BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JANUARY 23RD 2011 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas is confident that the OECS Economic Union will be instrumental in enabling its peoples to achieve sustainable growth and development, and realize significant improvements in the quality of life of their people for years to come.
In a statement to mark the coming into force of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre Establishing the OECS Economic Union, Prime Minister Douglas in his capacity as Chairmn of the Authority of the OECS Heads of Government said despite limitations and setbacks, the sub-region has achieved what very few in other parts of the world have achieved.
“We have accomplished a formidable task, and now we must seek to make it work for us,” said Prime Minister Douglas in a radio and television statement to the peoples of the independent OECS states of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Dr. Douglas noted that the OECS Economic Union constitutes a single financial and economic space within which all factors of production, goods, services and people will move without hindrance. No longer will physical frontiers and nationality serve as barriers to the pursuit of business or professional opportunities, or of opportunities for socio-cultural, people to people contact.
The Economic Union will also allow for institutions designed to facilitate greater coordination of regional policies, as well as to foster good governance. As the principal Organs of the Organisation, entities such as the Authority of Heads of Government, the Council of Ministers, the OECS Commission, the OECS Assembly and the Economic Affairs Council, will contribute to the formulation and development of regional policy while serving as critical links between Member States and the Organisation itself. The OECS Secretariat will make the transition into the OECS Commission.
“With the operationalisation of the OECS Economic Union, we embark together on a journey full of opportunity and promise, confident that our needs, hopes, dreams and aspirations will be realized through the process. The OECS Economic Union will empower OECS citizens by making possible greater freedom of movement and of economic action, by engendering a greater sense of belonging and of pride in their achievements, and by offering a wider array of social and economic possibilities,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He pointed out that the OECS has been able to arrive at this important milestone through the deep and unwavering commitment of its Member States to the OECS model: that of the pooling of resources for the common good.
“Member States must be congratulated for the tremendous effort and energy that they have invested in this enterprise. In similar vein, you the citizenry of the Member States must be commended for your steadfast commitment and invaluable contribution to the deepening of the integration of our region,” Dr. Douglsa said.
Since June 18, 2010, the official date of the signing of the Revised Treaty, Member States have been working diligently to complete the legal and other requirements for the operationalisation of the Economic Union by the January 21, 2011 deadline which was then established by the OECS Authority. That the process has been completed within deadline is testimony to the dedication and commitment of our public officials at both the national and regional levels.
“My fellow OECS citizens, History is shaped by significant events such as these. Our commemoration of today is about the future, our potential as a tightly knit group of Small Island Developing States, and our pride and determination as a people. But it is also an opportunity to reflect upon, and to acknowledge the past, for the foundation of that which we enjoy today was laid yesterday,” said Dr. Douglas as he noted that the Founding Fathers of the integration arrangement pursued decisions and actions which have had a profound impact on the region, and the legacy which they have left is both rich and enduring.
“Today the OECS stands as the World’s only integration grouping of micro-states. With a total land area of approximately 1000 sq miles and a population of just under 600,000, it boasts a record of success in integration far greater than its physical size and resource capacity would lead one to expect. This success can be measured by the high quality and international reputation of its flagship institutions,” said the OECS Chairman.
Dr. Douglas also noted that the international outreach undertaken by the St. Lucia-based Secretariat has ensured that this signal achievement by the OECS has not escaped the attention of the international community, and in particular, the development partners.
“Indeed, it has received their praise and approbation, and has resulted in a dramatic increase in their confidence in the OECS as a political and economic entity,” said Dr. Douglas.
He said that in addition to international development and financial institutions which have lauded the achievements of the OECS, a number of countries of global stature have been expressing their interest in the Organisation in a variety of ways, most notably via the establishment of diplomatic relations and Permanent Representations.
“Within the last two years, seven countries - Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Finland, France, Germany and the United Kingdom (five of which are members of the European Union) - have established diplomatic relations with the OECS. A significant number of other countries are either pursuing internal procedures leading to the establishment of diplomatic relations, or are pursuing alternative options including the signing of Memoranda of Understanding on Cooperation. These countries include Argentina, Austria, Turkey and South Korea among others. The suggestion from all of this is that in the eyes of the international community, we in the OECS are doing something right,” said Dr. Douglas.