|| (CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen,
Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Barbados, Guyana,
Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, needed to provide
focused leadership to the integration movement,
according to Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime
Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that
notwithstanding the vital importance of Member
States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean
States (OECS), Bahamas, Belize, Haiti, and Suriname,
the “the Big Four” – founding members of the
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) - must, in a
coordinated way, “drive, pull or push the regional
Sharing his vision for the Community’s way
forward at the Opening of the Thirty-Second Meeting
of the Conference of Heads of Government in St.
Kitts and Nevis last Thursday, Prime Minister
Gonsalves said that the Region had to appreciate the
combined and uneven development of the integration
movement, which could be attributed to domestic
considerations taking priority over optimal regional
activity, and stressed the importance of leadership
by the four Member States.
The Region, he said, could no longer afford the
luxury of “such relative non-engagement” and added
that if such a situation existed among the four
Member States, it inexorably led to the diminution
of engagement by others.
“It was perhaps inevitable that the change in
government in Trinidad and Tobago in May 2010, would
have resulted in a greater emphasis on domestic,
rather than on regional, matters. I feel sure that
the Government of Trinidad and Tobago which is
populated by committed regionalists would again be
at the fore in pushing the regional agenda on all
“The simple truth is that on the large strategic
concerns, the line between the `national’ and the
`regional’ is blurred to the point of non-existence.
Globalisation and the altered architecture of the
international political economy have caused this to
be so,” Dr. Gonsalves posited.
Urging that facts be squarely faced, Dr.
Gonsalves said that no credible, sustainable
regional solution to the challenges of CLICO and
British-American Insurance Company (BAICO) was
possible without the active involvement of the
Government of Trinidad and Tobago. The same holds,
he said, for other issues including trade, regional
governance, regional security, regional air and sea
transportation, energy, health and education.
“The leadership of Trinidad and Tobago, and
indeed of the `Big Four’, does not in any way mean a
diminution of the importance on leadership of the
other Member States of CARICOM. I simply make a
salient point of practical politics in going
forward,” he said.
Turning to the developments in the OECS, Prime
Minister Gonsalves said that the grouping had moved
resolutely and in solidarity towards the
establishment of an OECS Economic Union in January
He reported that by 1 August, 2011, there would
be complete freedom of movement of citizens between
the six member-states of the Economic Union -
Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts
and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the
Grenadines – while governance arrangements to suit
the “more profound OECS Union” were altered.
“This deepening of the OECS Union beyond the
current parameters of the Revised Treaty of
Chaguaramas and a functioning CARICOM clearly
demands an amendment to the CARICOM Treaty itself to
take account juridically of the explicit special and
differential treatment of the member-states of the
OECS,” Dr. Gonsalves said.
He added that the OECS had a range of issues that
were targeted for resolution within the framework of
CARICOM, with priority being given to the reality
that OECS member-states “do not benefit
proportionately or at all from the `single market’
arrangements in CARICOM”.
“Indeed, the CARICOM trading regime has
contributed to the denudation of the manufacturing
base in the OECS without necessarily benefiting the
OECS consumer in terms of competitive price and
quality. Further, the compensating mechanisms in the
Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which are designed to
assist the `disadvantaged’ countries of the OECS,
have been insufficiently rolled out. We look forward
with great interest to the next round of financing
for the CARICOM Development Fund, mandated as an
obligation under Article 158 of the Revised Treaty
of Chaguaramas. CARICOM, in its trading and `single
market’ manifestations, is unlikely to survive
unchallenged if it continues to be too highly skewed
or unequally yoked in favour of one or two of the