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RIDU hosts Regional Media Workshop

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The benefits of an Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) economic union will have to be broken down to individual sectors of society if they are to embrace it.

This was the prevailing view that emerged from a workshop held for media personnel last Monday by the recently formed Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit (RIDU).{{more}}

The RIDU was formed mainly to act as the coordinating centre within the state administration to deal with regional matters like the Caricom Single Market and Economy and the OECS Economic Union.

Head of the RIDU, Ambassador Ellsworth John, gave the scanty gathering of media personnel an in-depth overview of the road that led to the forming of the OECS on June 18, 1981, with the signing of the treaty of Basseterre, in St Kitts, and the prevailing circumstances, making pursuing a closer economic link necessary.

He called on the media to help sensitize the public about the happenings within the OECS.

During the discussion period of the half-day workshop, which was held at the Service Commissions conference room, it was suggested that the average citizen may not be aware or show much interest in the legal and political workings of the OECS economic union.

However, if they can be made to see, in layman’s terms, the benefits of the union to them, they are

likely to trust their political leaders to walk them through the legislative and political maneuvering that is necessary to make the union work.

An intellectual fleshing out of the subject must, however, be encouraged, the workshop determined.

Consultations are ongoing in the nine member countries of the OECS about the establishment of the economic union.

Among other things, the economic union is designed to remove barriers to trade between national markets in goods, services and factors of production.

The proposed new structure is also designed to give more legal clout to the decisions taken, considering that under the existing treaty decisions taken by the Head of Government (The Authority) are not automatically legally binding and enforceable in the member states.

“Notwithstanding the benefits of the last 27 years of integration, much more could have been achieved for the people of the OECS but for the unenforceability of a number of important decisions taken by the Authority,” an OECS booklet on frequently asked questions about the economic union states.

At a recently held OECS consultation here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves applauded the OECS’ move towards the economic union, as he weighed in on the snail-like pace of the move towards integration by the wider CARICOM body.

“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 Suriname, 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 had said.

While stating that the case for a closer union of the member countries of the OECS has always been strong, Dr Gonsalves warned of dangers that can impede this push.

These dangers include: Island chauvinism, a potential overreach by regional bureaucrats, and the petty politics of village states.

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