The economic recession has forced many governments in the region to unwillingly resort to some unpopular measures to reduce public expenditure.

This view was expressed yesterday by Acting Prime Minister, Richard Sealy, as he delivered the feature address during the opening of the 39th Regional Conference of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, at Hilton Barbados. The one-week conference is being held under the theme, Forging Ahead in a Hostile Global Environment.

Mr. Sealy told his audience that the fall-out from the recession had created several dilemmas for most, if not all, the countries of this region. ???Representative Governments in several jurisdictions tried to maintain the level of social services at a time when their economies were declining. With high public expenditure and declining revenues, fiscal deficits increased. Eventually, most of our countries have to review the previously taken-for-granted social benefits.

???Many in our region have had, reluctantly, to resort, inter alia, to unpopular measures for reducing public expenditure. This annual conference, in my view, is more important than any of the previous 38 held for that reason.???

He suggested that the conference was important because it would give the delegates a chance to review pressing new economic needs of member states, and new opportunities being presented. In addition, he said, it would allow them to review the persistent political and social challenges and contradictions that have to be resolved if countries were to pull themselves out of this devastating recession, and face the future with confidence and a willingness to reach consensus peaceably.

The Acting Prime Minister said he was pleased the issue of under-representation of women in regional parliaments would be addressed during the discussions, especially since one of the Commonwealth’s objectives is the fuller participation of women in parliamentary procedure and politics.

He continued: ???Even though Caribbean women are world-renowned for having been the backbone of our societies for several centuries, there are still several challenges facing their selection as candidates and their election as parliamentary representatives.

???…I, therefore, challenge the women in the region to dig deeper into this matter at the Conference, and perhaps to look at the support systems necessary to enable women to exercise political careers, and come up with some fresh ideas for this recurrent topic.???
Mr. Sealy contended that if countries could achieve increased involvement of women and youth in the mainstream of their development, then they would strengthen their capacity to face the future.

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