Opening Remarks by the Honourable David Thompson, Prime Minister of Barbados on the occasion of the Fifth Meeting of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) on 11 March 2009 in Belize City, Belize.

Colleague Prime Ministers of the Subcommittee on the CSME
Honourable Prime Ministers of the Community
Ministers of Government
Ladies and gentlemen

I am indeed pleased to welcome you to this the Fifth Meeting of the subcommittee on the CSME. I wish to thank our Chairman and the host, the Honourable Dean Barrow, for accommodating the postponement and subsequent rescheduling of this meeting ahead of the Inter-Sessional Conference. Permit me to also express appreciation for the splendid arrangements which have been put in place for us in order that we may carry out our business here. I can say without any doubt that we have received a fine CARICOM welcome.

We are in the midst of challenging times and exactly one week ago, the Heads of Government of the OECS, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados met in a Special Session in Barbados to consider developments in two pan-Caribbean firms based in our regional financial sector. After much discussion, we affirmed the need to deepen our collaboration in the face of the crises before us and also committed ourselves to meet on a more frequent basis at technical levels to facilitate greater sharing of information and monitoring of the situation throughout the region.

Regional businesses have prospered, as expected, on account of our commitments to liberalise among ourselves. Our people have enjoyed greater levels of employment, standards of living that are higher and greater access to opportunities for wealth creation. Intra-regional trade and tourism have also increased their contribution to our individual economies over the years. This is in no small measure due to the implementation of obligations under the Treaty of Chaguaramas and its subsequent revision. We depend on access to each other’s economies for the growth which we presently enjoy.

And today as we face the repercussions of an unparalleled global economic crisis centred in the developed world, but one which will not escape us. We must again rely on our regional commitments and partnerships. This of course is one of the major tests of the Single Market and Economy. Let us determine to shore up the weaker links of our union, be it regulation and oversight of the financial sector or intra-regional transportation.

Since 1989 the decision to conclude a Single Market and Economy, CARICOM States have embarked on various programmes of liberalization with the support of technical and financial assistance from within our own Member States and from external donors. Let us complete the Strategic Plan for the Single Economy in order that we may further and more appropriately coordinate our national efforts to accomplish our objectives.

Today, we shall receive a status report on the movement of people and facilitation of travel within CARICOM. In this regard, tens of thousands of CARICOM nationals enter our territories for business and pleasure as we deepen our sense of Community. This is a pleasing fact to note.

To date, we have permitted nine categories of persons to seek employment in each of our territories without requiring a work permit and this is a significant boon to the prospects of skilled workers and should redound to the benefit of enterprise across the region. On another occasion we will be forced to examine the rights which must accrue to these persons who have taken the decision to work in another CARICOM jurisdiction. But that is not the task for today even though I expect there will be some discussion on that matter.

The 29th Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM had to take the hard decision to postpone the move to full free movement of all CARICOM Nationals. While this may not have been the most preferred course of action, it was necessary. That schedule will be reviewed by us today. We recognize that a decision to allow persons to move freely does not guarantee an equitable distribution in that movement across CARICOM. There is not much that we can do as Heads of Government to address this, but we can put measures in place to ensure that some Member States’ capacities are not taxed. Let us not miss the opportunity we have today to use this meeting to take the corrective action and review timelines where necessary. But it is not only timelines which must be addressed. We have the occasion to look at the decisions we have taken prior to this juncture and to examine their effectiveness in light of the recessionary forces at work in the global economy. Our responsibility in this sub-committee is to steer this initiative to our destination with purposefulness and for the betterment of all our people.

Our Agenda is before us. Let us make the most of our time and I hope that today we have fruitful deliberations.

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