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OECS Economic Union


by Ellsworth I. A. John
Director, Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit.13.JUNE.08

On June 16th, St. Vincent and the Grenadines will launch its national consultation on the OECS Economic Union. This event will take place at 9 a.m. at the Peace Memorial Hall in Kingstown, and it is expected that a number of OECS Heads of Government would be in attendance. This is indeed a significant development in the lives of the approximately 560,000 people who live in the six OECS countries and the three British overseas territories.{{more}}

Since the collapse of the West Indies Federation (1958-1962), after Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago decided to seek independence on their own, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Montserrat started establishing institutions to respond to their common development challenges. These included the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority (1965), which was later renamed the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (1983); the Directorate of the Civil Aviation, now renamed the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority; and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (1967). These countries understood that they shared a common history and determined that through economies of scale and shared vision it made sense to have greater collaboration and cooperation among them.

In 1981, through the Treaty of Basseterre, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States was established with seven full members and Anguilla and the British Virgin Island as Associated Members. The two stated objectives under the Treaty are “(1) to provide unity and solidarity among member states to defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence ; and (2) collectively facilitate the carrying out of their obligations and responsibilities to the international community and to harmonise their foreign policy to ensure their effective presence in the international community. “

The establishment of joint overseas diplomatic missions is one of the tangible ways that the OECS member states have been able to achieve the stated objectives. However, trade harmonization and collaboration on market access have contributed to the growth and development of the member states in the OECS family. An example of this was the shipping to and marketing of Windward Islands bananas in the United Kingdom, under WIBDECO, a regionally-owned company which generated a significant amount of revenue for banana farmers and governments in the past.

With the launch of the national consultations on the OECS Economic Union, two main questions have been raised. (1) What is the difference between what we have now and the proposed Economic Union; and (2) What benefits would this bring to poor people.

The key difference under the new structure would be that decisions made by the OECS Authority in the areas of Law and Order, Foreign Affairs, Public Administration, Management of Human and Natural Resources, and Economic Cooperation and Management are automatically legally binding. The goal is to increase competitiveness and total output so as to improve the welfare and quality of the life of the people. The countries in the Economic Union commit to the establishment of a Common Market, the harmonization of monetary policy, the coordination of fiscal policy, the harmonization of trade policies and the establishment of rules to regulate and promote competition within the shared economic space.

The changes proposed, particularly in the area of joint legislation, would have a major impact on the way business is conducted in the OECS member states. It is important for all citizens to make their voices heard. Get involved in the consultation.

The general public is invited and indeed encouraged to attend this launch.