PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA
THE JOINT SESSION OF THE ST. LUCIAN PARLIAMENT
THURSDAY, 1 JULY 2004
President of the Senate,
Permit me to express my heartfelt appreciation to my colleague, Prime Minister Anthony, for his kind introduction and gracious words of welcome.
My delegation and I are delighted at your kind invitation to visit this beautiful island and to experience the traditional warm hospitality and manifestations of goodwill and friendship so characteristic of St. Lucia. We are also privileged to personally bring you fraternal greetings from the people of Jamaica.
In addition to our valuable relationship by way of CARICOM, Jamaica and St. Lucia have given a special importance to our bilateral relationship. Twenty-five years of diplomatic relations, characterized by cordiality and mutual respect, attest eloquently to this.
In today’s world, closer interaction among States is gaining increasing significance, particularly for small countries such as ours. Our very survival is dependent on our ability to keep pace with rapid, complex and far-reaching developments in the international and hemispheric arenas. To protect our national interests we are required to respond to them in a timely and decisive manner.
It is, therefore, for me a signal honour to have been asked to address this august Chamber, to share with you a few of my own thoughts on issues of mutual interest, as we seek to strengthen our bilateral relations and chart the course for national development and regional cooperation throughout the Caribbean.
I am privileged to address a Parliament where there is no need to preach the sermon of constitutional democracy, because it has flourished here for decades. The greatest threat, not so much to civil and political rights but to the full rights of our people as human beings, springs from the persistence of our underdevelopment.
The Global Context
The modern world is by nature complex. Each new era brings its own set of challenges. Globalisation represents the major challenge of this twenty-first century. Nations, large and small, must make adjustments in order to gain the theoretical benefits it offers, but we who live and have our being in small countries such as ours suffer a significant disadvantage.
Our small, vulnerable economies, with their inherent constraints and limitations, are hard put to survive, much more to commandeer our fair share of any benefits we are frequently assured the new order should permit. At times, the situation looks grim and our prospects seem desperate but we cannot retreat to the path of despair.
As a people, we are not unaccustomed to adversity. The students of history among us may wish to debate whether the challenges our people faced in 1804 or 1904 were any less formidable than those of 2004! They were admittedly different but then we had no voice at all in the corridors of power. Whatever the verdict, we must summon today the resilience, strength of character, and cultural certitude that has ensured our endurance through these many decades.
There can be no doubt that however daunting the social, political and economic developmental challenges we face, we can and must overcome them all.
Globalisation continues to produce rapid and profound changes in all aspects of economic, social and political life. The gap between developed and developing countries, between rich and poor, continues to widen, with the skewing of income levels increasingly unfavourable to the poor.
In 80 countries, the per capita income has been reduced to below that of a decade ago. The income gap between fifteen of the world’s richest and that of the poorest stood at 74:1 in 1997, as compared to 30:1 in 1960.
The UNCTAD World Economic Report for 2004 points out that despite the apparent improvement in global economic prospects, large imbalances remain in the world economy, triggering uncertainties about the sustainability of economic optimism.
Equally, or perhaps more telling, is the newly published Report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, entitled “A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for All” prepared by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The Report concludes that the present pattern of globalization must change and needs “an urgent rethink” of current policies and institutions of global governance:
“Inequalities, within and between countries, the lack of equal opportunities and poor governance of globalization, make the present path morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable.”
We are invited to present a common vision of fair globalization that puts people first, and shifts the debate from an exclusive focus on market efficiency to the needs and aspirations of people, in terms of opportunities for decent work, food, water, health, education and a liveable environment.
This is what all of us in this Chamber and other enlightened Leaders of the South have been saying consistently, but we are either greeted with deafening silence or branded as heretics of the market ideology. This practice resulted in the intransigence which led to the breakdown of trade negotiations in Cancun. We must persevere in our primary goal of improving the quality of life of our people. We must exploit all means available to promote the sustainable development, security and prosperity of all the peoples of our Region.
We have felt deeply the negative effects of globalisation, particularly as it relates to the outlook for commodity exports, vital as they are to many of our economies in the Region. No one needs to remind any St. Lucian of the significant effect on economic growth and social stability from earnings in this sector.
Caribbean economies continue to feel the impact of the inevitable erosion of preferential trade arrangements which comprise a significant share of our exports, consequent on the acceleration of the global liberalization processes. Our bananas and sugar have already fallen casualty to this trend and, for a country like St. Lucia, this is tantamount to taking away one of the lifelines of its economy. International competition for foreign capital which is necessary for continued economic development programmes has increased.
In addition, limited progress in global trade negotiations, coupled with the downward trend in flows of Official Development Assistance, have stymied progress in the implementation of international commitments made at Doha, Monterrey and Johannesburg. Achieving the internationally agreed development goals remains elusive. We require substantial economic growth over the longer term and a higher degree of political determination.
We are cognizant of the fact that, despite repeated calls to alleviate the debt burden of many of our countries, relief has not been sufficient to fully remove the obstacle to development and to put our economies on a path towards achieving a sustainable debt position.
This situation is further compounded by the continued decline of private capital flows to developing countries, constraining development in critical areas such as health and education. At a time when the threat of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is of major concern, and the literacy and numeracy of our citizens remain as priorities in our development agenda, the Region is disappointed at the lack of progress in this area. Health and Education are critical to collective and personal development.
We in the Caribbean must therefore strengthen our resolve to be more creative in our economic diversification efforts and the building of our human capital. We must explore the potential of the non-traditional sector and emerging industries, examining more closely the requirements for competitiveness and identifying ways of achieving, in the most efficient way, the delivery of goods and services to our clients.
In times past, we enjoyed a competitive advantage in the production of primary products. Those days are gone. We are now compelled to develop, and in some cases create, our own areas of competitive advantage in the service sector, in tourism and in areas requiring high levels of creative skills.
Now more than ever, knowledge truly is power. Human resource development has become even more pivotal for a region our size, with our relative lack of natural resources.
In response to this imperative, CARICOM has developed a policy and strategic plan to provide those skills required to ensure that our economic development goals can be successfully met.
We must be fully committed to:
We must now focus more sharply on exploiting the specific advantages that the countries of the region enjoy in global markets. These include our natural resources, however limited; human resource specialties; cultural products. In the past, others have sought to exploit our geographical location. It is time we did so for our own benefit.
This is why Caribbean governments have been seeking to create an enabling environment for both local and overseas investors so that our people can reap the benefits from tourism and allied industries.
The linkages that tourism has with agriculture, manufacturing and entertainment, make the hospitality industry an engine of growth for the entire economy. Despite the many festivals of its kind, St. Lucia has been successful in the development of your own Jazz Festival – a simple example of how to take advantage of product differentiation, name recognition and other distinctive characteristics. The current marketing term for this is “branding”. If your brand is strong enough, it gives the type of competitive advantage to which I refer.
Despite the vagaries of the international travel industry, both St. Lucia and my own country, by means of reinforcing our brand in the market place, have rebounded from the negative impact of the travel risks associated with the threat of terrorism. But we dare not drop our guard.
Initiatives by the Government of St. Lucia to modernize its banana industry and technically equip itself in preparation for the changes to take place in the banana regime in 2006, are also highly commendable, as you seek to make the necessary adjustments to cope with new trends and policies in international trade.
The unprecedented array of external trade negotiations in which we are currently involved, requires us to make the best possible use of our limited resources, as we continue in our quest for special and differential treatment provisions in the FTAA process and elsewhere. This has to be crafted in order to facilitate structural adjustment and the promotion of development of small developing economies, in particular, small island developing states.
While we continue to grapple with the economic realities of globalization, the traditional notions of political sovereignty and the primacy of the nation state within international relations are being seriously threatened, highlighted by global tensions following the events of September 11. The emergence of a single Super Power, and the understandable preoccupation as to its own security concerns within this new environment, have far-reaching implications for the Caribbean and the conduct of our international relations.
In this regard, we must assert a strong collective will to respond to the threats to multilateralism, to counter the dangers of terrorism, the growing spread of illicit trade in narcotics and other psychotropic substances, as well as the proliferation in small arms and light weapons. Within this context, there has been a resurgence of trends towards regionalism evidenced in the proliferation and strength of regional blocs, as countries seek strength in numbers to cooperate in confronting a multiplicity of challenges.
In this hostile milieu, it is more urgent than ever that CARICOM States empower themselves to respond to the new imperatives of the global environment, a move which give greater urgency to the Region’s integration efforts.
The Integration Movement
The eve of CARICOM’s 31st anniversary finds us at an interesting juncture in the integration process: on the one hand, eager with anticipation about the powerful potential of our integration movement, while on the other, moving with cautious optimism as we contemplate the uncertainties of an increasingly competitive market place. However, we remain convinced that the fundamental purpose of CARICOM is to achieve collectively what we cannot accomplish individually, so as to improve the quality of life of our citizens on a sustainable basis.
Caribbean people, rather than acting as separate states, must first view themselves as a “community”, particularly in their relationship with the rest of the world. It is this portrayal of self which will ultimately determine how the world sees CARICOM and the impact we have as a collective force on the international stage.
Having survived as the oldest integration movement among developing countries, we must not be distracted by what appears to be the daunting agenda of a complex international environment. As a firm believer in the value of integration, and speaking as one who has witnessed the resilience of the movement in over three decades of challenges, I am in no doubt whatever that our only movement can be forward, as we propel CARICOM towards realizing its full potential.
In this respect, the Rosehall Declaration remains our guiding light towards fortifying the Community machinery and deepening the integration process, as we seek to secure our place in a world characterized by constant change and complex challenges. Here, the question of governance becomes important, providing a platform for constant review and adjustment to ensure efficiency in the management of our affairs, including speedy actions, decision-making and implementation at the national level.
CARICOM has served the Region well. It has provided an important vehicle through which common positions on critical foreign policy issues can be developed and coordinated. It has enabled functional cooperation in several fields. Within the community market, it has provided a framework for growth and maturity of many regional industries. It has provided a forum to showcase the creative talents of our people and most significantly, has been able to command great respect and influence within international fora, despite limitations of size and resources.
Our next big step on the journey from Chaguaramas relates to the implementation of the CSME and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
The CSME provides an expanded “domestic market”, a building block for CARICOM integration into the wider trade arrangements such as the FTAA, a medium for collective negotiation with the corresponding advantage of strength in numbers and greater critical mass. The Community arrangement enables individual countries such as St. Lucia and Jamaica to overcome some of the challenges of small size by pooling resources and coordinating positions.
Those of us who have pledged to get the CSME off the ground by the end of this year remain committed to this time-table, indicative of the importance we attach to the speedy implementation of our single regional economic space.
An important arm of the CSME is the provision for the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). I must here pay tribute to St. Lucia for being one of the first Member States to pass the enabling legislation. After a series of unsuccessful legal challenges, we in Jamaica will begin debate on the CCJ Bill in our Senate later today.
Prime Minister Anthony, in keeping with his responsibility for justice and governance within the quasi-cabinet of CARICOM Heads, has repeatedly referred to the importance of the Court as an “affirmation of our independence and sovereignty”. I reassert my own conviction that our self-respect demands we cannot continue to rely on others to determine how we interpret our own Laws and Constitutions. If we cannot dispense justice ourselves, we are unworthy of the intellectual and spiritual heritage of our progenitors who fought for our freedom and eventually won our Independence.
I stand resolute in my belief that there is no viable alternative to the CSME and the CCJ. If we fail to take this route, CARICOM will be left behind, as the wheels of global change turn rapidly around us. It is with eager anticipation, therefore, and indeed a sense of pride, that we look forward to the inauguration of the CCJ later this year and to the full implementation of the CSME by 2005.
In a few days, Prime Minister Anthony and I will join other colleague Heads in Grenada to further our discussions on these and other important issues on the CARICOM agenda, including the Region’s future relations with Haiti. I must once again reiterate my deep satisfaction at the solidarity of the leadership of CARICOM in our principled position during the Haitian crisis, and the unanimous condemnation of the serious threat to democracy which it represented. Despite the circumstances, and in keeping with the Region’s commitment to the people of Haiti, we continue to be engaged in the affairs of our member country and will review the operations of the CARICOM Task Force responsible for the coordination of assistance to the people of that nation.
We will also continue our consideration of the various options for governance in CARICOM, including the restructuring of the Secretariat, to increase its efficiency in the delivery of services to Member States.
The CARICOM States have become increasingly concerned about the new forms of crime and violence that threaten the stability and social and economic well-being of the Region. While the structure of the crime problem varies from country to country, we have recognised the need for collaborative approaches to deal with the inter-related problems of crime, illicit drugs, as well as terrorism.
By virtue of our geographical location, we find ourselves in the position of being the main route traveled by drug dealers from the producing countries to their markets in North America and Europe.
Accordingly, the Regional Task Force on Crime and Security has provided the Community with policy directives and recommendations for dealing with the range of complex security concerns. These include the need for a developmental and multi-sectoral approach for the execution of crime prevention initiatives over a long term, in recognition of the fact that security threats, concerns and challenges are multidimensional. Furthermore, it has been correctly pointed out that some of the causes of crime revolve around poverty, inequality and social marginalisation, and are fueled by illegal firearms and ammunition, deportees, drug trafficking and corruption.
The regional plan for a coordinated response incorporates ongoing work on the causes of crime, illicit drugs and their links to crime, the impact of deportees on the escalating rate of crime, trafficking in illicit arms, and the formulation of a policy for getting guns off the streets.
The threats posed by the illegal trafficking in drugs present serious challenges and risks, particularly for small states which are confronted with overwhelming pressures on limited national resources. Efforts to combat the drug trade have proven to be an expensive exercise, diverting substantial resources from investment in areas such as education and health.
None of our countries in the Caribbean manufactures arms and weapons; yet we are to varying degrees affected by this problem. We are deeply convinced that countries which are the primary manufacturers must accept the responsibility to play their part in curbing the flow of these weapons.
The Ministers of Security of the entire Region continue the closest collaboration, as together we face this serious problem which, if left unchecked could ruin all our efforts at growth and development.
Our Caribbean Identity
There is no doubt that the Caribbean Region is well positioned on the World Map…… having just last week addressed Jamaica’s first Diaspora Conference, I feel well placed to reiterate the importance of nurturing the sense of collective identity of our Caribbean peoples.
In today’s liberalized environment, the free flow of human and capital resources across international borders is increasingly being facilitated by enterprising governments. The reservoir of experience, knowledge and intellect residing in the Caribbean Diaspora needs to be harnessed and channeled into our development machinery, with the establishment of a permanent engagement mechanism through which this can be facilitated. By extension, Diaspora engagement at the level of CARICOM must be a catalyst for the development of partnerships to build a true “community of nations” in every corner of the globe. Our efforts at the national level must naturally merge into the regional process as we consider innovative ways to strengthen connection with the Diaspora.
Few countries in the world have enjoyed the distinction of producing two Nobel Laureates. No country of comparable size to St. Lucia has provided the world with two Laureates in two separate disciplines. This proves without doubt that there exists among our people the requisite scholarship and excellence that must underpin our progress.
Your Foreign Minister, Julian Hunte presided over the 58th Session of the U.N. General Assembly with the true acumen of a Caribbean Statesman, as he successfully guided the deliberations of the General Assembly during a period of unprecedented international tension.
We, in the Caribbean, are a people of immense potential which belies our small size. Our achievements at the level of Member States and as a Region make this assertion incontrovertible.
I wish to use this opportunity to congratulate the Government and people of St. Lucia for their resilience and fortitude in these challenging times. We are indeed proud of your achievements as a nation – being “small” but “mighty” in action as you take your place in the annals of history.
It was your own Sir Arthur Lewis who reminded his regional compatriots that:
“Music, literature and art are as important a part of the heritage of mankind as are science and morals. They differ from science that they do not represent what is, but are products of the creative imagination. They have therefore, infinite scope for variation.
As we continue on our epic journey from Chaguaramas, the first symbolic turning point in West Indian integration, I urge you to remain unswerving in your commitment to the integration process as together we seek to achieve economic sustainability and a higher quality of life for all our people.
I thank you.