Free movement game

NATANGA SMITH, natangasmith@nationnews.com

Added 17 June 2011

ourcaribbean

OPPORTUNISM is a game that has special attraction for governing parties not only in our Caribbean region but one that’s quite appealing worldwide in the ebb and flow of political fortunes. Several governments in our Caribbean Community, including Barbados, have been playing this game quite well when it comes to implementation of decisions to effect the Single Economy dimension of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), particularly in relation to freedom of movement of nationals. The latest example appears to involve, surprisingly, the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas. None of the governments in the single economy project has ever considered it necessary to issue an official policy statement outlining its position on the phased implementation of the first five, later extended to ten, categories of skilled CARICOM nationals who would be eligible to live and work in a Community state. Although the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas provides the legal foundation of the CSME, excuses, apologies, lack of positive action have been the norm when it comes to instituting relevant policies.  Contrary to what was alluded to in a June 12 Sunday Sun article CSME in hindsight, no government of CARICOM has ever promised what any sensible Community citizen ever seriously expected – “the opening of doors to all (my emphasis) CARICOM nationals who wish to live in the country  under the original freedom of movement regional plan . . .”. Truth is, there never was such an agreed policy. Rather, appropriate professional management of national immigration policies actually fell victim to narrow party politics in some regional jurisdictions. Why should Douglas now wish to “give Barbados high marks” when it is widely known that there are cases of frustrated CARICOM nationals who have been waiting for a long time to secure legal status consistent with the years they have lived here and honoured all required state obligations? Douglas seemed to have missed the lamentation by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart over Barbados’ processing of CARICOM immigrants who have worked here for many years, paid taxes, but are now hampered “by the strict enforcement of a long-existing policy” to access health care. What precisely does Douglas now find commendable to emulate in the Barbadian experience in dealing, at times inhumanely, with CARICOM nationals to rationalise his own new political approach to what remains a massive failure by CARICOM governments to seriously tackle a core problem in the creation of a seamless regional economy? As far as I am aware, no government of the Community has provided us with even a preliminary estimate of the number of legal or suspected illegal CARICOM immigrants in its jurisdiction and the estimated cost to the treasury when they access health care or any other facilities intended only for citizens of those jurisdictions. It is a big, opportunistic “guesstimates” game! Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.

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