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(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) As the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government continue to pursue the course for sustained economic development, CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has said it demands working collectively and pooling resources.

Speaking at the opening of the Twenty-Eight Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government, Mr. LaRocque said a cohesive response was needed to address the three broad areas the Conference addresses – economic development, crime and security and international relations. The Inter-sessional summit opened at the Marriot Hotel, in Georgetown Guyana, earlier this morning, Thursday 16 February, 2016.

Crime and security, prioritised on the agenda, are national and regional issues, the Secretary-General said, underscoring the need for more efficiency in systems concerned with finalising "critical legal instruments" to respond to security issues.

"The people of the Caribbean are looking to us to provide them with a safe Community and one which provides opportunity for social and economic progress," he told the Heads of Governments.

"Winning the battle for a safe and secure society brings with it more opportunity for economic growth and development. It will also provide a boost for one of our major economic sectors, tourism. This sector is one of the prime drivers of economic growth, attracting major investments, creating jobs and boosting the creative industries, among others."

Sustained economic growth required a comprehensive review of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) which remained the "best vehicle" to promote economic growth and development, the Secretary-General said.

Describing such a review, which was agreed at the meeting of the Conference in July 2016, as both timely and relevant, he said the scope should include the achievements, the challenges, and the impact of the CSME. How it has responded to expectations, and how its shortcomings might be addressed should also be considerations of the review, he added.

Mr. LaRocque accentuated the "considerable progress" in implementing CSME, highlighting the legal and institutional mechanisms to support free movement of services, skills, and cross-border establishment of businesses.

The CARICOM Secretary-General in his call for a collective response to challenges the Community faced, said it was imperative, in the changing and unpredictable global environment, for the Community to consolidate its co-ordination of foreign policy and refine its strategies to safeguard and advance its interests.

"Recent developments in our Hemisphere and in Europe have caused a certain amount of global uncertainty and could herald further shifts in the international balance of power.

Some of our traditional partners are at the centre of these developments. In evaluating the circumstances, we must consider such longstanding arrangements as the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the future of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP)," he told the CARICOM Heads of Governments. 

Secretary-General LaRocque in his remarks to the Conference extended special welcome to His Excellency Jovenel Moise, President of Haiti who is attending his first meeting. 

"Mr. President, your clear-cut victory in the first round of elections, was an indication of the confidence that your people have in your ability to lead them to a better life.  I look forward to working closely with you and your administration towards Haiti's further integration into CARICOM," Mr LaRocque told the Haitian President.

He commended Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica, for his leadership during his tenure as Chairman from July to December 2016. 

"Prime Minister, your dedication to the task through the period, demonstrated your commitment to advancing our integration movement.  I benefitted greatly from your guidance and advice.  Thank you, Prime Minister," Mr. LaRocque said.

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