By Stacy Carmichael-James
Economic Development, Crime and Security and international relations will top the agenda as the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government meeting gets underway today (Thursday, February 16, 2017) at the Guyana Marriott Hotel, Kingston, Georgetown.
The leaders are meeting over the two days to discuss crucial matters that affect the region and forge the way forward to ensure the well-being of all countries that form part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Secretary-General of CARICOM Ambassador Irwin LaRocque emphasized the need for the Heads of Governments to move with alacrity in addressing issues that pose challenges to the region. Among them are low growth, debt, de-risking and climatic conditions.
LaRocque said it is paramount that the Heads forge a course of action that will see collective effort and the pooling of resources. The relevance and timeliness of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) were underscored by the Secretary-General, who stressed that leaders should use this time not to look at what could have been done, but how the expected outcomes of the CSME can be achieved.
He echoed the call for more accountability citing the development of a Monitoring and Evaluating System based on the principle of Results Based Management. The best efforts of the Community, La Rocque noted, are being hindered by the slothfulness in the implementation of key strategies. As it relates to Crime and Security, the Secretary-General reminded that it is not a national issue but a regional one and the time has passed for the outstanding matters to be addressed.
The development of a road map for the establishment of a single Information and Communication Technology (ICT) space and sustainable tourism throughout the region were also highlighted by LaRocque, who noted that this will not happen overnight.
Immediate past CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit in his remarks supported the call for greater effort to complete critical tasks that still need to be resolved, among them regional security, particularly cross-border crime, which is a serious problem for the Caribbean Community. He told leaders that the region cannot afford the luxury of time.
The concentrated attacks on the region’s economy in the form of de-risking and other financial restrictions by the international community and the fact that the Finance Council has not met in some time were highlighted by Skerrit.
He said that the Community stands a better chance of surviving if the respective nations work closely together in their individual interests and in the face of an increasingly hostile international environment. To do less, Skerrit noted, would be to deny the people of prosperity and safe communities.
Meantime, Guyana’s Head of State and Caricom Chairman David Granger urged that the CSME does not become an object of equivocation and procrastination since it is imperative for catalyzing the region’s business.
Food Security and a commitment by all countries are important to dismantling barriers to international trade, the Guyanese leader emphasized. He too called for the strengthening of the region’s security infrastructure and for vigilance in the face of increasing threats to the sovereignty of nations within the Caribbean Community.