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    September 24

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EDITORIAL: OECS Union in context of the CSME

rhondathompson, rhondathompson@nationnews.com

Added 22 June 2010

THE SIX independent countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have succeeded in honouring their pledge to pave the way for the realisation of an economic union next year by the signing of a treaty in St. Lucia last Friday. This treaty, which Montserrat plans to sign early next month, will now be presented in the respective parliaments of the signatory member states for necessary endorsement to facilitate arrangements leading to scheduled inauguration of the economic union on January 21, 2011. While much focus has understandably been on economic and fiscal arrangements, of no less importance are the provisions to ensure improved governance in the participating countries of that subregion of the wider Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It should come as no surprise that the OECS countries have come this far in making a reality the product of strenuous efforts at consultations with stakeholders across the subregion.  They had already laid the foundation for levels of economic integration and functional cooperation over the yearsin contrast to arrangements still lacking among some partner states of the wider regional economic integration movement . At the same time, it would not have escaped notice that for the promised CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) to be realised, before possibly the next ten years, there remains much work to be done by both the OECS and the rest of the Community. In this context it is relevant to observe that signing of the OECS Economic Union has followed the recent submission of a final report to the CARICOM Secretariat by the former Prime Minister of Barbados Owen Arthur. Its primary focus is on “the full integration” of Belize and the OECS in the emerging CSME.   Based on wide-ranging consultations, the major findings deal with, among essential issues, as required fiscal adjustment to restore debt sustainability and the scope of structural diversification, as well as in facing the challenge of human resource constraints.  The 210-page report also recognises the creation of a “Regional Stabilisation Programme” as a matter of urgency. However, it is unlikely to be given serious priority attention by CARICOM before responses have been received from Belize and the OECS. Question, of relevance, therefore, is what impact will the “Arthur Report” on “full integration” of Belize and the OECS into the CSME have in relation to the already signed OECS economic union treaty that is  earmarked for inauguration on January 21, 2011?

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