Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Honourable Gaston Browne, joined his colleague OECS Heads in Grenada for the convening of the 61st Meeting of the OECS Authority. Among the matters tackled by OECS Heads were issues related to the annual work programme of the OECS Commission, the question of scope for a health framework within the OECS, and the blacklisting of OECS Member States by the European Union as being “non-cooperative jurisdictions” with regard to the official sharing or exchange of tax information.
Following the OECS Meeting in Grenada, Prime Minister Browne journeyed to Barbados, accompanied by the Honourable H. Charles Fernandez, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, to participate in the 36th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which opened on Thursday.
Under the theme, ‘CARICOM: Vibrant Societies, Resilient Economies’, the Opening Ceremony of the CARICOM Heads Meeting heard from a number of dignitaries, who addressed various issues up for consideration of the CARICOM Heads. His Excellency Irwin LaRocque, Secretary General of CARICOM, expressed his thanks to the Right Honourable Perry G. Christie, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, for his skillful stewardship of CARICOM during his Chairmanship of the Conference. The Secretary General, in his remarks to the Heads and guests concluded that the future of our Community, through regional arrangements such as the CSME and programmes supporting sustainable development objectives could be achieved through willingness and hard work. He noted that “unleashing the dynamism and creativity of the Region will propel us to achieve the level of development we seek.”
In his remarks, which touched on many issues, Outgoing Chair of CARICOM, Prime Minister Christie emphasized how valuable and pivotal Tourism is for the development of the CARICOM Region. Citing his own country’s challenges to enhance its tourism product, the Bahamian Prime Minister remarked that, “for most of our countries Tourism is the largest earner of foreign exchange; the one sector that employs most of our private sectors; there are intrinsic benefits which are delivered by Tourism.” He concluded that, “The Caribbean should not only be seen as the main region of the world that is dependent on Tourism, but also the world’s most competent region on Tourism.”
Other distinguished speakers included the Honourable Donaldson Romero, Premier of Montserrat, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis, His Excellency Brigadier David Granger, the President of the Republic of Guyana, and the Right Honourable Freundel Stuart, Q.C., M.P., the Prime Minister of Barbados and Incoming Chairman of the Conference of CARICOM Heads. Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency Ban Ki Moon, also briefly addressed the CARICOM delegations and distinguished guests.
The delegation of Antigua and Barbuda will participate in various discussions of the agenda, which, among other issues, will confront areas such as the role of universities in resilience building and wealth creation amongst Caribbean people, relations with the Dominican Republic, and the unfair blacklisting of CARICOM Member States, such as Antigua and Barbuda, as non-compliant tax havens by the European Commission.
Other Members of the Antigua and Barbuda delegation include Valique Gomes, Permanent Secretary (Acting) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and His Excellency Dr. Clarence Henry, Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to CARICOM