PM Douglas underscores need for optimism at CARICOM Inter-Sessional in Suriname

St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister The Right Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas (File Photo)

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MARCH 8TH 2012 (CUOPM) – Outgoing Chairman of the Caribbean Heads of Government Conference, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister, The Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has underscored the need for optimism with the regional integration movement in light of the goals for efficiency and a strengthened governance mechanism.

Speaking at the opening session of the 23rd Inter-Sessional Conference of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government in Suriname, Prime Minister Douglas said the two-day session will see “us more steadfast in our resolve to move beyond the enunciation of our priority in this regard and to see the realization of our vision. This requires all hands on deck if the ship of this Community is to sail safely through the turbulent waters.”

“The world in which CARICOM was born, is no more. Geo-political, socio-economic, and other global stresses have caused our operational landscape to be ever-changing, and our problem-solving challenges evermore complex. CARICOM, therefore, must continue to adapt and re-invent itself -never in terms of our undergirding values, purpose, and principles, of course -but certainly in terms of how we function, how we operate, the extent to which we are, or are not, efficient, effective, relevant with a sharper focus on being more results oriented,” said Prime Minister.

Dr. Douglas said the goal, form, and practical thrust of regional integration, for example, are still being debated and examined in the streets of Kingston and Kingstown, Bridgetown and Basseterre and will be done this week in Paramaribo.

“And so, in light of ever-changing global and regional conditions, it remains CARICOM’s essential responsibility, along with all of us gathered here today, to provide greater clarity and form regarding the ideals of integration so that we inspire hope and confidence for the people of our region who are questioning our resolve to truly transform their lives,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister.

Reminding his colleagues and the people of the Caribbean that these are not easy times, Prime Minister Douglas noted that the global uncertainties, the genesis of which for the most part is external, still pose significant challenges to the Caribbean and the region is on the edge.

“At first, the EU, which is one of the major donors of development aid to our region looked anxiously westward, deeply concerned about a possible contagion effect.

Now, not only do they know that the crisis was indeed “contagious”, but they themselves are now fully in its grasp. Similarly, due to the interconnected nature of the world economy and our own economic linkages with both North America and Europe, we too, have found ourselves, over the past two, three years, anxiously looking both eastward and northward, because uncertainty there means uncertainty here. I reiterate that the ‘TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW’ and requires a demonstration of political will to engender real and sustainable transformation,” Dr. Douglas reiterated.

As outgoing chairman Prime Minister Douglas in underscoring the need for optimism highlighted some of the achievements over the past months.

“These include but are no means limited to our ongoing efforts to inject new vigor in the advancement of the process to set the region on a path of renewed focus. Being fully cognizant of the need to be strategic, CARICOM must position itself to become more meaningfully engaged, though not subsumed, into other regional groupings. However, we must continue to forge strategic alliances recognising that their respective strengths and resources can assist the Community in propelling itself towards a platform for strengthened functional cooperation,” he said.

He called for a purposefully pursuit of the “goals as a region focusing on acquiring enhanced risk-management capabilities and sharpening our negotiating capabilities.”

Stating that expanded intra-regional economic activity is apriority for all CARICOM states, Dr. Douglas pointed out that intra-regional sea and air-links are key to both expanded economic activity on the one hand, and the undergirding of a truly “Caribbean” frame of mind on the other.

“Unpredictable fuel costs and unreliable fuel supplies, however, are a 21st century reality. The challenge, therefore, is for us to meet the need, both of [i] the Caribbean to know that there are reliable air links that cannot and will not disappear -overnight – simply because some businessperson thinks they should, as well as the imperative that [ii] any such service under the region’s control be truly competitive,” he enunciated.

Prime Minister Douglas, the longest serving Caribbean Head of Government, added the challenge of climate change, the region’s contribution to which is utterly miniscule, probably not even measurable.

“We should, nonetheless, consider adopting specific, region-wide, lifestyle changes as a means of raising awareness of this phenomenon and its implications. And we must, at the same time, take very seriously our need to convince the world of the importance of those who have caused this climatic shift, bearing the financial burden of the associated disasters that do not merely “befall”, but indeed pound, states like ours,” he said.

Prime Minister Douglas challenged his Caribbean colleagues “take profound collective and decisive actions.

“Whether the issue at hand is security, crime, or protecting our region’s reputation globally, we must be resolute in our responses. And the people of the Community expect from us not only technical proficiency, but, indeed, visionary leadership. On the issue of security we understand the importance of regional and international co-operation – both as a matter of law-enforcement, and as a matter of crime prevention. We have worked together on this important issue, and I have every expectation that we shall continue to do so,” he said, pointing out that the region’s security apparatus and the mechanism that in large measure accounted for the successful hosting of world class cricket must continue to evolve and be the vanguard of defence against the new and emerging threats to global peace and security.

“While we build strong collaborative ties with our traditional and non-traditional partners in strengthening our capabilities to address the real threats associated with 21st century criminalities, let us continue to commit the necessary resources and to devise creative means for the sustainment of our crime and security framework and the management and delivery of our Agencies that have been established to sustain the enabling environment for growth and development in our respective borders,” said the outgoing CARICOM Chairman.

Prime Minister Douglas noted that Caribbean nations have traditionally been respected across the globe as bastions of peace, justice, and democracy and have been able to enter any chamber and assume any role without anyone ever raising even the slightest question about individual nation’s or indeed the region’s honour.

“This is of incalculable value. Let us strive, with all our might, to keep it this way. Most importantly, let us commit ourselves to remaining alert, vigilant, and resistant to anything, within the region, that might taint this reputation that our forebears worked so very hard to build, and in a spirit of utmost faith and trust, bequeathed to us. This is the confidence with which we are to face our deliberations today,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

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