Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders began their annual summit in Antigua on Tuesday fully discussing the first ever Strategic Plan for the 15-member regional grouping.
The five-year plan, 2015-19, will dominate the July 1-4 event and CARICOM officials hope it will reposition the Community to deal with a changing global environment.
The plan has been developed following widespread public consultation across the region and the leaders will seek to reach agreement on top priority areas for focused attention over the five year period of the plan.
CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) he was pleased with the process of consultation “and I think the draft is in a state where it should be presented to the heads of government so that they could give it consideration.
“It is a strategic plan for the Community, it is not a plan for the Secretariat,” La Rocque said, adding “it looks at the Community as a whole with a view to determining what are the major priority issues we need to address and how all the Community institutions…can all work behind that plan which is going to reposition CARICOM and define its agenda for the coming five year period”.
The summit taking place at the Sandals Grande, north-west of here, will receive a report from the Commission on the Economy that examined a number of initiatives including formulating a fiscal sustainability programme, reviewing the region’s business operating environment with a view towards improving its “Doing Business” indicators, and the design of regional programmes to assist in alleviating some of the constraints to growth in the member states.
“The Commission has been doing its work, they have prepared an interim report for inter-sessional (in March) and the chair of the Commission will be meeting with the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP) on Tuesday ahead of the summit to consider the report before it goes to the regional leaders,” La Rocque said.
A number of private sector leaders will also meet with the regional leaders during their four day summit, a move CARICOM hopes will provide an opportunity for “inter action on the state of the economies and how to spur growth, private sector development in our Community”.
The four-day summit will also allow for the regional leaders to discuss issues related to the upcoming third International Meeting of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa, September 1-4 2014, the UN Climate Change Summit later that month, and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
On the question of the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, La Rocque said that the leaders have already agreed to establish a Commission “to look at the issue of the medical use of marijuana and other related issues and they have asked for the terms of reference to be sent back to them in terms of how to set up the Commission, that will be done and the heads will make a final determination tomorrow on the Commission.”
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will meet with the regional leaders on Wednesday.
“He will be a special guest. There will be an exchange of views, we also expecting an engagement with the Foreign Minister of Cuba, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla,” La Rocque told CMC.
The Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, will also meet with the leaders.
Newly elected Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, will take over the chairmanship of the regional grouping from his St. Vincent and the Grenadines counterpart, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. Both men will address the opening ceremony late Tuesday as well as La Rocque.
One of the highlights of Tuesday’s ceremonial opening was the public launch of the new CARICOM Song, produced by Dominican Michele Henderson.
Her tune, “Celebrating CARICOM” was selected from 63 submissions from 15 member states and associate members.