Pluses in OECS cooperation Guest Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
June 9, 2004

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BANANA AND tourism are known to be twin pillars in the pursuit of social and economic development among countries within the Eastern Caribbean. The collapse of the traditional banana-exporting regime for the European market is still having damaging socio-economic consequences for the Windward Islands in particular.

In accordance with a cornerstone policy of sub-regional co-operation, the heads of government of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have endorsed plans for a three-day international conference on the production and marketing of bananas, which is scheduled to begin today Kingstown, St Vincent.

The countries of the OECS grouping have long been demonstrating how integrated they are in trade, economic, financial, education and cultural development.

The latest indication of a commitment to further pursue common objectives, within the framework of the treaty governing the functioning of the nine-member grouping, came at the just-concluded 39th meeting of the OECS Authority that approved arrangements for today’s banana conference.

While the sharing of a common EC currency is a noted distinguishing feature of OECS co-operation, it is not often appreciated, outside the sub-region, how very integrated the OECS countries are in areas of common services.

Among the services being coordinated are education and aviation policies and the purchasing of pharmaceutical supplies. More recently, the OECS countries have been seeking to develop a common policy to facilitate intra-regional travel of their nationals within the OECS grouping.

Linked together in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and, of necessity, keeping under review initiatives for judicial and legal reform, the 39th OECS Summit, held in St Vincent and The Grenadines, has now placed high on the agenda of priority issues a comprehensive review of prison services in that sub-region.

But, of more immediate importance, is the challenge the member countries face from rising oil prices that pose serious problems for economic recovery. Consequently, the Kingstown OECS Summit decided to establish a special task force on energy to come up with recommendations on issues like effective energy conservation management, alternative energy sources and reform of the energy sector.

The Castries-based OECS Secretariat, whose activities have too often been frustrated by lack of funding, would have been encouraged by the positive mood and re-affirmation of commitment that came from heads of government at the 39th Summit.

However, more critical observers of OECS developments would be aware of a seeming decline in enthusiasm for broader and laudable ideas, like some form of political union and also the pace at which coordination in immigration and customs services is being pursued.
– reprinted from the Barbados Nation