Welcome Remarks by
Honourable. Natalio D. Wheatley
Premier and Minister of Finance
36th OECS/Pooled Procurement Service (PPS) Policy Board Meeting
and 9th OECS Council of Health Ministers Meeting
His Excellency, Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The Honourable Sir Molwyn Joseph, Outgoing Chair of the OECS/Pooled Procurement Service (PPS) Policy Board and Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment of Antigua and Barbuda.
Other Ministers and delegates of the various OECS states present and who will be joining in the activities over the next three days.
Staff of the OECS and other specially invited guests.
Members of the local and regional media.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
A pleasant good evening. I bid you a warm Virgin Islands welcome.
The Government and people of the British Virgin Islands are very pleased and proud to host the 36th OECS/Pooled Procurement Service (PPS) Policy Board Meeting and the 9th OECS Council of Health Ministers Meeting, which will take place from 10 to 12 October, 2023.
We are also very proud for the BVI to be taking over as chair of the OECS PPS Board for the upcoming year, and we join with the regional community in thanking the outgoing chair, Honourable Sir Molwyn Joseph, for his service, and for the support of the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda.
The OECS, generally, and the PPS, more specifically, demonstrate the benefits of community, cooperation and unity. They prove that our strengths and abilities as a collective are magnified many times more than the sum of the individual parts.
Through the PPS, OECS countries have been able to access quality pharmaceutical supplies for our populations at significant savings, in large part because we are treated as a single large customer rather than a number of small ones. Of course, this is not to detract from the hard work and talent of the PPS procurement team who negotiate in our behalf. Pooled procurement also helps us to reduce the cost of shipping and logistics.
It is my considered view that the success of the PPS initiative is a blueprint for tackling many of the other challenges that the people of our region face, and which are somewhat unique to our circumstances as an archipelago of countries, where we are separated by water.
Just as with pharmaceuticals, our people are facing high prices for food, building materials, technology tools and other essentials. Our countries compete in the global supply markets against larger, wealthier economies, who are able to throw their weight around, and who put their own needs first – sometimes not even paying a thought to the fate of the smaller countries.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we also saw how we were able to collaborate, share resources and exchange knowledge and experiences. Some of the problems were common among our countries, and even among other countries around the world. However, we were differentiated from those other countries by factors such as our geography, the sizes of our populations and economies, and our resources. And so, we were able to tailor solutions to our unique circumstances, and to share with and learn from each other.
I emphasise this point to underscore that we who are closest to our own situation, who witness and experience the challenges everyday in our own countries, are the best positioned to deal with some of the challenges we face. Or, in the least, we must be involved in the process – and we must ensure that we are in those conversations when they happen. We have interests that need to be protected and we have a contribution to make.
May I say that the BVI treasures our association within the OECS family of nations very deeply.
Member and fellow associate member states have been very supportive to the Virgin Islands as we have navigated some challenging situations, particularly in recent times. The OECS and individual states have stood in defense of democracy and the human rights of the Virgin Islands people in the face of threats to suspend our Constitution through an Order in Council of the United Kingdom Parliament and to re-impose direct rule by the UK.
These threats, if they materialize, will undo generations of struggle and hard work by the Virgin Islands people to achieve self-determination as advocated for in international human rights conventions and international law; can threaten Virgin Islanders’ ancestral ownership of our islands; and can pose a serious risk to erasing our unique culture, heritage and identity.
The OECS as a body and individual states have been very outspoken at every available opportunity to highlight our concerns to the international organisations and the global audience. For this we are very grateful, and our brother and sister states in the Caribbean can always be assured of the BVI’s support in your times of need.
This has been another demonstration of the principle that we are stronger together.
I am confident the deliberations at the PPS Policy Board Meeting and the Council of Health Ministers Meeting over the coming days will be very fruitful in developing and strengthening ways for closer collaboration among members and more effective representation of regional interests in health and wellness. I look forward to positive outcomes.
Please also make some time to visit some of our world famous beaches, restaurants and other attractions before you leave. If you need any information or guidance, do not hesitate to ask our incoming OECS/PPS Policy Board Chairman, Honourable Vincent Wheatley.
I wish you an enjoyable stay in the British Virgin Islands and a productive session, and I invite you to come back to the BVI with your family and friends to experience our tourism offerings.
Do have a good evening.
I thank you.