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“Arms Trade Threatens Region,” Says PM

Prime Minister Perry Christie said CARICOM member states strongly support the Arms Trade Treaty and the region has made a significant step in trying to end the illegal arms trade which has “bathed societies in blood.”

As he addressed the EU – CELAC Summit in Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday, Prime Minister Christie, in his capacity as chairman of CARICOM, added that the region’s support of the Arms Trade Treaty is so strong that Trinidad and Tobago has submitted its candidacy to be the headquarters of the secretariat.

“It is a significant step toward trying to end the illegal arms trade; these arms that have our societies too often bathed in blood and which threaten to overwhelm the legitimate law enforcement agencies,” Christie said.

He explained that the budgets of CARICOM countries have to be dedicated to citizen security concerns such as this because if the issues are not addressed the countries will have no economy.

“It is a real guns or butter decision,” the prime minister said.

Christie added that crime is a major issue in the region and the youth are disproportionately affected by unemployment.

As a result, leaders of CARICOM member states are focused on what can be done to reverse the trend of citizen insecurity.

The Caribbean regional is located near some of the great international air and sea lanes for commerce and according to Christie, that accident of geography is both a blessing and a curse.

“We sit between the drug producers on one side and the drug consumers on the other side. In between we bear the brunt of this problem. Our children are threatened by this nefarious trade, now extended to include human smuggling, human trafficking and the illegal trade in small arms,” he explained.

In addition to matters involving citizen security, the prime minister also discussed issues concerning migration, financial services and climate change as it relates to the region.

The Bahamas faces a flood of illegal migrants from the south and the prime minister noted that this is a carefully orchestrated criminal enterprise to export people at a costly rate.

“The result is that our country has to spend scarce resources trying to beat back an ever rising tide of illegal migrants. We have toughened the laws. We have spent monies increasing the size of our maritime forces. We have appealed to border-states to stop the incursions. Yet the illegal migration continues,” he expressed.
The prime minister added that while the underlying cause of migration to some extent is poverty, countries must do their best to fight it.

“The public policy of all countries joined in this current enterprise at EU-CELAC would then do well to take note and in particular, since the European Union is facing a similar crisis, to inform our public policy to break up the criminal enterprises driving these migrant incursions,” Christie said.

As it relates to financial services, the prime minister pointed out that there is a disconnect between the European partners and CARICOM over the state of the financial services sector.

He expressed that there is a continued role for places that manage wealth.

“Privacy is still a virtue and the right to private property and to manage one’s money is an ancient right. In the pursuit of tax policies, this right to privacy seems to have been eroded,” the prime minister said.

“Countries, in their zeal, have imposed unfunded mandates which have caused untold hardship in our countries that were and are engaged in an honest enterprise with fair tax competition. This has now become in some quarters a moral negative. We do not agree that it is. We deplore the attempt to destroy this sector.”

Finally, climate change is an ever present threat to the region’s existence and in The Bahamas, some 80 per cent of the land is below five feet of sea level. That means if the sea level rises, then much of The Bahamas is gone.

According to the prime minister, “We have already seen the rains come to St. Vincent, Dominica and St. Lucia in 2013 and it wiped out significant proportions of the GDP of those countries within eight hours. We expect more of this extreme weather, not less of this.”

Therefore he noted that as a result, those who are the major emitters have to take dramatic steps to curb these emissions and dramatic steps must be taken to ensure that the global atmospheric temperature increase remains below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“For the Caribbean region, it is do or die,” Christie said. “We are therefore pleased that the G7 meeting appears to have committed to eliminating fossil fuel use by the end of the century.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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