Regional leaders discuss wide ranging issues including CARICOM

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart hinting that the global economic crisis may have forced Caribbean countries to become more inward looking, says nonetheless the regional integration movement is “alive and well”.

“The perception that the (regional integration) process has slowed, I think, may have more to do with the fact that the stakeholder countries have had to become more inward looking as they deal with the economic challenges from the global economic downturn,” he said as he welcomed his Grenadian counterpart Dr. Keith Mitchell during a courtesy call.

Prime Minister Stuart said that there is a view that the regional integration movement was being treated as a synonym of the single market and single economy and its success was being measured by progress in this area only.

He reaffirmed Barbados’ unwavering commitment to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME) process and disclosed that he would be continuing his discussions with national and regional officials to deal with some of the outstanding challenges.

Both Stuart and Mitchell recently won general elections in the respective countries and Mitchell, who was here to deliver the David Thompson Memorial Lecture, said regional countries must maximise every single opportunity for it to be successful.

He stressed the need for technology to be applied to the resolution of problems facing the region and lso suggested that the Caribbean needed to be more outward looking, particularly given the need to attract investments.

The Prime Minister also expressed the view that the Caribbean needed to examine some of the present arrangements, such as diplomatic representation, to see if expenditures could be reduced through improved coordination in this area.

During their wide-ranging discussions, the two prime ministers examined the issue of regional food security and agreed that it must be taken very seriously.

“The time has come for us to do something concrete because the truth is, none of us can afford the food import bills that we currently have. We import here in Barbados over half billion dollars in food, [and] to me, that does not make sense.

“We have to get our agriculture sector going and we have to see who can do what best and make sure we maximise and optimise the potential of each territory. We have no choice. Food security is a critical issue for all of us in the region…(because) a region that does not feed itself is an enslaved region,” said Prime Minister Stuart.

Prime Minister Mitchell added that it was necessary to look at the countries in the region and decide which crops were best suited for each to produce.

“The Prime Ministers also spoke about issues relating to CLICO and their effect on citizens in both countries, as well as air transport, namely LIAT. They agreed that an efficient and competitive airline was essential, and that improved connectivity in the region was vital to the development efforts,” a government statement added.