Thursday, July 3, 2014
Thursday, July 3, 2014
The following is the July 2 address by Prime Minister Perry Christie at the 35th CARICOM Heads of Government Conference currently being held in Antigua and Barbuda, delivered:
Let me first add my words of warm congratulations to you on your election both as Head of Government of Antigua and Barbuda and as the Head of the Conference and Head of the OECS. This is what you would you call a real baptism by fire or in football language a hat trick. I wish you well. I am sure that you will do well in the service of your people and those of the wider region.
I am happy to be back in Antigua. I have a long history with this nation. I have been here both in an official and in a private capacity. I am an old friend of your former Prime Minister in the days when we were both athletes, Lester Byrd, your national hero and senior minister. So it is good to be back here. It goes without saying that my delegation is pleased at the arrangements that have been made for us and the warm welcome of the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
The general intervention at this juncture is appropriate because looking at our rather ambitious schedule of items, what I have to say will be generally applicable to the following four items: The Strategic Plan for the Caribbean Community; the Report of the Commission on the Economy; the State of play on Caricom/Canada Trade and Development Agreement; the Community’s Positions in the context of SIDS, Climate Change and the post 2015 agenda.
Let me say broadly then that on all those items, the Bahamas accepts the invitations from the working document supplied by Caricom. In accepting them, we hope to embrace change in the region; to retool the region for growth and development; embrace the theme of working together to improve the economies of the region and to ensure that our young people have a future in this region.
The strategic plan for Caricom is overdue, and we hope that all the work that has gone into strengthening the governance structures in the region will be of benefit to Caricom and its decision making, strengthening the clout of our region, even as we reserve the sovereign rights of states. I congratulate the authors of the plan.
As it relates to the economy, what is refreshing for us is that the plan in fact concretizes and supports, reaffirms much of what The Bahamas is already doing. It confirms to me that we are on the right track.
We have to reform our public administration for example to ensure that the business community is able to get timely answers to proposals and that it is easier to do business in the region. That is a laudable objective.
Similarly, the embrace of the three Ps, the public private partnership is a must do for a state like The Bahamas, where we must replicate infrastructure like airports, hospitals and schools in 26 different islands and multiple population centres.
You will all be in The Bahamas I hope some time in February next year. I would like to invite you to come and see the island of Bimini and the example of the PPP at work with the Resorts World, a subsidiary of Genting, a Malaysian company.
In this unique partnership, the private sector invests in the infrastructure: the docks, the harbour, the airport and the government repays from the taxes collected and from the fees that the company owes the government for the use of the facilities.
This is only but one example. I would like you to come and see and hopefully you will all live in the new multi-billion dollar facility Bahamar as the site for the Heads of Government conference. This was financed by Chinese capital, which again supports the theme in the paper that we often have to look to non-traditional sources of capital. In addition, to China we too are in the midst of an outreach to the countries of the Middle East.
The Bahamas is also committed to the SIDS process and we shall ensure that our collective voices are heard at Samoa and in New York later this year in the plea for the requirements of small island developing states: for our economies and to save and preserve our environments for future generations.
We are also in the midst of the following:
- Restructuring of our fiscal and taxation policies
- The establishment of a debt management committee with officials of the Treasury, Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank
- The strengthening of the tourism industry.
- The further development and expansion of the maritime industry and adding new products such as yachting and shipping registries and creating arbitration centre.
- The strengthening of national training programmes
- Energy reform measures
- Fighting crime and bolstering national security.
- Dealing with climate change, fighting to defend our coastlines, and ameliorating the effects of climate change.
- Investing in health care, education, culture and sports.
- We have a major focus in agriculture.
- The coordination of our foreign policies so that our collective voice can be heard on the inadequacy of GDP per capita as a proper measure for development assistance and to ensure that we have a place at the table in setting the rules for the financial services sector.
So I think that we in The Bahamas get it. It is clear that Caricom gets it. It is the economy. It is jobs, jobs and jobs. All that we do is designed to ensure that there is both growth and development. I never cease to preach that message. We must keep that at the centre of all that we do here. Caricom must be people focused and our eyes must always be on the development and well-being of our people.
We support the early conclusion of the Carib Canada Agreement. We should not drop the ball.
So I once again thank you for the fine work done on all the subjects and I again embrace all the themes which those agenda items embrace.