PM stuart says caricom is not dead
New CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, says leaders are continually bashed despite their efforts to promote regional integration. However, as he addressed the 36th Heads of Government summit at the Hilton Barbados this evening, Stuart said he would not allow this negativity to hamper progress.
“Today, when Heads of Government are meeting twice annually . . . and making concrete decisions, cynics still unabashedly publish obituary notices in respect of the regional integration project,” Stuart lamented.
“As leaders for the time being of our respective countries, we must accept the solemn responsibility which devolves on our shoulders to raise the gaze of our people to new and hitherto unimagined regional horizons.”
The new CARICOM Chairman said this was especially necessary in the area of food security.
Stuart said the time had come for the region to stop depending so heavily on international countries to satisfy the Caribbean’s food supply.
“For how much longer are we going to repeat that between the lands of Guyana, of Belize and now also of Suriname, we have the veritable breadbasket of the Caribbean?” the Prime Minister questioned.
“Has the time not come, is the hour not upon us when we must in a structured manner mobilize the idle hands in our region around the idle lands in our region and deal systematically with the food security issues we have been facing?
“If our palates are being held on mortgage by producers of food outside of this region, are we still justified in thinking ourselves genuinely independent?” Stuart asked the delegates.
In conceding that the region continued to feel the effects of the worst financial crisis in about 100 years, Stuart criticized the behavior of some foreign owned commercial banks.
He accused these banks of being unwilling to lend assistance in the current crisis, despite recording huge profits throughout the years.
He said: “Of particular concern to us in recent times however, has been the behavior of some of our foreign owned commercial banks which have worn seemingly permanent smiles on their faces when repatriating dizzying profits from our countries during times of economic and financial plenty, but which now seem unwilling to hold hands and walk with us during this period of economic and financial challenge.”
Despite these challenges, the new CARICOM Chairman insisted that the region could not afford to be daunted.
He maintained that with its available talent, the Caribbean was more than ready to face any trial.
“We must keep our perspective, think and work through our economic and financial challenges and continue to run with patience the race that is set before us. To this challenge, I think that as a region, we are more than equal.”