Community Council of MinistersPress ReleasesSpeeches


Mr Chairman
Mr Secretary-General, Honourable Colleagues, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is my pleasure to welcome you to Barbados. As you know this is the last three meetings, which the Government of Barbados has had the honour of hosting during the past week. These meetings started last Monday with a discussion on Protocol II by Senior Officials followed by the Ninth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development. This Sixth Meeting of the Community Council will thus culminate a week of fruitful discussions over wide ranging matters of major importance to our Community. I would hope that the productive exchanges of view which characterised the Sessions held last week will be carried over into this Council, the second highest organ in the Community. What has emerged from these meetings is clear. We face an uphill task if we are to make the CARICOM Single Market and Economy a reality. For indeed if we are to cope successfully with the challenges which are ahead of us, it is imperative that we fashion a new Caribbean economy. There is no other road for us to take. And there is an urgent need for our sense of resolve and commitment to the process to be unequivocally demonstrated.

The task these two days and particularly tomorrow will be to decide what role, if any, the Community Council will play in creating this new Caribbean Economy. You may recall that in February of this year at our last meeting which I had the honour to chair, we had decided to devote a full day of our next meeting to an in-depth discussion of the role and functioning of this organ. That day has now arrived. We owe it to ourselves and to the CARICOM Community to use our time wisely to undertake a thorough and critical analysis of our mandate and the manner in which we have been carrying it out, in all its dimensions.

Those hard working officials who spent long hours crafting Protocol I conceived this organ as having “primary responsibility for the development of Community strategic planning and coordination in the area of economic integration, functional cooperation and external relations.” The Community Council also has a critical role to play in promoting, monitoring and ensuring the timely implementation of community decisions. Regrettably, the record shows that we have not accomplished much in this regard.

As we step into the new millennium, this Council must ensure that it makes the critical decisions necessary to advance the work of the Community. We must make decisions at this level to free our Heads of Government to concentrate on only those issues that should be dealt with at such a high level. We must tackle unresolved policy issues and bring sensible solutions to the table of the Heads. But we can only do this if we adhere closely to the mandate laid down in Protocol I.

Mr Chairman, I am sure that under your skillful guidance, this Council will emerge at the end of our discussions infused with renewed sense of purpose. Given the importance of our discussions tomorrow, the Government of Barbados has spared no effort to ensure that our deliberations are conducted in the most comfortable surroundings. I have no doubt therefore that tomorrow’s Retreat at Royal Westmoreland will mark a turning point in the work of this Council. Because I firmly believe that we must change the way we conduct business in this Council. As always, the Government of Barbados is prepared to play its part. I look forward to two days of fruitful discussions.

I thank you.

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