PM Defends OECS Assembly


At the opening of the 67th meeting of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the fourth seating of the OECS assembly, newly installed chairman, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne focused on regionalism, integration and widening understanding of pertinent issues under the OECS umbrella; a vital forum that “should not be under-valued or under-estimated,” consequent of the “the realities of the hostile international environment in which our countries exist.”

Renewed hope

Browne referenced the election of St Vincent and the Grenadines to the UN Security Council, “has imbued in all of us, the people and the leaders of our small states, a new sense of hope; a restored belief in our capacity; and a renewed determination to carve a place for ourselves under the sun, equal of all and fearful of none.”

“It has demonstrated, manifestly that there is no mountain that our small countries cannot climb, no heights we cannot scale, if we have the resolve to do so. It has confirmed that respect in the international community can be earned if small countries stand up fearlessly in defence of international law and justice, Brown said.

The challenge

To underscore that small size is no deterrent for big accomplishments, Browne outline the challenges in the international community that confront each of our countries individually and collectively that require “collective ambition”:

  • The external imposition of taxation requirements that deprive our countries of the right to competition;
  • Assaults on our citizenship by investment programmes that compete with similar programmes in North America and Europe;
  • Cutting off our states from participation in the global trading and financing system by withdrawing correspondent banking relations;
  • Paying lip-service to our arguments about the deathly threats posed to us by climate change;
  • Using coercive methods to turn governments of small countries from standing-up for principles such as non-intervention in the internal affairs of states;
  • Turning a deaf ear to the one-sided terms of trade by which we give powerful countries large surpluses in money terms while providing us with no incentives to help balance trade and improve the lives of our people;
  • Closing the door to concessional financing desperately needed to maintain and improve economic development; and depriving small states of a voice in the major financial global decision-making bodies.

“Only unshakeable collective resolve and unstinting joint action will give us the slightest chance of success,” adding, “Were it not for the OECS, our single currency, our common central bank, our common judicial system, our common civil aviation administration and our economies, would long have been battered and these past decades of steady improvement in the lives of our people would scarcely have been achieved.”

“So, our task now is to turn these achievements into an enduring framework for our people’s progress, not a stop gap solution, but a long-term strategy that gives them confidence in the future.

“In that regard, none of our governments should be cherry-picking the aspects of a framework that suits them and neglecting the aspects that might not.”

Brown further called to strengthen the framework of the relationship and to pave the way to progress through deepening the cooperation that has ensured regional success so far affirmed,” let it be clear that wherever the interests of the OECS are at risk, there you will find Gaston Browne championing our collective cause.”


The single OECS space is vital to the region’s economic stability and growth and integral to that space is regional cohesion.

Antigua and Barbuda is determined to keep LIAT in the Caribbean skies where it belongs and in which it has earned its place, Brown affirmed. “LIAT has been to all of us a regional good.”

“Without it, [LIAT] goods would not have been sold; businessmen would not have been able to travel to make deals; tourists would have had to travel by long and circuitous routes; but, more importantly than anything else  – the people of our common community would not have been able to travel between each other’s islands or maintain the contact that makes us a community.

“Other airlines have come and gone; EC Express, Caribbean Star, RedJet and American Eagle, to name a few. But, LIAT remained, providing transportation to all and vitally, keeping our people connected,” Browne said.

“It is time that OECS governments take ownership of this airline and build it together as an everlasting pillar of our single space equivalent to our common central bank, our single judicial system, our common economic space and our common and enduring identity.”

Human resource

“Democratization of tertiary education should be the right of every person, particularly the young in each of our countries and in our collective community, to have the right to higher education, permitting him or her to compete anywhere in the world,” Brown said.

“It is now an undisputed fact that the key contributors to sustainable development are education, scientific research, innovation and technological advancement. That is why Antigua and Barbuda wishes the fourth landed campus of the University of the West Indies that will open its doors in September, to be an OECS institution; not only an Antigua and Barbuda one.”

Brown affirmed that, “We are doing so in the sure knowledge that it is essential to creating the knowledge-based society necessary to compete in the world.

“In Antigua and Barbuda, we have introduced a special and limited tax to fund student-costs at the University. And, I would make bold to suggest one means by which Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis and Saint Lucia might raise funds for its students. That is through their Citizenship by Investment (CBI) schemes.”

“The dedication of a portion of those funds on an annual basis to give young people a University education would be a solid investment that would deliver social and economic dividends for each country.”

The future

Brown expressed confidence in the ingenuity and resolve of the region to “overcoming all odds” and urged OECS governments to join in “securing the well-being of young people and the welfare of interdependent economies.”

“If we turn against each other based on short-term insular advantages, or if we erode any of the elements of our common economic space, we will not build on the foundations we inherited or the progress that we have made,” he said.

 (Caribbean News Now)

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  1. This headline should read ‘PM defends the OECS (sub regional group).

    The assembly is just a gathering of the leaders and was not mentioned in PMs statement.


    There is really ‘…Nothing To Defend.’

    The ‘OECS’ even with its multiple problems, has been a well-established and grounded indigenous organization.

    The PM speaks to a forum where OECS leaders could assemble, highlight and discuss issues that continue to impact regionalism and integration of its peoples.

    Where there may have been fundamental differences or disagreements, he would have persuasively urged the need for commonality of approaches to recurring difficulties.

    He knows that if they are to be seen as progressive in their ideals as they thrust forward to build a stronger union and sustainable economies.

    Thus, even with open hostilities to their economic initiatives, that have been under constant threat by some industrialized, wealthy and powerful nations, the leaders of ‘CARICOM’ and the ‘OECS’ shall see an urgent need to come together and work for the common good.

    Thought he acquitted himself exceedingly well.

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