Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, at a press conference on Tuesday 2nd January, stated that he has written to the CARICOM Secretary General “to have on the agenda a number of items which concerns Saint Vincent and the Grenadines” and Trinidad and Tobago. Dr. Gonsalves disclosed that he has written to the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago on “issues between us, which would be raised at CARICOM”.
According to Prime Minister Gonsalves, a main concern is “foreign exchange for persons from Saint Vincent who sell goods to Trinidad and Tobago”. The others are outstanding payments to British American Insurance Company policy holders, and the Caribbean Air Navigation and Advisory Services Limited (CANAS).
With reference to persons who conduct trade with Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Gonsalves said that the Trinidadian Government can do more to accommodate Vincentian traffickers who need to exchange money, in light of the amount of goods imported from that country. Prime Minister Gonsalves added that the trade between the two countries amounts to millions, and that the Trinidadian Government should reciprocate accordingly. He further stressed that their failure to put measures in place for foreign exchange is unfair. Dr. Gonsalves mentioned that some farmers are uncertain whether to sell their produce to traffickers trading in Trinidad and Tobago; however he urged them to continue doing so.
The issue of the outstanding sums owed to British American Insurance Company policy holders is one that urgently needs to be addressed, Dr. Gonsalves stated. According to Dr. Gonsalves, US$64 million is still outstanding to policy holders. He suggested that the Trinidadian Government can make several smaller payments over a specified period, that is, if they cannot make a lumpsum payment.
Dr. Gonsalves has also called for representation on the Caribbean Air Navigation and Advisory Services Limited (CANAS) Board. CANAS manages the Piarco flight information region, Dr. Gonsalves explained. The issue is that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, and other OECS countries are not paid for flights within their respective airspaces. According to Dr. Gonsalves, “the planes which pass over in our airspace in the OECS, in Barbados, we should get money for that because it is our property but we are not represented on CANAS Board”.
As a consequence, Prime Minister Gonsalves has called for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ representation on the CANAS Board: “I am calling for representation for ourselves and Barbados, and the OECS countries and Barbados support me on this.”
Dr. Gonsalves reaffirmed that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has excellent relationships with Trinidad and Tobago; however these issues call for dialogue and close collaboration.