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Agriculture Revitalization Plan

Thursday, November 26 – As Government reinforces its commitment to the development of agriculture as a third economic pillar, Premier Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal, OBE said he is heartened by the resolve of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to take a serious look at that sector in the sub-region.

A paper on the agriculture sector in the OECS was one of agenda items at the recent 50th meeting of the OECS Authority in Anguilla. OECS leaders are cognizant of the continuing relevance of the agriculture industry and there is in place an OECS Agriculture Policy Framework and Strategic Action Plan which sets out a long-term guide to agricultural development in the sub-region.
In an interview with the Department of Information and Public Relations following the Anguilla meeting, Premier O’Neal said “We were delighted to hear that they will be looking seriously at greenhouses which we are introducing here.”

He added, “Although most of the territories, especially the Windward Islands are agricultural communities, they realise now that their form of agriculture has got to change. You have to use technology to produce in order to supply the demand.”

The Premier noted that the renewed emphasis on agriculture presents an opportunity for OECS member states to learn from each other. “Now we have a jump start but we are still interested to know that they are doing the same thing and we will be able to learn from each other about agricultural production,” he said.

The subject of tax havens was another agenda item at the recent OECS meeting. One of the tools used to help combat this negative perception is Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs), which provide for the exchange of tax information between countries.

Under the guidelines provided by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), countries are required to sign at least 12 TIEAs. However, aside from the BVI, only four OECS member states have actually signed TIEAs, which means they are significantly below that OECD benchmark. The BVI has already signed 15 TIEAs and is expected to sign another two before the end of 2009.

Premier O’Neal said “OECS countries have quite a lot to do. Listening to the news, I heard that Antigua is taking some steps to clean up their jurisdiction and the others will have to do the same and provide the various facilities in order to be a jurisdiction that will be favourable to financial services.”

Questioned about the BVI’s willingness to assist fellow OECS states in the quest to comply with OECD guidelines, Honourable O’Neal responded, “I suppose if a request is made, the BVI will assist in that way, yes.”

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The communiqué issued at the end of the 50th Meeting of the OECS Authority declared the resolve of leaders to “work to preserve the progress made by the sub-regional body since its establishment in 1981.”

Members also reaffirmed their commitment to sign the new Treaty for an Economic Union by year end. The BVI will not be one of the signatories to this treaty which is expected to take effect in June 2010. The OECS leaders also endorsed the Eight Point Stabilisation and Growth Programme which is in response to the global economic crisis and “agreed to accelerate the implementation of adjustment measures under the programme through appropriate financial programmes, fiscal reform and enhanced debt management.’

The OECS Authority is the highest decision making body of the organisation and meets twice annually in different member states. The 51st Meeting of the OECS Authority is scheduled for St. Lucia in June, 2010.

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