Secretary-General of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr. Edwin Carrington, yesterday said that the 23rd Meeting of the Community Council of Ministers, which was held at the Caricom Secretariat, Turkeyen yesterday, provided a first look at a proposed strategic approach to the Community’s relations with the United States under its new administration.
Dr. Carrington also said that the Community is looking forward to early engagement with the new administration.
There were also a number of other key issues up for discussion at the meeting yesterday, including the budget and work programme of the CARICOM Secretariat
According to Dr. Carrington, approving the budget and work programme of the CARICOM Secretariat is one of the principal tasks of the Council.
He announced that the Secretariat will not be requesting more money in the budget this year than what was provided last year.
“Seized as we are at the depth of the global financial and economic downturn, and of its certain impact on our countries, we have taken the brave decision, despite an inflation rate of some eight percent, not to request any increase in the budget for 2009 over that of 2008…We are determined to strive to do as much as we can with the level of resources made available to us in 2008.”
This, he added, raises serious questions regarding the issue of new mandates.
Dr. Carrington told the ministers that they also have to look at the status report on the Secretariat’s strategic plan for 2009-2013.
“This is important in this crucial period in the life of the Community, as we seek to establish the Single Economy and consolidate the Single Market.”
He noted that in the next two months, the Caricom Secretariat will be involved in two summits. The first is the Twentieth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, to be held in Belize over two days, from March 12.
And just over a month later, the Fifth Summit of the Americas will be held in Trinidad and Tobago, and that country’s delegation to this meeting will no doubt provide an update on the latest developments.
He said that this prestigious event is being held in the Caribbean for the first time, and in a CARICOM Member State.
Meanwhile, Community Council Chairman Wilfred Erlington said that the success and prosperity of Caricom countries are deeply interwoven in the future and success of the integration movement.
Erlington, who also holds the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Attorney-General of Belize, in a brief address, also said that all involved must remain committed during the maturing regional process.
According to him, a critical component of this process is the fuller engagement and participation of all stakeholders— Government, private sector, labour and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at every level.
As it relates to the Community Council meeting, Erlington said, one key responsibility the members are tasked with is the consideration of the 2009 – 2010 work programme and budget of the Secretariat.
He noted that priorities for the 2009 work programme include economic development and competitiveness, advancing human and social development, and governance.
He stated that some of the other major areas to be addressed are the continued operationalization of the arrangements for the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME); the development of the strategic plan for regional development, to give effect to the single development vision approved by the Heads of Government at their meeting held in July, 2007 in Barbados; transforming the agriculture sector through greater investments and increased efficiency, and exploiting opportunities available under existing agreements, with EPA being the most recent.
Additionally, he said, they will be reviewing some of the progress made with respect to the new issues identified at their 22nd meeting in June 2008, which include development of a Community environment and national resources framework; climate change strategy; and the operationalization of the Caricom Development Fund.
“With steady application and due diligence, these initiatives and others in the 2008/2009 and the 2009/2010 work programmes can make an important contribution towards the achievement of the objectives of the community.”
The Community Council is the second highest organ of the Caribbean Community, having replaced the Common Market Council as the second highest organ in CARICOM.
It has primary responsibility for the development of Community strategic planning and co-ordination in the areas of economic integration, functional co-operation and external relations. The Council consists of Ministers responsible for Community Affairs and any other minister designated by CARICOM Member States.
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