Prime Minister Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell has voiced his full support for accelerating the process of regional integration.
The Grenadian leader was among several persons who supported the sentiments on the issue, shared by Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, during the 5th sitting of the OECS Assembly on Wednesday.
Dr Mitchell, who has been involved in the political arena for more than 3 decades, said he fully subscribes to the philosophy of regional integration.
He noted that the OECS is replete with examples of the benefits of regional integration, some of which are exemplified through established institutions in the areas of banking and currency, the judiciary, pharmaceutical procurement, civil aviation, and telecommunications.
Dr Mitchell said, “The change in impact, power, influence and self-determination cannot be denied. Our countries have historically faced various developmental challenges and today, we are further confronted with concurrent and compounded crises. But even in the midst of this new normal that is still evolving, regional integration must remain a central policy objective. We have no choice — together we are stronger.”
Noting the many challenges that currently face regional countries including the widespread impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, volcanic activity, climate change, and environmental degradation, the Grenadian leader advised against the pursuit of individualistic policies which may benefit one country while putting others at risk.
He said, “A wiser course of action would be to consolidate and deepen the regional integration movement as a means of adequately addressing the unrelenting economic, social and environmental challenges and crises that threaten the advancement of regional development. Some of the challenges not only affect our individual countries but are interconnected with far-reaching consequences throughout the region. Therefore, we must go beyond national boundaries and seek regional solutions that will further propel regional economic growth and development.”
He added that crises and emergencies are often borderless, not in the least constrained by geographic boundaries, and therefore called on his colleagues to be more courageous, creative, and innovative in forging synergies at all levels.
Dr Mitchell said, “Contrary to the belief of some, adopting a regional approach to development does not cause a loss of national sovereignty but rather, can be an enabler of regional resilience, growth and development. I fully subscribe to the African proverb which states that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. The journey to regional growth and development is filled with twists and turns, especially in this new dispensation of perpetual crises — our new normal. To succeed, we must journey together.”
The Prime Minister therefore challenged the OECS Commission to not only look at deepening the integration of the regional governmental architecture, but to also pursue approaches that deepen the integration movement among the regional private sector, youth, and other non-state actors.
He also noted that the region must harness the power of technology, broaden the scope of labour mobility, and make the sub-region one marketplace where the trade in service is seamless and the concept of an OECS citizen can be fully operationalised.