Let me begin by thanking colleague Heads of Government for their cooperation and support during my service as Chairman of
the Caribbean Community. I also wish to thank Secretary-General LaRocque and his staff at the Secretariat for their assistance.
President Granger I wish to express my appreciation once again to you and your Government, for graciously agreeing to assist us
with the joint hosting of the meeting of July, 2016. At that time Dominica was still in the initial recovery stages of the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Erika. Your agreement to jointly host the Conference was a tremendous relief to our then exhausted and overburdened officials.
Mr. Chairman, the pleasure is always mine to return to your country and marvel at its vast rivers, bountiful forests and hospitable people. This occasion is no different. I thank the Government and people of Guyana for the courtesies extended to my delegation. This will contribute to creating the perfect atmosphere and environment for a productive and beneficial meeting.
Also on this occasion, I extend a hearty welcome to President Jovenel Moise of Haiti, who is attending his first meeting. Sir, I look forward to our deliberations at this and similar conferences, being enriched by the fresh insights that you will bring to the issues on the agenda.
Your victory at the polls is a reflection of your nation’s faith in our leadership and we will work closely with you to fulfill the aspirations of the Haitian people. The peaceful exercise of the franchise was a tribute to the country’s determination to foster a strong democracy.
In the course of my Chairmanship, I visited Haiti and The Bahamas, accompanied by the Secretary-General, the Executive
Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and other officials to see first hand the devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew. In both countries the extent of the damage was severe.
The Government of Haiti reported more than 500 deaths along with 1.5 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including 120,000 families whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Further, the worst of the devastation occurred in the agricultural belt which affected the food supply of the country.
Agriculture and fishing were also badly affected in The Bahamas along with homes and infrastructure on the three islands which were hardest hit. The damage was estimated at more than $500 million (US) dollars. It is my hope that the recovery process is well underway to reconstructing the lives and livelihoods of all those affected. The Community demonstrated once again the depth of its togetherness when our people rallied to assist the affected countries.
CDEMA provided exceptional service in the wake of the disaster through their co-ordination of relief efforts and technical support on the ground. On my request, and on behalf of the Community, CDEMA also arranged for two schools in the most affected communities to be rehabilitated as a legacy contribution to Haiti’s recovery effort.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the increasing intensity and frequency of
these climatic events force us to face the reality of climate change. Hardly any of us in the Region has been untouched in some form by the effects of the phenomenon and this emphasizes the need for the implementation of the measures contained in the Paris Agreement.
Of particular importance to us is the Green Climate Fund which has been established to assist in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change. It is critical that there must be relatively quick access to this Fund by those it is intended to assist. As laudable as it is, it will be of minimal impact, if disbursement is as sluggish as has been the experience with other institutions and agencies.
Colleagues, last July, I urged us to use whatever powers we had
at our disposal to work towards the speedy and effective implementation of matters we have long agreed upon.
Today many of these matters are still pending, as they languish in our Ministerial Councils, Committees, Commissions and Working Groups. Whether this is due to them being inquorate or Member States asking for time to consult, or even officials not being adequately prepared, the effect is the same – a hindrance to progress.
During this meeting we will be brought up to date on the status of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). It will be no surprise if it provides us with further evidence of the need for a greater effort by all concerned to complete the tasks set by the Heads of Government.
Of particular concern is the inability of the Legal Affairs Committee comprising our Attorneys-General to come together to deal with critical Agreements with respect to both the CSME and Regional Security. I am also concerned that our Council for Finance and Planning has not been able to meet for a considerable period of time. We can and must do better.
I must commend Prime Minister Mitchell and the Ministers with
responsibility for Information and Communication Technology (ICT). They accepted the mandate given last July to consider the
ICT Roadmap and make recommendations to the Conference and at this meeting we have those recommendations before us for consideration.
As Heads of Government we have a responsibility to ensure that
those who have been tasked with fulfilling our mandates participate fully in the relevant discussions. We are dealing with
matters that strike at the heart of both the concerns of our Community and the strengthening of our integration movement. Indeed these matters are also of great significance to all our countries domestically.
The completion of the regional security architecture, for example, has resonance regionally and nationally, as we need these institutional arrangements to combat the scourge of crime that is afflicting us all. Cross border crime is a serious concern within our Community. We need the legal instruments to combat it in our countries as well as regionally. This is a time for action. We cannot afford the luxury of procrastination.
Mr. Chairman, the rising tide of nationalism across the globe supported by populist movements, threatens the multi-lateral system as never before and does not portend well for small states. Further, the concentrated attacks on our economies, whether through the withdrawal of correspondent banking services, listing our countries as non-cooperative tax jurisdictions or denigrating our citizenship by investment programmes, confirm that we are operating in an increasingly hostile international environment.
This is compounded by the fact that most of us have been graduated out of receiving concessional development financing; even though there has been some progress in mitigating the impact of this particular mechanism.
Mr. Chairman, we must acknowledge that we stand a better chance of combatting and surviving the challenges, if we work closely together. This is why, therefore, we must take the necessary action to pursue vigorously those issues that would advance our integration movement. It is in our individual interest to act collectively. The helping hand and solidarity which we so willingly share in adversity must in the same spirit be extended to all other aspects of our integration.
We must prepare ourselves to confront this era of uncertainty in global affairs with a flexibility and innovativeness built on the solid platform of integration, economic co-operation, human and social development, security co-operation and foreign policy coordination. To do less would be to deny the people of our Community the opportunity of living in a viable, prosperous and safe society.
Finally, Mr. Chairman and Colleague Heads, on a rather personal note, I wish to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to those leaders who called and otherwise enquired about the social events in Dominica, following the rebellious acts of the leadership of the Opposition in Dominica two Tuesdays ago.
The situation at home, I can assure you, is under control and I expect that a thorough investigation will be carried out into those disturbances, with a view to bringing the perpetrators of any and all unlawful behavior, to justice.
Again, Dominicans by and large, are appreciative of the interest shown and the solidarity expressed.
Mr. Chairman, Colleagues, I look forward with eager anticipation to the deliberations of this Conference and to our taking decisions that will redound to the furtherance of the interests of the people whom we serve.