Caricom Heads of Govern-ment have agreed on what they have determined is the need to develop a Caribbean Investment Programme to support the region’s efforts at stabilization and growth as well as competitive production.
This decision, which did not have an implementation timeline came out of the wide-ranging discussions that took place at the Thirty-Third Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, held in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia, from July 4-6.
According to the communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting, they identified various sectors of the economy, including tourism, agriculture and construction, as economic sectors that offered prospects for early resuscitation of economic growth.
They also reiterated their “conviction that regional integration has all the possibilities for supporting competitive production and production integration and that particular attention needed to be given to Caribbean convergence in our development strategy”.
In addition, the Heads of Government called on the Caribbean Development Bank to structure its lending products and processes to assist the thrust for growth and development and they also signalled their intention to engage the multilateral financial institutions in the effort to buttress member states against external shocks.
The communiqué issued by the Caricom Secretariat at Turkeyen said the Heads of Government found that there was need to re-examine policy approaches to growth and development and agreed to review fiscal policy in order to achieve a balance between taxation and expenditure to more adequately support economic growth and development.
Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony, presided over the meeting.
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, gave the Heads of Govern-ment an update regarding the organisational reforms put in place or proposed for the Caricom Secretariat with a view to enhancing its efficiency and effectiveness and following on the decisions taken at the Inter-Sessional Meeting.
They requested the Secretary-General to continue with the reform process, and underscored the importance of a comprehensive communications strategy as an integral part of the reform, with a view to taking the community to the people.
The Heads of Government exchanged views on the profound geopolitical and geo-economic changes taking place in the global environment and their implications for the community’s external relations and its economic and developmental well-being.
According to the communiqué, the Heads of Government “emphasised that foreign policy co-ordination was not only a guiding principle for Caricom but a necessary tool to achieve effectiveness in foreign policy outcomes.”
Meanwhile, the Heads of Government recommitted to ensuring the achievement of the original objectives of the CSME, including free movement of skilled community nationals, access to the region’s resources and creating the environment for competitive production.
They also endorsed the agreements reached at the Meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on CSME on July 3 this year and emphasised a raft of elements, among others, for strategic focus for an effective CSME.
They identified the expansion of the categories of skilled community nationals, including the introduction of additional categories; adherence by all member states to the decisions that make Caricom nationals welcome in other member states, including the automatic grant of a period of six months upon entering a member state, subject to security exceptions.
They noted too the importance of creating the environment for competitive production; making key institutions more effective; and acceptance of the principle that member states able to proceed with integration at a faster rate should be allowed to do so, provided that the door is always left open for other member states to join when they are able.
Economic joint ventures
Heads of Government received an update from President of Suriname Desire Bouterse regarding the establishment of joint economic ventures and he indicated that there had been discussions with the governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana as well as with regional and international institutions, in an effort to move the venture forward.
Meanwhile, they agreed that the Regional Task Force to examine the proposal in greater detail, comprising Suriname as the Chair, with Barbados, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, a representative of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and Trinidad and Tobago as members, should begin its work as soon as possible.
The increasing challenge of child abuse, in particular sexual abuse and the need for concerted action, at all levels, to address the situation was highlighted in the discussions.
The Heads of Government noted “the need for a holistic approach to the issue, including parenting education, public sensitisation, and legislative reform to better protect children and to deal appropriately, not only with perpetrators but also with those who support abuse, for example through non-reporting of incidents.”
And they welcomed the information that the Twenty-Third Meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on Children and Youth, to be convened in Guyana from July 10-11, would focus on violence against children, including sexual abuse.
The communiqué stated that the Heads of Government also welcomed the significant progress made in establishing the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) since the signing of the Inter-Governmental Agreement in July 2011 and, in particular, the planned inauguration in January 2013.
The Suriname President also updated his colleagues on preparations for Carifesta XI to be staged in that country in August 2013. Suriname has established a Host Country Management Committee and would be in a position to advise member states further after meetings of the Regional Interim Festival Directorate in September 2012. Member states were urged to begin preparations for participation in Carifesta XI in a timely manner, the communiqué noted.
Heads of Government also agreed to establish a Haiti-Caricom Working Group that will meet before July 31 this year to develop a course of action for the implementation and resourcing of the Haiti-Caricom Memorandum of Understanding.
And the Heads of Government endorsed Haiti’s request to host Carifesta XII in 2015.
Although English is the official language of the community, the facility to communicate in their languages could enhance the participation of Haiti and Suriname in the integration process, the communiqué stated, and the Heads of Government therefore requested the conduct of a study to examine the possibilities and implications, including costs, of introducing French and Dutch.
Heads of Government noted too that since their last meeting, Guyana and Venezuela continued to work to preserve the excellent relations that currently exist between the two countries.
In that light, they expressed satisfaction that Guyana and Venezuela remained committed to the Good Offices Process of the United Nations Secretary-General to aid them in the search for a solution to the controversy that arose from the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899, that definitively delimited the territory between Guyana and Venezuela, is null and void.
Moreover, the Heads of Government reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance and safeguarding of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the communiqué added.