(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) – New Year’s Message From The Chairman Of The Caribbean Community, H.E. Desiré Delano Bouterse, President of the Republic of Suriname.
People of the Caribbean Community,
I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive New Year. As Chairman of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of CARICOM, I look forward to a year that holds great opportunities for strengthening our integration movement, and thereby improving the lives of our citizens.
While the 1st of January is an important day for me, it is even more so for His Excellency, President Michel Martelly, and the people of the Republic of Haiti, who celebrate their independence on this day. I wish to offer them my heartiest congratulations on the completion of yet another auspicious milestone. I am delighted that we are witnessing the active participation of Haiti within the Caribbean Community, as proof of the resilience and fortitude of its people to rebound from the adversity of the disastrous earthquake of 2010.
I also wish to congratulate the People and Government of Jamaica for the peaceful manner in which the recent elections have been conducted. Once again, the Jamaican people have demonstrated that the democratic traditions and institutions within our Community are strong and vibrant.
I furthermore extend my congratulations to the People’s National Party and its Chairman on their victory and my best wishes and full support to the Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller as the Prime Minister-designate of Jamaica.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank my predecessor, the Right Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, for the outstanding leadership and stewardship which he portrayed in this office during the last six months. I can say with confidence that I benefitted as well, from the wisdom and guidance of Prime Minister Douglas and Prime Minister Tillman Thomas of Grenada, as the baton of the Chairmanship of the Conference passes to me.
I take the helm at a time of uncertainty throughout the world, with our Region being no exception. The global economic and financial crisis shows no signs of abating, with the resulting challenges of unemployment, low or negative growth and increasing disparity between the rich and the poor. Given the relationship between the economic health of the major nations and its effect on us in CARICOM, it would require a major effort on our part to overcome the challenges presented by this on-going situation. It also requires that we take a hard look at the way we operate, and accept changes that may be necessary.
We have before us an opportunity to bind ourselves even closer together. For, surely, we stand a better chance to confront these challenges as a group united, than each swimming alone against the tide.
We have made a positive start in that direction when last May, at the Retreat, the Heads of Government identified areas that will strengthen our integration movement and thus deserve our prime attention. The determination to consolidate our CARICOM Single Market and Economy is a key factor in this regard and is also a strategic element in our efforts to confront the external challenges.
At the Retreat, we also determined that the manner in which these priorities would be addressed must ensure that the people of the Community feel the impact and recognize the benefits that come to them from integration. In 2012, we will increase our focus and attention on these areas, and on ways the population can more readily feel the benefits.
As Chairman of CARICOM, I will place emphasis on enhancing awareness of the efforts being undertaken by the Secretariat and other institutions to improve the lives of our citizens.
To accomplish their tasks, they must operate as efficiently and effectively as possible, particularly given the impact that the continuing global crisis has on our Member States.
In that regard, the review of the Secretariat must be completed and the relevant recommendations implemented to improve its management and operation, as it is the principal organ that serves our Community. The completion of that review could not be better timed, given the appointment in August last year, of our new Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. My colleagues and I have every confidence in his ability to be the change agent who leads from the front, in effecting the necessary repositioning of the Secretariat.
This secretariat is just the first in the review process, as all the institutions that serve and are funded by the people of our Community will also be reviewed during the course of the year.
People of the Community,
You may know that, as President of the Republic of Suriname, I have lead responsibility in CARICOM for Community Development, which includes the areas of Culture, Youth, Sport and Gender. Although the responsibilities for the six months of my chairmanship will be broader, I will naturally focus on these.
In this regard, one of the main areas I will be paying attention to will be the involvement of our Youth. The Paramaribo Declaration of 2010 laid out ideas and recommendations for greater youth involvement in the affairs of the Community. These must be pursued urgently and diligently, as the participation of the young people in the integration movement is essential to ensure that it is kept alive and dynamic.
Looking outward, I will also seek to improve the coordination among the various regional blocs to which our Member States belong – in particular those in our neighborhood. We must aim to strengthen our position in these organizations and groupings, and make the best of the opportunities they present. Through working more closely together, we can improve the standard of living of our citizens.
People of CARICOM,
This year, 2012, must be the Year of Change. By altering the way we do things, this Community will be an improved one by the end of 2012. I am hopeful that indications of this effect will come as early as March of this year, out of the discussions at the Twenty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting, to which I expect to welcome all my colleague CARICOM Heads of State and Government, here in Suriname. Let us all resolve to be instruments of that movement, and be involved in changing our Community, so that this year could really be remembered as The Year of Change. May I, once again, wish you all a Happy and Productive 2012.