Prime Minister David Thompson, greeting Dr. Neville Duncan on his arrival at the University of the West Indies. Looking on is Professor Andrew Downes.

“In the present economic climate we have to pull together or [we will] be picked off individually.”

This advice was given today by Prime Minister David Thompson, as he delivered the feature address at the tenth annual conference of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. He was speaking on the theme “Navigating Risks and Building Resilience in Small States”.

Although advocating the deepening and widening of the integration movement, Mr. Thompson warned that the creation of a single space with free movement of labour had to be carefully planned. “This movement of skills is vitally important to countries such as ours which have ageing populations,” he noted.

The Prime Minister also pointed out that the intense competition for jobs during this time of economic challenges would create considerable tension in the more developed states, such as Barbados. “This trend must be addressed by CARICOM frontally, to safeguard the welfare of all citizens.

“We believe it is imperative that we ensure provision is made to enable this county to absorb [the] increasing, but finite numbers of immigrants, while maintaining the level of services and extending to them a standard of living at a level to which we have become accustomed,” Mr. Thompson opined.

He further stated that the free movement of labour was not only a problem for receiving countries, but could cost some states more than others, in terms of attracting and retaining skilled workers.

“The CARICOM Development Fund and other provisions of the Treaty of Chaguaramas to support the disadvantaged regions, sectors and countries must be activated and managed efficiently and effectively,” the Prime Minister told the conference participants.

He also expressed the view that the biggest challenge faced by the region in moving towards a single economy was harmonisation. He, therefore, recommended that each country’s fiscal, monetary and other macro-economic programmes should be examined and brought to an agreed level.

“As in all negotiations, this will be challenging, but doing business in CARICOM must be simplified in order for skills, services, goods and capital to move freely and with minimal cost. These initiatives need to be joined together with integration and convergence indicators to work towards full macro-economic coordination,” Mr. Thompson observed.

He also suggested that the creation of the Single Economy would require deeper social partnerships between the governments, the private sectors, the trade unions and the civil society organisations of the region.

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