St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet is pointing to the many challenges facing his country and the rest of the OECS.
Prime Minister Chastanet was speaking at the opening of the OECS Authority meeting in St Kitts Friday, being attended by the leaders of the sub-region.
He advised there that the region’s problems should be confronted head on.
“These trying times, this new normal that we are living in, require more than ever that we no longer practice the ostrich syndrome of sticking our head in a hole and thinking that the problem will go away. We have to confront them head on. The state of our own economies, which are depriving the citizens of our countries of the lifestyle and the services that they so richly deserve. Are we satisfied that all the citizens of the OECS enjoy a world class education? Are we satisfied that they all have access to proper health care? Are we all satisfied that they can all live in safety? Are we all satisfied that they have every opportunity for economic prosperity that they so richly deserve? Unfortunately, I know in my country, I can’t say that and so therefore there is a tremendous amount of work to be done.”
The St Lucia Prime Minister, lamenting the debt situation in individual OECS member states, suggested that the debt burden was taking quite a toll on the islands.
“Debt which is strangling our countries, which is money that is going out to pay for interest which could otherwise go into our education system, in our after school programmes, into the infrastructure of our country, is leaking out of our region and in fact what we are running are unsustainable governments. So the question is what are we going to do about them? We talk about economic growth, and unfortunately since the recession many of our countries have struggled with consistent economic growth and unfortunately if we don’t bring back economic growth to this region then it’s going to make it much more difficult to be able to implement so many of the things that we want to do. So that is the role of the OECS, so from a St Lucia perspective when I come to these meetings I come with the expectation that the OECS through functional cooperation can help relieve some of these problems, because as a small state the percentage of the money that we are paying towards salaries and towards the bureaucracy of our own governments suggest that we have to have functional cooperation, the question is why haven’t we had it.”
Chastanet told his colleagues he was hopeful that as a region they could effectively tackle the many problems confronting the islands, including the crime situation.
On that specific problem he called for greater cooperation among OECS member states to fight crime as a united force.
“And so we come here with a fresh hope and aspirations that we could make some difficult decisions, decisions which allow us to have a better government and be able to reduce the amount of monies we are spending on our own national governments and share in those responsibilities. Crime…every country is lamenting the state of crime. Why can’t we have a common police force? Why can’t we take the best that we have and have them become the OECS? Why don’t we have a singular forensic lab, why don’t we have a singular database system?”
The Opening ceremony was also addressed by host prime minister and outgoing chairman of the OECS Authority, Dr Timothy Harris, and OECS Director General Dr Didacus Jules, as well as the president of the Executive Council in the Territorial Authority of Martinique.
Martinique is an OECS associate member.
French St Martin is also hoping to obtain that status, a matter the heads of government were expected to deliberate on during Friday’s meeting.