By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter
” (Basseterre, St. Kitts) – “The whole world is crumbling around us and therefore we have to respond to it in any way which we can.” These words are those of Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Sir Dwight Venner, at the recently concluded consultation between Heads of Government of the OECS and the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 23 at the ECCB Headquarters. Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Stephenson King, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, and Former Director General of the OECS, Dr. Vaughn Lewis and Sir Dwight Venner were fielding questions from the press after their meeting. The ongoing talks are designed to bring about regional integration and to bring about an economic and political union among the OECS and Trinidad and Tobago. According to the leaders, the objective is to accelerate the pace of the regional integration process in the CARICOM. “Why not just focus on Caricom, why form this union between Trinidad and Tobago and the OECS?” one reporter asked. “The OECS countries have managed to come to a state of integration which is much harder than the rest of CARICOM to do,” Sir Venner said in responding to the reporter’s question. “Trinidad and Tobago is a willing partner and has resources. We have institutions, they have resources and it seems like that’s a good mix at this particular point in time,” he said. Sir Venner said that the political-economic union between the OECS and Trinidad and Tobago is a response to the financial global meltdown brought about by the recession in the American economy. He also added that the Sept. 11 crisis in the United States, with the bombing of the World Trade Center, created economic fallout in the Caribbean and that they had to find ways of addressing it.” “After the crisis of September 11, we had some great difficulty to do with economic progress and the OECS countries took a decision that they would upgrade the Treaty of Basseterre to a new revised treaty in response to that crisis,” Venner said. “As you know there is another crisis, a very large one looming, where we have to set up not only defensive but offensive mechanisms to get our way around this, which means that we need more economic space of our own,” he said. “In the Caribbean, we have to create some space for ourselves and so we will do it sequentially. The OECS would accelerate this economic project, and at the same time as Prime Minister Manning said we are less complicated than the rest of Caricom and so once we get that completed then we have some urgency on our side given the crisis. We then have to move, but then you need political arrangements to facilitate the process and it is urgent at this point in time that we move,” Venner said. “When you are in crisis, things that are not possible happen,” he said. “How will the economic crisis affect us?” a reporter asked. “In a way we are lucky but also protected in the sense that we have very strong banking systems. Most of our banks are Canadian banks that have been rated number one in the world, which is a good thing,” Venner said. “We also have Trinidad and Tobago, which is an oil producer, and realize that oil is one of the issues in the energy crisis and there is the petroleum product which Trinidad and Tobago has very generously contributed to us. In a sense now you can see the logic of what is happening. We are oil importers and Trinidad is an oil exporter, that’s a synergy that widens the space that we have,” he said. The OECS Countries hope to attain economic union among themselves by 2009. Trinidad and Tobago intend to integrate its economy with that of the OECS, two years later, by 2011. In 2013 appropriate political integration between Trinidad and Tobago and the OECS countries is hoped to be achieved. The OECS was founded on June 18, 1981. It is a nine-member grouping comprising Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Commonwealth of Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Montserrat and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands are associate members of the OECS.
Governor of ECCB Backs OECS/Trinidad Union Amid Global Financial Crisis
By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter