Works and Transport Minister Fitzgerald Hinds yesterday underscored the importance of air and maritime connectivity throughout the Caribbean, as he admitted that the region was not where it needed to be regarding this important aspect of development.
Delivering brief remarks at the 24th meeting of the Special Committee of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) at the ACS Secretariat, Sweet Briar Road, Port-of-Spain, Hinds said while the ACS had some obligations to fulfil regarding this, they had not yet managed to fully resolve the issue.
Acknowledging the work of the ACS to address issues affecting small-island developing states, Hinds pledged his commitment to work with the ACS as they devised strategies to strengthen port operations, improve management capacity, increase logistical capability, and enhance trade regionally.
During the question and answer segment, Hinds sought to make it clear that his comments were not referring specifically to T&T.
Instead, he explained, the issue of air and maritime security had become more relevant globally as governments were exploring alternatives to diversify their economies away from the oil and gas sector.
Adding that an expansion of the tourism industry could result in the approximately 220,000,000 regional population increasing their travel, necessitating greater air and maritime security, Hinds said: "It is a feeling, from what I have read, that our performance in this regard is not altogether where it ought to be."
He continued: "In other words, we need to step it up, so we have a lot of work ahead as a people."
During yesterday's meeting, ACS Director of Transport and Disaster Risk Reduction, George Nicholson, presented a report on the activities completed during the past year, as well as a status update on new projects, upcoming initiatives and collaborative efforts which are currently underway.
Also during the meeting, the ACS was expected to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the Port Management Association of the Caribbean (PMAC), as they seek to strengthen relations and improve development among ports in the greater Caribbean region.
ACS Secretary General, Ambassador Alfonso Munera Cavadia, said while achieving regional air and maritime connectivity was one of their main objectives, it was not an easily attainable goal.
Revealing that the ACS would be hosting a meeting in November to discuss the topic, which experts from around the Caribbean had been invited to attend, Cavadia said: "We need to put together real and possible actions that go beyond good intentions.
"We need to identify what governments need to do, what the private sector needs to do, what international organisations can do and what donor countries can do.
"We need to cover some ground, put together real and tangible solutions in the short and medium term but we cannot forget about the objective of achieving connectivity."