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Stuart: Call for regional integration

Barry Alleyne

Stuart: Call for regional integration

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Regional Integration and the Caribbean Single Market are alive and kicking. And Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart believes those two most important components of CARICOM hold the key to the entire region coming out the current recession which has even the world’s largest economies in an apparent death grip. Stuart last night made a call for the islands of the Caribbean to forget trying to battle the recession as individual countries, and band together better than ever before so as to become a power of world renown prowess. The Prime Minister’s new regional integration call came as he delivered the 6th Distinguished Alumni Lecture at the University of the West Indies’ Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination in the Walcott Warner Theatre. “I am a Caribbean man whose very fibre has been shaped by our Caribbean Civilisation and by all the various institutions which have moulded our being,” Stuart told the standing room only audience. “The topic chosen by the Alumni for tonight’s discussion is both fitting and timely.” The Prime Minister noted that a crisis of the duration and complexity of the current one has the potential to call into question the very philosophy that underpins the integration movement. “In any crisis there is a natural tendency to protect individual interests rather than to reach out to collaborate with others.  This has certainly happened in the past in our region.” Stuart said he remains aware that in recent times voices have been raised in this region which have given the impression that the regional integration movement is now on its death bed with a death rattle in its throat.   “I should like to make it clear that that school of thought can lay no claim to my personal endorsement.  Evidence to the contrary is much too abundant to justify any other stance from me. Unfortunately the Jeremiahs of the region delight in focussing on what the regional project has not yet achieved rather than on celebrating what it has already achieved.  Historically the region has not had to wait for the onset of crisis of any kind to put mechanisms for collaboration in place, because of the conviction of our people that, as Michael Manley once said, we are “summoned by the logic of history” to be bold and to work together.” Stuart feels Caribbean people need to remember just how good they are, and how great they can continue to be, regardless of the small size of the countries. “It is time to remind the people of the Caribbean, our diaspora across the world, and all others that the Caribbean Community has long established itself as a beacon of cooperation among small states.  From health care to education to climate change, to championing the green and blue economies, to our spectacular participation in world sports, to security arrangements, we have proven to the world that we can collaborate at the regional, national and institutional levels to achieve our development objectives.”The Prime Minister said it remains an error for Caribbean people to feel regional integration is solely about trade between Caribbean islands.”The fact has to be faced that whether we have a regional integration movement or not, people will buy, people will sell, people will produce, people will consume, people will save, people will spend. Indeed they were doing those things long before we had a regional integration movement and would continue to do them even if we did not have one. The regional integration movement is about much more, important though of course trade is,” the Prime Minister reminded the audience, which included Minister of Labour, Dr Esther Byer Suckoo, Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, and Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for Immigration, Senator Harry Husbands.