The meeting was preceded by an Opening Ceremony at the Montserrat Cultural Center, where Prime Minister of Grenada, Hon. Dickon Mitchell; Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew; and Premier of the British Virgin Islands, Hon. Dr. Natalio Wheatly delivered their maiden addresses to the OECS Authority.
In his opening remarks, the Premier of Montserrat and Chairman of the OECS Authority, Hon. Easton Taylor-Farrell, spoke to the resilience of the OECS region, stating that the 72nd Meeting of the OECS Authority was ‘’tangible evidence of our collective strength and joint resilience that continues to propel us through the increasing inadequacies and exponential crises of today.’’ He continued,
‘’The strength of the OECS construct is the deep solidarity among Heads and the strong sense of common purpose, which originates from our shared history.’’
The Director General of the OECS Dr. Didacus Jules focused his remarks at the Opening Ceremony around the theme of seizing opportunity in crisis. In his reflection of the challenges faced by the region over the past few years, Dr. Jules called for ‘strategic foresight and early action as our best defense against future uncertainty and paralyzing disruption.’ According to him,
‘’The genius of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre is that – not if but when – actualized would reap the obscured opportunities that are nestled deep in the bowels of our contemporary challenges and would future proof us against inevitable successions of catastrophe.‘’
In the main the meeting focused on, inter alia:
a) Approval of the OECS Triennium Work Programme 2021-2024
The Commission sought the approval of its budget over the Triennium (1 July 2021 to 30 June 2024) across its three financed segments. Key programmes earmarked for the acceleration of regional integration under its five strategic priorities were highlighted, with results and clear outputs outlined. The Auth0rity agreed to the setting up of a working group for the proper integration of the French Assocaite Members in areas of competence into the OECS Work Programme and gave its unanimous approval of the OECS Triennium Work Programme.
b) Approval of the Budget of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC)
As customary, the OECS Authority received and discussed the budget for the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) for the financial year 2022/2023 as presented by Chief Justice, Hon. Dame Perreira. In addition to seeking the approval of its budget, under which an increase in staff complement among other human-resource-related issues was raised, the ECSC sought the approval of the Heads for the ECSC headquarters to apply the filing fees collected through E-Litigation portals towards contributions due from the respective member states, as a first step towards achieving automaticity of financing and addressing the issue of member states contributions to the Courts. The Authority was also invited to note the status of the initiative and the necessary steps taken to ratify the 2011 Magistracy Integration Agreement and invited the Member States to make the legislative amendments to give effect to its integration, into the higher judiciary.
c) Regional Integration Matters
The Matters relating to these items covered the status of three critical areas namely the establishment of the OECS Customs Union and Free Circulation of Goods; the Free Movement of Persons and Market regulation. Core initiatives under the pillar of the Customs Union and the Free Circulation of Goods were presented to the Authority for their information and decision. These included ongoing activities for a harmonized border tax structure for the OECS Customs; a framework for border tax revenue management; a harmonized border management structure and system; a legislative and regulatory framework as well as an institutional framework. The Authority was also presented with the ongoing initiatives for the implementation of the Free Movement of people covering social security portability, contingent rights policy implementation, OECS Unique ID and ongoing efforts at capacity building for border management and the harmonized border management environment.
d) Regional Air Transportation
Heads of Government continued discussions towards a solution for regional air transportation, which is aimed at addressing the acute airlift capacity issues facing the sub-region, Emergency assistance has been sought from the Caribbean Development Bank to address the current air transportation crisis in the short term. To this end the CDB has approved a Grant of USD 350, 000 to finance the cost of the consultancy service and to assist with interim arrangements for the re-establishment of regular air transport services within the sub-region. Vice President (Operations) of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) presented an update to the Authority on the matter of the aviation consultancy, which is on the verge of execution, having gone through all the previous stages of procurement. A technical working group comprising members from the OESC Member States will form part of the process to help guide the work of the consultant, approved by the OECS Commission and the respective member states.
e) Regularization of the Status of the Eastern Caribbean Liaison Service (ECLS) in Canada.
Further to years of discussions between the Government of Canada and the OECS Commission, the OECS Authority has concurred that some recommendations should be implemented as advised by the Government of Canada in ensuring that the programme could continue to exist. The Canada-Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) has been in existence for over 50 years. This program was born out of a Memoranda of Understanding and operational guidelines between the Government of Canada and 8 OECS Member States. Highlighted for the meeting was the net worker contributions/remittances by OECS Member States with a cumulative remittance of EC$37,080,000 for the year, 2021 and ongoing efforts to ensure the successful relocation of the ECLS services.
f) Accession of Saint Martin to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)
The Authority was invited to reconsider the accession of Saint Martin to the Organisation since historically the negotiations for the accession of Saint Martin dates back to 2015. In principle, the Authority had previously agreed to the accession of Saint Martin to the OECS which had seen Saint Martin receiving an Observer Status to the Organisation back in 2019. With the resumption of negotiations, the Heads took the opportunity to reaffirm their approval of the accession of Saint Martin to the Organisation. The OECS Commission will continue working towards finalizing the arrangements for the accession, which could be concluded very shortly.
The OECS Heads of Government expressed their appreciation to the Government and People of Montserrat for their warm hospitality and looked forward to the implementation of the decision agreed on.
Heads of Governments and Representatives of Heads of Government
Hon. Joseph Easton Taylor Farrell, Premier of Montserrat and Chairman of the OECS Authority
Hon. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda
Hon. Dickon Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada
Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew, Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis
Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonzalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Hon. Dr. Ellis Webster, Premier of Anguilla
Hon. Dr. Natalio Wheatly, Premier of the British Virgin Islands
Hon. Serge Letchimy, President of the Territorial Council of Martinique
Hon. Patrick Sellin, Vice President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe
Hon. Alva Baptiste, Minister for External Affairs, International Trade & Civil Aviation of St. Lucia
Hon. Dame Janice Pereira, Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court
H.E. Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
Commissioners of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
Mr. Brian Dyer Deputy Chairman of the ECCAA Board of Directors
Mr. Anthony Whittier, Director General, ECCAA
Mr. Melvin Cintron, Regional Director of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
Mr. Isaac Solomon, Vice President (Operations) of the Caribbean Development Bank
Rt. Hon. Sir Dennis Byron, KT, PC