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39 parliamentarians at OECS inaugural meeting today

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Thirty-Nine parliamentarians from throughout the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have assembled in Antigua and Barbuda today for the inaugural meeting of the OECS Assembly,{{more}} a new institution fashioned under the Revised Treaty of Basseterre Establishing the OECS Economic Union, which came into force in January 2011.

This inaugural meeting of the OECS Assembly marks the achievement of yet another benchmark, as the OECS continues on its march to realize its objective of creating an effective economic union which promises growth and economic development for its members and associate members.

Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are full members of the OECS. Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands are associate members.

SVG is being represented by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Ministers Saboto Caesar and Clayton Burgin, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace and Member of Parliament Dr Godwin Friday.

The OECS Assembly joins the OECS Commission as two new institutional arrangements designed to improve the governance arrangements in the OECS. By July 2011, the Commission, which comprises one Commissioner from each member state party to the protocol, plus the Director General, began operating.

“There is already evidence after one year of operation, that both the secretariat of the Commission and the Member States are implementing mandates at a higher level of efficiency. This is evidenced by the coming into force of the free movement of persons in August 2011 and methodical approach being taken to monitor and evaluate the gains of the economic union with involvement by the critical stakeholders in the member states,” a release from Ellsworth I. A. John, OECS Commissioner for St Vincent and the Grenadines said.

Article 5.3 of the Revised Treaty mandates the independent member states to enact legislation which delegate to the OECS the authority to legislate in its area of competence, with the intention that the acts, regulations and orders have direct effect in the laws of the member states. In effect, once the Revised Treaty was passed into the domestic law in the member states, the OECS had the authority to pass laws in specified areas that were binding on the member states. This process can now begin with the establishment of the OECS Assembly.

The OECS Assembly, which is required to have among its members all of the Prime Ministers and Leaders of the Opposition, acts as a filter for all legislation passed by the OECS Authority. Persons have questioned whether the OECS Assembly has any real clout, given that the legislations are passed at the level of the prime ministers through the OECS Authority. The simple answer is yes. The substantive debate on proposed legislations will take place in the OECS Assembly and it is the place for the voice of the people of the OECS to be heard through their representatives.

The areas of legislative competence of the organization are restricted to custom union, monetary policy, trade policy, maritime jurisdiction, common commercial policy, immigration policy and environmental policy. These are all areas where a collaborative approach can lead to significant changes in the well being of the citizens of the OECS and it is therefore important that we remain engaged through our elected representatives in the work done through this legislative process.

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