To the 8th World Congress of the International Federation of Consular Corps and Consular Associations (FICAC), Montego Bay, Jamaica Wednesday, November 8, 2006
May I add my own welcome to all of you to our beautiful shores and say how delighted we are as a country to be hosting your 8th World Congress.
Your selection of Jamaica for this gathering reflects the Federation’s confidence in and respect for Jamaica, and the capacity and leadership of the Consular Corps of Jamaica.
I commend Mr. Arnold Foote, Dean of the local Consular Corps and his organizing committee for the excellent work that has gone into the execution of this Congress.
Indeed, your choice of Mr Foote as the new President of your Association is an honour to him and to Jamaica. It is just reward for years of hard work, commitment and dedication to the Consular Corps of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. As Prime Minister, I speak for all Jamaicans in expressing our great pride in this singular achievement by this son of Jamaica. I believe your organization has chosen well and will reap the benefits of its wise decision.
Jamaica is indeed proud to be hosting you, and I know that the bonds which have been deepened at this Congress will stand all of us in good stead for years to come.
At a time of global challenges your work as Consuls takes on even greater importance. The international character of your Association dictates a focus on issues of global trade, investment and development beyond confines of each Consul or each Consular Corps.
And, so tonight, I wish to share some thoughts on your role within the context of global trade and investment as well as to share with you some developments taking place in Jamaica.
There is no doubt, that as a group, you have made your own significant contribution to the growth of global investment flows. The recently published World Investment Report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reveals that foreign direct investment rose by 29% in 2005, over the previous year.
This growth now puts foreign direct investments at US$914 billion dollars.
Significantly though, the lion’s share of foreign direct investments is still finding its way into the developed world. Of the 914 billion dollars, inflows to developed countries amounted to $542 billion, an increase of 37%, with US$334 billion dollars going to the developing countries.
Cross-border mergers and acquisitions, with which many of you would have been involved at some stage, grew by a remarkable 88% last year over 2004, to reach $716 billion. International deals are clearly increasing in significance and at a rapid pace.
The importance, therefore, of skilled negotiation, facilitation, follow-up and of crossing the “Ts” and dotting of the “Is”, cannot be over-emphasised.
In our own Latin American and Caribbean region, we have experienced an increase in foreign direct investment. Last year, saw inflows of US$104 billion dollars. Global trade is also increasing significantly.
According to the Trade and Development Report of the United Nations, global GDP growth has been picking up and the forecast is for further growth.
I have spent some time reflecting on the robust state of global trade and international investments, as I believe there is a link with the theme of your Congress: “Handle the World with Care”, which can find resonance among the peoples of the world.
Your work is larger and much broader that routine diplomatic and consular affairs. Amidst the hustle and bustle of your work is a recognition that what you do has an impact on people’s lives; on handling the world with care!
There is a recognition that trade, investment, diplomatic contact, desirable and necessary though they are, should also result in the betterment of people’s lives. Indeed, I see a direct link which should exist between investment and trade expansion, and the improvements in human welfare.
One of the lessons of past experiences is the need to focus on poverty reduction as part of the trade reform agenda. Trade reform cannot be seen in isolation. Today, there is a clear recognition that additional efforts must be made to mitigate the effects of poverty.
Trade and investment reforms must be socially acceptable and respond to humanitarian needs, including poverty reduction.
In our Latin American and Caribbean region, for example, there have been significant reductions in tariff and non-tariff barriers. As a region, we have become a ‘poster child’ for liberalization and privatization.
But it has to be admitted that we have not been as impressive in poverty reduction and in improving human welfare. Despite noteworthy structural adjustment of our economies, trade reforms and fiscal discipline, poverty and unemployment still pose serious challenges.
I ask you: are we handling the world with care?
Truth be told, there is general disillusionment with the development progress by the populations of the region.
In Jamaica, poverty alleviation and reduction are priorities on our development agenda. I have coined a phrase which has become popular: “that the approach of my Government is to balance people’s lives while we balance the books”.
We see the two as being integrally linked. If we balance the books without balancing people’s lives, the people will become fed up and alienated from the trade reform and liberalization process.
Where the people can feel tangible benefits from what we are doing at the macro economic level and if they can reap benefits from trade reform and from increased investment flows, they will be more supportive.
With the outlook for continued favourable global economic growth within the Latin American and Caribbean region, and your interest in ‘handling the world with care’, what role is there for you as Consuls, in achieving this objective?
Clearly, the struggle for a just and equitable international trading and global development system must continue. All of us are naturally disappointed at the breakdown of the talks for the Doha Round of the World Trade Organisation, WTO.
It is very important that the talks resume and that the WTO devise a regime which is fair and equitable in balancing the interests of world’s poor, who have been crying out for sustainable development.
As the UN Trade and Development Report states: “The formulation of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 reflected the degree of dissatisfaction among global policymakers with progress in development and in the fight against poverty, under conditions that had prevailed over the previous two decades”.
What this is clearly saying to us is that the world’s poor, the marginalized and dispossessed, they too have a right to share the fruits of development. We must continue to press for an international economic system that delivers justice to the poor.
We are all losers, ultimately, if we do not create fair and just trading arrangements. Rich and poor alike will have their interests threatened if there is continued injustice and inequalities in the international economic and trading system.
In our common cause, I remind you of Goal Number Eight of the Millennium Development Goals which is to develop a global partnership for development.
This is essentially what your work as Consuls is all about.
It is important that the international community understands that what happens in one part of the world affects other parts of the world. We are truly a global village. Our concerns and interests are interconnected.
Your work as Consuls will advance not only the countries which you represent, but ultimately serve to advance the global community. Globalization has deepened the recognition that we are all in this thing together.
International peace and security are dependent on the quality of relationships which we engender in the world. The building of international partnerships and alliances along with the fostering of sustainable development will provide a better and more effective antidote to the threats facing the world.
Jamaica readily embraces the Millennium Development Goals and is unwavering in out commitment to balancing people’s lives while balancing the books.
The 862 projects already implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund; the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education; the National Health Fund; Community Development initiatives to improve housing and create income earning opportunities are some of our attempts at ‘balancing people’s lives’.
We recognize that unless we pay attention to the books we cannot balance people’s lives, and Jamaica has been showing good results in terms of balancing the books. No less an institution than the International Monetary Fund has commended the country for its fiscal prudence and macro-economic management.
In a report on Jamaica released recently the IMF said of the Government:
“The authorities have deftly charted the economy through a difficult patch. The past two years Jamaica has had to withstand a series of natural disasters as well as very large hikes in petroleum prices.
Under these circumstances the authorities’ efforts to limit the deterioration of the Government budget and skillfully conduct monetary policy has contributed to the current favourable outcomes.
Inflation has come down, growth has picked up and international reserves have increased and borrowing terms improved.”
The IMF Report pointed to our progress in reducing the public debt and observed that:
“Jamaica’s recent record of double digit primary surplus of GDP ratios is, indeed, remarkable.”
For the first half of this fiscal year-March to September-inflation was 5.3% compared with 10.2% for the corresponding period last year. The rate of inflation for the calendar year January-September was 5.5% compared with 11.8% in 2005. Jamaica is on track for single-digit inflation for this year.
Our Net International Reserves exceeded the programme target. At the end of September, the NIR stood at US$2. 3 billion representing 19 weeks of goods and services imports.
I give you some of these performance indicators to show that Jamaica is indeed making progress in the macroeconomic and trade and investment areas. You can be assured that we fully intend to use the fruits of this progress to handle the Jamaican people, with care.
I want to again thank you for your tireless service, dedication, diligence and support. The service you perform on behalf of your countries is invaluable.
The bridges you help to build, the alliances which you forge and the partnerships fostered, have all demonstrated your care of our international community. I commend you for broadening your horizon and for actively involving yourselves in the social and cultural sphere as well as undertaking activities which directly impact on the development and day to day lives of people and for showing care for our world.
We will continue to face challenges. But I urge you, for the good of the international community and your individual countries, to meet these challenges with determination, resilience and an unquenchable spirit.
We share one world and a common future. Let us guard it. Let us secure it. Let us build it. Let us pass it on to future generations in a much better state than we found it.
I leave you with the ‘ONE LOVE, ONE HEART’ words of our musical icon – Bob Marley, and now take my seat so we can all “Get together and Feel alright.”
ONE LOVE, God bless you, and thank you.