The Prime Minister appeared to reach a new peak of frustration with the pace of Caribbean integration today, declaring it has crawled to the point where her fellow CARICOM leaders are gripped by a “crisis of will” and that she is growing tired of giving speeches pointing the way forward for the 46-year-old bloc.
Speaking to an audience that included some of her counterparts, ministers of finance and investment and senior representatives of international financial institutions, she contended that the public awareness has already been done on such issues as migration, but that action on managing it remains far off.
“I almost tire now of giving these speeches… and I tire of giving them because progress is too slow, and I ask myself why is progress slow… and it comes right back down to where I started. Fundamentally, it is about the will to make that difference,” she told the ninth annual Caribbean Forum on Regional Transformation for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Mottley called for a regionally-owned or operated cargo shipping company that can transport agricultural produce between Caribbean states daily as another example on which leaders continue to fail the people.
In 1963, the West Indies Shipping Corporation (WISCO), formed with the two Canadian ships donated to the short-lived West Indies Federal Government which collapsed the previous year, was an intra-regional merchant shipping company which moved goods throughout the then Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) and its successor, CARICOM. Riddled with debt, WISCO failed in 1992.
Mottley declared: “We need to be able to have a maritime bridge.
“The Canadians in the 1950s and ‘60s recognized that this region could not do it on its own and assisted us with two boats… the Federal Maple and the Federal Palm.
“But our determination to be able to create them again is absolutely critical, if we are going to see the sale of produce across the region become a daily reality.”
She argued that the ability of CARICOM member states to reduce the region’s US$5 billion import bill would make the difference to householders and families.
“But our failure to treat to the logistics of the movement of this produce is denying the opportunities to families within this region,” she added.
A cost-effective common telecommunications system was another area which the Prime Minister identified as lacking the will by leaders to implement.
“Equally, our inability to reduce our cost of communication by artificially placing costs and prices on us for talking across the region, when invariably if you pick up this phone,” Mottley said as she displayed her mobile phone, “and I go to do certain things, it comes up as Jamaica. Why? Because the switch from which it is operated is not located in Barbados. And if it is not located in Barbados, why am I paying roaming charges when I go to Jamaica?
“A single domestic space in telecommunications is absolutely vital to the successful integration of our people… because at the end of the day, Governments don’t trade, it is people through companies and households that do so,” Prime Minister Mottley suggested.