H.E. Mr. Stephenson King, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
26 September 2008
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STEPHENSON KING, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Saint Lucia, recalled the Secretary-General’s beliefs that the international community was facing a “development emergency”, and it was imperative to move with utmost urgency to address the challenges that had emerged. “We must ensure that our annual reaffirmations on the right to development and the right to food, shelter, security and peace do not ring hollow,” he said.
In spite of numerous challenges, Saint Lucia maintained its commitment to the realization of Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and would do so within its means, even as new difficulties arose. The country’s social indicators were “fairly reasonable”, reflecting its investment in human development over the years. Saint Lucia had already achieved universal access to primary and secondary education, and was placing emphasis on improving quality, as well as expanding access at the tertiary level, and early childhood education.
Now, Saint Lucia was pursuing reform of its health sector and seeking to introduce free health care for all. It had also made important strides in addressing the AIDS pandemic. The country had already achieved some of the Millennium Goals and would remain focused on achieving all of them by 2015, he continued. However, such issues as violence, crime, insecurity and migration were not properly covered under the existing Millennium Development Goal framework. It was imperative to consider those issues as they impacted on the Goals and development of his country.
The effects of climate change continued to disproportionately affect his country and other members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), he said. Another serious problem for Saint Lucia was the astronomical rise in energy prices, which created a new challenge as the world sought to replace fossil fuels with cleaner and more cost-effective biofuels. The trouble with that approach was that the decreased availability of agricultural production for food had resulted in higher prices around the world. The “food for fuel” trade-off was not carefully balanced and could cause increased poverty, hunger and marginalization.
Notwithstanding those problems, he said, he was heartened by the efforts on the renewable energy agenda, but lamented the slow pace of progress in developing countries, as well as high cost of technologies for them. There must be greater availability of new technologies for developing countries.
Also of particular concern was the difficulty facing the lower middle-income groups of countries, to which Saint Lucia and many other small island developing States belonged, he continued. In spite of their limited resources, the members of the group had initiated prudent economic measures, making significant strides. However, ill-conceived and ill-advised policies could continue to negate their efforts and reverse some of the gains, forcing a reclassification of their status. He also emphasized the importance of youth development and South-South cooperation. Trade links needed to be open and fair, with greater consideration to the very small States, so that they too could meet the hopes and aspirations of their youth. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) should play a more meaningful role in that effort.