(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen,
Greater Georgetown, Guyana) `CARICOM matters and if
it were not there, we would have to invent it.’
So declared the Most Honourable
Portia Simpson-Miller, Prime Minister of Jamaica on
Wednesday as she delivered an address to the Opening
Ceremony of the Thirty-Third Meeting of the
Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean
Noting the “cynicism” with which
CARICOM is greeted and the continuous questioning of
its relevance, Prime Minister Simpson-Miller told
the gathering in Castries, Saint Lucia, that she did
not subscribe to those views.
“In fact, I want to underscore
Jamaica’s commitment to regionalism as a core
principle of our Foreign Policy and External Trade
Policy,” the Prime Minister said.
With the refrain `CARICOM
matters’, the Prime Minister pointed to areas in
which the integration movement was beneficial to the
people of the Region including in health care, in
sports and culture, in times of natural disasters,
in education, in the administration of justice, in
foreign policy coordination and in security.
“This is why CARICOM was created
in 1973, and it remains the reason we are here today
– to craft policies and a direction for CARICOM that
matter to our people,” Prime Minister Simpson-Miller
said, as she underscored that all Caribbean peoples
had to feel confident that CARICOM was capable of
improving their quality of life.
“It is up to us to put the
political excitement, meaning and fervor back into
CARICOM. However, it is not enough that the people
we serve feel excited about and satisfied with
CARICOM. They must feel inspired by our outcomes.
They must feel its relevance to their lives. All
Caribbean peoples must feel that they are at the
centre of our regional governance,” she said.
Acknowledging that much more work
needed to be done, the Prime Minister highlighted
areas for attention such as increasing the approved
categories of persons who could move freely within
“We must embrace freedom of
movement for our people. This must be the
foundational pillar on which our integration rests.
I call here today for an expansion of the categories
of free movement to include security guards,
household helpers, and caregivers. I urge us to be
bold and inspirational and to recommit today to full
freedom of movement in all categories by 2015,” the
Prime Minister said.
Focusing on the trade imbalance
that she described as a “distorting feature” of the
CARICOM Single Market (CSM), the Prime Minister said
that there had to be a level playing field so that
all could compete on an equal footing.
“Every single CARICOM Member
State must benefit from our regional integration
movement. Our private sectors must feel that there
are opportunities to be pursued regionally, through
innovation and entrepreneurship, through trade and
Human trafficking also had to be
addressed, she said, and more attention had to be
placed on women, children, the poor and vulnerable,
the elderly and the marginalized and persons with
Rekindling the spirit of
Caribbean visionaries who understood that
collectively we were stronger than the sum of our
individual efforts, Prime Minister Simpson-Miller
pointed out that our regional fathers were proud
leaders fighting for a cause.
“As Caribbean leaders we have
been given the task and responsibility to act in
ways that will make the present and next generations
of our Caribbean peoples look back with pride and
call us blessed. We must craft and share bold
visions, take strong decisions and inspire the
daring self-belief that our ancestors felt like
‘wildfire in their bellies’.
“Now is the time. This is the
hour. Let us with unity of purpose now move the
agenda of the CARICOM forward. Let us unite and
build our region. Our people deserve it. We will
settle for nothing less,” she declared.