Mr Chairman, Distinguished Delegates.
Let me first thank you for giving me the privilege of addressing your Conference. As
they say in the airline business, I know you have choices. I'm flattered you opted for me.
I promise to return the favour by making this part of your Conference mercifully short.
Mr Chairman, I was intrigued with the theme of your Conference - "Riding the waves
of Change". It is a theme that has a special resonance for the Caribbean.
Riding the waves of change aptly describes the Caribbean experience.
Isn't riding the waves of change what we in the Caribbean have been doing from the
first human settlements in our region?
Did not the Arawaks and the Caribs ride the waves of change as they journeyed by canoe
up this chain of Islands from South America?
Did not the Europeans ride the waves of change as they colonised one after the other of
Did not the Africans also ride the waves of change in their enforced transportation to
Did not the indentured labourers from India and China also ride the waves of change as
they sought a better opportunity in our region?
Did not the Portuguese, Lebanese and Syrians also ride the waves of change as they
searched for brighter circumstances?
We in the Caribbean have been riding the waves of change from the moment that our
region was peopled. Throughout our history, we have been battered and buffeted by them.
Yet, we have survived. We survived the battles of European nations contending for
ownership and domination of the Region; we survived the long subjugation of our people and
the colonial exploitation of our lands; we survived the efforts to deny us education and
to deprive us of knowledge.
Riding the waves of change is no new experience for us in the Caribbean. We should have
no fear of it. In the past, it has been the bit in our teeth, the wind at our backs, the
heat in our blood. Today, we face different waves of change. We should greet them as
we did their predecessors - with the full force of our intellect, our ingenuity and our
The current waves of change are summed-up in two words, "Globalization" and
"liberation." Neither of them is an evil in itself. We in the Caribbean have
been the objects of globalization and liberalization from time immemorial.
Apart from a brief period in two Commonwealth Caribbean countries, our economies have
been wide open to all forms of trade and to all kinds of goods and services. What is wrong
with globalization and liberalization is the manner in which the powerful and rich nations
are manipulating and applying them to serve their sole interests.
Globalization has several aspects - cultural, social, environmental and economic. All
of them have to do with conditions that cross borders, recognising no national boundaries.
For example, in 1999 when a new virus plagued New York and helicopters were used to
fumigate the City, the press suggested that the pathogen had arrived through the
bloodstream of a traveller, a bird smuggled through customs or a mosquito that boarded an
The truth is that globalization and liberalization are not new developments. The world
has been globalized since the 19th Century in the sense that conditions gave crossed
borders creating change wherever they were introduced. The Globalization of the 19th
Century had a political directorate in European imperialism and an economic framework in
The difference today is that improved communications, especially jet plane travel, and
high speed telecommunications, particularly by satellite and Internet, have incresed the
change effect of globalization. Change effects are now virtually immediate and often
Like it or not, the increased effect of globalization is part of today's reality. We
could no more reverse it than we could reverse jetplane travel or tourism. We could no
more limit it than we could limit the spread of advanced telecommunications and the
Internet. What should constructively concern us, is how to manage globalization so that
its consequential changes do not subjugate the world solely to the interests of those with
the greatest power.
My own view is that the Caribbean's contribution to the process of globalization must
be intellectual. Given our valued traditions of democratic governance and our history of
fidelity to democratic principles, we are well qualified to take the lead in presenting to
the international a vision of human governance, with celebration of humanity's diversity,
promotion of democratic processes, social and economic justice and respect for human
This will be no easy task, for the trend in the international community today is to
deny democracy, depriving powerless states of the right to participate in global
management and centring authority in powerful states only. We, in the Caribbean, have to
fight relentlessly and unswervingly to secure our place at the decision-making table. It
is a fight from which we will not recoil, and from which we will never retreat.
Those who doubt the trend in international relations to spurn democracy for dictation
need only look at the Harmful Tax Competition scheme of the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development ( the OECD). Finding themselves unable to compete in the
provision of financial services with many developing countries, the OECD embarked upon a
campaign to discredit 44 small jurisdictions around the world on the unsubstantiated claim
that they are harbouring "tax cheats."
Faced with a proposal by the small jurisdictions that the OECD should sit with them to
devise rules and procedures applicable to, and enforceable in, all states including the
members of the OECD, the Organisation sunk into a morass of sulking silence.
After three meetings in which serious and concrete proposals were advanced by the
non-OECD countries for the management of cross-border tax issues on a democratic basis,
the OECD'S only response was to threaten sanctions against those who choose not to
surrender to their dictation.
Had it not been for an expression of unhappiness with the scheme by the new Bush
administration in the United States, it is certain the the OECD would have proceeded with
its plan for its member countries to impose sanctions.
As matters now stand, we are aware that enormous efforts are being made to convince the
US government to resile from its stated position and to join the OECD cabal. We have to
continue to hope that the US will continue to resist the OECD's dictatorial stance in
favour of democratic management of an international matter. But, whether the US does so or
not, we in the Caribbean will continue to resist the attempt by the OECD to manage the
world by dictation and coercion.
Mr Chairman, distinguished delegates, as insurers, I know you share Caribbean concern
about two particular aspects of today's globalization - climate change and health change.
There is little doubt that the increase in the intensity and frequency of hurricanes in
the Caribbean is linked to global warming. The evidence is compelling that global warming
is a result of a hole in the ozone layer. In turn, the creation of the hole is directly
related to CO2 emissions primarily in the industrialised countries.
Consequently, it is in the Caribbean's interest to be part of the international
machinery that manages the process by which climate change is addressed. If we fail to do
so, decisions will be made that may not be in our best interests. Our ultimate objective
must be to ensure that measures are introduced and applied globally to curb the changes in
climate that create powerful hurricanes which cause such destruction in our region. That
destruction costs us dearly, but it also costs you as insurers.
In this connection, I make now the first of several proposals that I urge your
conference to consider. Insurers of the Caribbean should associate themselves in a joint
lobby with governments such as ours to secure international action to do two things: curb
global warming, and establish machinery for assisting countries affected by storms.
At this Conference in Antigua - one of the most vulnerable countries to hurricanes -
Caribbean insurers might consider initiating a plan of action for a joint international
lobby. Such a lobby could sensitize parliamentarians, the media and non governmental
organisations to the disasters being wrought in small states by the indulgence of rich
countries. It could propose action for dealing with the problem and urge financial support
for prevention and rehabilitation programmes in affected states. I urge you to do so.
Mr Chairman, another of the recent phenomena of today's globalization is the spread of
disease and infections. No nation's health can any longer be considered only within the
confines of national boundaries. Infections and disease enter nation-states by means that
cannot be controlled by immigration officers.
The most worrying of these is HIV/AIDS. The Commonwealth Secretariat now estimates that
the magnitude of the epidemic in the Caribbean, including Haiti and the Dominican
Republic, is second only to that of Sub- Saharan Africa. In the year 1999 alone, it is
believed that 57,000 adults and children were newly infected. This compares with 44,000 in
all of North America whose population is ten times the size of the entire Caribbean.
Of even greater concern is that the epidemic is more prevalent in younger age groups.
Seventy per cent of the diagnosed cases are between 15 and 44 years old, with 50% of that
number between the ages of 25 and 34.
AIDS is now the leading cause of death among the populations in the 15 to 45 age group
regardless of gender. The flower of our youth in the region is being decimated in the
region by the AIDS / HIV virus. The prospect of what such decimation will hold for our
economic future is alarming.
I believe that, as Insurers of the Caribbean, you have an obligation to assist our
governments to deal with the factors that drive the spread of this epidemic. If the
epidemic continues at its present rate, there will be fewer people to whom you could offer
health insurance, and your profitability in this region will decline significantly.
We know that the principal drivers of the epidemic are drug abuse, inadequate sex
education, and lack of parental guidance.
All the Governments in the Region need to improve and intensify their programmes for
coping with the epidemic. We need more resources, both human and financial. But,
government coffers are already strained in meeting the demands of providing an increased
demand for goods and services in a widening range of activities.
This brings me to the second proposal that I urge your Conference to consider.
While all Governments must continue to allocate resources to prevent the epidemic and
to help infected persons, Insurers should consider creating and executing a joint
programme with governments that helps to address the issue in a meaningful way.
Such a joint programme could focus on education and awareness among young people. It
could also help to finance programmes of skill - training and job placement so that young
people would not be lured by blandishments into lives of sexual promiscuity that increase
the risk of infection.
I ask that the word go out from this place that Insurers of the Caribbean care, and in
caring, are ready to act to curb the spread of HIV / AIDS.
Mr Chairman, the terms "globalization and liberalization" are spoken either
in fear or in adoration. Liberalisation is adored primarily by transnational corporations
who see it as an unguarded doorway through which they can enter into the markets of the
world to sell their goods and services without let or hinderance, thereby multiplying
The same concept is feared principally by trade unions and small businessmen throughout
the world who believe that competition will lead to job losses and the collapse of small
businesses. Remarkably, this fear is shared in both the developed and the developing
The demonstrations that filled television screens in Seattle last year, and again in
Quebec City this year, were about people and organisations in North America who fear that
they will lose jobs and businesses through their inability to compete with the lower wage
structure and the cheaper productive capacity of developing countries.
The current debate that is taking place in Barbados over the possibility that K-Mart
could establish business in competition with traditional Barbadian suppliers is the same
argument we witnessed in Seattle and Quebec City. Except this time, it is in reverse. What
is driving the Barbados debate is the fear by some traditional Barbados suppliers that
their business will fail because they cannot compete with K-mart.
Yet, neither Barbados nor any other country in the world can long resist the entry into
so-called "domestic markets" of so-called "foreign companies."
In a world based on free trade with binding rules devised in, and applied by, the World
Trade Organisation, we cannot welcome foreign investment in some sectors of our domestic
economy and reject it in others. It will not be acceptable to lure foreign investment in
hotels and manufacturing, but spurn it in commerce and merchandising.
The Caribbean cannot choose to compete in the international community with its own
goods and services, including banking, shipping and captive insurance, while at the same
time denying competition in the regional market to others.
If we wish to prohibit competition and to close our markets from liberalisation of
trade, then we must choose to opt out of the current international negotiations in the
World Trade Organisation and in the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement. But, we will
have to recognise that, in opting out of these arrangements, while we may protect some of
our local businessses, we will also stop the growth of our economy, halt investment, and
lock ourselves out of the markets of the world.
It will not be long before our economies either and die. That is clearly not a viable
option; indeed, it is not an option at all.
Two important elements of riding the waves of change are: one, our local business have
to gear themselves to compete in the local market against external competition; and, two,
more of our businesses have to orient themselves to vying in the international market for
the sale of their goods and services.
We have proven in the areas of tourism, international financial services and
international shipping that we have the capacity to compete successfully. Our local
businesses must now learn to make the quality of their goods and services enough to
survive against external competition in our domestic market. Caribbean businesses have
only a short window of opportunity. They should take advantage of it.
Over the next few months, Caribbean governments will be negotiating in the FTAA and the
WTO to ensure that account is taken of our level of development and the size of our
economies. We will be arguing for longer periods by which to implement the obligations of
new trade and investment rules.
At the root of what we will be arguing is that there must be the structure of these
arrangements must be equitable and just, and they must be decided by principles of
democracy which must include an equal voice at the decision - making table.
The trend of dictation by the few must be reversed. Caribbean businesses, including
insurance companies, should seize this opportunity to work with governments in devising a
strategy for these negotiations. That strategy should take account of the time that they
need to restructure, recapitalise and reorient their businesses to continue to survive.
And, if they calculate that they cannot compete then they should investigate mergers of
similar Caribbean companies to protect and expand their market share.
Domestic Insurance Companies of the Caribbean should take advantage of their collective
presence here in Antigua to begin to explore how they will meet the challenge of competing
with larger external insurance companies once Caribbean countries sign up to the FTAA and
new trade rules under the WTO.
Mr Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, as I said at the beginning of this address,
riding the waves of change is no new experience for the Caribbean. We have done it
successfully throughout the history of our Region. We should have no fear of our capacity
to continue to do so. But, if we are to meet the might of the powerful players now arrayed
against us, all sectors of our society need to work closely together.
Businesses and Governments in the industrialised countries are collaborating in the
effort to manipulate globalization and liberalization for their benefit. We would be
foolhardy not to join together to ensure that the Caribbean's interests are protected.
We have the intellect, the initiative skills and the ingenuity to meet the best in the
world. We have done it in the past. Let us do it for our future.