Minister Laing says Caribbean Still Preferred Destination

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Minister of State for Finance the Hon Zhivargo Laing addressing The Twenty-Fourth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) at the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort, on Wednesday, March 5, 2008. Seated from left are Ambassador Irwin Larocque, Assistant Secretary General, Trade and Economic Integration, CARICOM Secretariat; Dr Edwin Carrington, Secretary General, Caribbean Community; the Hon Dr. Kenneth Baugh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Jamaica; and Minister of State for Finance the Hon Zhivargo Laing. (Photo/Tim Aylen)

By: Lindsay Thompson

NASSAU, Bahamas
– Minister of State for Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing said that despite the economic challenges facing the Caribbean, the region is still a preferred destination in the global tourism market.

He was addressing the Twenty-Fourth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) at the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort, on Wednesday, March 5, 2008.

“We assemble at this time in this place at a time of change, challenge, possibility and uncertainty. The global economic climate is challenged by escalating oil prices and declining financial fortunes. Political change seems to be the order of the day in our region and beyond,” Mr. Laing said.

He told Ministers of Finance and financial advisors in attendance that the impact of emerging trade agreements, including the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), “challenges” the status quo of doing business across the region.

“As we gather, we will no doubt discuss all the very weighty issues and more. I hope for the best in these discussions and take this time to welcome each of you,” he said.

“Notwithstanding this, these are also times of possibilities. Functional cooperation still offers the hope for improving the social, economic and political fortunes of our region and thereby enhancing the lot of the peoples that call it home,” Mr. Laing said.

He continued: “The rising cost of food is impacting the pocket books of peoples throughout our territories. These are indeed times of challenge, change and uncertainty.

“There is enormous wealth in our world, skewed in its distribution as it is. Many developing nations are making gains in their own economic fortunes, even if not at the pace they would have hoped,” Mr. Laing said.

“The Caribbean, despite its competitive challenges in the world’s most robust and expansive industry; tourism, still maintains a prominent place in the hearts of global travellers,” Mr. Laing said.

“Modern information and communication technology continues to offer unrealised possibilities for personal wealth creation, national economic growth and regional development,” he said.

The COTED consists of Ministers designated to promote the development and operation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, ensure international competitiveness of industrial and agricultural commodities, and coordinate policies for the enhancement of external economic and trade relations of CARICOM.

The COTED, the Twelfth Meeting for the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP) and the Nineteenth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community are being held in The Bahamas from March 3 – 8.