GEORGETOWN, Guyana, December 31, 2019 (CMC) – Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, is taking over the Chairmanship of the regional integration movement, CARICOM, confident that the 15-member grouping is on the right path towards a brighter socio-economic and political future for the Caribbean.
Mottley, who officially takes over the position, today, succeeding St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, said “our very history has been one of struggle, but one of success”, and it is against this backdrop that “we can take a fresh look at the path we would wish to set for ourselves and our children, using a term that is no doubt familiar to us all”.
“It is my sincere wish that our approach to the advancement of our people in every country of the Caribbean Community, would be characterized by a level of clarity that is usually associated with 2020 vision,” The new Chair said.
Mottley, the first female prime minister in Barbados, said the region’s process has therefore been one that has moved from generation to generation of committed Caribbean people, to the building of a regional integration movement that “will allow us always to work to provide the best lives possible for our people”.
“Lest we be influenced by those who would only see a half-empty glass, rather than one that is half-full, may I remind us all that the European integration movement started on April 16, 1948, so as we enter the third decade of the 21st century they too are still working to perfect that union, despite having far more resources than we have ever had in the Caribbean,” Mottley pointed out.
“I pray, therefore, that 2020 will strengthen us to run our leg of this regional integration relay race, with confidence. I pray that as leaders of the Caribbean Community, we will work to give our people renewed confidence and inspiration to help us run this leg, while staying focused on achieving the next phase of critical progress.”
In her New Year’s message, Mottley said that Caribbean leaders “are duty-bound to continue this journey across the Community, whether as a collective of the whole or in twos and threes, where we are gathered in a way” that will achieve success in various aspects of the integration movement.
She said she is hoping for the removal of the obstacles to passport-free movement between regional countries, making it easier “for Caribbean people to go and work where there are opportunities in the Community, in a way that is hassle-free, in the same way that we have done it for the movement of capital”.
She said that in keeping with the late Barbados prime minister Errol Barrow’s vision, “the reality of our people must not only be a lived reality, but also a legal reality”.
“The Caribbean Community must lead the world in shaping an environment, within which migrants among us can live and work with dignity. After all, our modern settlement in the Caribbean has been nothing but that of a community of migrants.”
Mottley said that CARICOM must truly advance the process of a single, domestic space for transport and communications in the region by working to provide more affordable and reliable air and sea links between the countries, and also to establish a single domestic rate for telecommunications and phone calls within CARICOM.
In addition, it must work with the private sector and the labour movement to provide further opportunities, beyond transport and communications, to food security, to opportunities in the blue economy or renewable energy and Information Communication and Technology (ICT) as well as opportunities for investment and for employment, she stated.
“Enable us, as we face the climate crisis, to pool the funds of the region, in order to be able to finance our own development trajectory for sustainable development, so that we may adapt to the new realities of the climate crisis.
“This will require us coming up with innovative instruments that will better allow us to access the capital that we are not now accessing at a global level. Let us remember that those who help themselves will always be helped by others, but we must help ourselves first, by pooling our own resources.”
She said her message, in essence, is that 2020 “can, and must, provide the platform for a positive spirit of hope and optimism and a fierce determination to come together, as Caribbean people, to purposefully carry forward the transformation of our region into a space that truly values, nurtures, and provides concrete opportunities for every Caribbean man, woman and child to run our leg of this relay”.
But she warned that “our pathway toward a better life for our people, will not open up the opportunities we seek, if we focus only on ourselves and our region”.
“While we look ahead, we must do so fully cognizant of the advances we are making, in claiming our Atlantic destiny as a region, as we reach out to our brothers and sisters on the African continent,” Prime Minister Mottley said, adding that “we have already started discussions, at the highest levels on the African continent, with people with whom many of us share a common ancestry and history and who, like us, recognize the imperative of mutual cooperation as we go into 2020”.
She said CARICOM has accepted the offer of shared office space from the Kenya government in Nairobi. “We need to open it, urgently, and advance our interests in the city that is indeed the home of the UN Environmental Programme and UN Habitat, both of which deal with issues that are vital to our own development in the Caribbean Community.”
She said within the next six months, “we will also work towards jointly hosting the first-ever African Union-CARICOM Summit.
“We need to resolve, as a region, that we will not leave that gathering without laying the foundation for tangible progress in areas of direct air and sea access across the Atlantic, greater trade in goods and services, and more cultural exchanges between our regions.”
Motley said that the Caribbean people could fulfil their dreams, if they too adopt the initiative “we have embraced in Barbados”.
“We have designated 2020 as the year in which we will work together to perfect our finer vision for all Barbadians, regardless of where in the world we live. We can only become better as Caribbean people if we hold to the maxim — dare to dream; and always be determined to deliver.
“But as we seek to use this year 2020 to perfect a finer vision for our island in Barbados, as we gather parish by parish, I want now to ask each of us, as Caribbean people, to do the same for where we want to go and who we want to be, as Caribbean people, for 2020 must be where we can perfect that fine vision,” she added.