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Posted in: Statements from CARICOM Meetings by admin | 10 October 2009 | Release Ref #: 385/2009 | 2401

    It is with a sense of great expectation, that as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, I address you at this Opening Ceremony of this historic Convocation on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

    Let me at the outset thank the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honourable David Thompson, Head of Government with Lead Responsibility in the Community for the CSME, for not only being the host of this Convocation but also for conceiving this seminal forum and for contributing so much to making it a reality.

    It was you, Honourable Prime Minister who offered in July 2008 to host a wide-ranging regional consultation on the CSME, a consultation which would, among other things, assess the degree of implementation of the Single Market by each Member State, review the status of preparation of the Strategic Plan for Regional Development, gauge Member States’ readiness for the implementation of the Single Economy and determine the role of the various stakeholders in the implementation of the different elements of the CSME. And now with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Meetings barely over a day or so ago, you have journeyed back post haste from Turkey to give leadership to this process. We thank you, Prime Minister.

    Honourable Prime Ministers, your presence here today signals your commitment and determination to ensuring that the solemn undertaking represented by the affixing of your signature to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, and in particular its flagship the Single Market and Economy, remains undiminished. And we thank you.

    We thank no less all others, Leaders of Opposition, private sector, labour, the media and civil society in general for their commitment to this process, amply demonstrated by their presence here today.

    Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in order that this consultation be meaningful and have an empirical base, the Heads of Government mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to conduct an appraisal of the state of implementation of the CARICOM Single Market arrangements in each Member State with a view to improving its operations. The Leaders also agreed to involve all stakeholders in this consultation in order to give the fullest possible consideration to the appraisal.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, at various times the term “crossroads” has been used to define stages of the integration movement. Let me say without any hesitation, in today’s context that word is not misplaced. It is almost four years since the commencement of operations of the Single Market, one of the developing world’s most ambitious and complex enterprises. We have an opportunity today and tomorrow to consider where we are in the CSME and how we move on to make it a lived reality for the people of the Region.

    Make no mistake, there is pride in the fact that our Caribbean Community, at 36 years, is the longest existing integration grouping among developing countries. It can also be said that our enterprise took us two years less than it took the European Community to establish their Single Market – our 33 to their 35.

    I hasten to observe however, it is not enough to say that we have existed longer than any but rather can we say that we have grown more than any other or have prospered because of the integration movement. It must not be enough to say that we took a shorter time than the Europeans to establish our Single Market, if we cannot also say that it has operated efficiently and to the benefit of the people of our Community. And that we certainly cannot yet say. It is for that reason that it is critical that we undergo occasions of self examination as we undertake today.

    The crossroad that we are at today therefore requires, indeed demands, free and frank discussion over the next two days. Having representatives of the major stakeholders among us, those whom the operations of the Single Market affect directly on a daily basis, must be beneficial to the integration process. The interaction with our Heads of Government and the major stakeholders holds promise for providing elucidation, guidance and recommendations to further inform the course that we should collectively chart going forward.

    The hard work of identifying the areas of progress, the shortcomings and the shortfalls of this multi-faceted enterprise has now been documented. If all were not aware of the scale of what is involved in the Single Market and the Single Economy, this Audit document placed before participants in this event lays it out starkly.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the truth is that we have certainly gone too far to turn back now. We must ask ourselves many questions: What, for example will be the cost of non-CARICOM or of non-CSME? Are we ready, willing and able individually to face Europe, United States, Canada, China, Brazil, India as trading partners? The reality is that an efficient Single Market and Economy is this Community’s best hope in relating to the international community and for its own growth and prosperity and for an improvement in the standard of living for its people. Let’s stop equivocating and get on with the building of a Community from which our children and their children will benefit and be proud.

    In closing, permit me to express gratitude to the Government and people of Barbados, for their generous hospitality in hosting this historic event. The wonderful ambience provided for our deliberations should certainly serve to ensure the outcome that we all desire. Let us therefore buckle down to the task of using the data before us to make the informed decisions that can guide us along the path of further progress. And finally having reached this crossroad, we would have taken the right turn.

    I thank you