TT still committed to CARICOM
BASSETERRE, St Kitts – Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar has re-assured her Caribbean Community (CARICOM) colleagues that her oil-rich twin island republic remains “categorically” committed to the regional integration movement and understood its role in in CARICOM.
“As a new government, we hold firmly to the view that a strong Trinidad and Tobago is not only of benefit to its own population, but also to our sisters and brothers throughout the Community. Likewise, a weak Trinidad and Tobago benefits no one, neither its own population nor its sisters and brothers throughout the region.
“I have said and I say it again. We rise together or we shall fall together. We must be ready to sacrifice for each other. This will take a greater spirit of magnanimity than we have perhaps exhibited before, but I know that it is not outside our capability. Our strength a s a region will be defined by our unity.”
Persad Bissessar has also told the regional leaders meeting here for their 32 Heads of Government Conference that Port of Spain was well aware of the raging debate as to the future of CARICOM and whether it has or not achieved.
“The debate about the commitment of individual countries to regional integration is also very much alive. Let me at the onset categorically indicate that Trinidad and Tobago is for CARICOM and for regional integration. Let me also indicate that Trinidad and Tobago understands its role in CARICOM and its responsibility to the region and is committed to cooperation,” she told them.
She said that despite some contrary opinion and upheavals in the international landscape that impact the region directly, CARICOM has made substantial progress in a number of areas covering trade, aviation, the judiciary and health.
“With such achievements, this 38th birthday should therefore be a time for celebration, yet it does not seem to have generated that level of contentment which accompanies such attainment. I believe there may be reasons for this, some of which are institutional, unduly high expectations, implementation issues and the perennial inadequate resources. “
Persad Bissessar, the only female head of government attending the meeting, said that the recent global economic and financial meltdown that began in 2008 “ is continuing for some of us” and was also a major setback to socio economic growth.
“But we could have weathered the economic storm with a stronger element of togetherness”.
Even without that however, one of the reasons may well be that while the area of economic cooperation is indeed of critical importance in improving the quality of life of our people – which is after all the ultimate vision of our Community – we seem to have over-emphasized that aspect of our cooperation.”
She said that the Caribbean had placed “a lesser degree of importance and value on some other vital areas as human and social development, health and education.
“With such a public mindset, as we encounter difficulties like the global economic and financial downturn and thus a slowdown in our progress in the economic sphere, it conveys the strong impression that CARICOM as a whole has not been progressing. Ironically, even in the field of economic cooperation, we have not always, realistically and adequately assessed our progress,” she said noting that while the European Union which took 35 years to achieve single market status from 1957 to 1992, the Caribbean did so in 33 years”.
The Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister said the region needs is to “inject new life and fresh passion, more intense commitment to a CARICOM agenda of locating the Caribbean people in the world space”. (CMC)