Categorized | Local, News, Regional

St. Lucia PM speaks frankly, “fed up” about discussing same issues at CARICOM

By Peter Richards

Dr Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of St. Lucia

Dr Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of St. Lucia

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony Friday said he can’t keep coming to meetings of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders where the same issues are discussed over and over again.

Anthony, in an exclusive interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), said “maybe I am impatient, maybe we need to concede more time.

“I certainly see willingness on the part on the heads of governments to come to term with some of the issues, but I guess my impatience is I can’t come to meetings all the time and discuss the same issues, over and over and over.

“Cleary there has to be a limit for that and something has to change,” Anthony told CMC as regional leaders ended their 35th summit here on Friday.

He said while the summit here was faced with a “heavy agenda” he could not say “this has been the best ever meeting of CARICOM in recent times.

“I think there was too much recycling, recycling not just of items, not just of issues, but I get the impression that sometimes there is a lack of will to really implement decisions we have made about how we ourselves will organise the meetings, manage the meetings of heads of governments.

“There are too many issues that come to the heads that ought to be settled at lower levels…so that’s really a big issue, but that apart obviously there are some items that are critical and crucial to St. Lucia, “Anthony said, making reference to the report of the Commission on the Economy, established following the 2013 summit in Port of Spain.

It is tasked with addressing the priority areas for fiscal sustainability, resource mobilisation as well as critical economic infrastructure services, particularly energy and Information Communication and Technology (ICT).

Anthony told CMC that St. Lucia had primarily been at the forefront advocating the need to tackle the economic problems of the region, adding “I am very very much concerned at what is happening particularly in the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States).

Anthony said that while the report “did not go as far as I would have liked there is no question that there were some very useful suggestions that governments may want to consider”.

Anthony said some of the recommendations “legitimise initiatives already underway in some countries but I thought that it was an important starting point.

“One of the big concerns I have is the failure to understand that the crisis we are facing in the region cannot really wait for solutions in perpetuity. We have to tackle those problems almost simultaneously and I am really not so sure that there is a collective understanding of the depth and the range of the problems faced by the governments of the region.

“In other words we are still speaking from different perspectives, from different vantage points. I don’t believe the private sector really grasp the enormity of the fiscal problems of the governments. I don’t think so.

“It is true, historically it has been said that the governments have not understood the challenges facing the private sector but we have to face the modality.  It does not make sense for example to invite the private sector to come and have a discussion with heads of governments over lunch. That really does not go anywhere and I think what should happen is that we should meet those individuals described as the captains of the industry, face to face across the table without having to be interrupted by a lunch process and talk frankly….because they need to understand what these governments are going through,” Anthony said.

The St. Lucia prime minister “this period we are in calls for extraordinary imagination” acknowledging what while there may be a need to re-look old strategies, “never before have these islands had to face a crisis of this intensity, this proportion.

“This is the first time since independence that all countries have found themselves in difficulty to the extent that we have and I don’t think whether our regional institutions themselves understand the gravity of the problems and the need for imagination to tackle the issues that face us.”

Anthony said that while the leaders had placed emphasis on the five year strategic plan for the future socio-economic development of the region, “even that I think is not going far enough.

“Those serious issues about decision making within CARICOM itself, we are not looking at the institutional arrangements,” he said, noting that the arrangements for example governing external trade the experience the region has had with Canada on negotiating a new agreement “suggests we may want to  re-look at those arrangements and see whether it is the correct thing to delegate all that authority to COTED (Council for Trade and Economic Development).

He said there is also the question as to whether CTED is functioning as envisaged by the (CARICOM) treaty or whether we need to take a fresh look at these organs.

“What the situation is showing is that the crisis really can’t wait to be resolved, delay is expensive and we are taking weeks and months to resolve simple problems. That can’t be right in this environment,” Anthony told CMC.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By Peter Richards

Dr Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of St. Lucia

Dr Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of St. Lucia

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony Friday said he can’t keep coming to meetings of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders where the same issues are discussed over and over again.

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Anthony, in an exclusive interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), said “maybe I am impatient, maybe we need to concede more time.

“I certainly see willingness on the part on the heads of governments to come to term with some of the issues, but I guess my impatience is I can’t come to meetings all the time and discuss the same issues, over and over and over.

“Cleary there has to be a limit for that and something has to change,” Anthony told CMC as regional leaders ended their 35th summit here on Friday.

He said while the summit here was faced with a “heavy agenda” he could not say “this has been the best ever meeting of CARICOM in recent times.

“I think there was too much recycling, recycling not just of items, not just of issues, but I get the impression that sometimes there is a lack of will to really implement decisions we have made about how we ourselves will organise the meetings, manage the meetings of heads of governments.

“There are too many issues that come to the heads that ought to be settled at lower levels…so that’s really a big issue, but that apart obviously there are some items that are critical and crucial to St. Lucia, “Anthony said, making reference to the report of the Commission on the Economy, established following the 2013 summit in Port of Spain.

It is tasked with addressing the priority areas for fiscal sustainability, resource mobilisation as well as critical economic infrastructure services, particularly energy and Information Communication and Technology (ICT).

Anthony told CMC that St. Lucia had primarily been at the forefront advocating the need to tackle the economic problems of the region, adding “I am very very much concerned at what is happening particularly in the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States).

Anthony said that while the report “did not go as far as I would have liked there is no question that there were some very useful suggestions that governments may want to consider”.

Anthony said some of the recommendations “legitimise initiatives already underway in some countries but I thought that it was an important starting point.

“One of the big concerns I have is the failure to understand that the crisis we are facing in the region cannot really wait for solutions in perpetuity. We have to tackle those problems almost simultaneously and I am really not so sure that there is a collective understanding of the depth and the range of the problems faced by the governments of the region.

“In other words we are still speaking from different perspectives, from different vantage points. I don’t believe the private sector really grasp the enormity of the fiscal problems of the governments. I don’t think so.

“It is true, historically it has been said that the governments have not understood the challenges facing the private sector but we have to face the modality.  It does not make sense for example to invite the private sector to come and have a discussion with heads of governments over lunch. That really does not go anywhere and I think what should happen is that we should meet those individuals described as the captains of the industry, face to face across the table without having to be interrupted by a lunch process and talk frankly….because they need to understand what these governments are going through,” Anthony said.

The St. Lucia prime minister “this period we are in calls for extraordinary imagination” acknowledging what while there may be a need to re-look old strategies, “never before have these islands had to face a crisis of this intensity, this proportion.

“This is the first time since independence that all countries have found themselves in difficulty to the extent that we have and I don’t think whether our regional institutions themselves understand the gravity of the problems and the need for imagination to tackle the issues that face us.”

Anthony said that while the leaders had placed emphasis on the five year strategic plan for the future socio-economic development of the region, “even that I think is not going far enough.

“Those serious issues about decision making within CARICOM itself, we are not looking at the institutional arrangements,” he said, noting that the arrangements for example governing external trade the experience the region has had with Canada on negotiating a new agreement “suggests we may want to  re-look at those arrangements and see whether it is the correct thing to delegate all that authority to COTED (Council for Trade and Economic Development).

He said there is also the question as to whether CTED is functioning as envisaged by the (CARICOM) treaty or whether we need to take a fresh look at these organs.

“What the situation is showing is that the crisis really can’t wait to be resolved, delay is expensive and we are taking weeks and months to resolve simple problems. That can’t be right in this environment,” Anthony told CMC.