new standards; improved
preparedness and disaster mitigation processes; appropriate land use and food
security; energy policies and the need to generally shift main-stream focus from
mere responsiveness to active resistance.
Of similar importance is the issue of implementation at national level of
decisions and initiatives agreed at regional level. It should by now be clear
that development delayed is development denied. If we are certain that our
organisation is a fundamental cornerstone of our future progress we can no
longer shy away from implementing those initiatives that can deliver the
benefits we have expressly promised to the people of this region.
Our agenda commits us to consider governance arrangements for the Economic Union
Treaty. This is inseparable from the issues of delegation of authority to the
centre, and we must address it responsibly. It is an inescapable ramification of
our long-term strategic collaboration. While we must acknowledge and respect the
particular needs and political circumstances within individual states, we must
also recognize that if we continue to jealously guard a withering power, rather
than pool our collective energies, we may well reap the loss of that sovereignty
that we so cherish.
Only a few years ago the European Union was but a dream; a mere fraction of the
integration model to which the OECS had committed itself. Now our progress pales
by comparison. Where we might have been a model for the world, we risk being an
anachronism in the shadow of more accomplished integration initiatives,
The proposal to create a three-tiered process for the implementation of
legislation to give force to regional decisions must be comprehensively
considered. Similar attention must be paid to resolving national constitutional
issues arising out of an OECS Economic Union. These are not simple tasks by any
means. But nor can their difficulty justify their removal from our agenda.
In this context we must move with decisiveness on the initiatives envisioned
in the revised OECS Treaty which, among other things, foresees the creation of
OECS citizenship. This provision, with its inherent rights to movement,
employment, residence, ownership and democratic participation, would give deep
meaning to the concept of a single political space within which the children of
our common legacy may re-cross the void created by artificial and unnecessary
political barriers. This implies not just the removal of national barriers
between reciprocating states, but the creation of a new status, a new enlarged
space, and within it, a newly empowered OECS citizen.
Of similar import is the need to create a regional constituency. It is possible
that one reason for the disconnect between national and regional priorities is
the absence of a truly regional community to which we might be beholden. The
truth is that while we aspire collectively at regional level, we continue to
conspire, with more narrowly focussed domestic interests driving our agendas.
This conflict can only be addressed by the creation of a regional constituency
where the broad objectives of the integration movement are translated into their
natural domestic components. It is imperative, therefore, that we create and
institutionalise permanent interactive mechanisms for high-level collaboration
with the regional constituency.
We must more routinely meet our regional social partners, whether private
sector, civil society or labour movement, and so generate those practical
partnerships critical to fundamental change. We cannot continue to debate in
splendid isolation only to discover that our vision is incomplete and our
The logic of this imperative is easily demonstrated when considered against
ongoing FTAA, COTONOU and WTO negotiations. National and regional positions to
be defended within the context of such negotiations must be based on meaningful
consultation, as much as sound leadership. The people of the Easter Caribbean
cannot be divorced from those processes which will determine their very future.
That future must perforce be designed in “ex-ante” consultation.
Similarly, in our quest for enhanced growth with equity, we must address issues
of production, productivity, competitiveness and labour efficiency. As we
transition from traditional to service based economies, automatic transformation
cannot be decreed. The need for collaborative consultation is obvious, and we
must seek ways to make our institution more relevant, more effective and more
the average OECS citizen on whose behalf we serve. The need for mechanisms to
energise the collective natural and human resources at our disposal has to be
assessed in the light of the new governance structures soon to be considered. In
so doing, we will be reminded that the ultimate objective of this integration
process is to create a larger social economic and financial space wherein
opportunity, income and welfare are simultaneously enhanced.
Conclusion: Consensus is Intricate
Regrettably, although we may have shared objectives, achieving consensus on
modalities is an intricate process. While we may agree on the destination, the
path of progress must still be carefully and sensibly traversed. Let these facts
be recognized for what they are: signals of the complexity but not the
impossibility of our journey.
If I have spoken in absolutes, it is only to express the urgency and
inevitability of our destination, and not to reduce to naive simplicity any task
ahead. Notwithstanding, the collective aspirations of the OECS people cannot be
subjugated by short-sightedness, or narrow interests which threaten, in the long
run, to hasten our collective demise. If one truth remains clear and
unadulterated, it is that insularity is not an option.
We are in the enviable, perhaps inevitable position of having reached the middle
of the stream where the current is strongest. However daunted we may feel, the
truth remains that there is little wisdom in standing still or attempting to
turn back. We must link hands, hearts and minds and proceed, together.
I thank you.