Brades, Montserrat – Leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Wednesday began a two-day summit here overshadowed by regional transportation, climate change and the continued impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the economies of their respective countries.
The leaders from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, had to be accommodated on a special charter to ensure their participation in the summit.
Host and chairman, Premier Joseph Farrell, acknowledged that the lack of a proper regional transportation system highlighted by the collapse of the regional airline, LIAT, had severely hampered the movement of people and goods across the sub-region.
“We as a region must therefore work together and with other interest groups to find a lasting solution to reliable transportation,” he said, noting the efforts of the Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne in trying to revive the St. John’s-based LIAT.
“I hope that member states will contribute to the restoration of this intra-regional travel mechanism. I stand firm in my belief that as a region we are able to face the challenges that lie ahead,” he added.
Earlier, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, who said he had plans in following St. Vincent and the Grenadines in moving away from identification cards on entry into Grenada, said regional transport is necessary to ensure closer regional integration.
“The high cost of travel in the region and the limited air lift opportunities continue to be the biggest hurdle that we face as it discourages the movement of people, goods and services.
“My presence and the presence of many of the other heads in Montserrat today was only made possible by charter flight. This cannot continue,” Mitchell said.
He said the creation of an environment for efficient an cost effective intra-regional transportation “is essential to the measures that are needed to bring about a true single financial and economic space as is envisioned in the revised Treaty of Basseterre (which governs the sub-regional grouping)”.
He said if the OECS leaders can give a commitment to addressing these matters at this summit “we would have sown the seeds for a much brighter future for our citizens”. (CMC)