Remarks by the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Honourable Allen Chastanet At the 37th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Georgetown, Guyana. 4-7 July 2016.
Posted in: Speeches | 08 July 2016 | Release Ref #: 106/2016 | 1791
Let me thank my fellow Heads of Government for their warm welcome as the new Prime Minister of Saint Lucia. The numerous congratulatory messages received from the entire region speaks to the profound respect given to this new designation, which the people of my beautiful country have bestowed on me and my Government. I am indeed honoured to stand here to represent my country. As the newest head of state I look forward to meeting with each of you to discuss how we can further strengthen regional integration. I believe that we do not take enough time to meet with each other outside of conferences. We need to listen more and bond with each other. Maybe then we will be able to find win - win solutions that will benefit us all.
The recent mandate given to me by the people of Saint Lucia was based on a promise to build a prosperous and Saint Lucia for the benefit of all. Austerity measures have crippled our economy, while poverty and unemployment are on the increase throughout Saint Lucia. It is therefore a very focused yet ambitious manifesto that promises to alleviate poverty, rebuild community, reduce tax burdens, commit to the youth empowerment and development, rebuild productive sectors, generate enough revenue to pay for social services and put money in people’s pockets to meet their needs. It is nonetheless with the blessing of the people of Saint Lucia that I, like all previous Prime Ministers of Saint Lucia, reaffirm our commitment to an effective and efficient Caribbean Community. Such a heavy mandate from the people of a member state means that we will have to collectively find immediate solutions that are cost effective.
This Community has made a commitment to the people of the region and they must feel the tangible benefits. We must deliver on a better way of life. Our excuse that progress is hampered by consensus is no longer convincing nor acceptable. That is why people are questioning our relevance. The recent referendum that voted for Britain to exit the European Union has put the survival of our integration into focus. People are once again asking what is in for me and my country. What if our people ask for such a referendum? Are we certain of their response? Have we done enough to create that connection between our people and the community? Why are we so afraid to do more with an organisation that has demonstrated that we can punch above our weight in the international arena. If we are an organisation whose essence is a better life for the whole, then let our decisions legitimately reflect that principle. Let us trust our councils and work teams. Let them become more engaged and committed to implementation when they have the opportunity. Let us have the good faith to give them the legitimacy that will make consensus decision making an easier task. We have excellent human resources in our region. Let them help us to deliver on our promises to our region. Good Governance must be at the heart of our reform process. Our people must be at the heart of all processes.
Colleagues, Saint Lucia has always been a member of this Community because we believe in the dream of one Caribbean facing the global challenges, united in a dream for a better region. These global challenges are now beating down at the door of the survival of small island developing nation states. They all want their pound of flesh from the bare bones of our humanity. We need this Community to be a buffer by focusing on the things that we do well. We need this Community to create efficiencies that will reduce costs. More of our service, like the police force, the education services and the health services must be more integrated. More of our policies and structures that are languishing need to be reviewed or discarded so that new more effective ones can be put in place. More of our dollars need to benefit our people.
The promise of regional integration is slowly starting to put some flesh on our bones in some areas. Our leadership in getting recognition for all small island developing states, has received global attention. We were deeply involved in the development of the sustainable development goals. Our HIV and NCDC’s campaigns have received accolades. We now have CARICOM nationals at the head of the Commonwealth, the ACP, the ACS, the CDB, CARICOM and the OECS. We make contributions in all forms to these organisations. How can they benefit our region? I say let them have a focused discussion with us. Let us be more strategic in our engagement with these organisations.
I note that we now have women at the head of the Commonwealth and the ACS. We need to applaud Baroness Scotland and Ambassador Soomer. It is momentous and we are very proud of their achievements. It is however sad that we are taking so long to achieve equality for women, especially when all the statistics show that they are better educated and from my experience with my mother and my wife, better managers. Let us consciously review the structures that hinder their equality.
Our membership in regional and international organisation and our relationship with third parties must also reflect our own commitment to democracy and human rights. These two issues are not synonymous. We must never be afraid to ask questions of our organisations, our allies and those who seek to be our friends. We have a right as post-colonial countries to insist that citizens of all countries are treated humanely.
It would be remiss of me not to say something on tourism. The importance of this major income earner is not reflected in our deliberations or our institutions. We prefer to highlight the negative. In the words of Sir John Compton, tourism is like a pharmaceutical knife, it cuts both ways. We must mitigate the negatives and pursue the positives. We must put an end to ego tourism. Let us develop a world class industry that attracts more than one and a half of world tourism. Let us make the dreams of all those people who want to come to the Caribbean a reality.
In conclusion, as the newest member of this esteemed group, I may want to move ahead, I may want more action than words, you may have noticed how quickly I speak. Sometimes I will be impatient, but it only because another day in poverty for one of my people, for one of the people in the region, is another day that we are failing in our mandate to provide a better living for all.
I thank you.
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