??Prime Minister Freundel Stuart

If Caribbean states are to truly achieve socio-economic development, then they must become more self-reliant.

This was underscored by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart yesterday as he delivered his maiden address at the opening ceremony of the 32nd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It was held at the Sir Cecil Jacobs Auditorium, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, in St.Kitts and Nevis.

Mr. Stuart told delegates that in spite of the many difficulties facing the region, that in fact, every Caribbean territory "has the capacity to meet the needs of its people, with respect to food, shelter, clothing, health and education".

The Prime Minister made it clear that the Government of Barbados (which has lead responsibility for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy) remained "unequivocally committed to the pursuit of Caribbean integration, adding "the building of a truly West Indian nation is as much a priority for me as it was for my distinguished predecessors.?? I pledge to remain true to their legacy."

Recounting the struggles of the region against a constant backdrop of political, economic and social upheaval evidenced by the conditions of the 1930s, the first oil crisis, the Grenada coup in 1979, and the world economic crisis of the 80s

and, more recently 9/11, among other events, he observed that Member States "hardly had time to catch our breath before the crash of 2008 unleashed an unprecedented, global economic and financial upheaval which still has us in its stranglehold." Yet, he argued that these circumstances had served to strengthen the region.

"Lest we forget the long and arduous road already travelled, the multitude of obstacles already overcome; lest we forget the anguish, but ultimately the faith and fortitude of those who brought us thus far. Lest we lose hope and focus and cease to remind ourselves that, however daunting it might appear to us now, these are not really the hardest of hard times. For crisis will always be our constant companion."

Mr. Stuart went on: "Our Caribbean family has been through worse and has been strengthened by the experience. Our genius lies in our ability to plan and execute in circumstances that are more often adverse than favourable; to deploy, in the words of Michael Manley: "strategies fashioned in the crucible of survival".?? And, to recognise that when the occasion demands it the pragmatic and the possible must sometimes become our stepping stones to the ideal."

The Prime Minister urged Caribbean people not to be "daunted by the negativity of the armchair pundits who continue to spread their ???doom and gloom’ commentaries across the region, composing their requiems to CARICOM, diagnosing the so-called paralysis, and bemoaning the pressing of the pause button".

He pointed out that developments that were worthwhile and sustainable were "usually never dramatic", emphasising that they tended to come "incrementally, quietly, and very often imperceptibly."

CARICOM leaders are now into day two of the summit in Basseterre.


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