Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Port-of-Spain mayor backs regional integration - Jamaica and Trinidad must take lead

Published:Thursday | April 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie (left), greets Mayor of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Alderman Joel Martinez (right), at the inaugural staging of the Caribbean Conference of Mayors at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters, Mona, St. Andrew on Monday. At centre is Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams. The three-day meeting is organised by the Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation.

English-speaking Caribbean peoples share more than cricket and an ideal geographic space, says Mayor of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Joel Martinez, who has urged that the shared history be used to push for full regional integration through the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

"We talk about it (integration), but we haven't done enough about it. I think that we have to start doing it in good faith first. We have to start integrating our societies through the CSME. We are doing it in so many ways already in our culture and social lives - so let's continue developing it," Martinez told the Caribbean Conference of Mayors held at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Regional Headquarters in St Andrew yesterday.

The CSME is an initiative of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that seeks to integrate all of its member-states into a single economic unit. It is also intended to benefit the people of the region by providing more and better opportunities to produce and sell goods and services and to attract investment across borders.

Martinez said that full integration could take place but noted that countries with the more powerful economies such as Jamaica and Trinidad must take the lead to initiate serious dialogue around the CSME.

"We are the leaders of the Caribbean, and as leaders, we really must start developing it, and those other smaller islands will certainly want to join us. It's taking too long. We tend to talk a lot too much without doing the things we ought to be doing as Caribbean peoples. So we must start aggressively, attentively to pursue it," Martinez appealed to colleagues on the final of the three-day conference.

It was geared at building relationships among mayors and local government practitioners from across the Caribbean to deepen the understanding of the systems and structures within various Caribbean territories and to provide the platform to grow and improve cities and townships.

 Improving people's lives a priority

Mayor of Georgetown, Guyana, Patricia Chase Green has urged councillors and other leaders to make sure that improving the lives of people always takes priority.

Chase Green was among a group of Caribbean mayors who addressed the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation's monthly meeting on Tuesday. The mayors were also participants in the three-day inaugural Conference of Caribbean Mayors, which was held at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters in St Andrew.

Chase Green, along with other Caribbean councillors who addressed the meeting, indicated that it was important that partnerships were made that would enhance living conditions and the welfare of the people.

"During the course of the conference, our theme is 'Honouring the Past, Embracing a Smart Future.' I pray God that as we sit every day in deliberations and make decisions, we will agree to disagree. Our main goal must be, at all times, the people," she said.

Jodi-Ann Gilpin contributed to this story.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com