Guyana amends CARICOM Act
GEORGETOWN (CMC) – The National Assembly has approved legislation amending the CARICOM (Free Entry of Skilled Nationals) Act that will allow the spouses and dependents of the people who hold the CARICOM skills certificate to enter and work in Guyana.
Parliament unanimously approved the amendment tabled by Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett on Thursday.
“We are seeking to further amend that Act to allow an even greater and better sense of belonging by CARICOM nationals, by allowing the spouse and dependent family members . . . to be accorded similar rights as those granted to the principal beneficiaries, holder of the Caribbean skilled national certificate,” Rodrigues-Birkett told legislators.
She said one of the amendments allows for applications to be made to the minister responsible for foreign affairs to have a beneficiary’s certificate verified.
She said that once this certificate is authenticated, and meets the requirement, the holder of the certificate can apply to remain in Guyana for a period of indefinite duration. The amendment also sets the parameters for the Minister to disregard a certificate, not-withstanding verification, if the holder has been found to be convicted of certain offences.
At present, the confirmation process takes up to six months and CARICOM nationals are given six months to remain in the country. There are no provisions that allow a national to work whilst the certificate is being verified and Rodrigues-Birkett said the amendment allows the national to work whilst the certificate is being verified.
In 1996 parliament approved the Caribbean Community Free Entry of Skilled Nationals Act Chapter 9302, which was later amended in 2011 to allow for nine categories of skilled workers; media, musicians, artistes, sports persons, teachers, registered nurses, persons holding associated degrees, artisans who have a Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) or an approved National vocational qualification and domestics who had attained a CVQ free entry into Guyana.
The amendments were in keeping with the measures outlined by CARICOM leaders under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of skills, goods, services and labour across the 15-member regional grouping.
“As Guyana continues to grow, it will be attracting more and more skilled CARICOM nationals. In fact, I believe we will need them and others . . . . Guyana is a friendly country and we welcome our brothers and sisters from the Caribbean with open arms, and today we are putting in these legal mechanisms to ensure that their stay in our country would be worthwhile,” Rodrigues-Birkett said.
She said she hopes that other CARICOM countries would enact similar legislation given the fact that there are Guyanese nationals contributing to the development of other regional states.
Opposition legislator, Africo Selman of the Partnership for National Unity (APNU), said that support of the opposition party was premised on the understanding that free-movement of families is a precondition to a common market.
“It is vital to the fostering of any integration movement,” she said. Selman noted that the weakness of the Caribbean Community Free Entry of Skilled Nationals Act of 1996 was that it created a disconnect with families by opting not to include spouses and dependants in the Act.
“This bill seeks to correct that deficiency. This amendment is forward reaching as it seeks to make the society stronger by ensuring the family stays together,” she said.
Cathy Hughes of the Alliance for Change (AFC) said that her party supported the amendments as it allowed for the building and development of the Caribbean Community, as well as promoting and encouraging people with skills to remain in the region.
“Quite often we in Guyana face brain drain and we see that we in Guyana in this occasion can transfer and convert a brain drain to a brain gain,” she said.