St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The OECS economic union is at the crossroads, and CARICOM is in bigger trouble than the sub-regional grouping, according to St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.
Chastanet has called on members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to show that they are serious about regional integration by among other things, paying moneys owed to the OECS Commission or Secretariat, as it was previously known.
He spoke to the issue in an interview with WINN FM.
“The state of the economic union is at a crossroads and I think that if in fact the OECS Secretariat and this regionalism is not going to deliver a better government, a more productive governance and cost reductions and idealistically both, then people are going to go elsewhere. The needs that we have in our countries, the demands of our citizens are real and five years comes very quickly. We all have very strong mandates and we have seen the electorate now has no difficulty in turning over parties every five years until they can find the ones they want. That kind of expectation does not give us the time to sit at meetings and have discussions, so either people have to be genuine in coming here, and part of that genuity is paying their dues, because that’s the first sign of commitment and then to show up at meetings, come to the meetings prepared and the big one is prepare to make those decisions and implement them. You can’t leave here and say yes, yes, yes but it takes you forever to get the legislation passed in your individual country and I’m really hoping that the meeting that we are going to have in April in St. Vincent, is going to be the continuation of the level of urgency that I sensed in the meeting today.”
In relation to the wider CARICOM grouping, Prime Minister Chastanet recommends that CARICOM reinvent itself.
“CARICOM in my mind is in bigger trouble than the OECS Secretariat, CARICOM really needs to reinvent itself. There’s a simple test you can do, take the total amount of financial resources you have, take the total amount of man hours that you have, divide them among the projects you have then you get a very clear answer. So the fact is that if there are things that you have on the table to do and there’s insufficient money and man hours to do it then cut it out and put those resources into something that you are closer to being able to achieve greatness in, we need some success stories.”
And still on the matter of Caribbean integration, the St Lucian leader is lamenting the state of air travel in the region.
He continues to insists that there is too much dependence on LIAT, and advises that the aviation sector should as much as possible be put in the hands of the private sector.
“It is an impediment to integration and there are two very differing schools of thought as it pertains to aviation. There is a group that believes that LIAT is the solution and there is another group that doesn’t believe that LIAT is the solution and unfortunately neither side has been able to convince the other of how to move forward. The fact is that the people that are supporting LIAT everyday that becomes less tenable because LIAT continues to lose money and so the question becomes is it the role of the state to provide aviation, I don’t think so. I think it’s the role of the state to provide infrastructure, to be a regulatory agency abut allow the private sector to take charge.”