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Eustace: Deeper understanding of Regional Integration needed

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Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says there has been a failure to generate interest among Vincentians on issues such as the OECS Economic Union Treaty and matters of regional integration.{{more}}

On Monday, May 31, 2010, Eustace joined other members of Parliament in approving the Motion on the draft OECS Economic Union Treaty.

He used the opportunity to highlight his role as a civil servant in deepening the regional integration process, dating back to the 1970s.

“I reflected on what it used to be like in those early days of the integration movement and I am struck by the fact that what we did then got more public notice than what we do now,” said Eustace.

Practical initiatives applied to the integration movement in its early stages were cited as the reason for the success achieved in stimulating the public’s interest.

Eustace mentioned important regional programmes such as the Agricultural Marketing Protocal, the Oils and Fats Agreement, and the Industrial Allocation Scheme that contributed to this end.

He noted that Vincentians could have identified with these programmes and as a a result of this had a deeper understanding of what the integration movement meant to the nation.

He called for mechanisms to be found which can broaden the understanding of the public on regional matters.

Eustace acknowledged that the advent of globalization and trade liberalization has changed the world.

In years gone by, said Eustace, there was no need to worry about the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its sanctions.

He stated: “The importance of integration particularly economic integration cannot be doubted. It’s here with us and we have to develop it further.”

Eustace said he was happy when he saw Article 5 of the Treaty which deals with ‘General Undertakings As To Implementation’.

“It is no secret, none at all, that a lot of decisions have been taken in furtherance of integration movement in this region over the years, from the seventies right through to now, which were good decisions, but they were not implemented because of lack of the necessary political will,” said Eustace. He added that distrust at the political level of the member states has slowed the achievements.

Had certain things which could have contributed to the region’s development been done earlier, the region would have been in a better position to deal with the economic and financial crisis affecting the country, Eustace said.

Addressing shortcomings of the regional integration process, Eustace drew reference to a decision that CARICOM took a few years ago in relation to the head tax for cruise-ship visitors to the region. He noted that the weekend did not pass when one country that was a part of the agreement broke away and announced that they will reduce the head tax. He said the other countries that went ahead and implement it backed away.

Eustace exclaimed that he is hoping and praying that the region is serious in implementing the OECS Economic Union Treaty this time.

Although expressing optimism, Eustace, expressed that he is a cautious of immediate success drawing reference to Prime Minister Gonsalves’ announcement that some countries are having difficulty in meeting the June 18 deadline.

Eustace said it takes political courage to implement a mechanism which reduces the sovereignty of the individual countries and delegate that authority to the OECS. Getting decisions implemented was also a major concern expressed by him.

For those who are worried about the question of the loss of sovereignty, Eustace said: “Let us recognise that inside of this document there is the provision as the prime minister used the terminology earlier in his presentation for a ‘legislative filter’. Simply put we have a chance to see the delegated legislation what it is made up of before it comes into effect.

“We have a chance to participate in its preparation and you have a chance to influence its development.

Technically, citizens of the member states will not be losing any sovereignty, said Eustace.(HN)

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