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PM: OECS Union coming in June

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By June 18, the Organization of East Caribbean States, OECS should be part of a new OECS Economic Union. This announcement was made by Chairman of the OECS, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves as he addressed the sub-regional grouping on Monday evening.

His address marked the commencement of the activities to mark the 25th anniversary of OECS, which will be celebrated on June 18, 2006.{{more}}

Dr. Gonsalves noted that the union as proposed, should strengthen and deepen OECS integration and set the stage for the adoption of common policies in areas “critical to the continued economic and social development” of the region. Also of importance is the role the union will play in the effective implementation of “all relevant decisions taken at the sub-regional level.” This, according to Dr. Gonsalves, is critical, as non-implementation of important decisions has proved very costly for the sub-region.

Dr. Gonsalves stressed that the OECS Economic Union is “closely linked to, and supportive of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, CSME” which came into effect in six CARICOM member states on January 1 this year. He added that OECS Member States have however adopted the position that while remaining fully committed to participating in the CSME, there are outstanding issues of substantive concern to the Member States which still require resolution.

Included among these is the need to provide “adequate financing for operalisation of the Regional Development Fund whose importance to the LDC’s, of which the OECS are a major grouping, is underscored in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.” The OECS Chairman added that member states also expect to see “consideration given to the request for special and differential treatment for several critical manufacturing industries which continue to require some form of protection along the same lines which we in the wider Caricom region seek to express our vulnerability in the context of the WTO, and other trading arrangements.”

Dr. Gonsalves noted that the OECS were now awaiting the report on the findings of the Committee on the CSME convened under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados on possible resolution of these and other issues of concern.

The OECS Chairman stated that the proposed OECS Union “will lay the foundation for a more beneficial adoption of common policies, enhanced economic diversification linked to greater international competitiveness, and an investor-friendly environment. It will lay the foundation for increased employment and job creation, and increased cohesiveness and effectiveness in the area of external economic negotiations. The new environment will also enable Member States to more effectively tackle the issue of public debt and fiscal reform.”

It is also expected that Judicial and Legal Reform, including the reform of magistrates’ courts, will be on the agenda of the OECS for 2006. Also planned for this year is the implementation of recommendations for the establishment of an OECS Regional Police Service and a Regional Prison Service. The OECS will also “urgently attempt to address the very serious threat (the) region faces annually from natural disasters, particularly from storms and hurricanes. Damage mitigation and insurance and recovery programmes remain vital.”

The address was carried simultaneously on radio and television here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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