A continuation of the Sixty-Fourth Meeting of the OECS Authority was held at the Beachcombers Hotel, St. Vincent and the Grenadines on April 12, 2017 under the Chairmanship of Dr. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Other Heads of Government or representatives in attendance included:
1. Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda;
2. Francine Baron, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth of Dominica (representing Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, Dr. Roosevelt Skerrit);
3. Nickolas Steele, Minister for Health, Grenada (representing Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell);
4. Donaldson Romeo, Premier of Montserrat;
5. Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of St. Lucia; and
6. Ralph Gonsalves (PhD), Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Didacus Jules (PhD), Director General of the OECS, and the following Commissioners were also in attendance:
7. Ambassador Colin Murdoch, Commissioner to the OECS for Antigua and Barbuda;
8. Ambassador Felix Gregoire, Commissioner to the OECS for the Commonwealth of Dominica;
9. Ambassador Patrick Antoine (PhD), Commissioner to the OECS for Grenada;
10. Ms. Murielle Lesales, Commissioner to the OECS for Martinique; and
11. Ambassador Elma Gene Isaac, Commissioner to the OECS for St. Lucia.
In the main, the Meeting focused on, inter alia:
(a) Sustainable Financing of the OECS Commission
(b) Security Enhancement
(c) Joint Representation
(d) Health Insurance
(f) Agriculture and support services
(A) SUSTAINABLE FINANCING OF THE OECS COMMISSION
The Authority reviewed the financial obligations of Member States to the OECS Commission with a view to improve the timeliness of subvention payments. Heads of Government agreed that the timely payment of contributions is essential to the efficient functioning of the Organisation and committed to the expeditious settlement of outstanding contributions.
(B) SECURITY ENHANCEMENT
Heads of Government deliberated on current matters of regional security and proposed recommendations for ongoing support in the areas of border security and intelligence sharing. The Meeting recognized the importance of the Regional Security System (RSS) as well as the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), which continue to be focal points for regional law and order, and considered the benefits of deepening practical cooperation among Member States as a deterrent to criminal activities. The OECS Commission will investigate the feasibility of a regional cooperation framework for policing in the sub-region.
(C) JOINT REPRESENTATION
Heads continued discussions on strategic options for external representation with a view to consolidate diplomatic missions. The Meeting received a detailed report on the current expenditures for external representation by Member States and considered the recommendations for increased collaboration. Heads also reflected on the re-establishment of a joint diplomatic Mission in Canada.
Further, the Authority considered a stronger outreach into the African continent and, in particular, improving relations with the African Union as an entity, and with individual Member States of the African Union. This outreach to Africa the Heads affirmed to be an important strategic element in the OECS’ thrust to deepen south-south cooperation and strengthen ACP relations.
(D) HEALTH INSURANCE
OECS Heads of Government discussed the financial sustainability of the health sector in the region and noted the need to implement a regional health insurance capable of providing specialized care to Member States at reduced costs. The Authority commended the progress that individual Member States have made towards the implementation of National Health Insurance programmes and considered viable options for the adoption of an OECS Health Insurance in these Member States.
The Authority considered the status of negotiations with St. Martin and agreed that discussions should continue towards its logical conclusion.
(F) AGRICULTURE AND SUPPORT SERVICES
Heads of Government received a report on the progress of the Agri-shipping Initiative being piloted in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and commended the Ministry of Agriculture for the progressive approach to improve standards and approach new markets. The Meeting noted the significant economic potential of the initiative and proposed that the OECS Commission continue to work with St. Vincent and the Grenadines to ensure the engagement of all Member States.
All Heads expressed their deep appreciation of the hospitality extended by the Government and people of St. Vincent & the Grenadines and looked forward to the speedy implementation of decisions made at the meeting.