Haiti crisis catalyst for integration

FLORIDA, United States, Monday October 18, 2010 – Former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J Patterson has contended that the current Haitian crisis should be seen as the opportunity to “unlock the door to ensure that Caribbean integration moves forward on the basis of unleashing our creative skills, improving productivity and the quality of life”.

He made the call in a wide ranging presentation at the 12th Annual Eric E Williams Memorial Lecture at the Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, on the topic ‘The Renaissance of Haiti: A Template for Caribbean Integration’.

Patterson, who sits on the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Committee, pointed out that although Haiti “rescued boat people, granted Haitian citizenship to fugitives from slavery and inspired other emancipation movements in the Hemisphere”, the country enjoyed no other circle of belonging except CARICOM.  

He stressed that the scale and scope of the reconstruction and development effort in Haiti should allow CARICOM and the wider Caribbean to collaborate and cooperate in a range of areas and enable the Haitian people to realize the real benefit of regional cooperation.  

This, he said, would come “mainly by way of a strategy, which would emphasize the diversification of the economy and the relocation of the population away from Metropolitan Port-au-Prince, through the creation of new centres or poles of development.”  

That development, he said, requires simultaneous, multi-sector planning involving a range of economic sectors that would be applicable throughout the Caribbean region.

The former Jamaican Prime Minister said that the capacity of CARICOM has to be seen as part of Haiti’s own national capacity. 

“As a region, we have the skills, the talent and relevant experience which we are confident can make a positive difference in the rebuilding process,” he said. “We are adequately geared to share competent staff in such areas as public sector management, financial controls and accountability, establishment of standards, building codes, land reform, security enhancement and the dissemination of information to the citizenry.”

Patterson spoke about the synergies in agriculture and tourism and referred to some of the plans to fully incorporate the private sector of the entire Caribbean region into the reconstruction process.  

“This means that the Haitian private sector, and by necessary extension, the rest of the CARICOM private sector, must be equipped and allowed to undertake significant portions of the work entailed in the recovery and development,’ he said.

President Rene Preval has affirmed the urgency of Haiti becoming an effective member of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in the shortest possible time. 

As CARICOM’s potentially largest market, Haiti would enjoy special access to external markets through CARICOM while the Community would also benefit from access to markets through Haiti. 

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