Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell
Prime Minister of Grenada
Fellow citizens of the Member States of the OECS, I bring you greetings in my capacity as Chairman of the OECS on the occasion of the 35th Anniversary of our Organisation.
Every year on June 18th we commemorate the historic signing in 1981 of the Treaty Establishing the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, commonly referred to as the Treaty of Basseterre. On that day the representatives of seven small island states in the Eastern Caribbean took the bold step of linking the destinies of their territories together in a very formal way. This decision was not only far-sighted and far-reaching, but reflected a strategic vision of a unified and strengthened Eastern Caribbean, capable of ensuring sustained improvements in the welfare of every citizen.
On this special day therefore, I ask you to join with me in celebration of the proud legacy that we have inherited from those who, by signing the Treat of Basseterre thirty-five years ago, launched us on this incredible journey; I ask you to join me in celebration of the phenomenal successes and achievements which we have witnessed over the years, and which are reflected in the longevity of the institutions and arrangements which have become such an integral part of the fabric of our daily lives, and which we have all come to take so much for granted. Among those are:
the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, the single authority that lies beyond the dictates of any single government or country, and that has regulated and managed our entire banking and currency system so successfully since 1983;
the single currency, the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, in existence since 1965, and noted for its strong reputation for stability, having been tied to the United states Dollar at a rate of exchange that has remained fixed for the last forty years, since 1976;
the single judiciary (the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court), which has been fully functional for the last forty seven years, since 1969, and which ensures that the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitutions is guaranteed and upheld without fail;
the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority that has safeguarded the integrity and safety of the airspace and of civil aviation within the OECS for decades;
the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority which has negotiated the liberalisation of our telecommunications sectors and has allowed consumers across the OECS to exercise choice when selecting a service provider; and lastly,
the Joint Pharmaceutical Procurement system which allows us the facility for access to more affordable medications.
The expansion of the stature and scope of the OECS within the last few years is also a source of great pride, and provides ample cause for celebration on this thirty-fifth anniversary of our Organisation.
The signing of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre on June 18, 2010, and the operationalisation of the OECS Economic Union in January 2011 ushered in a new phase in the evolution of the OECS, and gave concrete expression to the aspirations of the people of our region to further deepen and strengthen the process of integration.
As a result of these developments we are well on the way to realizing a single financial and economic space within the OECS – a space characterized by the free movement of the factors essential for the creation of sustained wealth and enhanced well-being; the ability, indeed the right to mobilise immovable property for productive purposes, and the free movement of labour, capital (including financial capital), entrepreneurship and ideas.
While progress on the creation of the single space is proceeding purposefully, one of the more notable and successful outcomes of the process has been the achievement of freedom of movement of persons and of labour. Since August 01, 2011, OECS nationals have been able to travel freely within the single OECS space – to search for employment opportunities, to work without having to obtain work permits, to send their children to school, to seek medical attention, to set up businesses, to stay indefinitely, and to be treated as nationals wherever they travel within the Economic Union area. Every OECS citizen is therefore in a position to benefit from the creation of the single space that is a manifestation of the OECS Economic Union.
Ladies and gentlemen, the success of the OECS is something that cannot be denied. It continues to attract the attention of international institutions and countries of global stature which are all eager to partner with our Organisation in the ongoing effort to enhance the living standards of the people of our region. Indeed, throughout the greater Caribbean, the successes of the OECS have been attracting attention, so that just over a year ago, in February of 2015, the Organisation admitted its newest and tenth member, Martinique, into the fold.
Concrete steps are currently being taken in response to applications from Guadeloupe and Saint Martin for membership in the Organisation. These developments are reflective of the bold and visionary leadership that has characterized our Organisation since its inception, and points to a deep appreciation of the nature and depth of the changes that are taking place in the world.
Fellow citizens, the OECS and its Institutions continue to be the means through which much has been achieved by the small and vulnerable island states of the Eastern Caribbean; it has been the means through which our countries have been able, through the pooling of resources and the sharing of risk, to face the ever daunting challenges of the global environment, and to aim for sustainability and success. As we continue on this remarkable journey, may the successes of the last thirty-five years serve to motivate and to inspire us. I remain confident that ours is a bright and promising future, and it is in this spirit of optimism and pride that I take great pleasure in wishing you a very happy and productive OECS Day.
I wish us all a Happy 35th Anniversary.