Aviation officials from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and South America will meet here in May to discuss initiatives aimed at developing air links between the regions, Trinidad and Tobago's Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran has said.
Addressing the opening of the 14th annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-14) here on Monday night, Dookeran, said the meeting would seek to consolidate some of the measures proposed in the San Juan Accord for the regional air transport sector that had been agreed upon five years ago.
He told delegates to the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) organised four-day conference, that the issue had been discussed at the recently held Association of Caribbean States (ACS) meeting in Panama where Colombia had been chosen to chair the committee examining air transport links in the region.
He said Colombia's Foreign Relations Minister Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar had agreed to convene in Trinidad a meeting of airlines in May to examine the prospects of enhancing air links in the wider Caribbean and South America.
Intra-Caribbean trade and intra-Caribbean visitors are important as external ones, but we must have the necessary infrastructure to support that.
Therefore I look forward during the month of May to have such a discussion taking place so that we can put together some of the issues that have been raised in the San Juan Accord that was agreed to by ministers of transport some five years ago in order to try and facilitate a renewal of policy energy in the area of tourism development.
According to Dookeran, the San Juan Accord had reached agreement on a number of issues including accelerating the revision of the CARICOM Multilateral Air Services Agreement (MASA), and reinforcing measures to facilitate the movement of international and intra-regional passengers in the Caribbean.
He said the establishment of a CTO-wide umbrella policy for air transport within the framework of the existing ACS multilateral air transport agreement, taking into account the obligation of CARICOM member states under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member grouping.
He said the accord also called for a study on the competitiveness of the Caribbean's air transport sector.
These proposals have set the agenda and I am pleased to announce that concrete steps are in progress ot make it all happen, he said, making reference to the ACS meeting in Panama that endorsed the notion of a new Caribbean Convergence Model which must be private sector driven.
Dookeran said that two anchors were identified for the execution plan, namely air transport links and development financing.
He said Trinidad and Tobago will also convene a meeting of development finance in the region to spell out a programme for the recovery of our regional economy.
Dookeran said many Caribbean economies are facing increasing problems becoming very precarious and fragile.
He said the region has numerous development banks, including the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Washington-based Inter American Development Bank (IDB).
He said there is a feeling that there needs to be a new paradigm in the policies of those institutions, noting for too long we have addressed the issue of financing infrastructure through traditional models of financing.
He said the Port-of-Spain meeting would provide an opportunity to examine new options to financing infrastructural development in the region