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Public forum held this week on OECS Economic Union

Public forum held this week on OECS Economic Union

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Vincentians were able to hear firsthand from a number of the architects of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Economic Union, at a public forum held here this week.{{more}}

Director General of the OECS Dr. Len Ishmael, along with Governor of the East Caribbean Central Bank Sir Dwight Venner, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves met with members of the general public to discuss the CARICOM sub-region’s march towards integration, on Tuesday, February 15, at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown.

The session, organized by the Regional Integration Diaspora Unit (RIDU), heard input from the key figures speaking on various aspects of the impending union, especially its benefits to the region.

St. Lucian born Ishmael, speaking on the benefits of the Union, said that that the revised Treaty of Basseterre will directly affect the way in which the region does business, especially in the area of free movement, legislative competence and settlement of disputes.

“…. A framework of the regulation of business conduct is also being established. Elements include the enactment of competition legislation to prohibit anticompetitive business conduct, including collusion and abuse of dominance, as well as to regulate mergers.

“A Competitive Commission will be established to enforce laws and a regional approach will be adopted with respect of both consumer protection and antidumping.”

Sir Dwight, during his presentation, noted that there were four major areas which are critical to the success of the economic union.

“The first of these is justice, law and order (which) is the primary public policy goal of each state and in this case would involve in my view the regionalization of the courts, the police and the prison services.”

“….Education, skills training and innovation are critical; both to create regional and national citizens and to produce the type and quality of the labour force that can make the economies of the economic union regional and internationally competitive.”

The other areas mentioned by the Governor were transportation and energy.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who wrapped up the presentations, expanded on the points raised by the previous speakers, and raised some issues of his own.

He stressed that the advent of the economic union does not prejudice each country’s existing constitution.

Quoting Article 5.4 of the treaty, Dr. Gonsalves read: “Nothing in this treaty requires a member state to undertake amendments to its constitution and its obligation as to the implementation as circumscribed accordingly.”

“In other words, our existing constitutions remain; it is that we are using the authority of each independent member state to pool our sovereignty to address the hostile world in which we find ourselves for the benefit of our citizens.”

The Prime Minister urged all members of the OECS to read the treaty and protocol, which can be found on the OECS website (www.oecs.org) and the local government website (www.gov.vc)

The Revised treaty of Basseterre which heralded the OECS Economic Union was ratified in 2010 and came into effect earlier this year.(JJ)

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