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‘OECS will continue to lead the way’

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The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) will continue to lead the way in the integration process as the wider CARICOM continues to be hamstrung by the politics of individual member states.{{more}}

As he addressed the opening of the national consultation on the OECS Economic Union Treaty in St Vincent and the Grenadines last Monday, June 16th at the Peace Memorial Hall, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves gave a less than encouraging analysis of the state of the integration process within CARICOM.

While he said that the push towards integration within CARICOM is desirable, Dr Gonsalves said that the strides made by the St. Lucia-based OECS makes the sub-region’s efforts more easily attainable.

He further said that the quest for an OECS economic union is a recognition among it’s members that the special and differential position elaborated for them in the Revised Treaty of Chagaramas is inadequate and that a CARICOM wide single economy will not be to their best interest.

Dr Gonsalves said that among other things, it is unlikely that CARICOM will in the foreseeable future see “the realisation of a common monetary policy or a common currency in CARICOM as exists in the OECS member Countries. Similarly, it is most doubtful that we would see in CARICOM an integrated judiciary as in the OECS or an enhanced institutionalised “supranationality” in political decision-making which is required to transform a ramshackle political-administrative apparatus in CARICOM into a purposive, matching vehicle correspondingly, for the Single Economy venture.

“I am satisfied that the politics of a limited regional engagement in Jamaica shackled by the ghosts from the federal referendum, the politics of ethnicity in Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana, a mistaken sense of “uniqueness, special(ness), and separation” among the large sections of the Barbadian populace, the peculiar distinctiveness of Haiti and Surinam, and the cultivated aloofness from the regional enterprise by the Bahamas, are destined in the foreseeable future to keep CARICOM as a “community of sovereign states” in which several of its member-states jealously guard a vaunted and pristine sovereignty,” he further stated.

He said that the contemporary economics, the small size of the of OECS states, trade liberalization, advanced telecommunications, and modern globalization have induced the OECS, which groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands to strengthen their ties.

“The case for a closer union of the member-countries of the OECS has always been unanswerably strong.”

He however warned about the negatives that can affect the integration process of the OECS.

“Island chauvinism, a potential overreach by regional bureaucrats, and the petty politics of village states are the debilitating interlopers which threaten to undermine the efficacy of the proposed economic union enterprise and its necessary and consequentially altered political superstructure,” he said.

Notwithstanding the OECS’ integration efforts and the barriers be believes that hinders the wider CARICOM endeavors, Dr Gonsalves said it is important that OECS states continue to “elaborate further in theory and practice, very special political-economic and social relationships with Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Barbados.”

He said that apart from the monetary union of the OECS member countries, their economies are more closely integrated with that of Trinidad and Tobago than with each other.

“Moreover, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have especial family ties with Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is a major hub for the OECS member-countries in several areas of activity; and they share a joint Regional Security System. Guyana represents the future for land, food, and water for the sub-region. These reasons, and more, correctly prompt some leaders in the OECS, particularly from the Windward Islands, from time to time to propose closer political ties formally with Trinidad and Tobago especially, and to a lesser extent Barbados and Guyana,” Dr Gonsalves said.

The deepening of the integration movement in this economic union represents the major instrument that can prove an improved standard of living for our people and the development of our country,” is how the Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition, Arnhim Eustace accessed the movement toward integration.

Chairman of the OECS Economic Union Task Force, Sir K Dwight Venner voiced concerns about the external pressures facing smaller states.

He said that rising oil and food prices, and the down turn in the US economy has increased the challenges facing these states.

The consultation in St Vincent and the Grenadines was the third in the process, following similar ones held in Dominica and Montserrat.

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