As the Caribbean Community enters this New Year 2019, it is with a renewed vigour and determination to maintain the momentum with which we ended 2018.
This is the final year of our first five-year Strategic Plan and preparations have already begun for the second Plan which will build on the accomplishments of its predecessor.
There is no doubt that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy is the linchpin of our efforts at sustainable growth and development and in the coming year we will be looking to further advance its implementation from what has been achieved in 2018.
When we gather in St Kitts and Nevis in February for the Thirtieth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference we will conduct a special session on Air and Maritime Transportation to focus on this critical aspect of integration as a whole and the CSME in particular. An efficient and affordable transportation system would be a tremendous stimulus to trade and intra-regional tourism thereby strengthening two critical aspects of integration.
At the core of our thrust for growth and development is a well-educated and healthy workforce. Our Community’s commitment to battle against the ravages caused by chronic non-communicable diseases is unrelenting. Our Ministers of Health have agreed on a programme called Caribbean Moves which seeks to create a culture of regular physical activity and healthy eating through exciting, fun and supportive programs where people live, work, study and play. It is a whole society approach that we must embrace to tackle this continuing threat to our greatest resource – our people.
At a High-Level meeting at the United Nations we once again brought to the attention of the international community, the threat that chronic NCDs is posing to our sustainable development.
Let us make 2019, the year that made the difference in combatting chronic non-communicable diseases in our Community.
We will also be making strides in implementing our Human Resource Development Strategy 2030 as we move to draft the new school curriculum with particular emphasis on Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM). It is imperative that the young CARICOM citizens are adequately prepared both for the global environment and for playing their part in helping the Region’s thrust towards sustainable development.
2019 therefore promises to be a year full of action for CARICOM. It is a year in which I look forward to us all being part of the celebration at CARIFESTA XIV which will be held during the period 16-25 August 2019, in Trinidad and Tobago, under the theme “The Tangible and Intangible – Connect, Share, Invest”. It is a celebration and promotion of our culture. It will bring together, song, dance, visual arts and other cultural expressions. It is always an event to cherish and I have no doubt that the festival will once again live up to its billing as the premier cultural exposition in the Region.
As I assume the chair of the Community for the next six months, I would like to acknowledge the sterling leadership of my predecessor in the position, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica. He has set a standard which, with the help of my colleague Heads of Government, the Secretariat and the regional Institutions I will strive to match.
May we all have a Happy, Healthy and Productive New Year.