Presenting remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the 19th **Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government** of the Caribbean Community yesterday, Bahamas Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, spoke to the issue of regional integration. Specifically, he referenced a 2007 CARICOM Heads of Government determination to make functional cooperation a principal vehicle through which the integration of the Community would be advanced. He said, *”This, very correctly in my view, moved the focus of our cooperation and collaboration away from the mechanics of economic integration and towards investment in human and social development of the people of the Caribbean Community.”*
Prime Minister Ingraham serves as the current Chairman of the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government, and The Bahamas is hosting the current Inter-Sessional Meetings.
The CARICOM Chairman maintains that this shift does not demean or reduce the importance of the Community’s goal of achieving a single market economy; instead, it permits the Community to develop proper mechanisms to increase the participation of non-CSME member-states, like The Bahamas, in all of the cooperative activities of the Community. *” I believe that this continuing effort by Caribbean leaders to reorganize and redefine the Community’s institutions to better respond to the needs of the Caribbean people will ensure the sustained relevance of the Community to all our people,”* said Mr. Ingraham.
Only by becoming a part of the national and regional response of its member states to changing global realities, can CARICOM remain relevant. These realities, he said, include:
• continued move toward trade and investment liberalization;
•the critical importance of education and skills training to ensure an efficient and effective labour force;
•the need to improve and expand access to information and communications technologies to improve efficiencies in our economies.
The determination to make human and social development “a pillar of the Community’s work” places greatest emphasis where it needs to be: on the region’s youth and on their education and skills training. *”This will help us to ensure that future generations of Caribbean people are better prepared to assume productive roles in our societies. This is essential if we are to ensure that economic growth and development in our countries translate into job creation and entrepreneurial and social opportunity for our citizens,”* concluded the Chairman.