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CARIBBEAN | OECS leaders meet in St. Kitts

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Mar 3, CMC – Leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) began a meeting here on Friday with St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet calling on his colleagues to seriously tackle the problems of the sub-region. “In these trying times, this new normal that we are living in, requires more than ever that we no longer practice the ostrich syndrome,” Chastanet told the 64th Meeting of the OECS Authority. “The state of our own economies is depriving the citizens of our countries of the lifestyle and the services they so richly deserve.” He asked the leaders from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands as well as the French island of Martinique whether “we (are) satisfied that all the citizens of the OECS enjoy a world class education “Are we satisfied that they all have access to proper health care? Are we all satisfied that they all can live in safety? Are we all satisfied that they have every opportunity for economic prosperity?” Chastanet said that he was far from satisfied and that “there is a tremendous amount of work to be done.” The St. Lucia prime minister spoke of the rising debt and the cost of interest on that debt to of OECS countries which has prevented investment in educational programmes, infrastructural development, crime prevention and health care. “In fact what we are running are unsustainable governments,” he noted. “So the question is: what are we going do about that? We talk about economic growth. Unfortunately, since the recession many of our countries have struggled with consistent economic growth. If we don’t bring back economic growth to this region it is going to make it much more difficult to be able to do some of the things we want to do. “From a St.Lucia perspective, when I come to these meetings I come with the expectation that the OECS through functional cooperation can help to alleviate some of those problems. As small states the percentage of monies that we are paying towards salaries and towards the bureaucracy of our own government suggest that we have to have functional cooperation. The question is: why have we not had it?” Chastanet called for a sharing of responsibilities and collaboration on reducing crime with a singular forensic laboratory and a shared database. He also said it was important for there to be more cooperation in the area of education to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship and also in the area of healthcare, with the suggestion of a singular health insurance programme. In relation to foreign affairs Chastanet asked:  “Can we continue to have our own embassies all over the world? “While I appreciate and respect the need to have our own individuality maybe through the ambassador, can’t we have functional cooperation within the office, where the research officers and the technical officers are on a shared basis?” During his address, the St. Lucia prime minister also spoke about the issue of climate change and an enhancement of infrastructure. “Climate change demands that the SIDS (Small Island Developing States) form a unified force in this world,” the Prime Minister noted.
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