REMARKS BY HON. DR. KENNY D. ANTHONY OUTGOING
CHAIRMAN OF THE OECS AUTHORITY AT THE FORMAL OPENING OF THE 55th MEETING OF THE
OECS AUTHORITY (JUNE
10, 2012 - ST. VINCENT)
months ago, we assembled in Saint Lucia to take stock and to review the state
of affairs of the OECS Economic Union, to consider and formulate plans, and to concretize
the steps towards its full operationalisation.
be recalled that while the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS
Economic Union was signed by OECS Member States on June 18, 2010, it in fact became
operational a full seven months later on January 21, 2011, after the necessary
legal and other requirements were met. This marked the commencement of our
region’s transition towards Economic Union. .Since January 2011, therefore, the
OECS and its Member States have been working progressively toward full and
comprehensive operationalisation of the Economic Union.
Fifty-fourth Meeting of the OECS Authority was concerned with ensuring that as
the Economic Union progressed into becoming an operational entity, it would be
interwoven seamlessly into the institutional fabric of our societies, and
indeed into the lives of the people of our region.
assessments focused on, among other things, the state of implementation of the
Revised Treaty of Basseterre, and the legislative and other arrangements which
needed to be pursued in those Member States which were yet to enact the Revised
Treaty into domestic law.
Member States were provided every encouragement and the necessary technical
assistance to help surmount the significant challenges which were found to
exist within their jurisdictions, and in particular, to complete the procedures
necessary for enactment of the Revised Treaty Bill, accession to the Revised
Treaty and fulfillment of the ratification process.
ACTIVATION OF ORGANS AND INSTITUTIONS
considered the critical matter of making operational the organs of the Economic
Union, paying particular attention to the necessity for effective functioning
of the OECS Commission, and the need for urgent activation of the Councils and
the OECS Assembly. The Commission continues to streamline its operations on the
basis of rules of procedure and other guidelines established for its smooth
functioning, and has had some seven formal sittings to date. In the meantime,
the necessary technical work is being pursued toward the activation of the
councils, in particular the Economic Affairs Council, through which the
Economic Union protocol is to be managed. In addition, work is continuing apace
toward the inauguration of the OECS Assembly, the forum through which elected
representatives of the people of the Eastern Caribbean States will seek to
represent their interests in matters affecting the Union.
THE TROUBLING ISSUE OF FINANCING
receiving attention was the perennial question of financing – of the
Commission, as well as the wider enterprise of the Economic Union itself. In
these matters, firm assurances of the commitment of Member States were received,
even as due regard was paid to the long-running global economic and financial
crisis and its debilitating impact on our region.
Authority had also paid attention to matters relating to the overall economic
and social development of the OECS region, but particularly in respect of
private sector development, private/public sector engagement, and
sustainability in the productive sectors. The continuing global economic and
financial crisis had induced greater urgency in the Authority’s deliberations.
RELATIONS WITH THIRD COUNTRIES
of particular interest to the Authority was the matter of relations between the
OECS and third countries, and in this regard the application by the French
Overseas Departments of Martinique and Guadeloupe for associate status in the
OECS was viewed as a positive and promising development. The Authority warmly embraced the overtures
by these two islands to forge a closer relationship with our member states.
CAUSE FOR CONTINUED WORRY AND ALARM
last encounter, much work has been undertaken in furtherance of the Economic
Union agenda, but much has transpired in the external sphere to give us cause
for continued alarm. The catalysts to boost confidence at the global level are
meager, and the world economy continues its slow, Sisyphean struggle out of the
recession of the last four years, giving definition to a crisis that is as much
about global leadership as it is about economics.
economic spotlight is now focused more intensely than ever on Europe where a
long-festering crisis of opposing economic ideologies has come to a head, with
the leadership of the Euro Zone in the typical fashion of opposing camps,
promoting and prescribing solutions to the crisis in all-or-nothing terms:
austerity versus expansion!
picture continues to be uninspiring in other quarters – a slower last quarter
growth performance in China and India, continued uncertainty in the US in
respect of investment and job growth, and continued political instability in
the Middle East with the expected global economic consequences.
of the last four years is one that does not bear repeating. It has been told
and retold ad nauseam, and every articulation of that story generates its
accompanying depression. The sad lesson which surfaces consistently from that
story is that we have over the years, faithfully and with all confidence,
reposed our trust and hopes for our future with those who have been the cause
of our predicament in the first place. And so we keep waiting, in vain it turns
out, for our economies to be jump-started via a remote switch located somewhere
in China, Europe, the USA, Brazil or India.
THE POWER OF OUR IDEAS
and more inspiring, chapter of the story is that, notwithstanding our small
size, our inherent vulnerabilities, our resource constraints, and all the other
characteristics which define our condition as Small Island Developing States,
we do have the capacity (forged through the accumulated wisdom of the Caribbean
historical experience) to bring about meaningful change in our condition
through our own effort. Over the years, OECS Member States have exhibited a
refusal to be bound or hamstrung by the constraints of physical size, choosing
instead to give greater weight to the power of their ideas. In so doing, the
OECS and its Member States have developed a capacity and reputation for
“punching way above their weight. Indeed,
they have exhibited often enough, the ability and resourcefulness to address
seemingly intractable problems through the design of home-grown answers
specific to their condition, and the OECS Economic Union is precisely one such
continue to promote the OECS Economic Union as the preferred approach to
dealing with the challenges encountered in our quest for sustainable
development. Ours is a unique model with no parallel among small states, and it
might indeed be a model that is in many important ways superior to even the
more mature integration arrangements involving larger states. For example,
while manifestations of failure in EU member states are viewed as national
problems (hence the Greek or Spanish crisis),and the solutions often prescribed
in similarly national terms (such as the Greek, Irish or Portuguese bailout),
manifestations of failure in OECS member states are treated as if they were
OECS-wide problems. The handling of the Stanford, CLICO and BAICO debacles is
illustrative in this regard, and lends validity to suggestions of a higher
level of sophistication and maturity in the OECS arrangement compared to
VALIDATION OF OUR MODEL
ladies and gentlemen, it appears that history has played us a card such that in
a rather peculiar way, international developments (including the global
economic and financial crisis of the last four years) have served to provide
validation of the model which the OECS has been pursuing since 1981, and to
increase the level of confidence in the OECS in respect of our institutions,
our people, and the relevance and applicability of the tasks which we have set
ourselves in furtherance of the Economic Union agenda.
TWO CRITICAL LESSONS
two lessons which can be learnt from this: the first is that we have to stay
the course, confident in the knowledge that ours is an enterprise yet without
parallel, without which it would have been impossible to realize the numerous
successes that have characterized the OECS experience and enhanced the living
conditions of our people in so many profound ways; the second lesson is that we
must learn the art of anchoring our achievements within ourselves, and never be
tired of telling our story – to the world, but more importantly to our people.
Ours is a proud record of success with which the people of our region must
identify. Moreover, this enterprise on which we have embarked since 1981 is but
a means to achieving social and economic progress for the people of the Eastern
Caribbean. Its success can only be sustained if the people, in whose interest
it has been fashioned, believe in it
to the extent that they are prepared to defend it.
and Gentlemen, since Saint Lucia assumed the Chair of the OECS at the 53rd
Meeting of the Authority in May of last year, two events of profound
significance have occurred, with a third to take place in the coming days.
INSTITUTION OF FREE MOVEMENT
on August 1st (a date symbolic of West Indian freedom), free
movement of OECS nationals was instituted within the single space, and given
the force of law. That such an event took place without fanfare defies
comprehension for two reasons: the first is the deep socio-economic, cultural
and political significance of free movement for the people of our region. In
addition, the strong, positive passion evoked by the notion of free movement is
familiar to us all – there is a yearning in all of us to travel this region of
ours without restriction. The second reason is the deep fear that the notion of
free movement has evoked among our people over the years. As an aside, the
existence of these two directly opposing sentiments defies understanding,
except perhaps if one is a psychologist - but it is not unusual for persons to
champion the cause of free movement for themselves while at the same time
expressing fear of free movement by others!
the most interesting aspect of this development is the fact that over the last
ten and a half months since the introduction of free movement there has been no
avalanche of persons seeking to displace fellow OECS nationals from their jobs.
Interestingly enough, there appears to have been no significant change in the
pattern of travel within the OECS. Instead, what the introduction of free
movement has done is to guarantee to OECS nationals the
right to unrestricted travel within the single OECS space. And this is
in itself a matter of fundamental import.
development is also important for reasons to which I have referred earlier –
namely the need to highlight our successes to the world and to our people. Further
to this, it carries significance because it points to an important
responsibility which we must shoulder as leaders, namely to assuage the fears
of our people, especially when the basis of such fears is questionable. Indeed,
ours is a responsibility to lead – after all, that is why we are
referred to as leaders!
the benefits that our OECS citizenry now collectively share must be guarded
carefully. Our economies are small and so are our businesses. We have tried to
protect certain economic opportunities for our citizens and as such we must be
mindful that we define our arrangements carefully, otherwise, we may become
overwhelmed and lose our identity individually and collectively.
MEETING OF OECS OPPOSITION LEADERS
second event of significance to which I refer was the meeting in early May of
this year, of OECS Leaders of Parliamentary Opposition which I had the pleasure
and honour to host in my capacity as Chairman of the OECS. In my view, this
meeting represented a unique opportunity for us all, governments, opposition
and the people we represent, to bring about a qualitative shift in the
governance of our region. As I had indicated at that meeting, there appears to
be among our people, a certain sophistication which manifests itself in a
constant thirst and striving for improvement in the arrangements through which
they are governed, and a desire for the ultimate in transparency and
accountability. They have come to expect from their leaders the maturity which would
cause the people’s interest to be placed above all else, requiring all of
their representatives to work together to promote that interest.
the lessons which I have learnt during my sojourn in the nether land of the
opposition is that governance must be about inclusion, particularly in the
context of small size and human resource scarcity. Personally I am now more
than ever convinced of the value of engagement and inclusion, and believe these
to represent the surest route to sustainability and long term success.
report of that meeting is a matter for consideration at this 55th
Meeting of the Authority, I am sufficiently convinced of its value to recommend
publicly, that a Meeting of the Authority and OECS Leaders of Parliamentary
Opposition be a regular feature of our calendar of meetings.
regard, I am moved that the time has come in the region where we must rethink
and restructure our political architecture. Notwithstanding our maturing
democracies, it is evident that our institutional superstructures of our states
require adjustment. We have won the right to our independence and we should
proudly and consciously make these reforms on our own volition; not for the
compliance of external requirements or the appeasement of others. Mature
societies act freely and not only when forced to. We must at all levels begin
to address the intra-party synapses: the relations between governments and
oppositions, majorities and minorities. If we are to expect better governance,
then we must find the courage and the determination to reform our parliamentary
processes and our electoral machinery and practices, which certainly would not
be complete without considering better modes and controls regarding the
financing of political campaigns.
suggesting the need for reform are clear. Far too many of our territories must
deal with post-election challenges, largely to dispute election results. Of
course, the Courts are the right sanctum for settling such matters but their
frequency of applications towards the bench is sufficient to suggest that our
systems require modernising and adapting.
INAUGURATION OF OECS ASSEMBLY
the May meeting of Leaders of Parliamentary Opposition was held in preparation
for the third event to which I referred earlier. That third event is the
inauguration in Antigua and Barbuda on June 15, 2012, of the OECS Assembly, the
organ through which the people of the OECS will have their interests
represented in matters relating to the Economic Union by their elected
event has tremendous significance as it reinforces the people-centred focus of
our Union, and highlights the importance which is attached to developing and
enhancing governance arrangements for the single OECS space. The OECS Assembly
is expected to symbolize and also to concretize the involvement of the
citizenry of the OECS region in the further development and consolidation of
the Economic Union. Membership of the Assembly will therefore carry with it a
heavy and sacred responsibility, since it is through the participation of the
membership that the voice (the views and concerns) of the people of the region
will find expression. It is hoped, therefore, that the OECS citizenry will be
paying close attention to the deliberations of the Assembly to ensure that
their hopes and aspirations for the region are being promoted and championed.
every confidence that the OECS Assembly will meet and even surpass the
expectations that are placed upon it, and that it will survive as a proud
symbol of the noble aspirations that have guided the enterprise which our fore
bearers embarked upon some thirty-one years ago.
and Gentlemen, notwithstanding our achievements to date, there is still much
more to be done. These matters will be the subject of our deliberations over
the next two days, and I am confident that we will all bring our considerable
experience, resolve, commitment and the trust that we share for each other, to
bear on the many issues that are before us.
AN HONOUR TO SERVE
Heads, it has been a great honour and privilege for Saint Lucia to have served
as Chair of the OECS over the past year, one which has been most eventful for
our Organisation and for me personally. Today, the responsibility passes to St
Vincent and the Grenadines in the person of Prime Minister Ralph Gonzalves, and
this gives me every reason to remain confident in the future of our Organisation.
I wish to assure Prime Minister Gonzalves of my full support as he assumes the
Chair, and to thank most sincerely my colleague Heads of Government, the OECS
Commissioner, the Director General and the staff of the OECS, for the support
extended to Saint Lucia and to me personally over the period of our