By Peter Richards
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have ended their four-day summit here, on Saturday, agreeing to the immediate adoption of a stabilization and growth agenda which emphasises the removal of constraints on competitive production as well as proactive facilitation and support for the private sector aimed at catalyzing growth in critical economic sectors.
CARICOM chair and host Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, speaking at the end of summit news conference, told reporters that the regional leaders addressed the issue of the future of CARICOM economies and agreed to deepen “the regional framework for growth and development through the pursuit of a development path which engenders inclusiveness of all stakeholders”.
She said that it would also lift the knowledge base, innovative capability and entrepreneurial capacity of CARICOM nationals to engage in competitive higher value added economic activities.
She told reporters that in accordance with this strategic approach, the regional leaders agreed to the immediate “design and execution of a resource mobilization strategy to facilitate targeted interventions by governments to catalyse and ignite growth in CARICOM states”.
In addition, the regional leaders also agreed that the Bureau of the Conference would be charged with the responsibility of advancing the decision and in this regard, the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat would circulate a comprehensive program within one month for the consideration of the leaders.
Prior to the summit, CARICOM leaders had indicated that the meeting would focus on the issue of transportation, and Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that the leaders had agreed to the re-introduction of the single domestic space “in the interest of hassle-free travel in the region”.
She said the leaders had also mandated the CARICOM Secretariat in collaboration with CARICOM IMPACS (Implementation Agency for Crime and Security) and other relevant agencies to “coordinate and commence discussions on the strategy for the introduction of the SDS”.
She acknowledged that the meeting “did spend a lot of time, there was a great discussion on the need for improvements in transport both air and sea within the region” and that the matter had been referred to the Bureau for further consideration.
During the four-day meeting, the leaders met with the President of the Dominican Republic Danilo Medina and his Venzuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro and Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said the talks were encouraging for closer CARICOM relations with those countries.
She said the Dominican Republic has requested membership of CARICOM and that the regional leaders had “indicated their intention to deliberate on the matter and revert to the Dominican Republic”.
The Dominican Republic had first indicated its desire to join the 15-member grouping, and Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that some of the regional leaders had raised some concerns and the issue would now be put before the Inter-sessional summit in February.
She said among the issues were immigration, the market size, the whole concept of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and the impact of the economies of some of the Caribbean countries given the size of the population of the Dominican Republic.
Regarding the discussions with president Maduro, she said that he had proposed the re-activation of the Joint CARICOM-Venezuela Commission “based on the long-standing trade and investment agreement which could lead to increased trade, investment and economic and other activities.
“In this regard, several proposals were put forward touching on security, air and sea transportation, energy, a social and cultural plan and developing ties between CARICOM and Mercosur”, the Common Market of the South which was founded in 1991 by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that the regional leaders had also agreed “that many of the initiatives proposed touched on issues with which the Community grapples and on which cooperation could be furthered”.
The leaders have also given their full support to the proposal by Haiti to convene a high level meeting on persons with disabilities and special needs and on the issue of genocide and slavery reparations, agreed to the formation of a committee under the chairmanship of the Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and consisting of the CARICOM chair, and the leaders of Guyana, Haiti, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname that will oversee the work of a CARICOM Repatriations Commission.
The Commission will include the chairs of the national reparation committees and a representative of a research unit at the University of the West Indies.