PNM to discuss union with OECS

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago: Prime Minister Patrick Manning has announced that the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) will hold a special convention on June 21 to discuss plans for a political and economic union with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) by 2013.

Addressing a PNM Family Day function last Sunday, Manning said the matter would also be raised at the next general council meeting of the party.

“I am going to propose to the general council, as political leader, on the part of the party’s leadership, that we go to a special convention of the party on June 21,” he said.

Manning noted that the party recently examined a document on integration, which looked at governance systems in the region.

“It is very far-reaching. It recommends, my dear friends, what we have agreed on: a single economy involving Trinidad and Tobago and the countries of the Eastern Caribbean by 2011 and by 2013, political union among the countries in the Eastern Caribbean.

“These are matters we are going to have to discuss. In fact, my dear friends, when we look at the agenda under the pillar of modernizing our systems of governance, we realize that there is so much on the table, and the consequences are so far-reaching that we are going to have to start talking publicly and educating the population on these matters.”

Last month, a six-member task force, appointed to outline the modalities for the economic and political initiative, suggested two models.

The task force, headed by academic and former St. Lucia Prime Minister, Professor Vaughan Lewis, said it was recommending a system of “super-nationality”. The system does not advocate that the political autonomy or independence of participating states should be subject to a single system of governance or jurisdiction.

“In effect this means that we adhere to a second fundamental governance principle, what is known as the principle of subsidiarity that in a system of economic integration all functions which can be undertaken at the level of the administration of the participating states should be left open to those states.

“In our case only the levels of activity requiring intensive cross border activity and management in the designated spaces would come within the province of the regional administration that we have recommended in our report,” Lewis said.

The report was presented to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders during a special summit on May 24.

Lewis said the task force was also recommending that countries involved in the initiative should establish a structure of governance appropriate to the transition to an economic union by 2011.

“We propose that by the specified date of 2013 there should be the consolidation of a governance structure – a constitutional political system that reflects the political realities of two simultaneous ongoing processes, natural to these island states of convergence while maintaining an identifiable autonomy,” he said.

Lewis also said that the report should form “the source of academic interest and practical interest to all our governments”.

The task force, which also included Trinidad and Tobago Ambassador Dr. Cuthbert Joseph and Senator Velma Newton of Barbados, said it was aware that its recommendations “should contain or propose nothing which shall undermine the CARICOM Single Market or the economic cohesion established by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas”.

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