Bouterse, suggested that “by changing the way we do things, this Community will be a changed one – for the better – by the end of 2012.”
In his first message since taking over as chairman of the 15-member regional grouping from St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, the Suriname head of state said that the uncertainty caused by the continuing global crisis would continue to pose a problem for the Caribbean.
“The global economic and financial crisis shows no signs of abating, with the resulting challenges of unemployment, low or negative growth and increasing disparity between the rich and the poor. Given the relationship between the economic health of the major nations and its effect on us in CARICOM, it requires a major effort to overcome the challenges presented by this on-going situation.
“It also requires that we take a hard look at the way we operate, and accept changes that may be necessary,” said Bouterse, noting that the challenges can be overcome if CARICOM countries bind themselves even closer together.
“We stand a better chance to confront these challenges as a group united, than each swimming against the tide alone,” he said, adding it is also the task of the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat to lead the change.
He said the review of the Secretariat must be completed and the relevant recommendations implemented to improve the management and operation of the Secretariat, as it is CARICOM’s principal organ.
Dominican-born His Excellency Ambassador Irwin La Rocque was appointed CARICOM Secretary General in August last year, and Bouterse said he should be at the forefront of the changes.
“My colleagues and I have every confidence in the ability of Ambassador La Rocque to effect the necessary repositioning of the Secretariat,” Bouterse said, adding that as CARICOM Chairman, he would place emphasis on enhancing awareness of the efforts being undertaken by the regional grouping.
“We must ensure that the people of the Community feel the impact and recognize the benefits that come to them from integration. In 2012, we will increase our focus and attention on these areas, and on ways the population can more readily feel the benefits,” he said.
He said that one of the main areas he would be paying attention to, will be the involvement of young people within the region.
“The Paramaribo Declaration of 2010 laid out ideas and recommendations for greater youth involvement in the affairs of the Community. These must be pursued urgently and diligently, as the participation of the young people in the integration movement is essential to ensure that it is kept alive and dynamic,” Bouterse said.
He said he would also be looking improve the coordination among the various regional blocs to which CARICOM belongs, adding “we must aim to strengthen our position in these organizations and groupings, and make the best of the opportunities they present.
“Through working more closely together, we can improve the standard of living of our citizens,” Bouterse added