PM Douglas reports on issues discussed by Caribbean leaders during 32nd Regular Conference in St. Kitts

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JULY 5TH 2011 (CUOPM) – Climate change, agriculture, transportation and the CSME were among issues discussed by Caribbean Heads of Government during their four-day meeting in St. Kitts over the weekend.

Outgoing Chairman, Prime Minister of Grenada, Hon. Tilman Thomas; Acting Secretary General, Her Excellency Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite; Chairman and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas; Incoming Chairman, President of Suriname, His Excellency Desi Bouterse and the President of Guyana, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo at the Closing Session of the 32nd Regular Conference of Caribbean Heads of Government at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort (Photo by Erasmus Williams).

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister and Chairman of the Caribbean Community, Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas at the closing session of the 32nd Regular Conference of the Caribbean Heads of Governments reported that Climate Change would be included on the agenda of the 2011 Summit of the Americas as a matter of priority, in light of the susceptibility of Small Island Developing States (SIDs) to this natural phenomenon.

He also reported that the Conference had reviewed the Region’s capacity to respond to hurricanes and underscored the role of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) as facilitator, driver, coordinator and motivating force for the promotion and engineering of Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) in all participating States.

Dr. Douglas further pointed to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility as the ‘reservoir’ of funds from which Member States could draw, following a natural disaster. The CCRIF is a risk pooling facility, owned, operated and registered in the Caribbean, for Caribbean governments. It is designed to limit the financial impact of catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes to Caribbean governments by quickly providing short term liquidity when a policy is triggered.

Agriculture and transportation were also mentioned as two priority issues on which the Community would focus, moving forward.

Referring to the link between agriculture and transportation, Prime Minister Douglas underscored the importance of preserving food security in the region as well as the need to transport adequately, people and goods across the Community. Dr Douglas explained that decisions were made to engage and involve the private sector and the academic community in these two priority areas.

He stressed that Caribbean leaders were focused in their deliberations thus reflecting the aspirations of the regional population.

In bringing the four-day Conference of Caribbean leaders to an end the new CARICOM Chairman said the leaders felt they have laid the “platform for significantly advancing the regional integration process”.

He said there had been “major issues” dealt with by the leaders from the 15-member grouping including the “advocacy role” played by the Caribbean for the upcoming United Nations Non Communicable Disease Conference to be held in September.

But Dr. Douglas acknowledged that the summit did not appoint a successor to Sir Edwin Carrington, the last CARICOM Secretary General who resigned in January after 18 years in the post.

He said that the leaders were “closer to an appointment” and that the short listed candidates would be interviewed in Barbados later this month by the Bureau of Heads and a final selection made.

“Following their interventions an appointment will be announced by the CARICOM Secretariat acting on behalf of the leaders,” Dr. Douglas said.

Dr. Douglas said that the leaders were pleased with the review exercise being carried out by the consultants with regards to restructuring the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat and also pledged to make a high priority “fully effective functioning single market to create an environment more conducive to job creation and investment to the region.”

He said that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) was still an effective vehicle for the region achieving the principles of the forefathers of the regional integration movement, even as he noted that the pace would be much slower than when the matter was first mooted as part of the Grand Anse Declaration in 1989.

Dr. Douglas called on the private sector as well as the regional university to become more engaged in the development of the regional integration movement through their innovative ideas.

He said the region had agreed to back Dominican-born Dr. Clarissa Etienne for the post of Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines diplomat Dr. John Ashe for the position of President of the United Nations General Assembly in 2013.

Regarding the controversial REDjet airline issue, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo, said that a meeting of the relevant authorities will take place in Barbados to discuss the issues raised by Trinidad and Tobago as they relate to safety.

“Once that is done and we have a commitment” the countries involved can no longer use “other political impediments” to thwart the efforts of the Barbados-based low budget carrier that is seeking to expand its services to various Caribbean destinations.

“We need competition in the sector and we need lower fares.”

“I hope there are no elements of protectionism being played out here and it is why safety issues are being played out here,” said Jagdeo, who was attending his final CARICOM summit at least for the next five years.

Jagdeo, who is barred by his country’s constitution from seeking a third consecutive term in office, urged his fellow leaders to highlight the positives of the integration movement which he said would redound to the benefits of the ordinary citizen.

“We have to focus more on outcomes…people judge us on results,” he said, noting that CARICOM must refocus its priorities.

“It is only when we do so we will get the people to come on board,” he said, adding “the achievements we have made are magnified from how far we have come.”

Dr. Douglas said that regional leaders had agreed to a proposal to waive “any immunity” for persons at the Trinidad and Tobago based CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) where a probe is being conducted into financial irregularities.

But he made it clear that the role of IMPACS in regional security could not be over emphasised adding “there is full confidence by heads of governments in IMPACS.”

He reminded journalists that security has been a fourth pillar of the regional integration movement and that “IMPACS hold a pride of place” in that initiative.

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