Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne says if a single market is to become reality for the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the time has come to stop pussyfooting around and establish an effective regional transportation system.
“So I say to this meeting, if we have to manifest our seriousness about a single market and if we are to convince the Caribbean people of our commitment to regional integration, we must act to establish effective regional transportation, even at the cost of a subsidy. The time for talking has passed. The excuses are stale and they are irrelevant. The time for action is now,” Browne said while speaking at the official opening of the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James on Wednesday night.
He argued that the issue of regional transportation “causes the greatest irritation to all our peoples”.
The Antigua and Barbuda prime minister noted that the absence of an effective regional transportation system is even more irksome for the business community.
“They are rightly infuriated at the high cost of travel in the region and the profound difficulties to direct travel between our countries,” Browne lamented.
“Even if we solve all the technical issues that permeate establishing the CSME (Caricom Single Market and Economy), we will achieve nothing unless we implement the means to transport people and goods across the region. It is imperative,” he insisted.
Browne noted that as far back as 1992, the West Indies Commission made the telling point that “West Indian integration will wither on the vine and die without adequate sea and air transportation services”, and “the matter is in the most profound and fundamental sense at the very heart of the integration process itself”.
“That observation has grown in relevance in the passing years. The leadership of our Caribbean Community cannot continue to abdicate responsibility for ensuring the availability of reliable and regional air and sea transportation,” Browne argued.
“We cannot leave it to the private sector any more, and the private sector can’t leave it to us. It is a joint responsibility that is a precondition of success for a single market in which our business community moves its goods and to the fundamental importance on linking the Caribbean people together,” he said.
“Over the years, this issue has been studied, the studies have been studied, they have been shelved, dusted and studied again,” Browne said.
His view was supported by Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley.