Address to Jamaican Parliament
President Jagdeo urges shift from confrontational politics
Stabroek News
August 13, 2002

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President Bharrat Jagdeo is urging the creation of conditions that will bring about a shift from inherited confrontational politics in the Caribbean Region to politics that serve the interests of the people.

In addressing the Jamaican Parliament last Wednesday on the occasion of that country's 40th anniversary of independence, President Jagdeo declared that "irrespective of whichever side of the House you sit, I believe our people want to see their leaders working together. They want to see them confronting and solving the problems that affect them."

The Guyanese leader also told the Jamaican Parliament that "Government and Opposition must therefore be guided by what is good for their people rather than by partisan interests."

Further, he said, they must work more closely with civil society to overcome common problems and to ensure that democracy grows stronger in this Region.

"If we cannot work together, we would be more vulnerable to external forces, (so) we must face our challenges as a united team," the president advised.

Pointing to the Region's problems of high unemployment and attendant poverty as well as unsocial behaviour such as crime, drugs and senseless violence, Jagdeo noted that "globalisation poses a serious threat to our way of life."

Some of the advocates of this process, in his view, are still stuck in the realms of speaking of its potential benefits, but the plight of Caribbean farmers has indicated that the possible benefits have not yet arrived. "We in the Caribbean know what it means for the coffee growers, cane and banana farmers, poultry producers, small businesses, and fledgling industries," Jagdeo observed.

"For us," he posited, "globalisation must be assessed not only from the point of view of its potential benefits, but also from the perspective of its impact on the people of our countries."

President Jagdeo, the current Chairman of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government, also contended that while some countries justly urge the region to fight crime and to battle illicit drugs, "they, however, either do not see or do not care about the connection between these problems and the uncontrolled export of small arms to our region and the thousands of criminal deportees who they continue to send back to our countries while they aggressively recruit our trained nurses and teachers."

"Some exhort us to open our markets, remove subsidies but they openly subsidise their farmers and hinder access to their markets," Jagdeo commented.

He also remarked that the Region is rightfully urged to reform its tax regime to attract investment capital but then it is unreasonably penalised for successfully doing so, adding that the OECD's harmful tax initiative is a case in point.

According to the president, "the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) seeks to solve the problem of tax evasion in its member countries through unreasonable impositions upon our countries."

He drew attention also to the situation where developing countries are urged to practise more environmentally sound policies yet some developed countries, who he castigated as the world's worst polluters, are currently withdrawing from many international commitments to safeguard the environment. These are the realities of the world in which we live, Jagdeo concluded.

Turning to international trade matters, the president told the Jamaican parliamentarians that the region "must continue to advocate for trade regimes that respond to our situation and to our concerns."

"While we are committed to free markets," Jagdeo asserted, "it is clear that unless special and differential treatment as well as infrastructure development funding are provided to allow us to participate meaningfully, we will not be able to enjoy the benefits of liberalisation but instead will be condemned to remain on the periphery of international development."

He argued that "for us to be guaranteed some level of success in our trade negotiations with the European Union, within the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and for the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), we must not only operate as a team but we must also strengthen our alliances with likeminded regions and countries based on the principles of common interest and international solidarity." He added that distinguished leaders of Africa, such as President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, who was present among the distinguished overseas guests specially invited to the independence celebrations, can help in this process.

Noting that the Regional Negotiating Machinery was established to help to develop, coordinate and advocate positions on behalf of the region in critical negotiations, Jagdeo urged that it be given full recognition for the vital functions which it has performed so far. He urged that it should continue to receive full support in the further execution of its mandate.

"Our small economies," the president said, "are incapable of generating sufficient capital needed to fuel our economic growth. Therefore, we must make our region more capital attractive.

Governments can assist in this by providing incentives and a national regulatory framework."

Noting that many Caribbean countries today are experiencing high unemployment, crime and senseless violence, the president advocated that "we need to stop playing the blame-game and work together to find solutions to those and other social ills."