PRIME Minister of Grenada Dickon Mitchell says travel within Caricom must be fixed and that the excuses which allow the issues to persist must stop.
He was giving the feature address at the TT Manufacturers Association's (TTMA) 2022 awards ceremony on Tuesday night at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.
He began his speech by praising TTMA president Tricia Coosal for her persistence in getting him to attend as "it was quite easy to say no given the challenges of, first of all, travelling in and out of Grenada.
"I'm only here because I'm the Prime Minister of Grenada, because I can come on the aircraft used by the Regional Security System (RSS) to fly me in and out of Trinidad. Otherwise, it will literally require me to spend an entire week...and the options for getting to Trinidad require me to get to Miami and then fly back to Trinidad.
"That is how difficult it is to travel within the region."
He said since trade was being discussed at the ceremony, "if we can't even move people, then it's obvious that we can't trade."
He said he feels the pain of people in the region, especially as he can only travel freely within the region because of the RSS.
"And if I'm seeing that much trouble, imagine what the citizens of the region have to go through."
He said although the covid19 pandemic created "significant challenges" in the region, "We collectively need to stop making excuses and start taking action and putting the resources where it's required."
He added, "We don't ask whether the roads are profitable...I don't think we ask ourselves, 'Are we making money from asphalt in the roads?' So it's difficult for me to understand why we ask, 'Are we making money from airlines?' if we recognise the importance of trade."
He said he is looking forward to his country strengthening its ties with TT when it comes to trade.
The two countries, he said, already enjoy "strong cultural and familial ties that are only strengthened by the robust trading relationship between our nations."
He said he used the word robust as it was clear which country benefits more.
In 2019, he said, Grenada exported US$5 million worth of goods to TT, but imported US$248 million worth of goods.
"I'm not complaining, I'm just pointing out the obvious," he said as he chuckled."
He said his administration believes in the power of trade as a "catalyst for social and economic development."
He added that trade contributes to growth, development and creation of sustainable jobs.
He listed five areas he believes are important in transforming the approach to trade, nationally and regionally: supporting regional food security through trade in fish and agro-processed goods, diversifying the production of goods and services to cater to diverse tastes and interests, strengthening private sector engagement, embracing technological advancements to new means of production and public sensitisation and education.
He said the need for technological advancement is crucial for policy makers and businesses.
"We must ensure that our human resource capacity is well equipped to function in the economies of the future.
"There is an urgent need for new digital policies if we are to increase our collective competitiveness."
He urged Caricom leaders, "Let us invest in ourselves today, in our citizens, in our innovation, in our sustainable practices and in the future of our countries."