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Eustace defends OECS Assembly

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While some Vincentians are “concerned” about former government minister Rene Baptiste being elected Speaker of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Assembly,{{more}} Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said yesterday he expects less domestic politics from her and defended the Assembly, inaugurated earlier this month.

“I might have something to say about that in due course,” Eustace said of Baptiste’s appointment, even as he said the Assembly “is a step in the right direction”.

He said on his weekly radio programme that the OECS Secretariat, in addition to the government and opposition here, are responsible for ensuring that Vincentians understand what the Assembly is about.

His New Democratic Party, Eustace said, is committed to the expansion of the integration movement — an item in its constitution.

Eustace further said the OECS had grown over the years and has developed institutions that “are functioning pretty well”.

He mentioned the sub-regional grouping’s Central Bank and its Aviation Authority.

“In fact, the OECS has gone past CARICOM in terms of its institutions,” said Eustace, an economist, adding, “… It is clear that in this economic climate, … that in relation to globalisation in the world economies, that we are so small individually that our opportunities for growth are better if we work together as one body.

“… We have to look at the world in that context and the closer we are integrated, the better it is … to exploit the opportunities for economic development,” he said.

He said the Assembly will face problems and “some things will take more time than others and so on.

“I saw quite a bit of negative reporting in the newspapers, but I ain’t going to bother with that,” Eustace further said, adding that people would criticise, regardless of what is done or not done.

“I believe that … economic integration, followed by political integration, is the way forward. And [no matter] how much we stumble along the way, we must keep the direction always.”

Eustace further said some newspapers had questioned the Assembly’s initial focus.

He responded by saying that the Assembly has to work first on the areas that are critical right now.

“We have been hindered in the past — just look at CARICOM — because sometimes we took on more than we can accomplish. It is better to do some things well and add to the list than to put a full list and fail.

“… It (the Assembly) is another step in a route, which we hope will carry us eventually to political integration. … So, whatever the deficiencies, our job is not to pull down. Our job is to work to make it work. … And that is in line with the constitution of the New Democratic Party.

“… I know some of the shortfalls and inefficiencies and I am not going to highlight those as some rationale for doing nothing. … I don’t expect it to be perfect. But once it is going in the direction that is required, however small the step — but this is not a small step, it is important and I support it,” Eustace said.

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