Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government Most Hon. Andrew Holness
Jul 05
Opening Statement By the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Governement of CARICOM

• Your Excellencies the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General and the Most Honourable Lady Allen;

• Your Excellencies Colleague Heads of State and Government;

• Dr. Peter Phillips, Leader of the Opposition and Mrs. Phillips

• Chief Ministers and Ministers of Government

• Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary-General

• Newly installed President of the CCJ Justice Saunders

• Members of the Jamaican Judiciary

• I wish to acknowledge former Prime Minister PJ Patterson whom we all agree is the epitome of the Caribbean Man

• High Commissioners, Ambassadors and Special Emissaries

• Representatives of Regional and International Organizations

• Distinguished Delegates

• Members of the local and international media

• Ladies and Gentlemen all Allow me to specially acknowledge my colleague CARICOM Heads who have been re-elected or newly elected since our last meeting:

• Dr. the Hon. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada

• The Hon. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda

• The Hon. Mia Mottley, the first female Prime Minister of Barbados Heartiest congratulations and best wishes during your tenure in office! And you will notice that they have all won with big victories so that is a sign of things to come.

On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I extend a warm welcome to the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community.

Jamaica last had this honour of hosting the Regular Meeting seven years ago. We are absolutely delighted to have another opportunity to share our friendship and our warm Jamaican hospitality. I am pleased to note that this meeting includes attendance of all Heads of State and Government, four Associate Members as well as the highest number of delegates for such a meeting.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND APPRECIATION

I wish to register my appreciation to the outgoing Chairman of the Conference, President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti, for his stewardship for the past six months. I also pay special tribute to the CARICOM Bureau with whom I have had the honour of serving since January. I look forward to our continued collaboration as we work towards engineering innovative and enduring solutions.

Let me convey sincere appreciation to Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, and the staff at the Secretariat for partnering with us in preparing for this Summit. Jamaica looks forward to working closely with you over the next six months.

CARICOM DAY

Today, July 4th marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of CARICOM. It is only appropriate for us therefore, to pause and reflect on the many experiences along the road of regional integration. Our journey over the years has seen many significant achievements of which we can all be justly proud. The survival of any institution however depends on its willingness to introspect and engage in a process of renewal.

Indeed, this 45-year milestone represents an opportune time to evaluate our institutions. As we look toward the commemoration of our 50th anniversary, we owe it to the people of the region to deliver on commitments made to an effective process of regional integration, that will improve the quality of their lives.

COMMON OBJECTIVE

The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is undoubtedly the single most significant regional initiative that has
occupied the attention of Member States since its inception in

2003. However, progress has not been commensurate with our aspirations. Accordingly, we have agreed to devote significant time to further examination of the CSME.

The Prime Minister of Barbados holds responsibility for the processes relating to the CSME, and we look forward to working with her energetically to towards a practical path to progress in this regard.

THE CHAIRMAN’S MANDATE

Colleagues, As Chairman, I accept with honour and humility, the responsibilities. I take this opportunity to reaffirm Jamaica’s commitment to the principal objectives of CARICOM, including the expansion of trade and investment opportunities for its members, the promotion of foreign policy coordination and structured functional cooperation.

Jamaica’s Chairmanship will have a specific focus and intention, mindful of the rapidly evolving dynamics of our global world and the need for practical and effective responses to the changing realities. Our work will be undergirded by the theme: “Building Stronger, Resilient and Secure Partnerships for Prosperity”.

With this in mind, we will call upon all Member States to summon the necessary political will and determination to ensure that all programmes and initiatives are strategically focused and geared toward meeting an ambitious process of reform.

RECOMMITTING OURSELVES

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, given the ever changing global dynamics, it is imperative that we undertake an honest and thorough assessment of whether the Community is appropriately positioned to collectively advance economic cooperation for the mutual benefit of our countries and peoples. Those considerations were at the heart of my decision to establish a Commission to review the effectiveness of existing arrangements within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as to explore the scope for strengthening partnerships within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks. I want thank former Prime Minister Golding and the team that he led for the detailed work and practical recommendations they have made in their report.

Since the release of the Commission’s report earlier this year, there have been several insightful reactions – within and beyond our borders.

Recently, the Jamaican Parliament engaged in an in-depth bi- partisan exchange on the Report and affirmed its general approval of the document, recommending that it be used as a guide for the fundamental transformation of the Community, having regard in particular to the CSME and the CARICOM institutions. In view of economic considerations, the Parliament adopted a landmark resolution, which was consistent with the spirit of the Commission’s thirty three (33) Recommendations. Among the main issues covered in the resolution, is the need for CARICOM Member States to make a clear and definitive commitment to establishing the Single Market (CSM) with specific, time-bound, measurable and verifiable programmes of action, to fulfil all outstanding obligations within a period of five years.

BUY-IN FROM OUR POPULATION, ESPECIALLY THE YOUTH

In the coming months, we will place special emphasis on those initiatives which have the most potential for streamlining at the national and regional levels. These involve those catalytic initiatives which are in line with the strategic priorities of the Community and are meant to steer us toward building economic, social and technological change and development.

We will seek to optimize the transformative power of our women, who represent 51 per cent of our population, as well as our youth. We have been severely criticized by our youth, who have grown weary of our promise to secure deeper integration within the framework of the Single Market and Economy. Those promises have remained elusive and young people are calling for CARICOM leaders and institutions to be accountable for their actions. Integration should be real and meaningful to our people. Areas of importance to young people include the right of free movement and in particular, the right of skilled labour to move freely, as well as equitable access to our professional law schools as required by our modern tertiary education landscapes. We must deliver on these, so that our young people can have renewed belief in CARICOM.

Colleagues,

It is my considered view that the Single Market is a victim of our own reluctance to fully and functionally establish it. As I have often stated, the CSM is the ultimate manifestation of regional integration – some of its pillars represent the only real means by which our citizens will experience the process. We must therefore, as leaders of this great Community, relentlessly pursue the goal of overcoming our implementation deficit.

We must address the critical role of the Single Market in supporting economic growth and development in further facilitating trade in goods and services, the expansion of investment and the free movement of people across the region.

REGIONAL SECURITY AND CITIZEN SAFETY

The ever growing challenge of crime, violence and security will be addressed fully and frankly at this Summit and will be one of the main priorities of Jamaica’s chairmanship. The incidence of gun and gang violence, though on the decline in some Member States, has escalated sharply in others with severe effects on citizen security and economic development prospects.

We must do everything in our power to ensure that the well-being of each of our citizens as well as our economy, infrastructure and territory are protected from all real and present threats such as the illicit trafficking in narcotics and firearms, trans-border criminal activities and cyber-attacks. If we fail in this critical task, then our economic growth and sustainable development will be stymied and our life-sustaining industries such as tourism could be destroyed.

These challenges transcend borders and are difficult if not impossible for any one country to solve or surmount alone. A synergic approach is therefore required through increased vigilance, information sharing and networking among Member States and our international development partners.

RESILIENCE IS AN IMPERATIVE

Colleagues,

ladies and gentlemen, Building resilience to the effects of climate change and natural disasters in our region is an absolute imperative for our survival. The costs associated with the frequent recurrence of natural disasters are excessive. The World Bank had indicated that Hurricane Irma caused damages of about 14 per cent of GDP for Antigua and Barbuda, and for Dominica, the total damage was 226 per cent of GDP. Our reality is one of deep vulnerability created by existential threats that far transcend our income status.

Notwithstanding our tremendous resource constraints, the Caribbean is taking responsibility for designing appropriate risk mitigation, risk transfer and risk financing tools.

By way of example, significant progress is being made by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), in mobilizing and coordinating disaster relief; mitigating or eliminating, as far as practicable, the immediate consequences of disasters in Participating States; and providing immediate and coordinated response by means of emergency disaster relief. CDEMA has developed a ten-year Regional Comprehensive disaster Management Strategy and Programming Framework (2014-2024) to realize safer more resilient and sustainable Disaster management with an emphasis on Gender, Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability.

CDEMA however is severely underfunded and in need of innovative financing mechanisms which will enable the Agency to better assist countries to cope with external shocks. This underscores the importance of cooperation and partnerships with countries to address some of the development challenges we continue to face.

Global Resilience Centre

It would be remiss of me not to mention the importance of building resilience in the region’s tourism industry – a most vital source of earnings and economic activity for most Caribbean territories, and of great importance to the daily livelihoods of many of our peoples.

We therefore, welcome the agreement reached at last year’s World Tourism Conference on Jobs to establish a Global Resilience and Crisis Management Centre at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica. The Global Centre will assist with destination preparedness, management and recovery from disruption and crises that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods. With your support, together with the support of my Minister of Tourism who has been driving this initiative, I am committed to ensure that this project is carried forward during my tenure as Chairman of our Conference.

DEVELOPING STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

Forging strong fruitful partnerships with our bilateral and multilateral partners on behalf of CARICOM is another priority area for Jamaica’s Chairmanship. What we need more than ever is the type of engagement which will, among other things, review the effectiveness of the existing financial architecture; that facilitate trade and technology transfers; that looks at human resource development and employment in an increasingly digital economy; and that supports our efforts in building resilience in both climate change and energy security.

Regarding the latter, we are encouraged by the discussions taking place within the ambit of the G7 and the G20 on the issue of climate change and the need for resilience building. These are both influential groups and I was pleased to have had the opportunity to jointly share with our outgoing Chairman, President Moise of Haiti, the CARICOM perspectives on the issue at the recently held G7 Summit Outreach Session in Quebec.

Similarly, I look forward to concretizing at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires later in the year, under the presidency of Argentina, the region’s proposal for the support of our G20 partners in creating a greater appreciation of the special challenges and vulnerabilities of the small countries, most of them island states, that comprise our Community. This engagement represents the first time that any Small Island Developing State has been invited to participate in the work of the G20 and we envision that it will not be the last. We will also require from our development partners, cooperation in unlocking international private investment for infrastructure, energy, healthcare, transportation, hospitality and agricultural-related opportunities.

Within our region, there is significant opportunity to engage partners within Latin America and the Caribbean. It is in that context therefore, that we look forward to welcoming as our Special Guests, the President of the Republic of Chile, His Excellency Sebastian Pinera as well as the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Excellency Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez. I am confident that those engagements will provide opportunities to explore the potential for increased South-South cooperation.

CONCLUSION
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is absolutely no doubt that CARICOM will have to contend with challenges, uncertainties and setbacks as we pursue our community building efforts. This is not exclusive to our regional experience. However, in order to keep progressing, we will have to keep evolving.

I unreservedly believe that it is worth recommitting to collectively harnessing the potential to drive development and prosperity in the region. Indeed, we have a responsibility to our people to drive real and measurable progress. Let us not fail them, our collective future depends on our commitment to building stronger, resilient and secure partnerships for prosperity.

I thank you and wish for us all, a happy CARICOM DAY and a productive and rewarding Summit.