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CARICOM Leaders End Summit On Positive Note

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders have ended their two-day intersessional summit here, agreeing on a number of initiatives ranging from holding a conference on crime in Trinidad and Tobago to pushing forward the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of people across the 15-member regional grouping.

Host prime minister and Caricom Chairman Mia Mottley told the end of summit news conference that the leaders had been able, during their deliberations, to “continue to advance the work of the region to the benefit of Caribbean people.

“This conference will come to be remembered as one in which we laid the footsteps for a number of key decisions,” she said, emphasising that many of these decisions “must have relevance to our people”.

She said she regards as one of the most significant initiatives benefiting Caribbean people is the work undertaken by Grenada’s prime minister regarding roaming charges across the region.

“The conference has agreed that Prime Minister [Dr Keith] Mitchell’s technical committee will now meet with the telecommunication companies and we will await the final implementation of the regime, as well as the other areas of digital governance [for] which Prime Minister Mitchell has responsibility.”

Mottley said, as a result of the CSME, the regional leaders had discussed a number of issues, adding, “we are firm of the view that we need to enhance the governance mechanisms.”

She said, as a result, St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has been tasked to pull on the technical working groups whose recommendations may have to be revisited again “because of the need for us to guarantee implementation across all the member states.

“To that extent, therefore, we anticipate that a report will come to the next heads of government meeting that will review those technical working groups that came out of the Rose Hall Declaration in Montego Bay in 2003”.

She said the leaders have also asked Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who has lead responsibility for free movement within the quasi-Caricom Cabinet, to “bring back up a review of all of the processes to further simplify how people move and whether there should be further categories of persons who should be allowed to move…”

She said she expects the report will be presented to regional leaders in July at their annual summit.

Mottley said another aspect of the CSME was the “comprehensive report” undertaken by the regional private sector and the Caribbean Congress of Labour that had been presented to the meeting, describing it “as one of the most pleasing things to me”.

“The report that came sets out a pathway towards our being able to work towards substituting 25 per cent of our food import bill, which at the current moment stands at about US$5 billion,” she said, adding “that we would look to cut out 25 per cent of that within the next five years.

On the issue of crime and violence across the region, Mottley said that the leaders had come to the realisation that it is not a matter strictly for governments and, as a result, would be inviting other stakeholders to make contributions to dealing with the situation.

“To that extent we believe that it is critical that we have full and frank discussions about how we as a region will begin to contain the difficulties that individual communities and countries are experiencing because of a change in behaviour, a change in values, a change in attitudes.”

She said Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who has lead responsibility for security, has agreed to host the first such meeting and it is hoped that it will take place “in the near future, but we will await the Secretariat’s communication as to what is convenient for everyone”.

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