Returning from the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in St. Lucia, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Perry G. Christie last night described the special meeting called to discuss the regional economy as “excellent”. He said there is a “compelling urgency” for The Bahamas to develop its own strategies to deal with the implications arising out of the new regional and global trading arrangements.
The Bahamas will be examining all the issues that are evolving in the Caribbean, with a view to arriving at a very certain position for the nation, according to Mr. Christie. He said, *”I wish to say yet again that the issues that are impacting the Caribbean are issues that are relevant to The Bahamas.”* He anticipated that by the time the CARICOM Heads of Government meet next in July, 2003 in Jamaica, he would bring “more certainty” to The Bahamas’ relations with its CARICOM sister states, including the Single Market and Economy, and the Caribbean Court of Justice.
The Hon. James Smith, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, who accompanied the Prime Minister, said the special meeting on August 16th was called to look at the particular problems of CARICOM member State, Dominica, which has been unable to meet its public service salaries because of the loss of banana export earnings. He said CARICOM Heads were looking at establishing some way of assisting not just Dominica, but other islands that are expected to face similar problems.
The meeting considered the establishment of a Stabilisation Fund and, in the longer term, some way of transforming the economies away from a single crop economy. Minister Smith said, *”We were looking at ways and means of providing almost immediate assistance to Dominica by way of some technical aid, and transforming their economy, perhaps to expand tourism, and clearly they were looking for some form of immediate injection.”*
Although some countries pledged immediate assistance to Dominica by means of funding, The Bahamas was not in a position to make such a pledge, not having been consulted early enough about the problem. Given budgetary constraints, the decision was taken to bring the matter back to look at it within the context of the country’s own resources.
The Prime Minister’s delegation also included the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service, the Hon. Fred Mitchell; Parliamentary
Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Mr. Michael Halkitis; and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. A. Missouri Sherman-Peter.