Saluting the people of the Caribbean Community
July 2, 2002
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During their brief sojourn in this Land of Many Waters, the delegates and observers will be special guests at working breakfasts and dinners. They will be entertained and feted at elegant receptions, and hopefully, they will have the opportunity during the Summit’s retreat to see something of Guyana’s vast hinterland with its huge rivers and wondrous waterfalls. We hope too, that the discussions among CARICOM colleagues and partners will lead ultimately to greater understanding and appreciation of the cultural differences and traditions that exist both among Caribbean states and within nations. We dare to hope also, that this understanding would help to build more bridges of cooperation that could be translated into economic prosperity in the foreseeable future.
Citizens of the region are aware of the litany of vexing socioeconomic issues that plague the nations of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Those besetting ills include the frightening rise in violent crime, narco-trafficking, drug abuse among the young people, the inexorable march of HIV/AIDS, economic stagnation with its concomitant contraction of the job market, the plummeting prices for the region’s exports on the world market and the dismal outlook for the tourism and airline industries especially after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States of America.
The immediate economic forecast does not look too rosy either with the scheduled coming into being of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the less-than-equitable existing trade rules. It is therefore entirely understandable that some Caribbean territories are quietly considering the possibility of keeping their options open for one-to-one arrangements with one of the international economic groupings.
The Caribbean Community has come of age in a world drastically reconfigured from that moment in July 1973 when the founding fathers sat down in Trinidad and Tobago and drafted the Treaty of Chaguaramas. Yet, the vision of the founding fathers still argues relevance today for it gives the people of the region a glimpse of an existence that could be more fulfilling, meaningful and eventually prosperous if there is greater economic collaboration among the territories.
The Caribbean has produced scores of brilliant persons, some of whom are lending their expertise to international agencies and industrialised countries. The leaders of the region must resolve to harvest the creative ideas and innovations of those brilliant minds to show the rest of the Caribbean populace the way to greater social harmony and material prosperity.