by Dawne Parris,
St John’s, ANTIGUA
The newest Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leader this evening suggested that the time had come for those countries ready to go forward with integration to press ahead in a “coalition of the willing”.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne insisted, as the 35th Heads of Government Conference began in his country this evening, that “advancing the integration movement cannot be achieved by waiting for the most reluctant of us to act”.
In his maiden address as CARICOM Chairman, Browne told a gathering at the Sandals Grande in Dickenson Bay that included Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, collaboration was needed between willing governments and the private sector in the ownership of productive operations.
“Thus, for example, one or two governments might invest in a project in a country with a natural resource that could be developed into a viable project that would create an income stream, not only for the government in which the resource resides, but also the governments that invest in the enterprise,” he said.
“I think here particularly of renewable energy projects that are hydro or geo-thermal related, in, say Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica. These projects have high front-end capital costs but financial studies that have been done indicate significant returns once they are up and running.”
“Similarly, while one government might lack the credit standing to raise money in the capital market, if two or more governments approach the market together with equity stakes in the projects, they have a better chance of success. The same principle applies to joint tourism promotion, air and sea transportation,” Browne further suggested.
The CARICOM leader insisted that the region was contributing to its own “pauperisation” by failing to integrate resources in joint production and joint ventures.
“Is it not time that we stop clinging to limited possessions with limited returns in the name of national sovereignty when such clinging does not improve our circumstances?” he questioned.
Over the next three days, the Heads of Government will discuss key agenda items, including the Strategic Plan for CARICOM 2015-2019; the Report of the Commission on the Economy; the imminent coordination of CARICOM’s policies on climate change and the post-2015 development agenda as they affect Small Island Developing States (SIDS); an update on the trade negotiations with Canada; the approval of the draft Terms of Reference and composition of the Regional Commission on marijuana and the advancing of the historic quest of Reparations for Native Genocide and Slavery.