Honourable Asot Michael of Antigua and Barbuda Remarks BA Service to ANU and TKI

AsotMichael CARICOM

Hon Porsha Stubbs, Minister of Tourism Turks & Caicos,
Dr. Kingsly Been, Chairman of Turks & Caicos Tourism Board
Mrs. Lavern Skippings-Reynolds, Airport Manager, Providenciales International Airport
Ralph Higgs, Director of Tourism, Turks & Caicos Airport
Mr. Rohan Hector, Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority
Mr. Colin James CEO Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority
Ms. Paula Frederick-Hunte Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism
Ms. Shirlene Nibbs: Tourism Consultant in the Ministry of Tourism
Other Distinguished guests and members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good afternoon.

First of all, I would like to warmly welcome everyone to V. C. Bird International Airport today, and to thank you for being here to celebrate and share this exciting occasion in tourism, for not only Antigua and Barbuda, but even more so for our close friends from The Turks and Caicos, Islands as well as British Airways.

Today marks a very important step in the gaining importance of the Caribbean for the UK and European tourism industry. We ,a Part of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are welcoming the inaugural flight of a British Airways service that will transit Antigua and where the aircraft will continue onwards to the Turks & Caicos Islands.

I believe I can speak for everyone here today by saying that Antigua and Barbuda have long had a mutually beneficial and respected relationship with the tourism industry from the UK – and beyond – a relationship that we have done much to foster to ensure all visitors know they will be embraced with open arms when they arrive.

Figures for the UK tourism market to the Caribbean as a whole have been showing positive growth, and I believe we can officially say that the Brits love us, and of course, that we love the Brits! In fact we look forward with much expectation to welcome thousands of English cricket fans for the upcoming Test Series with the West Indies which will be held in Antigua from April 13th -17th.

This rise in popularity of both Antigua and Barbuda and The Turks & Caicos Islands as top destinations is shown by British Airways agreeing to add a direct link between our two destinations. Additionally, with British Airways being one of the world’s largest carriers, it means that not only will UK residents, but so will many others from across Europe connecting via Gatwick, be able to visit our dual destinations even more easily.

This new airservice also means that for the first time in the history of our two countries there will be direct flights between the Eastern Caribbean and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
This new flight means new opportunities and choices available to us for increased business activities and closer collaboration. The end result will be greater economic growth while, simultaneously building the spirit of regional integration between our two countries.

We are confident more choice will equal more visitors for everyone here, and everyone in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

I do truly stress the ‘us’ as this new flight will offer an increase in options not only for those wanting to visit Antigua and then visit the Turks and Caicos, but also vice versa for those visiting Turks & Caicos now being able to easily visit Antigua. We know when passengers are flying 8 hours and longer from Europe that they truly want to explore the Caribbean and this direct flight allows them to easily, comfortably, and quickly travel between these two, I would say, unique and perfect destinations in the Caribbean.

This new air service comes with unique advantages. It actually means visitors from the UK and Europe as well as the Eastern Caribbean wanting to visit our friends in the Turks & Caicos Islands will be able to do so without travelling via a US port. This is a major benefit as transferring at an airport in the US means obtaining a regular visitor’s VISA or ESTA pre-clearance visas for all non-US citizens. Not only is there a costinvolved for obtaining a visa, but untold amounts of time is spent standing in immigration and custom lines while transiting most US airports. We can promise all travelers transferring directly to Turks and Caicos a smoother, quicker and more enjoyable experience – plus an even more wonderful experience if they choose to stop-over!

As part of our investment to prove to visitors how important they are to us, and to ensure that all visitors receive the best travel experience possible on our island, we will be opening a new airport terminal very shortly. This will feature not only the latest technology for our passengers to avail of, but also first class duty free shopping. Additionally the overall passenger experience will be greatly enhanced by expedited processing procedures with multiple VIP andPremium Passenger First Class lounges.

Finally I would like to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to my colleague Minister, of Tourism from the Turks and Caicos Islands the Honourable Porsha Stubbs to be present with us in June to help us celebrate the opening of our new airport which will mark the commencement of a new phase ofgrowth in tourism for our beloved country.

May the start of this inaugural direct service between Antigua and Barbuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands mark the beginning of a new the phase of friendship, cooperation and growth in this vital industry between our countries.

Thank you.

Speech of Asot Michael in the meeting about New strategies for Antigua and Barbuda Tourism

Hon.Asot Michael in the meeting
Hon.Asot Michael in the meeting
Ministry of Tourism
Ministry of Tourism

Good morning Colleagues … First of all, it’s a great pleasure to welcome the combined team of the Ministry of Tourism and the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority to this important meeting. Indeed, I expect this meeting to produce plans, strategies and outcomes that will set the tourism industry on an upward trajectory. From this meeting, I want new, creative ideas that will serve to considerably enhance our place in the world market as one of the leading tourism destinations globally. I want to hear what my friend, Ambassador Sir Ron Sanders, once described to me as “disruptive thinking” – thinking that questions the norms and pushes the boundaries of the imagination. You, this group assembled here, are the custodians of our nation’s economic growth. For tourism is our main industry accounting for almost 70% of our gross domestic product, earning 90% of our foreign exchange, and employing directly and indirectly the majority of people in both our public and private sector. I cannot stress enough the value and significance of tourism to every man, woman and child in our society. Without tourism, our country would be a wasteland and our people reduced to carriers of water and hewers of wood. The responsibility that we have – all of you and me, as the Minister of Tourism, – is huge. It is a sacred trust that we must fulfill on behalf of our country, and all who dwell within it. If we are to fulfill that trust, we must see it as an honorable and vital task. We must think of achieving what others believe to be impossible. I recently read something that Sir Dennis Byron, the President of the Caribbean Court of Justice said. I would like to repeat it to you, because it is relevant to you, to me, and to all of us who must succeed if our country is to flourish and our people prosper. It is this: “The most successful people in the history of the world are those who refused to give up in the face of impossible odds. Thomas Edison created the light bulb after one thousand failed attempts. Abraham Lincoln ran for public office six times before winning the Presidency. Vincent Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime and his most expensive work is now valued at $142.7 million. Colonel Sanders’ idea for a fried chicken restaurant was rejected 1,009 times before being accepted by an investor. Twelve publishers rejected JK Rowling’s book about a boy wizard called Harry Potter. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job and told she was not the right fit for television”. What makes these people enormously successful is their refusal to give up; their refusal to accept that they were too small, or that they did not have enough resources. They kept focussed on the achievement of their goals and they let none persuade them that they could not overcome the obstacles. According to a Japanese proverb you must be prepared to fall seven times and get up eight. The great Muhammed Ali put it best when he said: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential”. My friends, this is our first meeting as the leadership team. We should have had a week to explore every option; to discuss every scenario; to plan for the challenges and to map-out how we will grab the opportunities. But, our time is limited, and ours is a country in a hurry. We want results sooner not later. So, we will cram into one day today what others may want many days to accomplish. That is why I started with the theme of success and the theory of impossibility. Impossibility is potential; it is a dare not an edict; it is an opinion, not a fact. So, I want us all to embrace fully the sacred trust we carry for our nation – and, indeed, for ourselves. This nation looks to us to perform and to perform well. If we let-down the people, we let down ourselves. And we must do neither. We have many projects coming on stream. We have the responsibility to fill those rooms. But, while that is happening, we have a few existing properties that are non-performing. We have to figure out what can be done to make those properties vibrant again. We are facing fierce competition now – not only from our Caribbean neighbours, but also from further afield. How are we to meet that competition and better it? These are the issues that we must confront today, and every day after we leave here. And we must do so as a team; as a collective with a single-minded purpose, and a bold and unshakable resolve. I wish I could guarantee you that the days of little or no product development are over, and that minimal destination-advertising is a thing of the past, and that sparse public relations are over. But my government inherited a critical and perilous financial situation, and even as we are pledged to fund our tourism industry better than before, the complexities of our situation gives no guarantees. My Government will strive very hard to put the resources into tourism as the engine of our growth – the Prime Minister as the Minister of Finance has given that undertaking, and he means it. He is a banker and a businessman. He knows that there can be no profit without investment; no returns without spending. But we have a role to play. To do much with little. To do more with less. To reject that anything is impossible, and instead to show how it is possible. That is why we must spare no time or effort in making tourism vigourous and productive. To the extent that we – this team – can galvanize, energize and revitalize this industry, to that extent we will deliver what is expected of us; we will generate more revenues and earn a larger share of the resources to make our country flourish and our people prosper. Like many of you, I continue to expand my own knowledge of the business of tourism and I’m learning quickly. As we have our exchange today, I want you to be open with the facilitators and with yourselves. Our overriding objective of the next two days is focused on the plans that will be produced and effective means by which – as a team – we will deliver concrete and measurable results for the benefit of our country. In any free market economy we continually face challenges – – tourism is no different – – but how we view these challenges defines us! Do we choose to see the challenges as ‘opportunities” or as ‘obstacles’? Are they a moment to despair or a chance to do something different? A great deal of wasted energy can be spent focusing on a negative mindset which takes delight in complaining – mindsets like “I can’t”, “I won’t”, “I don’t want to” and “I shouldn’t have to”. But, we should all recall what put Barack Obama – an American Black in the White House. It was a simple phrase, but a powerful one in which he and millions of Americans placed their belief. Three little words that moved an entire nation – “Yes, we can”. Well, yes, we can too. And we can do it best, if we do it together. Your role now is to roll up your sleeves and believe not only in the value and importance of the sacred trust that has been given to you by this nation, but also to believe in yourselves that – yes, you can. And, you will. My friends, our task is agreed. The path is clear and the objective looms large ahead of us. Let us run with resolve the race that is set before us. Let us get tourism to work. Thank you.

NEW STRATEGY FOR TOURISM” ANNOUNCES TOURISM MINISTER, HON. ASOT MICHAEL

(St. John’s, Antigua) – Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Asot Michael, has charged technicians in The Ministry of Tourism and The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, to be custodians of the country’s economic growth.

“We have many projects coming on stream. We have the responsibility to fill those rooms. But, while that is happening, we have a few existing properties that are non-performing.  We have to figure out what can be done to make those properties vibrant again.”

The Tourism Minister made the remarks today as he met with over thirty-five technicians from the product development and marketing bodies of the organisations under his leadership, in a two day strategy and planning workshop.

Tourism senior officials from Antigua and Barbuda as well as the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority’s Overseas Office converged in the destination for the sessions. Included were CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority – Colin C. James, Rohan Hector – Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Jean Marc Flambert – UK& Europe VP of Sales and Marketing, Marie Walker – North American VP of Sales and Marketing, Cherrie Osborne, UK & Europe Director of Tourism, Charmaine Spencer – Regional Marketing Mananger, Pauline Frederick-Hunte, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, ShirleneNibbs -Tourism Consultant and other consultant teams.

The Tourism Minister in his foreword to the team said:

“I expect this meeting to produce plans, strategies and outcomes that will set the tourism industry on an upward trajectory. From this meeting, I want new, creative ideas that will serve to considerably enhance our place in the world market as one of the leading tourism destinations globally.”

“We are facing fierce competition now – not only from our Caribbean neighbours, but also from further afield. How are we to meet that competition and better it?”, said the Minister.

The strategy session was led by consultant,ShirleneNibbs. Nibbs working with the team, presented the strategic overview of the tourism industry having made an assessment of the vision, mission and brand promise for the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism organisations.

Technicians focused on identifying key areas of the product that were critical to the success of the industry and on immediate plans of action to be taken. An evaluation was done on the accommodation, yachting, cruise and transportation sectors as well as on the visitor experience.

CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Colin C. James also announced new hotel developments coming on stream in the near future, and the economic opportunities available.

Airlift and Airport developments presentations highlighted new flights for Antigua and Barbuda and increases in airlift within various markets. “The destination is well served. We continue to make sure we grow the airlift, and the new airport allows us to grow this airlift from non-traditional markets,” said James. James also announced Eden Viaggi, the new Italian Charter for the destination which will be flying to Antigua from December come 2015.

Also announced today, were the 2015 marketing plans for the North American market and the UK, Ireland and Europe market. Within the UK, plans have been designed to target travellers with the potential to travel during the off peak periods of May/June and September to October, while in the North American market the focus will be on repositioning and recreating the buzz for the destination.

The tourism strategy and planning sessions being held have a number of objectives objective is to deliver plans to galvanize, energize and revitalize the industry; to create concrete and measurable results, generate more revenues and earn a larger share of the resources for the benefit of our country.

Day two of the session continues tomorrow with PR Plan Presentations, technicians engaging in further group interactive planning sessions, and a walk-through of the new airport terminfor Antigua.

Mismanagement of Our CARICOM Affairs

The cronyism, nepotism and promotion of unqualified persons by Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar have been now exported to the CARICOM and international posts. The two most recent nominations she made have failed to receive both Caribbean and wider international support.
The first of these failed nominations was Mr. Hamid Ghany, a known insider to the Mrs. Persad-Bissessar’s cabal and propagandist for her directives. He was nominated for the Secretary General of the 79-nation African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group even though he had no relevant experience in trade negotiations, in the workings of the ACP group, in international affairs or in relations with the European Union.
Mr. Ghany’s candidacy was not taken seriously by any country. When he turned-up at a meeting of the Council of ACP, no ACP Ambassador knew him – not even those from the Caribbean. Hence, Trinidad and Tobago was treated with scant regard and he spectacularly failed to be elected.

Remarkably, Trinidad and Tobago did not send its Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Dookeran, to that ACP Council meeting. Instead, another Persad-Bissessar known-crony, Bhoe Tewari, was sent to the Council meeting. He, too, was unknown to the Council members and his representation of Ghany made no impact.

The same Minister Dr. Bhoe Tewari is the other nomination that Mrs. Persad-Bissessar is trying to foist on the Caribbean and the Commonwealth. This time, it is for the post of Secretary General of the 53-nation Commonwealth. Dr. Tiwari is relatively unknown in the Caribbean and the Commonwealth, as a diplomat. He has no experience in diplomacy and Commonwealth affairs. He is a poor candidate.
Since July last year, when Mrs. Persad-Bissessar put forward his name to the 12 Commonwealth Caribbean countries for possible endorsement by the Region, he has been firmly rejected. Twice at Commonwealth Caribbean meetings (in December in Cuba in the margins of the Cuba-CARICOM Summit and in the Bahamas in February). Dr. Tewari has received no support, except from Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
In other words, from the 12 Commonwealth Caribbean governments, he got 1 vote – Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s. These nominations of unsuitable cronies of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar are making Trinidad and Tobago the laughing stock of the CARICOM region and the international community.

Sir Ronald Sanders, secured the support of 9 of the 12 governments.
I want to make it quite clear that if Trinidad and Tobago had an outstanding, an electable candidate – and if we did not already hold two of the three top posts in the inter-governmental Commonwealth – the PNM would have backed such a candidate to the hilt. But we do not have such a candidate and we cannot expect to hold the top three posts in the Commonwealth.

Therefore, the PNM fully supports the Antigua and Barbuda nominee who already has majority support from the 12 Commonwealth Caribbean countries. He is an outstanding candidate, recently honoured by the UWI at the St. Augustine Campus, with Honorary Doctor of Letter (D. Litt) for his outstanding work in the Caribbean and the Commonwealth. He is also a well-known Caribbean man.

This cavalier approach of cronyism and nepotism which passes for diplomacy under this UNC government, has the potential to hurt the interest of Trinidad and Tobago in future dealings when Trinidad and Tobago put forward qualified candidates who may be shunned by our CARICOM colleagues in response to our current behaviour where we failed to acknowledge superior candidates from other territories, put forward our own poor quality candidates, who do not represent the best of Trinidad and Tobago but prepared to back them to the end.

I am calling on the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago to act in the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago by withdrawing the unsuitable candidacy of Minister Dr. Bhoe Tewari and provide our prestige and support to a consensus CARICOM candidate so that in the future when we put forward candidates that have what it takes to rally consensus from our neighbours, we would be assured of such support and our ambitions will stand a realistic chance of success.

Dr. Keith Rowley
Leader of the Opposition

Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Delegation attends multiple conferences in Berlin

asot michael

(St. John’s, Antigua ) The Honourable Asot Michael, Minister of Tourism,Economic Development, Investment, and Energy completed his inaugural visit to Berlin, Germany last week. The Minister attended three conferences to seek new hotel investment and forge closer relationships with German tour operators and airline partners. Travelling with the Minister as part of his delegation were Ambassador Brian Challenger, Mr. Rohan Hector – Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority; Hans Kupin – Economic Envoy for Antigua and Barbuda in Germany, new Vice President of Sales and Marketing for UK and Europe Mr. Jean-Marc Flambert and Cherrie Osborne – Director of Tourism UK & Europe

Minister Michael and Ambassador Challenger first attended, the CARICOM Energy Conference, which explored Green Energy opportunities for making the country self-sufficient in this area. Minister Michael, then met with other
Ministers of Tourism at the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) now in its 18th year. The forum included, a round table session where Ministers of Tourism discussed: critical issues; strategies for tourism investment promotions and reasons for global investors to invest. Minister Michael made a presentation to the session, which was recorded and along with the findings from the forum will be published to an audience of over 50,000 potential investors.

The forum also included a two-day event where Minister Michael, secured one on one meetings with the Regional Presidents of some of the world leading hotel chains – IHG, Wyndham, Viceroy, Marriott, Hilton, Park Inn and Starwood. In a separate meeting Minister Michael met with Michael Henssler, Managing Director, Key International Hotels management Co. Ltd and Xavier Destribats – President Europe to finalise a deal with the Kempinsky hotel group.

After some extremely positive meetings aimed at securing new hotel investment for Antigua and Barbuda, Minister Michael also participated in ITB one of the world’s largest annual business to business and consumer tourism event held in Berlin each year. This year’s event attracted over 174,000 trade and consumer visitors. In 2014 Germany saw the largest increase from Europe to Antigua and Barbuda, recording a growth of 9%.

The destination was supported by co exhibiting partners including – Antigua Yacht Club Marina, Blue Waters, Hermitage Bay, Sugar Ridge, Jolly Beach Resort and Spa, National Tours and The Inn at English Harbour.

The teams conducted a packed schedule of successful meetings with key European based Tourism Executives and Airlines partners such as Condor, TUI and Dertour, Meires Weltereisen, yachting specialists – Sailing Classics, KH +P Yacht Charter, Viaggidea (Italy), Eden Viaggi (Italy), Thomas Cook (Germany) as well as numerous new tour operators.

The destination has clearly set its sights on making greater inroads into the European market. Bookings from Germany to the Caribbean are up 20% for 2015 with Antigua and Barbuda also seeing similar growth trends. Overall the German Tour operators were optimistic about the future and want to continuing working closely with the destination to grow the business even further. Condor once again confirmed its weekly direct flight for winter 15/16.

A notable achievement at this year’s ITB was the commitment given by Eden Viaggi an Italian tour operator to again have direct flights from Milan to Antigua with a year round charter with 130 seats weekly to the destination. This flight will be shared with the Dominican Republic to service their Eden Village club and will starting in December 2015.

In summarising the week’s activities, Minister Michael commented that “Our intense week of tourism promotions and investment conferences presented me with a unique opportunity to introduce and promote Antigua and Barbuda to some of the key movers and shakers in the Global Hotel Investment and European Tourism arena. Significant progress has been made which will ultimately contribute to growing the industry”.

Statement by Hon Gaston Browne MP Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda at the Opening of the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting In Nassau, Bahamas

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Chairman
Colleague Heads of Government
Ministers of Government
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

I thank Prime Minister Perry Christie and the people and government of The Bahamas for the warm welcome given to all the participants in this meeting.
We have no doubt that under Prime Minister Christie’s chairmanship, the outcomes of this meeting will be beneficial to the people of the Caribbean Community who have entrusted us with a mandate to manage their regional affairs.
ooOoo

As I formally hand-over the gavel of chairmanship of CARICOM, I would like to reflect briefly on the period of my own stewardship of the Community’s affairs.
I came to the Chairmanship within weeks of winning a general election and becoming a Head of Government for the first time.
I am thankful to my colleagues for the encouragement and support they gave me.
And, I was extremely pleased that I was able to superintend our Community affairs through some historic events.
Those events include the decision of the Governments of Cuba and the United States to establish diplomatic relations.
We in the Caribbean can rightly take credit for being on the right side of history in this matter dating back to 1972, when four independent member states of our Community ended the US-inspired hemispheric diplomatic embargo of Cuba.
At our Summit meeting with Cuba last December, I called on the US congress to end its senseless trade embargo against Cuba.
I do so again now.
I also had the privilege of chairing our grouping in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe in Trinidad. In addition, I was extended the privilege to speak on behalf of Caricom as a whole during a Celac meeting in Brazil, when the majority of our member states had a productive meeting with China’s President Xi, that has set the foundation for a beneficial economic relationship between us.
At the third Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), in Costa Rica, I was pleased to speak on behalf of CARICOM.
That Summit agreed on a plan of action to eliminate hunger by 2025 submitted by the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Dr. José Graziano da Silva, who is with us at this meeting and with whom we can follow-up specific measures of benefit to the people of the Caribbean.
ooOoo

You will note Chairman that I speak of “the people” of the Caribbean, and not “the peoples” of the Caribbean.
I do not regard the inhabitants of our Region as different “peoples”; we are one people with a shared history, common challenges, common opportunities and a common destiny.
Those challenges cannot be effectively overcome nor can the opportunities be successfully seized by each of our countries acting alone.
While each of our small nations from time to time may enjoy a moment of remarkable triumph, we all know that such moments are rare and are – in any event – temporary.
They are not enough to sustain our economic growth domestically, nor are they sufficient to protect us from the onslaught of powers much bigger and stronger than any of us.
Only our collective action in defence of our mutual interest will offer resistance to the tides of unfavourable challenges that rush from outside and imperil the livelihoods of our people.
Similarly, only united action will allow us to take advantage of opportunities that could better the lives of our people.
We need collaboration, cooperation and unity within our Region and in our Region’s affairs with the international community, if we are to surmount obstacles, overcome limitations and advance our people’s interests.
We need to engage the international community at all the levels open to us, and through our best people.
Wherever possible we must establish a Caribbean presence within international organisations to advance Caribbean interests.
And, we must do so through genuine Caribbean representatives who have fought in the trenches for us and for Caribbean development.
That is the only way we have a chance of success.
ooOoo

Mr Chairman, our Region now confronts one of the most demanding periods of its post-Colonial history.
Even though we are small and vulnerable, the international community treats us as if we enjoy the resources, the populations, the land mass and the wealth of the United States or the European Union.
The special and differential treatment to which our small size, high transactional costs, and openness of our markets should have entitled us, is denied us.
In this regard, I take this opportunity to thank the people and Government of Venezuela for the special arrangements rendered to many CARICOM countries under Petro Caribe.
I also thank the Governments of China and Taiwan for their support as well.
While others were neglectful of the adverse impact on our economies of the financial crisis that originated in the US and Europe, the governments of Venezuela, The People’s Republic of China and Taiwan extended a hand of help.
We will not forget.
Chairman, I call on this Conference to register our condemnation of the recent report of a plot to overthrow the constitutionally elected government of Venezuela.
In our region we believe in the democratic process as amply demonstrated by all our recent general elections that changed governments by ballots not bullets.
Let us send that message of firm commitment to the democratic process resoundingly around the world.

Mr Chairman, while my own country is not affected, we are deeply disturbed by the news that from the end of next year, European Union policy will deal a severe blow to Caribbean sugar producing nations, such as Barbados, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Guyana and Jamaica.
The EU will terminate a cap on European beet sugar production and so flood the EU market displacing sugar exports from Caribbean countries that will be unable to compete with heavy subsidies given to EU beet sugar producers.
The British Department for International Development is reported to have predicted that this “perfect storm” of the new EU beet sugar policy, and the consequent low, subsidised price, will force force 6.4 million people in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries into poverty over the next five years.
Caribbean sugar workers will be forced into subsistence agriculture and will face the danger of extreme poverty.
The EU does not appear to have any appreciation for the fact that we cannot create new markets in the space of a year, nor can we retrain and retool our farmers in other crops.
They have also repeatedly, broken their commitment to us on sugar – a commitment for which our representatives fought since 1973.

We are proud to have with us at this meeting our first spokesman on sugar when that commitment was negotiated – the Most Honourable PJ Patterson, a Caribbean patriot and statesman to the core.
I am sure that he would agree that this latest grave and mortal policy announcement by the EU is not one that we should allow to rest.
This Conference should and must resolve, that this issue will be taken up aggressively with the EU at the highest levels – and taken up by all our governments collectively.
ooOoo

Mr Chairman, the countries of our Community are not only marginalised in the international community with no voice or vote in International Financial Institutions of the world, we are also coerced into adopting policies that harm our own economies while serving the interests of others.
Extra-territorial laws and policies made in other countries and regions are imposed upon us without consultation – indeed without the slightest interest in such consultations.
We are made to implement the agenda of others, even to the point of spending our own scare resources to act as their tax collectors, or we suffer the consequences of not surrendering to their will.
Now our banking sector is facing a new and potentially devastating threat.
Our Region is being labelled as a high-risk area for financial services.
Consequently, correspondent banks in the United States and major banking centres in Europe are being made to evaluate risks versus rewards for doing business with our indigenous banks, and banks in our offshore sector.
Because in many cases indigenous banks cannot provide a high level of reward, correspondent banks are closing their relationships with them – all because an arbitrary an unsubstantiated claim is being made that the Caribbean is a high risk area for financial services.
Unless this situation is addressed with urgency, the indigenous banks in each of our countries will be forced to close their doors, not because of any inherent difficulties in the banks themselves, but because they are constrained from transacting business abroad.
I need hardly say that the impact of such a development on our economies would be calamitous.
Mr Chairman, I venture to suggest that our Community should waste no time in jointly addressing this problem.
I call on this Conference to agree to establish a Committee of Finance Ministers to work with the Caribbean Association of Banks to develop a plan to deal with this matter, including by making strong representations at the World Bank, the IMF, within the Commonwealth and La Francophonie and, if it necessary, at the United Nations.
It is time that we raise our voices and not meekly accept the continuing emasculation of our financial services, particularly after we have spent millions of dollars on making our jurisdictions compliant with every demand that has been made of us.
The situation is unfair and unjust.
ooOoo

Colleagues, the state of financial services, which once contributed significantly to the growth and development of our economies, is now a shadow of its former self.
Yet, despite all that we have lost through the dictates of powerful countries, our countries receive no concessionary funding from International or Hemispheric international institutions or from countries whose policies materially affect our economic and social development.
And, while that observation is valid for all our countries, in the specific case of Antigua and Barbuda, in two weeks’ time it will be eleven long years since the World Trade Organisation granted us an award which has not been honoured by the country that violated an international agreement and injured our economy.
My country is yet to receive the benefit of that award, the penalties for which, according to the WTO ruling, now stand in the equivalent sum of US$168 million.
It is not, Mr Chairman, that representatives of my country have not sought consultations with the other party to settle this matter.
We have been patient and we have been reasonable, but so far to no avail.
The casualness with which the ruling of the legitimate international body has been treated, and the neglect of a legally-binding obligation have implications for every country represented in this room.
I signal now that there are remedies legally available to my government that have been stipulated by the WTO.
We hope that we are not forced to resort to these remedies, but we have a duty of care to our people that we cannot disregard.
Mr Chairman, we in Antigua and Barbuda, are thankful to our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean Community for all their moral support and their many declarations of solidarity.
It is my fervent hope that you, as representatives of the Caribbean people, will at this meeting once again strongly indicate your support of Antigua and Barbuda.
ooOoo

Mr Chairman, I know well the daunting task that faces each of our governments to provide employment for our people, to attract investment, to fight crime, to eliminate guns from our streets, to keep our people safe while we improve health care and education; and build roads and ports.
I know it is right that we should formulate national policies to meet all of these challenges and that we should each do so creatively, but I warn that none of us should believe that we can succeed on our own.
Within the Region, our policies need to be mindful of the need to spread the face of integration so that all our people reap some benefit.
My own country has been a faithful member of regional organisations since we helped to found CARIFTA in 1965 and throughout the trials and tribulations of CARICOM.
For all these years, we have endured serious balance of trade deficits with virtually every CARICOM country.
We have been a ready market for the goods of our sister-states.
It is in that connection, that we believe that countries, such as Antigua and Barbuda, that have stayed the course without benefits in trade, should not also be disadvantaged in services like LIAT to which we have also been a major financial contributor over several decades for the benefit of many other countries.
We must ensure that regional integration serves the interest of all.
ooOoo

In this regard, I welcome the initiative of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, for our region to consider the growing threat to our security posed by international terrorism.
Before us are recommendations from the Commissioners of Police and Heads of Intelligence of CARICOM arising from the Prime Minister’s initiative.
These recommendations encompass collective regional safeguards against terrorism, and they include measures to curb illegal guns and gangs – phenomena that plague all our countries, terrorising our people and damaging our economies.
Despite the fiscal constraints with which all our governments are faced, I hope that we can adopt the very pro-active recommendations of the Commissioners of Police and Heads of Intelligence.
The work they have done is a fine example of the region’s brains working together for the benefit of the region and for our people.
We should applaud their effort and their example.
ooOoo

Colleagues, I know doubts continue to exist about the effectiveness and usefulness of our regional integration movement. However, Antigua & Barbuda remains fully and firmly committed to Caricom Integration.
But, as I formally hand over the Chairmanship of CARICOM to the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Perry Christie, I do so convinced that regional integration remains vital to the betterment of our countries individually and collectively.
The evidence is clear: we need more not less regionalism; we need more not less regional integration.

Thank you very much.