Published Friday 20 March 2009
CASTRIES, St Lucia:
OECS Chairman, Prime Minister Tillman Thomas of Grenada feels the current global economic downturn makes now an even more opportune time for small countries like those in the OECS to strengthen ties and work closer together.
Thomas delivered the feature address at the March 3 launch of public consultations in Grenada on the OECS Economic Union. He told the large crowd at the open air ceremony along the Carenage in capital city St Georges, the time is also opportune for the region’s people to become fully involved in accelerating the process of deeper integration.
Grenada joined Montserrat, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia in launching public awareness campaigns on the draft treaty on economic union for the OECS. Other Member States are expected to join the process shortly.
The public consultations, which are expected to run up to December this year, are designed to give OECS citizens a chance to become better informed about the goals and objectives of the Economic Union and indicate the areas where they have concerns and issues they want addressed..
“As the developed world struggle to grapple with the massive economic downturn, we as small states are not immune,” Thomas told the St Georges gathering. “We need to build on our successes, pursue many more joint initiatives and to collectively strengthen the integration process,” he added.
Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Sir Dwight Venner, who currently heads the regional Economic Union Task Force, lauded the cooperation of OECS Heads in recent months as they addressed the implications of the global economic crisis, and said it sent strong signals about what is possible under the economic union. The Heads along with Finance Ministers held a number of face to face and video conference meetings to reach consensus on a regional response to the global economic downturn.
Head of Corporate Services at the OECS Secretariat Nicholas Devaux, speaking on behalf of the OECS Director General, said the challenges of the global economic crisis underscore the need for deeper OECS integration.
“The only way we can defend our fragile, open economies against this juggernaut is by working together,” he stressed.
“It will be important for us to coordinate the use of our limited financial resources to ensure that our regional tourism industry remains viable,” Devaux noted as he pointed to areas for closer cooperation.
“We will have to make maximum use of sectors such as construction that can assist with economic growth while providing employment opportunities. Moreover it will be necessary that we develop a regional plan of action for providing social safety net protection for those groups most severely impacted by this crisis,” he added.
Grenada’s Foreign Minister Peter David, under whose ministry the public consultations will be conducted promised a nation-wide consultative process and urged all Grenadians to make their voices heard. The process was also endorsed by the Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce whose president addressed the launch.
Reprinted from Caribbean Net News