St Lucia PM Calls For Renewed United Approach To Regional Transportation

(CMC) – St Lucia Prime Minister Phillip J Pierre on Sunday urged regional countries to move swiftly to create a lasting, reliable and affordable regional transportation infrastructure.

Pierre, speaking at the opening ceremony of the 43rd Summit of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), warned that there can be no meaningful integration without the free movement of people.

“We have allowed our discussions on Caribbean sea and air transport to be guided too much by external market forces rather than by the transportation needs of the people and businesses of our region,” Pierre said.

He told his regional colleagues that in doing so “we have not only closed our air and sea spaces for business expansion and growth for our own local investors, but we have also surrendered the future of our unification projects to the whims of service providers whose only interest is profit.

“To put it directly colleagues, CARICOM needs LIAT or CARICOM needs a better version of LIAT. Unless one of our island-owned carriers emerges as a truly regional carrier, not only in terms of countries covered but with a philosophical commitment to making regionalism work for CARICOM citizens, then our regional aspirations will continue to be an elusive dream,” Pierre told the ceremony.

He praised Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne for his efforts in keeping LIAT alive, adding “St Lucia, therefore, stands willing to work with CARICOM to find solutions to our regional transportation challenges and will assist in any effort designed to find a lasting, reliable and sustainable airline or consortium of airlines to service the region”.

In his address, Pierre said that St Lucia will also be interested in a ferry offering scenic and comfortable service to utilise the potential of “our sea routes as an additional attraction and transportation option for visitors and citizens alike.

“St Lucia is committed to any effort by CARICOM to find a willing aviation investor to offer dedicated airline services between Africa and the Caribbean.”

Pierre told the opening ceremony that it was important for the region to “reframe our responses” to the new and emerging challenges of food shortages, the rising cost of basic foods, climate change, youth unemployment, gun violence and crime within the framework of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and skills across the region.

“We must not allow our enforced circumstances of day-to-day survival to dull our memories of the reasons why our past leaders pursued the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, and why they saw it as the most optimum answer to the question of ‘what is the next stage of Caribbean development’ in light of all the global changes that had taken place in the decades since the initial treaty which established CARICOM,” Pierre said.