Thursday, June 03, 2010

SVG Parliament Approves OECS

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC – The St. Vincent and the Grenadines parliament has unanimously approved a motion in support of an Economic Union of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves tabled the motion that also called on legislators to provide additional suggestions for consideration by sub-regional leaders for further amendment, if any, to the existing draft OECS Economic Union treaty.
Gonsalves told legislators that a tentative date of June 18 had been set for the leaders to sign the treaty that had already been initialed last year.

“The conundrum that we face, and I must be honest about it, is that even when we pass it here we may not have signature on the 18th of June because I spoke to one Prime Minister who went to his Parliament yesterday and didn’t take it and said he is not going back to Parliament until after the 18th of June.

“There is another one who has indicated to me that he has not done it either. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been in the leadership of this issue and we had decided and we had decided at the OECS Authority Mr. Speaker, quite properly to get an approval in principle at our parliaments, I want to stick in terms of the decision we took,” he said.

Gonsalves said he was not in favour of taking decisions at the regional level and not implementing them locally.

“The truth is the OECS Economic Union is the principle show on the regional road at the moment and I would not like us to not have it done,” he said, noting that OECS leaders will hold a video conference on Tuesday to discuss the stage of implementation of the treaty.

“I want to get it done so I could say we have done our work here and whatever remains is just some tidying up,” he told legislators.

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said he welcomes the progress being made across the sub-region in relation to the move towards the economic union.

“It has taken a long time Mr. Speaker, far too long to arrive at this moment…and when what is called the larger integration movement CARICOM (Caribbean Community) is taken into account they have to pull up their socks.

“Nobody out there is going to wait for us. It is our responsibility to do it ourselves. It is not something we can shrug off,” he said, adding “if we do so we do so at our peril and the economies of our region will suffer and hence our people will suffer”.

“I want to urge all and sundry in the OECS to take this treaty very very seriously,” he added.

The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin islands (BVI).

These islands, except the BVI, already share a number of institutions including a Central Bank and a common judiciary.

Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory and a founding member of the sub-regional grouping, did not initial the accord last December.
The new treaty is an upgrade on the original Treaty of Basseterre that led to the establishment of the OECS 28 years ago. It allows for the delegation of certain legislative authority in certain areas to the heads of government and for the formation of a Regional Assembly of Parliamentarians comprising members of the parliaments of the individual islands.

In addition, the new treaty gives a “much more defined role” to the OECS Commission in getting the interlocking arrangements between the countries and the OECS.
OECS technocrats said that the changes would lead to a more efficient implementation of policy in the sub-region.

Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Trade Minister, Sir Louis Straker, told legislators that the treaty seeks to remove all “artificial impediments to economic transactions of goods, services, capital and labour…so that these things can flow freely from one state to the other”.

He said that while the cost of services and goods may vary from one country to another, the initiative would bring long term benefit to the sub-region.
“This does not mean that things would be identical in every OECS country …but the objective of this union is to strengthen the economic position of the sub region vis-à-vis the outside world, the global economic system and even the regional economic system”.