Appealing for greater integration across the Caribbean, Mottley pointed to two of the main planks of the integration movement, free movement and free trade as areas that need attention.
Mottley questioned the continued separation among Caribbean countries despite years of trying to implement the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
She said there was no reason for the continued barriers to travel within the region and bemoaned the cost of travel across the region.
Mottley pointed out that it is cheaper for her to travel to the United States than to Jamaica or St Kitts.
“Last week I was in the Grenadines; it is 27 miles from Union Islands (part of the nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines) to St Vincent and it is EC$140 to travel by plane from Union to St Vincent. It is 45 miles from St Vincent to St Lucia, but it is EC$1,100 for travel from St Vincent to St Lucia; twice the distance but almost eight times the price,” she said.
“Barbados to Bequia (the largest island in the Grenadines) is 100 miles, no more than three to four times the distance of Union to St Vincent but costs EC$1,500 to travel between the two. Same plane, same passenger system, same reservation system, same jet fuel. Something has to be fundamentally wrong when a region cannot provide a political commitment to allow its citizens to move easily,” she lamented.
Mottley noted that regional politicians were able to agree measures for hassle-free travel for spectators during the 2007 Cricket World Cup, but have been unable to do the same for their citizens.
“We created a space that facilitated people in the Caribbean to move with a band without showing a passport, without being asked a question by anybody unless they were on a watch list, because we already know who is on the plane and who is on the port,” she said.
“What stops us from making the simple decision, not of 10 years ago of using a band, but of today ...using a multi-purpose ID that will then have the capacity to be used for other public and private services across our society and for the cost to be carried, not just by government, but by the private sector who benefits from the use of that multi-purpose ID?” Mottley asked.
The Barbadian Opposition leader was also highly critical of the media communication system within the Caribbean, and called for the establishment of a regional communications medium, as Caribbean people are more easily informed about global issues rather than happenings in this region.
She said the lack of information on the fate of the various Caribbean countries following the passage of Hurricane Irma brought the issue sharply into focus.
“Why is there not a real -time news network that allows me to see from Kingston to Kingstown? I can see what goes on in Iowa and what goes on in Texas, and how Irma is decimating the cays but I still don't know how it has decimated Tortola and BVI or St Martin or Barbuda,” she stressed.
In relation to the single market, Mottley said the time was ripe for the development of a regional clearing house that would allow countries to “settle only the net differences in hard currency and allows us, therefore, to achieve greater competitiveness and attractiveness while boosting our reserves in the interim”.
Establishing that system, she argued, will make the region achieve greater competitiveness and become more attractive.
“Some may tell you that there used to be the Caricom Multilateral Clearance Facility 25 years ago, but I say to them that we didn't have the technology then to make payments digital, cheaper, and more efficient. We owe it to our populations,” she stated.
“These are the things that matter, but while we do these things and while we work to create the single domestic space for transport and communications to which I referred earlier, and the regional clearance payments house, we have to recognise that we have a duty to go beyond Caricom,” she stated.
- Countries: Jamaica