CASTRIES, Saint Lucia CMC – The nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is marking its 34th anniversary on Thursday with a reminder that the world in which “we live today is a brutally competitive place with an uncompromising dominance of the large and the powerful.
“Our ability to navigate and survive like the proverbial straws is largely dependent on our ability to work to common purpose and forge a united will,” said OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules in a statement marking the occasion.
He said some of the foundations laid over the past 34 years now constitute some of the pillars of the sub-region’s “resilience in the turbulence of today.
Remarks by The Director General on the 34th Anniversary of the OECS – See more at: http://www.oecs.org/media-center/press-releases/secretariat/1011-remarks-by-the-director-general-on-the-34th-anniversary-of-the-oecs#sthash.JySLyYUp.dpuf
“The Eastern Caribbean dollar is holding its own, strengthened by the fact that it is not subject to the dictation of any individual member state but protected by the unanimity of all monetary authority members. This single currency is a tangible symbol of economic stability,” he said.
Jules said that there are others pillars of resilience that are almost invisible to the public but which impact all of the lives of people in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.
He made reference to the OECS Pharmaceutical Procurement Service which has centrally purchased quality medicines for public use at prices that represent savings of as much as 40 per cent of the regular cost to governments.
“Another of these less visible pillars is the Regional Security System which we share with Barbados. The RSS has played an important role in security including drug interdiction across our waters but equally importantly in post disaster situations – the RSS is a first response mechanism for natural disasters in the OECS.”
Jules said that the sub-region is now into the fourth year of implementation of the economic union and said “we have made comparatively good progress in this direction”.
He said all protocols member states currently have in effect regarding the free movement for OECS citizens have been all agreed and as a result “the citizens of the OECS now enjoy an unencumbered right to move and live freely within the single space.
“We enjoy indefinite stay. Border officials accept any official photo ID other than passports. We have seen the removal of work permit requirements, the removal of means tests, and are now allowed the use of drivers licence from any national space to drive in host member states.
He said the policy on rights contingent to freedom of movement of people has been developed and is in the process of endorsement by member states.
“This includes things such as seamless access to education for children, access to social and health services, ability to transfer all social benefits from your original home base to your new OECS location. In other words measures to ensure full enjoyment of everything that a citizen of that member state of your new domicile enjoys.”
Jules said that the entry of Martinique to the fraternity of the OECS in this 34th year of integration marks a qualitative shift in our approach to regional integration.
“ It signals the putting aside of the linguistic and cultural barriers that inhibited our embrace of each other. It opens new windows of possibility for people to people engagement, trade, exchange of services and the collective development of the region.”
But the OECS Director General said that as the sub-regional grouping moves into its 35th year “we are working with renewed vigor and optimism to putting in place the remaining elements that will truly make the OECS a single, seamless economic and social space”.
He said the priorities will include consolidating the growth, development and free movement of goods, services, capital and ideas.
“This will involve initiatives such as a revitalization of the Eastern Caribbean stock exchange to facilitate the movement of capital and resources across the region; encouraging and strengthening indigenous and local capital accumulation mechanisms such as our credit unions and local banks.”
He said that work is also advancing on the single domestic space for travel via the proposed OECS border management and technical agencies integration project that will ultimately result in the abolition of the dreaded immigration card and make movement as easy as swiping an OECS smart ID card and walk through.
Jules said that substantial progress has been made on designing the regime for free circulation of goods that will ensure that goods moving within the OECS are not subject to multiple taxation.
“We are working to complete the OECS Growth and Development Strategy that will see a bolder, fresh approach to job creation, entrepreneurship and development. At the center of this effort will be youth development so that a different environment will empower our youth to take initiative, obtain support to become the owners of tomorrow,” Jules added.