Mia: Closer OECS ties
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has served notice that Barbados wants to deepen political and economic cooperation with other islands in the Eastern Caribbean.
In her first regional speech since assuming office, Mottley yesterday told the 65th Meeting of the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) Authority that her administration wanted mutually beneficial solutions to various issues, including climate change, freedom of movement, and transportation challenges.
The Prime Minister’s suggestions at the Harbour Club Hilton Hotel, Gros Islet, St Lucia, were immediately welcomed by St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and new OECS chairman, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
“Much of what we face is common, the challenges that have confronted us are similar, but in spite of the cooperation between our people . . . we have not yet seen the level of inter-governmental cooperation that matches that which our people have been engaged in at a personal level and at the level of our private sector,” Mottley said.
She added that it was important to solve climate change issues, pointing to the influx of Sargassum seaweed as an opportunity for economic benefit “rather than treating to it as a nuisance that affects our coasts and our tourism industry”.
Freedom of movement was another area of concern for the Prime Minister.
“Wherever I go in the Eastern Caribbean there are those who are concerned about the manner in which they are allowed to move within our ports of entry.
“This is one of the first areas of priority that I would wish for us to discuss . . . . If you are in a port of entry for six or eight hours there is no reason to be treated as a prisoner of war,” she said.
Mottley was keen to discuss the way forward for regional airline LIAT.
She also said: “It is time that we stop talking about inter-island ferry transportation and do it.
“My people in Barbados stand ready to engage in this conversation. What the modalities will be ultimately will be determined by our conversation and by our flexibility. We are family and as family we must be prepared to prioritise discussions among ourselves on the things that matter most,” she said.
Gonsalves said “strategically it is important for Barbados to link with the OECS in the best way possible”.
“We have full freedom of movement in the OECS and I think it is going to be easy for us to do it with Barbados,” he said.
Chastanet, who preceded Gonsalves as OECS chairman, said OECS Heads and Mottley would discuss regional and international issues, and explore opportunities for increased cooperation between the OECS and Barbados. (SC)