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Address by the Honourable Dr. Kenny D. Anthony to the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference St. Lucia July 3, 2005

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Address by

the Honourable Prime Minister of St. Lucia


Dr. Kenny D. Anthony

CARICOM Heads of Government Conference

St. Lucia – July 03, 2005



Desired Destinations


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.




If I were a seafaring man, I would say that there is a fresh breeze arising. It ripples the sleeping surface of our sea. It ruffles our sails. Our rudder responds as the tide turns, and our small craft lists slowly towards port. It is a poetic start to a prosaic speech, and though the author remains anonymous to us, there is still the ring of truth, optimism and an undeniable relevance in the lines.


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.


Overcoming Impediments

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 our labours.

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.

To avert that eventuality, we will have to define and implement new radical responses. In some areas, zero-tolerance measures may have to be contemplated. There needs to be a garnering of forces and a commonality of purpose when dealing with persistent criminality. Under no circumstances would we wish to see criminal activity robbing us of our cherished personal freedoms and liberties. Nor would we wish to see the day when measures taken to ensure peace and prosperity result in the impingement of the freedoms we currently enjoy. That not withstanding, we must affirm our resolve to collaborate on defining and implementing solutions and strategies to combat crime across the region. St. Lucia therefore, welcomes the recent proposals on these issues from Prime Minister Patrick Manning, our Lead Prime Minister on Crime and Security.


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.

The Govt of St. Lucia believes that there must be no turning back from the objectives of the CSME. However, there is need for immediate attention to redress some of the imbalances implicit in the current model. This is to take nothing from our position that the CSME is absolutely necessary to our collective and individual survival.


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.

Equally important, the OECS intra-regional export share dropped from 2.4% in 1985 to 1.4% of the total in 2003. OECS export performance has been inferior, relative to CARICOM LDCs as a whole, whose share has declined from 2.5% to 1.8% over the same period.


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%.

Moreover, the establishment of the CSME coincides with a period when many OECS economies are experiencing fiscal deficits and balance of payments pressures. Whereas the OECS current account has widened significantly due to export performance deterioration, Trinidad and Tobago has been able to increase its current account surplus via increased exports of goods and services.


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.

Should this not be the case, we will be all trapped in a short-term zero sum game where benefits, lopsided and temporary, are only achieved by the impoverishment of our trading partners. That eventuality cannot be in the long-term interest of even the immediate beneficiaries of such an arrangement.

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.

These economic realities must inform the practical implementation of the CSME. It is clear that some economies will face greater challenges than others in the quest to expand the integration dividend. Among our priorities must be a vigilant focus on improving international competitiveness across the region, but with strategic emphasis on long-term equalisation of critical economic indicators. In that regard, it may well be necessary to revisit the provisions of Chapter Seven of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which deals with disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors.

This is not inconsistent with recent assertions by Dr Vaughn Lewis that there is merit in linking the creation and existence of the CSME to the Regional Economic Partnership Agreement which is to result from ongoing discussions with the European Union. Such an approach, he argues, would test in a serious way, the European assertion that part of the rationale for creating the Regional Economic Partnership as the successor agreement to the Lome/Cotonou system, is to enhance the possibilities and scope for Caribbean regional integration. This approach certainly merits further reflection.

A Voice for Rights and Freedoms

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.

We should not therefore allow ourselves to be lectured on the merits of democratic ideals and principles. We must not allow our nations to be bullied or intimidated by external agencies or forces posing as paragons of universal freedom, virtue and justice. These are values that we ourselves already cherish and to which we already adhere. We must not, in the name of modesty, expediency or diplomacy, hide our democratic achievements under any bushel.

Even within this region, where we may have differences regarding appropriate solutions, to the Haitian crisis for example, we maintain the fundamental and common position that there be full respect for human rights and a commitment to political equity and fairness.


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.

The Caribbean must now see itself as a model for others to study, learn from and emulate. We must not fail. We cannot fail. We will not fail. These are our days and we greet them as the seafarer greets the fresh breeze, by charting the course and aiming our craft at our desired destination.

I thank you.


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