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Jamaica PM says Region facing hostile international environment

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P.J. Patterson JIS File Photo
—In what was essentially his farewell speech to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Jamaica Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said Mar.9 that Caribbean countries continue to face a very hostile and unpredictable international environment despite the potential benefits from globalization and trade liberalization.

Speaking on the theme, "Caribbean Integration in Emerging Hemispheric Relations," before the protocolary session of the OAS Permanent Council, Patterson said inequalities still remain in the global environment, with Latin America and the Caribbean at increasing economic risk.

"The quest for sustainable growth, particularly for small economies, has become even more elusive as traditional support mechanisms are gradually eroded," he lamented. "There continues to be increased pressure to move more rapidly to reciprocal trade rules as we bear the brunt of rising energy prices and the weakness in non-oil commodity prices."

The Jamaican leader said all this is occurring simultaneously, as investors become increasingly risk averse and restrict capital flows and the fiscal positions of Caribbean economies weaken and debt increases.

He said while the region welcomes international commitments to the Global Partnership for Development, as outlined in the Millennium Declaration, Monterrey Consensus, and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, the region is discouraged by the limited progress to

"This means that priority projects which form the core of our development agenda, such as poverty eradication and improvements in health and education, will continue to lag in implementation," he said.

"We remain hopeful, but by no means certain, that the UN General Assembly's Outcome Document of last September will spur renewed action with a greater degree of political will," he added.

Patterson said emerging security concerns have also brought added uncertainties to the region, resulting in new changes in objectives and priorities and causing even further delays in implementing national agendas.

He said while the OAS is forging ahead with attempting to address other challenges, such as corruption, transnational crime and drugs and drugs trafficking, greater focus needs to be placed in linking democracy, good governance and international security with development, peace, stability and political and economic security.

"We must, therefore, address the development agenda with the same energy and commitment as we have sought to strengthen the democratic agenda, giving each equal dedication, in order that the benefits of democracy can be widely felt to improve the quality of life for our peoples," he said.

Patterson said he was disappointed that on the eve of his departure from office, as Prime Minister of Jamaica and Chairman of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations of CARICOM, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is "faltering on the rock of political will."

He, however, said if the FTAA has no future, new alternatives must be explored, pointing out that a "hemispheric impetus" must be sought for advancing discussions on key issues in the World Trade Organization (WTO).