Trinidad and Tobago loses more than $200 million in tourism revenue a year because of crime, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday.
Persad-Bissessar made the statement as she opened discussions at Caricom's Inter-Sessional meeting on strengthening the regional crime and security agenda and architecture in Haiti.
Persad-Bissessar is responsible for Crime and Security in the Caricom Quasi Cabinet.
"In my own country, I am advised, it has been estimated that US$35 million is lost annually in tourism revenue," Persad-Bissessar said.
She is now calling for the formation of a "virtual iron Atlantic wall" to protect the region against the multi-dimensional security threats it faces.
The future of the region depends on it, she said.
"I fear that we have found ourselves in a very serious situation and we are running out of time as the scourge of transnational crime is slowly taking over the region," Persad-Bissessar said.
"The time has come, colleagues, for urgent and drastic action. Globalisation has caused us to redefine the concept of national security," she added.
She said crimes such as drug-trafficking, arms-trafficking and money-laundering have "mushroomed and influenced other activities which now directly impact on the security" of the region's nations.
"Security is an urgent priority. Not all member states have the same security problems, though the region does share many in common, but all share the same waters and transport networks and we all have the same porous borders," Persad-Bissessar said.
"Our geographical reality necessitates that we utilise every opportunity to form what I refer to as a virtual iron Atlantic wall against the multi-dimensional security threats facing our region," she said.
Persad-Bissessar said the globalisation of crime demands that crime-fighting and national security become interconnected.
"A country that stands on its own is a country which will be left behind," she said.
"Never before have we needed each other more than in this period of history where globalisation has united and bound together our trading partners, our economies, our allies and the enemies of our states," Persad-Bissessar said.
Persad-Bissessar said according to the Caribbean Human Development Report (CHDR) 2012, youth crime is costing Caricom countries between 2.8 per cent and four per cent of The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually.
She said rising crime was also a deterrent to development in the region.
"The region cannot afford to do business as usual. It is imperative that security takes centre stage so that our economies remain robust and continue to experience growth and prosperity," she said.
While Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 8.5 per cent of the global population, 27 per cent of the world's murders take place in the region, she said.
Persad-Bissessar also called for a "co-ordination centre" to provide an operational link between countries affected by natural disasters and those willing and able to provide the much needed relief.
Asked yesterday why National Security Minster Jack Warner was not at the Caricom meeting, a ministry official said he has stayed away to deal with the country's domestic situation.
The Express was told by the official that as chair of this country's National Security Council, Persad-Bissessar is also in charge of security for the region so it negated Warner's inclusion in the Caricom meeting.
The murder toll in Trinidad and Tobago in 2013 stood at 60 yesterday.