Message from Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony on the Occasion of the 23rd Anniversary of the Signing of the Treaty of Basseterre
Chairman of the OECS Authority
on the occasion of the
of the signing of the
Treaty of Basseterre
June 18th 2004
Fellow citizens of the OECS, I wish to extend congratulations to you, the people of our nine Member States, on the occasion of the twenty-third anniversary of our Organisation.
THE ENERGY CHALLENGE
This anniversary comes amid significant challenges for our Member States, as we, together with the rest of the non-oil producing countries of the world, attempt to grapple with the current record high oil prices. In neighbouring Barbados, the authorities, noting that they had been making “unsustainable losses” in the region of $1.9 million per month from absorbing the increases, announced a hike in gasoline prices at the pump. Jamaica, for similar reasons, has also announced an increase in prices for electricity consumers.
At the recent 39th Meeting of the OECS Authority, held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Heads of Government expressed deep concern over the rising oil prices, and signaled that we may have to consider a review of energy prices at this time, while noting that increased energy prices would pose serious threats to the economic recovery of the sub-region and that this, in turn, would impact negatively on our capacity to compete effectively in the international market place. We can only hope that the recent decision by oil producing countries to increase production will have the effect of returning prices to more acceptable levels and allow the economic recovery of the subregion to continue. Given the importance of energy to our strategic interests, our Governments have decided to establish an OECS Task Force on Energy Policy which will advise on effective energy conservation management, alternative energy sources, and reform of the sector, among other things.
NEED FOR CMSE CLARITY
The twenty-third anniversary of the OECS also meets the OECS Member States working assiduously to complete the process for participation in the wider Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) which is expected to be fully established by December 2005. Even as our sub-region works towards having all the necessary measures by December 2004, our Member States share significant concerns, including the need for clarity on a range of issues, such as the need for a regional development fund to assist our economies to fully participate and benefit from the CSME, an assessment of the structure of OECS economies in the context of the application of Chapter Seven (7) of the Treaty, and the need for benchmarks on CSME readiness.
In this regard, my comments at the opening ceremony at the 38th OECS Authority Meeting in St. Lucia in January this year are all the more relevant. At that time I noted that:
“the OECS will have to identify its particular and peculiar interests which may not be at any particular junction consistent with those of the wider CARICOM and the international community.”
HIGHER AND DEEPER INTEGRATION
There is therefore all the more reason why the OECS sub-region must continue to work towards a higher and deeper form of integration required in an effort to both promote and safeguard our interests.
It is for this reason that the OECS Authority has established a Technical team, with representatives from all Member States, to start work on new Treaty arrangements to underpin the thrust towards an Economic Union of the OECS. The Economic Union Project Unit based at the Secretariat, is coordinating efforts geared towards the development of a governance model for the proposed union.
We have also started the process of reviewing the status of Constitution Reform in Member States, in a bid to ensure that our individual Constitutions are ready for the implementation of provisions with respect to the function of an Economic Union.
A SOLID RECORD OF ACHIEVEMENT
In an effort to deepen and strengthen the spirit of integration among us, Member States have enacted legislation to facilitate travel by OECS nationals across the sub-region on a valid national ID card. The Economic Union process will also lead to the introduction of a common OECS passport and the removal of barriers to free circulation of goods and services among Member States. This will build on the significant strides made by the sub-regional integration movement, which has already provided our people with the benefits of a common judiciary, a common currency and central bank, a common directorate of civil aviation, common procurement of pharmaceuticals and joint diplomatic arrangements in Canada and Brussels and, by the end of next month, a presence in Geneva.
Our cooperation has extended to the liberalization of the telecommunications sector and to reforms in education and environmental matters. The OECS remains the driving force behind the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN), which aims to utilize cost effective satellite technology to bring greater educational opportunities to the OECS and the wider Caribbean. Recently, we established a Tourism Desk at the OECS Secretariat to help coordinate a sub-regional approach to developments in this sector. Already, stakeholders have come together in the yachting sector with the aim of increasing the benefits of closer collaboration and the development of an Eastern Caribbean label.
The OECS Development Strategy, which will shortly be laid in our respective national Parliaments is meant to provide us with a “home grown” instrument, to guide integrated development planning at both national and sub-regional levels. This, we hope will assist in making OECS economies more resilient, diversified, competitive and knowledge-based, as well as develop the capacity of the people of the OECS, especially the poor, to sustain their livelihoods.
Our governments welcome the ongoing efforts to create an OECS Private Sector Organisation, as the regional representative body for interests of the OECS business community in public/private sector engagements.
The times may be challenging, but our people are equipped with the creativity and resilience to attain the goals of high employment, reduced levels of poverty, acceptable targets on the human development index, and a high and sustainable growth rate across the region, articulated in the Development Charter.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO ALL
Let all of us in Anguilla, Antigua/Barbuda, the BVI, Dominica, Grenada and Carriacou, Montserrat, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, congratulate each other and celebrate twenty-three years of strong functional cooperation here in the OECS, a record for which we can be most proud.
Happy twenty-third anniversary, OECS.
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