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Wednesday, July 05, 2006 

CARICOM must improve quality of life of Caribbean people,
says St Kitts PM

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

BASSETERRE, St Kitts: No economic or social grouping can be morally justified unless it brings about qualitative improvements in the lives of the ordinary people, said St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister and Chairman of the 27th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
“Therefore, it behooves us to create a compassionate orientation as the hallmark of any grouping. A commitment to dignity and a commitment to equality for all must be cherished our goal,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

He said that for this to be achieved, it must be recognized that there are disparities among the various member states of CARICOM as development in the OECS in many respects does not match that of some of the bigger countries.

“We must make a commitment to ensure that no part of the CSME has any room for countries having a Cinderella status,” said Douglas, who gave the assurance that the Government of St Kitts and Nevis subscribes to a rational deployment of the economic resources of member states acting collectively.

Stating that rationality includes the notion that no part of the CARICOM family should cause under-development in another part, Douglas said that his St Kitts and Nevis Government “subscribes to the principle of freedom of movement of our nationals within CARICOM, but we also believe strongly that our regional economic planning and programmes should be of the nature that does not force our nationals to leave their own homeland for another part of CARICOM, if their preference is to make a living where they were born.
In short, even-development for all Caribbean entities must be one of the goal to which we all must aspire.”

The St Kitts and Nevis leader also said the Federation subscribes to the establishment of the Caribbean Development Fund and that while it was disappointing that the Regional Development Fund could not be operationalised at the launch of the CARICOM Single Market “we are now satisfied that sufficient progress has been made to give us the assurance that this Fund will become an integral and critical part of the CSME.”

He said that from the St Kitts and Nevis perspective, optimal use of the Fund requires careful targeting of its resources to achieve balanced development in every member state of the Community and it was therefore essential that the arrangements put in place for the governance of the Fund take full cognisance of this important objective and that these arrangements be sufficiently flexible and also sufficiently nimble to effectively deal with unanticipated imbalances and asymmetries that will arise from time to time as the provisions of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas are in fact implemented.

But the incoming CARICOM Chairman was of the view that the Regional Development Fund will not solve every problem that OECS countries will encounter as Members of the CSME.

“Any union involving a country such as St Kitts and Nevis with a population of under 50,000 people and other countries with populations that are more than twenty times that of St Kitts and Nevis, is bound to be somewhat lopsided; and it is highly unlikely that the Regional Development Fund will generate enough resources to smooth out all of the bumps and the unevenness that will emanate from this huge imbalance,” said Douglas.

“In such circumstances, it becomes critical that small countries of the region such as St Kitts and Nevis enter into a sub-union that is even more integrated and tightly knit than the single economy of the wider Caribbean region,” said the Prime Minister.

He said a sub-union would allow such countries to jointly assert their rights and also protect their interest in the CSME.

“To participate in the CSME in an even more meaningful and viable way by pooling their production and marketing capabilities; it will also assist to enhance their administrative capacity by centralizing various administrative functions, some of which could not be effectively carried out in a cost-effective manner at the national level.
Indeed, the strengthening and pooling of administrative resources in the sub-union would enhance the capacity of the smaller countries to discharge their treaty obligations,” said Douglas.

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