Ross Sheil, Staff Reporter
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts and Nevis:
CARICOM HEADS of government have decided to grant tertiary-trained teachers and nurses free labour movement across the Caribbean almost immediately.
Higglers, artisans, domestic workers and hospitality workers are also to be included, pending the agreement of an appropriate certification, which is expected be completed at a further meeting to be held by year-end. Currently, only university graduates, media practitioners, sports persons, artistes and musicians are eligible for a regional skills certificate.
A DAY OF DELIBERATIONS
Meeting at the 27th Conference of CARICOM Heads of Govern-ment, held at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in Basseterre, leaders reached the decision following a day of deliberations on the CARICOM Single Market (CSM), and the single economy component due in 2008.
"This is good news for all of us in the Caribbean region who have been calling on us to remove the perceived perception by the Caribbean people that the whole movement of skills, of persons in the Caribbean was restricted to those of us who are university graduates and that the common man on the street would not see the benefit of free movement of persons within the Caribbean region," said Roosevelt Skerritt, Prime Minister of Dominica, who holds the CARICOM portfolio for free movement.
Mr. Skerritt was speaking at a joint press conference yesterday evening, along with Owen Arthur, Prime Minister of Barbados, who holds portfolio responsibility for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). Mr. Skerritt added that police commissioners are also to meet to discuss how best to share information on criminals to prevent them entering other CARICOM countries.
Observing that the meeting was the most productive in recent years Mr. Arthur bemoaned the fact that, within CARICOM nationalities, there were prejudices against each other despite the integration process.
"It is a reflection of a xenophobia that is maintained in too many Caribbean countries," he said in reference to the attitude of some immigration officers in his own country. He stressed that free movement of labour was the most important element of regional integration.
With all ready for the full implementation of the CSME in 2008, Mr. Arthur announced that heads had also agreed on a contribution formula to the Regional Development Fund (to help less developed countries integrate), tied to the wealth of contributing countries. CARICOM has so far committed US$110 million with a further US$20 million coming from Trinidad's Petroleum Fund and an eventual target of US$250 million.
The leaders have now also agreed on the establishment of a regional fair trade commission.