Samuel Berridge, left, and His Excellency Lionel Sydney Osborne, Head of the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit.

BASSWTERRE, St. Kitts — Improving regional air and maritime transportation is crucial to advancing regional integration if the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is to operate optimally, said officials working in St. Kitts and Nevis’ Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit (RIDU).

“We can’t get the CSME operational to the optimal point without dealing with transportation,” said Samuel Berridge, Assistant Secretary in the RIDU in the Office of the Prime Minister.

Berridge said the issue of transportation has to be dealt with in earnest, however, there is a price tag attached.

“It is a cost, and somebody will have to bite the bullet – either the public or private sector,” said Berridge. “We would need a public-private partnership but then the public should not bear all the cost,” said Mr. Berridge.

His Excellency Lionel Sydney Osborne, Head of the RIDU head and Ambassador to the Caribbean Community and OECS Commissioner shared similar sentiments and raised a very important point concerning air transportation.

“Is it a public good, or is it a profit-making exercise?” asked Ambassador Osborne. “If it really is a public good then one has to understand subsidies that are going to be required if we really want to move persons effectively, quickly… from one point to another. I think it is something which will have to be discussed.”

In terms of rapid ferries, Ambassador Osborne, and Assistant Secretary Berridge shared similar sentiments noting that while some countries report success stories with sea transportation it has proven to be very difficult for others.

“The issue is public-private partnerships. The private sector wants to gain the profits, but they want to spread the cost,” said Berridge. “The same discussions which we have with LIAT in terms of spreading the cost now, Chapter six of the Revised Treaty of [Chaguaramas] speaks about transportation policy. You need to make it more effective, and then there are some less economic points.”

RIDU officials reiterated the importance of improving regional transportation and noted that it will require multi-sectoral support.