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PM urges OECS to make use of opportunities

PM urges OECS to make use of opportunities

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The economic turmoil being experienced regionally and internationally makes a strong case for both economic and political union in the Organization of East Caribbean States (OECS).{{more}}

That is according to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who was speaking at the opening of the 7th annual OECS Credit Union Summit last week.

The Prime Minister, who delivered the keynote address to a captivated audience at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown on Thursday, August 20th, said that economic situations in the wider CARICOM have their effects on the sub regional (OECS) economy.

He said that the OECS should use this opportunity to work tighter and closer with each other in order to better protect each other’s interests.

Speaking on the topic ‘The Global Financial Crisis: Responding Today, Securing Tomorrow,’ Dr. Gonsalves said that the current crisis was ‘a terrible thing to waste’ and that the sub regional territories need to make use of it in order to move forward.

“This external economic crisis and its sub regional ramifications is that movement to make the case with crystal clarity that what is sub regional is indeed profoundly national and local.”

The Prime Minister touched on a number of immediate challenges that have had negative effects on St. Vincent and the Grenadines and by extension, the other members of the East Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).

Apart from the global economic crisis, he listed the spiraling Antigua/ Barbuda economy; the weak and fragmented conditions of the some of the indigenous banks in the OECS, which he said could become a risk if not dealt with properly and the British American Insurance Company.

“Antigua business is your business and my business because it is 25 per cent of the economy of the ECCU.”

“Historically, Antigua and Barbuda has been very helpful to us, because when the economy was growing it contributed immensely to the strength of the economy of the sub region and, therefore, we were indirect beneficiaries.”

“Now Antigua is facing these extraordinary difficulties, it is incumbent on all of us not only out of a sense of solidarity, but in our own interest in order to protect the ECCU and our financial system.”

In the case of British American, the Minister of Finance said that it is a work in progress which presents greater difficulties than the CLICO Barbados and CLICO Trinidad situations.

He said that the British American situation is a challenge that needs to be restricted from developing into a systemic risk with an imminent danger to the financial system.

Gonsalves indicated that a number of committees have been set up to address the issue.

Claiming to have spent more time on sub-regional and regional matters than those of national concern this year, Gonsalves said that it was necessary because those situations affect the local scene.

“Somebody has to play a leadership role in addressing these challenges, otherwise we are going to be swept aside.”

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