Speech by the Prime Minister

Remarks By The Most Hon. Andrew Holness at the Opening Ceremony of the 39th Regular Meeting of the Heads of Government Conference for CARICOM






4TH JULY 2018



Your Excellencies  the  Most  Honourable  Sir  Patrick  Allen,

Governor General and the Most Honourable Lady Allen;

Your Excellencies Colleague Heads of State and Government;

Mr. Tony Hylton representing the Leader of the Opposition

Chief Ministers and Ministers of Government

Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary-General

Newly installed President of the CCJ Justice Saunders

Members of the Jamaican Judiciary

I wish  to  acknowledge  former  Prime  Minister  PJ  Patterson whom we all agree is the epitome of the Caribbean Man

High Commissioners, Ambassadors and Special Emissaries

Representatives of Regional and International Organizations

Distinguished Delegates

Members of the local and international media

Ladies and Gentlemen all


Allow me to specially acknowledge my colleague CARICOM Heads who have been re-elected or newly elected since our last meeting:

Dr. the Hon. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada

The Hon.  Gaston  Browne,  Prime  Minister  of  Antigua  and Barbuda

The Hon.  Mia Mottley,  the  first  female  Prime  Minister  of Barbados

Heartiest congratulations and best wishes during your tenure in office! And you will notice that they have all won with big victories so that is a sign of things to come.

On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I extend a warm welcome to the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community.

Jamaica last had this honour of hosting the Regular Meeting seven years ago. We are absolutely delighted to have another opportunity to share our friendship and our warm Jamaican hospitality.

I am pleased to note that this meeting includes attendance of all Heads of State and Government, four Associate Members as well as the highest number of delegates for such a meeting.


I wish to register my appreciation to the outgoing Chairman of the Conference, President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti, for his stewardship for the past six months. I also pay special tribute to the CARICOM Bureau  with  whom  I  have  had  the  honour  of  serving  since January. I look forward to our continued collaboration as we work towards engineering innovative and enduring solutions.

Let me convey sincere appreciation to Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, and the staff at the Secretariat for partnering with us in preparing for this Summit.   Jamaica looks forward to working closely with you over the next six months.


Today, July 4th marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of CARICOM. It is only appropriate for us therefore, to pause and reflect on the many experiences along the road of regional integration. Our journey over the years has seen many significant achievements of which we can all be justly proud. The survival of any institution however depends on its willingness to introspect and engage in a process of renewal.

Indeed, this 45-year milestone represents an opportune time to evaluate our institutions.  As we look toward the commemoration of our 50th  anniversary, we owe it to the people of the region to deliver on commitments made to an effective process of regional integration, that will improve the quality of their lives.


The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is undoubtedly the single most significant regional initiative that has occupied the attention of Member States since its inception in 2003. However, progress has not been commensurate with our aspirations. Accordingly, we have agreed to devote significant time to further examination of the CSME.

The Prime Minister of Barbados holds responsibility for the processes relating to the CSME, and we look forward to working with her energetically to towards a practical path to progress in this regard.



As Chairman, I accept with honour and humility, the responsibilities. I take this opportunity to reaffirm Jamaica’s commitment to the principal objectives of CARICOM, including the expansion of trade and investment opportunities for its members, the promotion of foreign policy coordination and structured functional cooperation.

Jamaica’s Chairmanship will have a specific focus and intention, mindful of the rapidly evolving dynamics of our global world and the need for practical and effective responses to the changing realities.   Our work will be undergirded by the theme: “Building Stronger, Resilient and Secure Partnerships for Prosperity”. With this in mind, we will call upon all Member States to summon the necessary political will and determination to ensure that all programmes and initiatives are strategically focused and geared toward meeting an ambitious process of reform.


Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, given the ever changing global dynamics, it is imperative that we undertake an honest and thorough assessment of whether the Community is appropriately positioned to collectively advance economic cooperation for the mutual benefit of our countries and peoples.     Those considerations were at the heart of my decision to establish a Commission to review the effectiveness of existing arrangements within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as to explore the scope for strengthening partnerships within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks. I want thank former Prime Minister Golding and the team that he led for the detailed work and practical recommendations they have made in their report.

Since the release of the Commission’s report earlier this year, there have been several insightful reactions – within and beyond our borders.

Recently, the Jamaican Parliament engaged in an in-depth bi- partisan  exchange  on  the  Report  and  affirmed  its  general approval of the document, recommending that it be used as a guide  for  the  fundamental  transformation  of  the  Community, having regard in particular to the CSME and the CARICOM institutions. In view of economic considerations, the Parliament adopted a landmark resolution, which was consistent with the spirit of the Commission’s thirty three (33) Recommendations. Among the main issues covered in the resolution, is the need for CARICOM Member States to make a clear and definitive commitment to establishing the Single Market (CSM) with specific, time-bound, measurable and verifiable programmes of action, to fulfil all outstanding obligations within a period of five years.

BUY-IN FROM OUR POPULATION, ESPECIALLY THE YOUTH In the coming months, we will place special emphasis on those initiatives which have the most potential for streamlining at the national  and  regional  levels.  These  involve  those  catalytic initiatives  which  are  in  line  with  the  strategic  priorities  of  the Community and are meant to steer us toward building economic, social and technological change and development.

We will seek to optimize the transformative power of our women, who represent 51 per cent of our population, as well as our youth. We have been severely criticized by our youth, who have grown weary of our promise to secure deeper integration within the framework of the Single Market and Economy. Those promises have remained elusive and young people are calling for CARICOM leaders and institutions to be accountable for their actions. Integration should be real and meaningful to our people. Areas of importance to young people include the right of free movement and in particular, the right of skilled labour to move freely, as well as equitable access to our professional law schools as required by our modern tertiary education landscapes.    We must  deliver  on  these,  so  that  our  young  people  can  have renewed belief in CARICOM.


It is my considered view that the Single Market is a victim of our own reluctance to fully and functionally establish it. As I have often stated, the CSM is the ultimate manifestation of regional integration – some of its pillars represent the only real means by which our citizens will experience the process. We must therefore, as leaders of this great Community, relentlessly pursue the goal of overcoming our implementation deficit.

We must address the critical role of the Single Market in supporting economic growth and development in further facilitating trade in goods and services, the expansion of investment and the free movement of people across the region.


The ever growing challenge of crime, violence and security will be addressed fully and frankly at this Summit and will be one of the main priorities of Jamaica’s chairmanship. The incidence of gun and  gang  violence,  though  on  the  decline  in  some  Member States, has escalated sharply in others with severe effects on citizen security and economic development prospects. We must do everything in our power to ensure that the well-being of each of our citizens as well as our economy, infrastructure and territory are protected from all real and present threats such as the illicit trafficking in narcotics and firearms, trans-border criminal activities and cyber-attacks. If we fail in this critical task, then our economic growth and sustainable development will be stymied and our life-sustaining industries such as tourism could be destroyed.

These challenges transcend borders and are difficult if not impossible for any one country to solve or surmount alone. A synergic approach is therefore required through increased vigilance, information sharing and networking among Member States and our international development partners.


Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Building resilience to the effects of climate change and natural disasters in our region is an absolute imperative for our survival. The costs associated with the frequent recurrence of natural disasters are excessive. The World Bank had indicated that hurricane Irma caused damages of about 14 per cent of GDP for Antigua and Barbuda, and for Dominica, the total damage was 226 per cent of GDP. Our reality is one of deep vulnerability created by existential threats that far transcend our income status. Notwithstanding our tremendous resource constraints, the Caribbean is taking responsibility for designing appropriate risk mitigation, risk transfer and risk financing tools.

Many times we talk about Caribbean integration in very lofty terms and very rarely are we able to bring to our population the real benefits of  an institution like CARICOM. It was one Saturday evening that I received a panic call that things could go array in Dominica. I got  on the phone and I spoke with my brother Roosevelt and confirmed that there was a need for support. We as a small country did not have the means to airlift our disaster emergency response team from the Jamaica Defence Force but with the help of our good friends from Canada, partnerships. We were able to move 120 of our emergency disaster response team from the  Jamaica Defence Force to support our friends in Dominica. But I want you to appreciate the context within which  this happened there were approximately about three or four major hurricanes which hit the region. Our traditional partners were all tied up, their  assets were all tied up responding to other countries with which they have direct responsibility. So there was a space, delay, a gap in responding to another sovereign state within the Caribbean region that we all as CARICOM people are collectively responsible for. Without the brotherhood, without the friendship, without the functional cooperation, without the economic growth and prosperity in our own countries our capacity  to respond to natural disasters and threats like these which are becoming increasingly frequent and more intense will be limited. So CARICOM is absolutely important from a functional perspective, it is important from an economic perspective, it is important from a resilience perspective it is the means by which truly we will be able to survive and recover from existential threats.

CARICOM is real and important!

By way of example, significant progress is being made by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), in mobilizing and coordinating disaster relief; mitigating or eliminating, as far as practicable, the immediate consequences of disasters in Participating States; and providing immediate and coordinated response by means of emergency disaster relief. CDEMA has developed a ten-year Regional Comprehensive disaster Management Strategy and Programming Framework (2014-2024) to realize safer more resilient and sustainable Disaster management with an emphasis on Gender, Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability. CDEMA however is severely underfunded and in need of innovative financing mechanisms which will enable the Agency to better assist countries to cope with external shocks. This underscores the importance of cooperation and partnerships with countries to address some of the development challenges we continue to face.

Global Resilience Centre

It would be remiss of me not to mention the importance of building resilience in the region’s tourism industry – a most vital source of earnings and economic activity for most Caribbean territories, and of  great  importance  to  the  daily  livelihoods  of  many  of  our peoples.

We  therefore,  welcome  the  agreement  reached  at  last  year’s World Tourism Conference on Jobs to establish a Global Resilience and Crisis Management Centre at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica. The Global Centre will assist with destination preparedness, management and recovery from disruption and crises that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods.  With your support, together with the support of my Minister of Tourism who has been driving this initiative, I am committed to ensure that this project is carried forward during my tenure as Chairman of our Conference.


Forging strong fruitful partnerships with our bilateral and multilateral partners on behalf of CARICOM is another priority area for Jamaica’s Chairmanship. What we need more than ever is the type of engagement which will, among other things, review the  effectiveness  of  the  existing  financial  architecture;  that facilitate trade and technology transfers; that looks at human resource development and employment in an increasingly digital economy; and that supports our efforts in building resilience in both climate change and energy security.

Regarding the latter, we are encouraged by the discussions taking place within the ambit of the G7 and the G20 on the issue of climate change and the need for resilience building. These are both influential groups and I was pleased to have had the opportunity to jointly share with our outgoing Chairman, President Moise of Haiti, the CARICOM   perspectives on the issue at   the recently held G7 Summit Outreach Session in Quebec.

Similarly, I look forward to concretizing at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires later in the year,  under the presidency of Argentina, the  region’s  proposal  for  the  support  of  our  G20  partners  in creating a greater appreciation of the special challenges and vulnerabilities of the small countries, most of them island states, that comprise our Community. This engagement represents the first time that any Small Island Developing State has been invited to participate in the work of the G20 and we envision that it will not  be  the  last.  We  will  also  require  from  our  development partners, cooperation in unlocking international private investment for  infrastructure,  energy,  healthcare,  transportation,  hospitality and agricultural-related opportunities.

Within our region, there is significant opportunity to engage partners  within  Latin America  and  the  Caribbean.  It  is  in  that context therefore, that we look forward to welcoming as our Special Guests, the President of the Republic of Chile, His Excellency Sebastian Pinera as well as the President of the Republic of Cuba, His Excellency Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez. I am confident that those engagements will provide opportunities to explore the potential for increased South-South cooperation.


Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is absolutely no doubt that CARICOM will have to contend with challenges, uncertainties and setbacks as we pursue our community building efforts. This is not exclusive to our regional experience. However, in order to keep progressing, we will have to keep evolving.

I unreservedly believe that it is worth recommitting to collectively harnessing the potential   to drive development and prosperity in the region. Indeed, we have a responsibility to our people to drive real and measurable progress. Let us not fail them, our collective future depends on our commitment to building stronger, resilient and secure partnerships for prosperity.

I thank you and wish for us all, a happy CARICOM DAY and a productive and rewarding Summit.