I bring season’s greetings to the people of our Caribbean Community on behalf of all Heads of Government at this joyous time of year.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has had an eventful year both regionally and internationally. We have seen advances in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, (CSME), the signing of the New Multi-Lateral Air Services Agreement and we have been invited to participate in meetings of major international partners.
A proper functioning CSME is essential to deliver the goals of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to the people of the Caribbean for the growth and development of our economies. Recognising this fact, my colleague Heads of Government and I renewed our focus on this initiative in 2018 given the need to accelerate its implementation. There has been progress.
The St Ann’s Declaration issued after our Special Meeting on the CSME in Port-of-Spain outlines the resolve that we have to move this process forward and to maintain the momentum that had been triggered from the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government in Montego Bay last July.
The whole-of-society approach to driving the implementation of the measures is underlined by our agreement to have a formalised, structured mechanism to facilitate dialogue between the Councils of the Community and social partners, particularly private sector and labour.
The importance of the private sector to spur growth and development in our Region has been further recognised 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-Community investment and cross-border fertilisation with our private sector.
To diversify the range of skills available under the free movement regime, we have decided that Agricultural Workers and Security Guards with a Caribbean Vocational Qualification or equivalent 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 agreed that Beauty Service Practitioners and Barbers will also be permitted to so move and work. These are significant additions that will help to debunk the myth that free movement of skilled personnel caters only for the elite. It will be important for Heads to deliver on these commitments.
To encourage greater use of the free movement regime, we adopted the Protocol on Contingent Rights which will cover the rights of persons moving to another country as well as their spouses and dependents. This is another historic step for our integration process taken at Montego Bay, the cradle of modern regional unity. It will give comfort to those wishing to utilise the free movement of skills provisions but have been reluctant to move without the assurance of their families being able to access services in their adopted country. Ten countries have so far signed the Protocol.
We have also been making significant strides on the socio-economic front with the report of the Regional Commission on Marijuana being presented to Heads of Government. We have noted the Commission’s findings, conclusions and recommendations in particular with respect to human and religious rights; the social and developmental impact of use among adolescents; the economic benefits to be derived and issues related to its classification. We, therefore, have an analytical platform from the excellent work of the Commission, for whatever further action we wish to take with respect to marijuana
Internationally, His Excellency Jovenel Moise, President of the Republic of Haiti and I represented the Community at the G7 Meeting in Ottawa, Canada while I also represented the Community at the BRICS Summit in South Africa and the G20 Summit in Argentina. Jamaica also represented the Community at all the G20 sectoral meetings throughout the year of the Argentine Presidency. These invitations demonstrate the esteem in which the Community is held globally, being seen as a Leader among Small States.
My colleague Heads of Government and I were pleased to receive His Excellency Miguel Diaz-Canel, President of Cuba, in Jamaica, during our 39th Regular Conference in July. President Canel’s visit to Jamaica came just three months after his assumption of office and was his second overseas trip as President. This emphasised the special relationship which our Community and Cuba have shared over the last 46 years.
Our strong relations with Chile were underlined as His Excellency Sebastian Pinera, President of Chile made his first visit outside of South America since his inauguration in April to meet with CARICOM Heads of Government in July, also in Jamaica.
There is no doubt that this is a Community on the move. A Community that is determined to provide opportunities for all its citizens to maximise their potential and so enhance our prospects for sustainable growth and development. This is a Community which continues to be recognised globally as a leader, whether in the battle against chronic non-communicable diseases, against the negative effects of climate change or within the framework of Small Island and low-lying coastal Developing States.
We have a lot to be proud of and a lot more to accomplish. Let us remain resolute in the face of all challenges.
I thank my colleague Heads of Government for their support during my term as Chairman and I am certain that Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis will receive the same support as he assumes the chair in January.
Let us enjoy this Holiday Season and the message that it brings; with that spirit of peace and prosperity spreading throughout our Community.
Happy holidays to all and a productive 2019.