If Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley could get her way, Caribbean countries would be linked by sea bridges with vessels transporting people and produce between islands, the information flow would be enhanced, and there would be a single telecommunications space for citizens.
“Until we deal with these three things, we are making sport,” Mottley told regional students and the public at the University of the West Indies (UWI) on Thursday night as she participated in a wide-ranging discussion on “Women Shaping Global Economic Governance and Trade”.
The Prime Minister described these three goals as critical to regional economic integration as she participated in the discussion with Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, Arancha Gonzalez; Minister in the Ministry of Trade, Sandra Husbands; and Director General of the Office of Trade and Negotiations at the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Ambassador Gail Mathurin.
Commenting on Trinidad’s sea bridge with Tobago, and with reference to development of a ferry service between the islands, Mottley said “it (the sea bridge) has created new classes of travellers”, underscoring the benefits of intra-regional transportation of people and goods.
As for a single telecommunications space, which has been under discussion for several years, she envisioned this would include a single regional calling rate.
Mottley also called for the Caribbean Community leaders to meet more often than twice annually and media entities such as the state-run Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation to become platforms of communication which would allow enhanced flows of information among the countries, and greater awareness by citizens of what is happening in the region.
She chided commercial banks for failing to utilise high levels of liquidity to finance entrepreneurial businesses, while describing a lack of finance, including for female entrepreneurs, as a major problem. She said providing women with financing would be one way to drive entrepreneurship.
Mottley also stated that there was a need to change perceptions, which would result in greater use of domestic and regional produce. Included in the change of public thinking was the view that “unless it comes from overseas it is not good”.
The panellists underscored the value of regional trade development and support for multilateralism as compared with global developments in countries such as United States where the Donald Trump administration has moved to bilateral deals and an “America First” economic policy. (HH)