Thursday, July 08, 2004

Bdos: Caricom meets to blague

The current Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell, also believed more had to be done to educate the region about the CSME. “We need to accept the fact also, that there are still many Caribbean nationals who have doubts about the free movement of people. People fear for their jobs and security. We must show that the CSME can provide more job opportunities for all members of the community.”

He further believed that it was important to show that the movement of people benefited both the labour importing and labour exporting countries and that the movement of experience and knowledge was also of great value. Jamaica’s Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, also spoke on the topic during his address to the conference. “As we continue to work towards advancing the implementation of the CSME and the inauguration of the CCJ, our most urgent task remains the sensitisation of our citizens. This is undoubtedly an area which requires closer and more aggressive attention.” Additionally, Patterson said, “We also need to guard against the uncertainties about our ability to meet the deadlines, thereby sending the mixed signals to our citizens. We must continue to act decisively and cohesively and with expedition as time is not on our side.”

Recently elected Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, linked free movement with the issue of criminal deportees. “Our societies are fearful that the unchecked movement of criminal deportees across CARICOM borders will be an unwelcome and immediate outcome of a full fledged single market.” He said that this fear clouded the public’s perception of the CSME’s benefits.

Spencer further noted that despite record numbers of tourists, increasing tourism revenue and gross domestic product, the economies of several CARICOM countries were in serious trouble, including his. He thought that investment incentives could be a solution to this. Spencer then said, “It strikes me that related to all of this, there is urgent need for rationalisation of intra-Caribbean air services,” specifically LIAT which was not privy to the subsidies some CARICOM countries paid to international airlines.

Mitchell encouraged greater regional collaboration to develop alternative sources of energy, to exploit shared resources – such as significant oil and natural gas reserves, and to implement the CCJ as a dispute settlement resolution. He also promoted greater support for Haiti, an issue which was backed by Patterson who said “we must continue to assist in the economic and social well being of that long beleaguered nation”. Patterson then spoke of other critical issues affecting the region including crime and security, drug trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and environmental protection.

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