28th Inter-Sessional HoG meetingThe need for greater regional integration was emphasised at the opening of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Inter-Sessional Meeting held in Guyana on Thursday, where regional leaders pushed the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) agenda.Caricom Chairman, President David Granger, delivering his address at the opening of the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of GovernmentDuring the two-day confab, focus will be placed on the broad areas of economic development, crime and security and international relations.In his address to the Caricom Heads, incumbent Chairman President David Granger underscored the need to expedite the full implementation of the CSME in order for the Caribbean to escape the economic downfall in today’s global environment.“The CSME has the potential to enhance Private Sector growth and competitiveness by providing access to a larger pool of resources, facilitating the movement of human capital, catalysing the establishment of regional businesses and encouraging the free movement of goods. The CSME must not be allowed to become a victim of equivocation and procrastination,” the Guyanese Leader noted.He added that the region faces threats that include dampened demand for its goods and services and distortions in its financial sectors caused as a result of de-risking by international banks.On the other hand, President Granger asserted that with regional security an essential pillar of Caricom, there needs to be an integrated approach to tackling issues that threaten the security of the Region.Caricom Heads and members of various delegations gathered at the 28th Inter-sessional Meeting“The Caribbean – a maritime corridor between two continents – is vulnerable to narcotics trafficking and human trafficking, gun running, terrorism and penetration by international criminal cartels. Transnational criminal threats demand multinational functional cooperation,” he outlined. We must continuously strengthen our security architecture in order to assure citizens and investors of greater security and stability,” he outlined.The Head of State also went on to urge the Member States to be vigilant in the face of continuing threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Region.Moreover with functional cooperation an elemental pillar of Caricom, the Guyanese Head of State pushed for greater cooperation among Member States in promoting food and energy security in the Region.Food securityTo this end, he posited that the Region has the capability to meet its food needs, noting that the Community’s three mainland States – Guyana, Belize and Suriname – are, together, bigger than developed countries such as Germany and Japan.The President added that food security will not only ensure health and nutritional benefits for the Caribbean but at the same time also earn foreign exchange and eliminate the bloated bill for food importation.“Ensuring regional food security is a cross-sectoral task involving cooperation in agriculture, finance, health and nutrition and infrastructure, among other sectors… Food security can be advanced by the fuller utilisation of our lands for large-scale investment in agriculture and agro-processing and by dismantling barriers to regional trade in agricultural products,” he asserted.Furthermore, President Granger also called on his fellow Caricom Heads of State to intensity efforts at regional energy security.“We have the means to do so since we are blessed with abundant sources of renewable energy. The Community has done considerable, commendable work towards ensuring energy security which can ease the Community’s energy sector off of its addiction to fossil fuel and encourage the adoption of renewable sources of energy,” he remarked.Also delivering remarks at the opening of the two-day confab, General Secretary of Caricom, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque also posited that a sustained economic development requires a cohesive response by working collectively and pooling resources.In this regard, he noted that with CSME already having been established as the “best vehicle” to drive sustainable economic growth and development, there is much more to be done despite the progress made in promoting the initiative within the Region.“With all that is before us, it is relevant and timely for this meeting to consider a comprehensive review of the CSME, as agreed to last July. Ideally, a review of the CSME must not only be about what has been done, or not done, and what might have been the constraining factors; it should also be about the impact and how it has measured up to intent and expectations, and therefore how the shortcomings might be addressed,” Ambassador LaRocque stated.IntegrationOn the note of integration, the Secretary General stated that steps are apace to establish a Results Based Management (RBM) system that will measure the tangible results of regional integration mechanisms.Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Dominica, Rooseveldt Skerrit, who handed over the Caricom Chairmanship to Guyana last year, decried the slothfulness of progress particularly in carrying out the mandate of the Heads of Government Meeting.He recalled urging Member States last July to use powers at their disposal to work towards the speedy and effective implementation of matters we have long agreed upon.“Today many of these matters are still pending, as they languish in our Ministerial Councils, Committees, Commissions and Working Groups. Whether this is due to them being inquorate or Member States asking for time to consult, or even officials not being adequately prepared, the effect is the same – a hindrance to progress,” the outgoing Chairman opined.He further noted that it will be no surprise if, during deliberations, there is further evidence of the need for a greater effort by all to complete the tasks set by the Heads of Government.“We are dealing with matters that strike at the heart of both the concerns of our Community and the strengthening of our integration movement. Indeed these matters are also of great significance to all our countries domestically,” Prime Minister Skerrit added, while pointing out to his colleague Heads that as Leaders, they have a responsibility to ensure that those who have been tasked with fulfilling regional mandates participate fully in the relevant discussions.