Address by the Honourable Dr. Kenny D. Anthony to the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference St. Lucia July 3, 2005
the Honourable Prime Minister of St. Lucia
Dr. Kenny D. Anthony
St. Lucia – July 03, 2005
A Fresh Breeze Arising
There is hope that our sargasso days are ending.
The promise of fresh wind turns our bow toward waiting horizons
plotting our course by our judgement of the sun
and the latitude of familiar stars.
Notwithstanding, I do believe that the region is on the move again, and that there is a climate of renewal and new economic energy. That optimism is born of the knowledge that we have the wherewithal to master our own fates; our own development outcomes. As leaders, our hands are on the tillers of state. Our crafts are resilient and well built, and how faithfully we sail them will determine our economic course and destination. We must therefore competently manage the winds that fill our sails and give proper direction to our ships of state. We have no choice but to harness the wind and move forward.
On Assuming Office
As such, this is an opportune moment to assume the captaincy of this regional craft which carries our collective fates, and I am honoured to do so. I thank you for your confidence, and trust that during the next six months, I will prove worthy of this undertaking which is the Chairmanship of the region’s highest council.
An Historic Meeting
In its own significant way, this is an historic occasion. It is made memorable by the meeting yesterday between Heads of Government and Leaders of the Parliamentary Opposition across CARICOM. This is really the first time anywhere, that elected political leaders, without the prompting of war or crisis, have formally occasioned a face-to-face encounter with their competitors.
Once again, we see the Caribbean setting the pace for others to follow, and we are pleased that St. Lucia has provided the setting. This is major step forward in the evolution of Caribbean governance, and I hope that yesterday’s meeting, at last heralds the dwindling of an era when governance was seen as the exclusive domain of governments.
What we are doing expands the definition of our democracy. That is a testament to the fact that there is common ground in our separate agendas. It is evidence that we recognize the need for shared commitment to certain common problems and principles, irrespective of individual partisan persuasions. It is a statement of shared intent towards the ideals of a single region, despite political differences and the physical divides that define or separate statehoods. That such a meeting could be contemplated and convened, is a reflection of a maturing political consciousness, and the confidence we profess in the systems of democratic governance. This augurs well for our future.
Despite all optimism, there is much that impedes our vision of that future state
wherein the lives and livelihoods of Caribbean people can be unalterably
enhanced. Our safe passage through the shoals and reefs of adversity demands new
levels of competence and cooperation. The obstacles in our path of progress must
therefore be tackled with a new sensibility.
The Scourge of Crime
Among those obstacles there is none more pervasive, more insipid, more
treacherous to our economic, political and social stability, than the issue of
crime. It is the scourge that threatens us all, and it gnaws at the very root of
the economic and social transformation that we seek as the attainable fruit of
The statistics speak for themselves, and the numbers, though they vary between states, tell much the same stories. They speak, as the President of the Caribbean Development Bank recently reminded us, of the soft underbelly of our weak social and legal infrastructure. They speak of the inability to cope in conventional ways with unprecedented levels of violence, brutality and inhumanity. For many victims life has indeed become nasty, brutish and short.
Clearly, these issues run deeper than the adequacy of legislation and enforcement. They speak to radical changes taking place in the social psyche of certain sectors of our population. These issues speak of people on the periphery of conventional society, who bear little respect for, and even less interest in the preservation of society as we know it.
The implications are potentially devastating, for among the attributes which most define our societies are our quality of life and level of personal liberty. When these are challenged, as they now are, a significant denigration of our existence becomes an attendant risk. A whole new set of values emerges which threaten to reduce us to the mindset of those who would hold us captive.
The OECS Dilemma
The second major issue which we must turn our attention is the furtherance of the CARICOM integration process through the reality of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, and the relative positioning of the OECS within that system.
There are some sobering statistics on regional trade well worth contemplation. These statistics, and the comments that I am about to make, should not be taken as any deliberate offence to Trinidad and Tobago; a country for which my personal affinity is demonstrable and one which may well be considered my second home.
Consider nevertheless, the objective reality that Trinidad is at the fulcrum of regional trade, and remains unquestionably the primary beneficiary of the CARICOM trade regime. Trinidad’s share of intra-regional exports far exceeds its share of imports. That is to say that the rest of CARICOM continues to source a high proportion of its material needs within the region, the same is not true of the Trinidad economy. Indeed, there is a high concentration at the product and firm levels and intraregional exports have either stagnated or declined over the last fifteen years. A primary benefit and purpose of the customs union, that is to rebalance the pattern of trade, is not being achieved.
Yet, as a sub-regional grouping within CARICOM, the OECS exhibits the highest degree of participation in intra regional trade flows. Its intra regional export share was 30% in 2003, whereas for the LDCs as a group, the corresponding figure was 18%, and for the MDCs a meagre 12%.
These imbalances are not temporary but structural. They reflect real differences in economic capacity, factor prices, labour market conditions, resource endowments and economies of scale in the production and export of goods and services. As such, they require structural remedies which take into account the objectives of balanced and sustainable growth across the region.
In the interim, many of our governments will continue trying to overcome external constraints by concentrating efforts and policies on attracting foreign exchange inflows. While these have been partially successful, foreign direct investment into the OECS has mainly targeted to Tourism sector. Yet, the OECS market share of Caribbean arrivals has been in decline since 1996 when we accounted for 7% of tourist traffic. In 2003 the OECS share declined to 5%. This is an intriguing statistic given that the OECS continues to experience increasing visitor arrivals. What these figures suggest is that the competitive edge enjoyed by the OECS in this particular sector is being eroded by other destinations; notably the Dominican Republic and the Hispanic Caribbean whose share of the market is growing at a faster rate.
As my previous point demonstrates, it is important that we find words to communicate our similarities as well as our differences. I believe that sometimes we do ourselves grave injustice by our silence. We sell ourselves short by underestimating the power of our individual and collective voices. We forget that we are the survivors of enslavement and oppression. We forget that we have triumphed over tyranny, that we have turned an imposed adversity into advantage, self-assurance and prosperity. Still, we know and remember the forces of hegemony and domination. We know the pain of liberty denied and have fought hard and long for the freedoms we now enjoy.
So, just as we find words to discuss our internal difficulties, and to speak out regarding injustice in our backyard, we must not be reticent or apologetic about opposing injustice and oppression elsewhere in the world. Accordingly, when our African brothers and sisters bleed from acts of injustice, we must speak out in their defence. We must raise a single and unwavering voice against racism, intimidation, and political bigotry which are the instruments of imposed hopelessness and despair. We must feel neither burdened nor guilty because of the history which created and shaped us.
These points having been made, I wish to return to the opening sentiment of this address. After a period of indefinite and limited progress, it is my belief that this region stands poised again for growth. It is a growth which is largely of our making and we should draw comfort and confidence from that fact. The enlargement of our economic space is a fundamental principle, objective and advantage of our integration process; a process in which we have been engaged for half a century. We should be proud of the fact that we have brought ourselves to this juncture, and equally proud of the fact that despite issues still to be resolved, we are no less committed to passing over the threshold into a new era of expanded possibilities.
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