Honorable Asot Michael spoke of regal princess crew.

Government of Antigua and Barbuda
Government of Antigua and Barbuda

I would like to start by very warmly welcoming Princess Cruises’ MS Regal Princess and all her wonderful crew and guests to Antigua on behalf of the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda.


It is a real honor and pleasure to receive the MS Regal Princess as one of the world’s largest cruise ships for the very first time to St. John’s Port. The people of Antigua and Barbuda are welcoming you with open arms and warm hearts.

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We would like to thank you for the confidence you have placed in us as a destination and we promise that your over 3,000 guests will have an unforgettable experience.

 Your arrival is incredibly important for Antigua’s economy, so please know we will be taking the utmost care of your passengers as well as your vessel. Succinctly put: tourism is imperative to the success of Antigua and Barbuda and your guests are important part of the equation, and we know it is our duty to provide you and your guests a stay that is above and beyond the caliber of what you expect.

 As part of our promise to improve services on island, our government has delivered on a major promise to tourism partners by signing a $200 million agreement to modernize our St. John’s port and harbor to ensure we’re providing the most desirable product possible to visitors and residents. We aim to become the port-of-call of choice for those travelling to the Caribbean from around the world.

 A total transformation of the port facilities and downtown St. John’s will ensure that our main gateway the cruise tourism industry is the ultimate leader in the Caribbean.

 This development will include world-class casinos, cafes and restaurants, hotels, condominiums, and high-end designer shops. It will be difficult to match the Regal Princess, but we will try. We have already begun the process, having completed the full dredging of St. John’s harbor.

 So facilities and plans are well in place to offer a first class regal service not just our guests, but your crew as well.

            All of this is to say, we hope you enjoy your time with us today in Antigua, and that you will have the opportunity to appreciate our beauty, culture and warmth and that this is only the first of many calls of this spectacular vessel to our shores!

                                               —-End—-

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Minister of Tourism the Hon. Asot Michael lauds the commencement exercise of the 2015 Class of the ABHTI

Government of Antigua and Barbuda
             Government of Antigua and Barbuda

It was an auspicious occasion today (Thurs); the passing out of over 80 students as the 2015 graduating class of the Antigua and Barbuda Hotel Training Institute (ABHTI). Tourism Minister the Hon. Asot Michael saw the organization and execution of the ceremony held at the Royal Antiguan Resort as first class and commends the Board and Faculty of the Institution on a job well done.

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“I must commend the ABHTI Graduating class of 2015 on the exceptional level of passes achieved in the various programs offered at the institution. The commencement exercise signified the dedication and commitment of the Board and Faculty and I must commend them as well on a job well done,” stated Minister Michael.

 The institution whose mandate is to produce a quality and skilled workforce and professionals for the Hospitality and Tourism Industry is run by a Board of Directors under the chairmanship of Ms. Shirlene Nibbs. Nibbs delivered remarks to the graduates surrounding the team of the ceremony “Never give up on you”, with the commencement address delivered by Mr. Antoine Browne, General Manager of the St. James Club and Villas, centering as well on the said topic. Browne made pertinent points on the way forward for the newly certified tourism industry personnel.  “Do not confuse service with being subservient…hospitality should be practiced every day of ouUntitled1r lives and it goes way beyond the workplace,” Browne noted.  He urged the graduates, “to continue to edify themselves as it takes constant training and retraining to become a hospitality professional”.

Governor General His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams and Lady Williams were in attendance at the ceremony with His Excellency presenting the award to Valedictorian of the class of 2015 Mrs. Karen Williams of the Resort Management fraternity.

 

The Honorable Minister of Tourism who presented awards to the top performing graduates in each program module assures his government’s commitment towards the continued development and expansion of the ABHTI in its quest to become the premier Hospitality and Tourism Training Institute in the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

PM Browne joins thousands to Honour United Nations and individuals and organizations for Humanitarian Work

NEW YORK, NY – USA – 29th September, 2015……Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne and First Lady Maria Browne on Sunday joined thousands in New York City for the South South Awards, considered the world’s foremost global development event to celebrate the United Nations 70th Anniversary and honour individuals for their global initiatives

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During the event, which honoured distinguished countries, individuals and organizations that embody transformative sustainable development worldwide; particularly in the areas of poverty reduction, education advancement and humanitarian impact, Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne presented a number of the major awards and commended the organizers for recognizing the contributions of individuals and organisations for their work in making the world a better place for humanity.

The event featured some of the world’s leading performers including   keyboardist Ray Chew, music producer for the reality television show “Dancing With The Stars,” and percussion­ist/drummer Sheila E.

In addition, musician Paul Shaffer was honoured with the Cultural achievement Award and lend “the same sparkle and inimitable spirit he gave television audiences for 33 years as the musical director of The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Academy award winners Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, and Forrest Whitaker were among the elite who also made presentations.

We are pleased to present photos from the event which is co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations.

Digital photo by Yendi Lynch:

Maurice F. Merchant

Director-General of Communications

Office of the Prime Minister

Queen Elizabeth Highway

St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda

Tel: 268.462.9766

Fax: 268.462.3225

Email: maurice.merchant@ab.gov.ag

maurice.merchant@gmail.com

Antigua and Barbuda and Kuwait Sign New Financial Arrangements for servicing Kuwait Fund debts

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Prime Minister Browne in discussions with Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. Foreign Minister Fernandez and Ambassador Aubrey Webson comprised the Antigua and Barbuda team

NEW YORK, NY – USA – 29th September, 2015…….Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne and First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Board for the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, met on Monday and signed off on a new financial arrangement to service Antigua and Barbuda’s debt to the fund.

During the discussions Sheikh Sabah signaled his country’s delight in reengaging Antigua and Barbuda and expressed happiness from the members of the board of the fund that Antigua and Barbuda is taking a bold step in reengaging the fund. The Chairman also indicated that Antigua and Barbuda can now begin to explore ways in seeking more partnership with the fund and invited the Prime Minister to seriously consider this proposal

Prime Minister Browne said that he welcomed the opportunity to rebuild strong ties with Kuwait and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development. “By being here today it shows Antigua and Barbuda’s commitment to rebuilding friendships and reestablishing trust, which was a key principle in his election campaign. One of my government’s priorities is to correct past wrongs, fulfill past obligations and set Antigua and Barbuda on a better path,” he said.

Prime Minister Browne and Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah following the singing of the new agreement
Prime Minister Browne and Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah following the singing of the new agreement

The Prime Minister thanked the Chairman for the invitation for Antigua and Barbuda to reengage the fund, however he cautioned that Antigua and Barbuda’s reengagement will be based on partnerships and investments that have tangible benefits for Antigua and Barbuda without incurring additional national debts.

Discussions were held on the possibility of Kuwait assisting with a sewage system for St. John’s and both parties agreed that these talks will begin in Lima, Peru in October during the annual IMF meeting.

Prime Minister Browne also used the opportunity to invite the Chairman to pay a visit to Antigua and Barbuda.

The new agreement signed will see Antigua and Barbuda making twice yearly payments on the outstanding debt to the Kuwait Fund and it also paves the way for the reengagement of the Fund in Antigua and Barbuda and opens avenues for the formulation of measures for debt relief.

The Kuwait Fund has provided loans to Antigua and Barbuda for the construction and renovation of the parallel taxiway at the airport, All Saints Road rehabilitation and the American Road to Airport road construction.

Antigua and Barbuda’s delegation during the signing ceremony included Foreign Minister, the Hon. Charles Fernandez, Ambassador to the United Nations, His Excellency Mr. Aubrey Webson, Senior Ambassador, Sir Ramez Hadeed and Counsellor in the Antigua and Barbuda Mission to the UN, Tumasie Blair. (Ends)

PM Browne continues to forge closer ties between Antigua and Barbuda and International nations

ST.JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda – 13th August 2015…….Prime Minister of  the Hon. Gaston Browne continues to foster closer relations with international leaders and countries as his government works towards tackling issues that affect Antigua and Barbuda and other developing nations.

Prime Minister Browne with the Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Lofven
Prime Minister Browne with the Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Lofven

During a recent visit to the Horn of Africa, Prime Minister Browne met with leaders and foreign representatives of Mauritius, Seychelles, Swaziland, Cameroon and Tuvalu and pushed for foster closer relations given similarities being either small states, developing countries and our interaction within the commonwealth. Prime Minister Browne also used the opportunity to introduce the candidacy of Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders to the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth.  Sir Ronald’s candidacy was well received by the respective delegations.

The heads of delegations of Seychelles, Mauritius and Tuvalu commended Prime Minister Browne on his position regarding the recent European Union tax heaven black list. The countries pledged support for each other on this matter and made a commitment to work together going forward.

The delegation of Seychelles inquired of the possibility of sending a team from its Ministry of Finance to observe and learn from Antigua and Barbuda about the online gaming industry.

PM Browne with the Deputy Minister of Finance of Mexico Fernando Aportela
PM Browne with the Deputy Minister of Finance of Mexico Fernando Aportela

During his stay in Africa, Prime Minister Browne also held bilateral discussions with the head of delegation of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Sweden.

Prime Minister Browne met with the Mexican Deputy Finance Minister, Fernando Aportela regarding current bilateral cooperation in particular Mexico’s assistance to Antigua and Barbuda’s housing programme.

PM Browne being interview by South South News
PM Browne being interview by South South News

Prime Minister Browne and Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of Sweden also had fruitful discussions on cooperation and mutual interest.  Prime Minister Löfven was particularly concerned with the EU’s black listing of Antigua and Barbuda and made a commitment to look deeper into the matter. Both Prime Ministers explored developmental assistance for Antigua and Barbuda.  One area identified was assessing the drought situation and how Sweden can assist in this most urgent matter.

The country’s leader also had numerous interviews with local television in Addis Ababa, UNTV and South South News. He was singled out for his numerous strong statements on international financial reform and his commitment to addressing issues affecting Small Island Developing States.

PM Browne, will cater to the greater good of nation

_DSC1637In addressing utterances that have surfaced regarding environmental concerns, not only did the Prime Minister give the assurance that his administration is committed to sustainable development and the protection and management of the environment, but he served notice on the “fundamentalists” and those bent on narrow interests over the universal good.

In explaining the stance to be taken, the national leader suggested that there are “some” believing that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was never done regarding the project.
He made it abundantly clear that such persons ought to “liberate [their] minds of that fallacy, because an EIA was done as far back as 1997. Furthermore, a local individual is currently upgrading and up- dating that study for a clear pathway to proceed.
Drawing on a utilitarian approach, the Honourable Gaston Browne advised that those with the “fundamentalist ideologies” and those roughing up the seas “must be balanced.”
He stated unequivocally that: “We respect the views of all individuals even the views of the ignorant, but I want to make it abundantly clear, that individuals especially small minority groups with fundamentalist ideals, those cannot take precedence over the overall good of the country.
He was adamant that his administration will listen and will go ahead on its
projects with consensus without having to be lectured to by doubters.
The Prime Minister said: “My Government does not need to be schooled on the problems of the environment” because “there is no other government in the past that would have invested more in the protection of the environment than this present administration.” No doubt, this statement drew much support and applause.
PM Browne provided recent “tangible examples” to strengthen his contention. He spoke to the strengthening of the legislative framework through the passing of the new Energy Act and the new Environ- mental Protection and management Act.
In addition he told the audience that the Government has provided “$20 million to acquire 10 megs of solar energy for the country,” and has also “committed in excess of $1.1 million per month from the CIP funds to keep this country clean, in addition, to what has been appropriated in the budget.”
The Prime Minister did encourage the developers to maintain the “pristine” setting while stating that his administration “pursues development in a responsible manner to ensure that all developments are done on a sustainable basis.”
He would have also touched on the need to “plant trees as a zero-hungry programme ,” so that those now imperilled by plight of poverty would not revert or choose the option of “robbing or other criminal activities that lead to jail time.”
All in all, the Prime Minister was elated at the synergies and successful partnerships that will bear ripe fruit for Antigua and Barbuda thereby positioning the country to become the economic powerhouse of the Caribbean.
According to PM Browne, these projects are indicative of the “plethora of investments” that can and will change the social, economic, and physical character of the nation.

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.