|File: PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar|
"We cannot speak of poverty reduction, if there are no jobs."
She was speaking at the opening of an ILO conference of Caribbean labour ministers at the Trinidad Hilton.
"Responding to the jobs deficit...requires dedicated effort and coherent policies for us in this country and our sister Caribbean States as well," she said, adding that governments must acknowledge the current global reality and understand that "a business as usual approach" is no longer a viable option. "If we are to treat adequately with issues related to poverty, sustainable livelihoods, jobs, equity and social justice then the onus is on us to also focus more specifically and fundamentally on labour and labour-related issues, including the promotion of decent work and employment creation," the Prime Minister said.
"We cannot speak of poverty reduction, if there are no jobs. We cannot speak of improving the standard of living, if our citizens have little or no income.
"We cannot hope to reduce unemployment, particularly among the youth, if our policies do not support job creation. We cannot address equity and social justice issues if we are not willing to come to the table for frank and open discussions."
Persad-Bissessar said the linkage between labour and development is inextricable. "Having recognized that there can be no development without labour and that development must be accompanied by sustainable jobs, the deliberations of Caribbean Ministers of Labour on the theme “The Caribbean and Labour 2013 and Beyond – Strengthening Decent Work for Development” are indeed timely," she said."In Trinidad and Tobago, as in other Caribbean countries, for example, tripartite and stakeholder consultations are the fertile grounds for policy formulation, building consensus and co-operation," Persad-Bissessar told delegates.
"While there may be differences from time to time, our shared commitment to national and regional development holds fast and steady."
She added, "The generation of quality jobs however, requires a more concerted effort, not only at the level of government, but at the level of the tripartite partners."
She said competitiveness, innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives are more likely to succeed if the labour force is adequately skilled, sufficiently motivated and are provided with an enabling environment to pursue entrepreneurial activities.
"We must therefore act decisively and without delay to ensure that labour and labour issues are incorporated into national and regional development plans. Stronger national economies, supported by an effective decent work mechanism, are pre-requisites for a stronger regional economy and a platform for jobs-rich growth," she said.
The Prime Minister noted the Trinidad and Tobago seven pillars of development are fundamental to economic development.
She pledged that as she assumes chairmanship of CARICOM for the next six months she would carry forward "the conclusions of your deliberations and to support consideration of the issues raised."