Top

News Center

September 28, 2015

Remarks by Dr. Clarence Henry – Antigua & Barbuda’s CARICOM Ambassador at the Pre-Mission Briefing in the CARICOM Secretariat project themed ‘tertiary students engaging in the csme through field promotion”

Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry

Tuesday 22nd September 2015

Courtesies

Good morning.

I welcome this opportunity to share some of my thoughts concerning the relevance of the CSME, as you students prepare to take up the challenge of continuing the process of weaving the intricate fabric of Caribbean integration.

As one who has been involved in the negotiations leading to the operationalizing of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas; a strident voice of the Less Developed Countries being accorded a fair share of the benefits of the regional integration movement; and a strong advocate of the need for a robust CARICOM Development Fund, the architecture of which facilitates the provision of the requisite support to the LDCs, which are less endowed within CARICOM, necessary for instituting structural transformation towards the sustainable development of Antigua and Barbuda.

Indeed, the Caribbean Community now finds itself at a juncture in its economic evolution, where there is a constant need to emphasize the true nature of the disparities among the nations of CARICOM; where Antigua and Barbuda remains a leading demandeur of the creation of a “Think Tank” like CARICOM Secretariat, producing papers, critically appraising the social conditions and economic performance of Caribbean countries while advancing new thinking imbued in strategies that would help the small vulnerable economies of our region to be at the forefront of global affairs, in essence “helping to fashion the programme of integration” as cited by Sir Shridath Ramphal; where we have, without fear or favour, spoken honestly to the peculiar needs and development challenges of Antigua and Barbuda, and thereby holding the Secretariat and ourselves to account with respect to the mandates of the Organs and Institutions of CARICOM.

Antigua and Barbuda has consistently espoused a people centered approach to the integration movement, while recognizing capacity constraints and limitations to what can be achieved.

We have been constant in arguing for a fair distribution of the benefits of the regional integration project, and have repeatedly cautioned the population against having unrealistic expectations of the CSME.

Antigua and Barbuda continues to argue its case to colleagues for derogations from obligations enshrined in the Revised Treaty where necessary, and in so doing, allow for fulfilment of its legal requirements.

Nevertheless, we are often perceived as too candid, bold and or aggressive for articulating and safeguarding the development interests of the country. The reality is, we fight vigorously within CARICOM to achieve small gains, for it is upon such minute gains that the growth and development of our country often hinge. But, we remain honest brokers helping to shape the fabric of the Community.

For me, the CSME represents the most crucial initiative for the Caribbean. Yes, it is subsumed within the regional Implementation Plan, which is wedded to the goal of ensuring the survival of our countries, economies and peoples against the challenges of globalization, trade liberalization, modernization and development.

STUDENTS

I wish to state that this is a very interesting and forward thinking project, which provides students, among other things, with an avenue for identifying career opportunities within the CSME. It is noteworthy that the CSME aims to create an environment conducive to economic development through fostering competitive production and investment. In earnest, the initiative offers a framework for strengthening integration and cooperation among its member economies.

I recall the success of the first phase of the project in September 2009. A cohort of tertiary level students from the State College were exposed first hand to the operations of the CSME in Belize, and from all indications, it was a success. On this occasion, the group of 19 students plus the CARICOM Youth Ambassador will be in Barbados next week, while a group of students from Guyana will be visiting here in October. These programmes, although expensive are necessary since they provide practical exposure to the intricacies of the CSME. In the past, I have complimented the initiative during numerous meetings of the Council for Trade and Economic Development. I applaud such programmes since they seek to broaden the scope of participants’ knowledge of the CSME and provide practical insights that otherwise would not necessarily have been obtained. It is through these interactions that new philosophical thinking with regards to improving regionalism will continue to emerge, to further shape and give form and direction to Caribbean integration.

Praise must also be showered upon the European Union for its continuing support for the regional integration project. The EU funded the first phase and again through the Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme is financing this second phase. They are true partners in development, a constant friend of the region. It is a known fact that development aid is shrinking, but the EU continues to maintain an unwavering commitment to the economic development priorities of the Caribbean despite of its own internal challenges including the refugee crisis. We appreciate the partnership that continues to strengthen, and welcome every chance of dialogue to avoid any ambiguity in respect of Caribbean development priorities and policies.

DISTINGUISH STUDENTS

This student exchange occurs almost 10 years after regional leaders formally launched the CSME on 30 January 2006. The framework for the Single Market was established which included legal and institutional matters such as the Common External Tariff, the Caribbean Court of Justice, the Competition Commission and harmonisation of some legislation.

Movement of persons and factors of production are key pillars of the CSME. These are positive developments that pave the way for genuine economic integration and development of the Caribbean. The region has proved to its critics that the integration process can work and even become a force to be reckoned with.

Important institutions have been established and have positively impacted the lives of citizens. Some of those institutions include the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC); the Pan Caribbean, Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP); and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDEMA), which have benefitted from contributions made by the EU.

As the NAO for EU development assistance, I am mindful of Brussels’ assistance to the study tours under the rubric of “Ownership of the CSME” as part of the 10th EDF CRIP intervention with an assigned value of Euro 27.5 million.

However, there is need to go beyond these study tours. Perhaps, the CARICOM Secretariat should consider establishing a model programme where youths entering the work environment could be invited to submit proposals for starting small businesses utilizing seed capital from the CRIP. Under a competitive approach in each of the 15 Member States, one or two projects could be selected and would become practical examples of how to establish a business enterprise in the CSM. Projects should be linked to development issues/challenges now faced by the countries such as the need for the utilization of green technology and the impact of climate change on Caribbean countries; and must add value to other sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism. Such an approach would be another step towards moving away from the primary commodity orientation of production within CARICOM.

The projects could also have a component to expand and draw other interested individuals into a cooperative type setting, but focussed at the high-end on the production chain with a view to tapping into regional and global value-chains.

Clearly, we need to learn the terrible lessens of the impact of Tropical Storm Erika on the Commonwealth of Dominica, where its economic base and infrastructure were devastated. A rapid response mechanism, with the requisite financial and technical resources should be placed at the disposal of the affected Country, Region or Sector within 14 working days. While the Revised Treaty provides in Part Two for measures to redress disadvantage arising from economic dislocation, this proposal would be triggered in the event of natural disasters. Procedures to access the regime must not be onerous and should not inflict an additional fiscal pressure or debt burden upon the affected Country, Region or Sector. Additionally, despite the present economic and fiscal challenges, all CARICOM Member States would have to contribute to the fund.

It is heartening to witness the outpouring of assistance to Dominica from across the region. But such people to people and Government to Government outpouring must be matched by the ability to access financial resources from a special fund.

Within the context of the new CARICOM agenda and Development Plan, we are also excited at the launch of the CARICOM Committee of Ambassadors, who are expected to take a more active role in ensuring the fulfilment of the regional implementation measures. I certainly, look forward to continuing the growth and development-centred agenda via the Committee of Ambassadors.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

The CCJ is an important institution of the Revised Treaty. Within its Original Jurisdiction, the CCJ interprets the Treaty while handling cross border disputes. All members of CARICOM are party to the CCJ’s Original Jurisdiction. Additionally, the CCJ has an Appellate jurisdiction where it serves as the final Court of appeal. At present only Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica have adopted the CCJ in its Appellate jurisdiction. Nevertheless, as the Chairman of the National Coordinating Committee that will be spearheading the public education surrounding the question of the CCJ vs the Privy Council, I want to urge all of you to be involved and take on board the information since this is one of those opportunities to make a positive contribution in determining the course of the Nation, on this occasion through referendum.

As you would have heard, among the numerous planned public consultations, is the convening of a National Youth Forum to fully ventilate the issues surrounding the CCJ and the Privy Council. So I look forward to seeing each and every one of you at the Youth Forum and national consultations.

Certainly, constructive dialogue will be encouraged and I caution against any distortion or misrepresentation of the issue in relation to the CCJ and the Privy Council. Our role will be to inform, present facts, correct erroneous statements and challenge long held falsehoods with the hope that rational, sensible thinking and democracy will prevail.

Let me conclude by urging you as future leaders, to take an active part in forging CARICOM, while building a society that is strong, purpose driven and prosperous.

Please be assured that the Government continues to be supportive of the integration movement, while at the same time, will take appropriate actions that will advance our development priorities.

We shall continue our efforts to ensure that there is a proactive, vision orientated CARICOM and a Secretariat that has real presence and credibility that works tirelessly to provide the tools for the accelerated growth of all Member States and facilitates economic convergence between the LDCs and MDCs of the Community.

As you know, this era of fiscal and economic challenges, the rise of terrorism and Isis and the flood of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East pouring across EU Member States, demand thinking outside of the box, a realism that will see our small Nations moving not merely with, but rather ahead of the tide at times. We can ill afford to be static for

we must contribute positively to building ourselves a fair and prosperous Caribbean.

Let us boldly raise the standard; rise to the challenges facing our nation, Antigua and Barbuda and the region as a whole; and in so doing embrace your destiny, so that 10 or 20 years from now, you can look back with much pride and a great sense of accomplishment.

May God continually bless you all.

Top