Above: Grenadian Prime Minister Tillman Thomas (UN Photo/JC McIlwaine)
By Alexander Britell
GRENADA – Last weekend, Grenada hosted the seventh UK-Caribbean Forum, a series of high-level talks aimed at developing a new and more modern relationship between the UK and the region. But for Grenada, the weekend was also a celebration of its sporting achievements – with the National Sports Awards honouring sprinter Kirani James. Caribbean Journal caught up with Grenadian Prime Minister Tillman Thomas at the ceremony to talk about James, Grenada’s work on climate change, and the country’s priorities for 2012.
What does the success of Kirani James and other athletes mean for Grenada?
This is a very great occasion for the country. We awarded some of our outstanding sports personalities, including Kirani James, who has made us proud on the international scene. We see this as a very important occasion – whereby our young people get inspired, motivated and involved in sporting activities.
What are the major priorities for your government this year?
As a government, our priority is job creation. We have set out some pillars on which we want to build our economy – like health and wellness, education, agribusiness, information and communication technology and renewable energy. We’ve been working to establish a partnership with St George’s University in terms of health and wellness. We’re trying to add value to our agricultural products – like establishing a chocolate plant in the St Mark’s Parish and we want to encourage the private sector to get involved in adding value to agricultural products. We’ve made a very good track record on the island. Also, we want to get our young people involved in training in ICT – we have established a Centre for Excellence, and we see training as vital – and education is a major focus for us.
What kind of impact can ICT development have on Grenada?
Well, ICT could help create jobs for our young people. Young people who are trained in ICT could remain on the island and work for companies outside of the island – this is a very important aspect of being trained in ICT.
You also mentioned health and wellness. Is health tourism a strategy, and what are your general tourism strategies this year?
In terms of tourism, we are looking at health tourism to a certain extent. Grenada is a very secure destination – we are somewhat diverse – and we’re looking at nature tourism. We’re also looking at our historical sites, our cultural practices.
Some of the leaders at the UK-Caribbean Forum praised Grenada for its work on climate change, particularly at Durban. Can you talk about the government’s strategy on climate moving forward?
Well, as you know, we chaired AOSIS (the Alliance of Small Island States) for two years, and we have been championing the cause of the more vulnerable countries in the world — in particular, island states. As you know, the rising sea level could affect us adversely. So we’ve been putting our case to get the major emitters to really try to get a legally binding agreement so there could be some global governance of the whole issue of climate change. Just as we have to govern our country domestically, we believe there is room for some global governance. Therefore, we need support for adaptation and mitigation on the issue of climate change. And we’ve been advancing these things.
Your country recently chaired CARICOM. What do you see as the future of CARICOM, and has there been progress on regional integration?
Well, I see a good future for CARICOM. Of course, over the years, we have had some setbacks, in terms of implementing the common market and so on. But I see days ahead for us to look within, to sort of consolidate more, coordinate more and to deal with the outside world as a bloc, instead of as individual countries. We need to bring our resources together and have a common representation in dealing with multilateral and international agencies, instead of individual countries. I think we need to focus on that area so we can obtain maximum benefit. As small countries, we are not as effective [individually] as if we come together as a force, as a bloc.