THE MOST HONOURABLE ANDREW HOLNESS ON, MP
PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA
AND OUTGOING CHAIRMAN OF THE CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM)
DELIVERED AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE THIRTIETH INTER-SESSIONAL MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY
FRIGATE BAY, ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
February 26 2019
- Sir Samuel Weymouth Tampley Seaton, Governor General of St. Kitts and Nevis
- Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, and current Chairman of the Caribbean Community
- Your Excellencies, Colleague Heads of State and Government;
- Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary-General
- Ministers of Government
- Heads of other Regional Organizations High Commissioners, Ambassadors and Special Emissaries
- Distinguished Delegates
- Members of the local and international media
- Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of my Delegation, I must first, express deepest appreciation to the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis for the warm welcome and hospitality, and for the gracious arrangements that have been made for our stay in your beautiful country.
As outgoing Chairman, I wish to also thank my colleague Heads of Government for their support and assistance during my tenure. They have given of their advice and expertise and have been ever ready to help in the service of our great Region. I must also thank the Secretary-General, Ambassador LaRocque and his team for their untiring professional support; as well as our development partners from the international community, for their continued valuable assistance to the Region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are living in unusual times. Seismic shifts are taking place in the international system; a system which now finds itself in profound instability and uncertainty. Great power competition, increasing suspicion, and surges of nationalism and populism have put the current international order under strain. As a region, we must remain true to our core principles and we must also act decisively and strategically to seize opportunities that the changing world circumstances present, in the interests of the development of our countries and our people.
During my tenure as Chairman of the Conference, the focus was primarily on overcoming the inertia which has, for too long, characterized our regional mechanisms and significantly impaired our ability to simply get things done. It was also important for us to press for progress on matters which would enable the average Caribbean man and woman to experience CARICOM in a real and tangible way, through implementation of the free movement regime.
I was honoured to have been able to serve the Community over a period which has been marked by some noteworthy achievements, including the successful hosting of the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference last July in Montego Bay, where we made a giant leap forward to respond to the concerns of our community nationals that they be treated fairly, with respect and dignity. In this regard, we adopted the Procedures on the Refusal of Entry and agreed to implement them by August 2018.
Another historic step was taken during the 39th Session by some Member States who demonstrated their firm commitment to ensure that the free movement of skills provisions in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) Regime not only work for the principal beneficiaries but also their families, through the signature of the Protocol on Contingent Rights. Ten countries have so far signed that Protocol.
Importantly, we placed attention on fast-tracking the long-overdue inventory of our institutions, systems and processes, inspiring a bold assessment of how we utilized the last 45 years and the extent to which we delivered on the commitments we had immortalized in the Georgetown Accord. This effort was greatly facilitated by the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’sRelations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks. I am gratified that the Conference has allowed for extensive discussions on the recommendations outlined in the Report. It is our hope that it will continue to serve as a useful analytical tool to assist us in determining what could be of most benefit to achieving our objectives going forward.
As agreed in July, several Heads met in September in the Prime Ministerial Sub Committee chaired by Prime Minister Mottley and again in a Special Session in December 2018 where we followed through on our agreement to discuss more fully and frankly the CCRC Report and implementation of the CSME. The meeting was graciously hosted by Prime Minister Rowley in Port of Spain and delivered the St Ann’s Declaration which cemented our resolve that we must give impetus to the CSME. Among other decisions accordingly, we reclaimed the objective of economic growth and development and emphasized the central role of the private sector and labour in assisting the Region on this path.
The importance of the private sector to spur growth and development in our Region has been further recognized by the agreement to take all necessary steps to allow for mutual recognition of companies incorporated in a CARICOM Member State. The trimming of the red tape within our domestic space can provide greater opportunity for intra-regional investment, cross-border fertilization and increase private sector interest and collaboration.
In addition, in order to diversify the range of skills available under the free movement regime, we have decided that Agricultural Workers and Security Guards will be added to the agreed categories of skilled nationals who will be entitled to move freely and seek employment within the Community. We also confirmed that Beauty Service Practitioners and Barbers can move and work as artists. Indeed, these are significant elements that will help to debunk the myth that free movement of skilled personnel caters only for a few.
Strategic engagement with our external partners remains of critical importance to furthering our development agenda. This is why much of my focus was geared towards strengthening relations with our bilateral, regional and international development partners. This includes our engagements with the Presidents of Chile and Cuba during the 39th Session of Heads.
In July 2018, I represented the Community at the BRICS Plus Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the opportunity was used to reiterate the urgent need for Caribbean countries to gain access to new sources of financial support for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. I assured them that CARICOM stands ready to work with our partners in support of multilateralism.to further the cause of sustainable and inclusive economic development, and to translate our support into action and prosperity for our peoples.
In November 2018, I represented our Community at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires and it was a fruitful engagement. As I had reported to the 18th Special Session I had the opportunity to speak in the Plenary to two topics that are of critical importance to our Community –the issue of the vulnerability of the small developing states of the Caribbean to the effects of Climate Change, and the need for transition to clean and sustainable sources of energy, particularly renewables. With specific reference to climate change, I was able to have my first meeting with President Macron of France, where we were joined by UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres to discuss the modalities for leading our joint mandate to galvanize the US $100 billion committed almost 10 years ago by developed countries.
In conclusion, having made these bold steps and issued our strong joint recommitment to the regional process, it would be a disservice to ourselves and to our people if we do not deliver. It falls to us now to ensure that our collective visions are always balanced by monitoring our actual achievements and evaluating our capacity to implement. Where getting off the marks has been slower than anticipated, we must lengthen our stride. Even if the wicket is sticky, we must face the challenges bravely, with success as our goal. Jamaica is honoured to have been entrusted by all of you to serve as Chair.
PM Harris, I and my team look forward to working with you and the Secretariat in our continued efforts to deliver prosperity for our people. We wish you every success during your tenure as Chair.
I thank you.