Commentary By

Lesroy W. Williams

Of The Observer Staff

One of the benefits that the CSME promises to bring about is a mobile workforce within Caricom. At the present moment, university graduates, media workers, sportspersons, artistes, musicians, teachers and nurses who are Caricom nationals are eligible to move and work freely within the Community.

Teachers and nurses from other Caricom states are not eligible to work in Antigua under the CSME agreement.

Within Caricom Member States we tend to be xenophobic. A few years ago while staying in Antigua, it was common to hear Antiguans tell non-Antiguans that “me no bang no water fi come ya”.  Such unwelcoming and unaccommodating language – especially for a country whose mainstay is tourism – is deplorable. Such attitude within popular culture works against regional integration.

Just recently, someone who works in the department of National Security was overheard telling another individual that there are three countries that are looked upon with suspicion when entering the Federation of St.Kitts and Nevis.

The countries the individual referred to are Jamaica because they import crime with them, Dominicans (people from the Dominican Republic) because they import prostitution and Vincentians because they import drugs according to the common perception. I was appalled. Such stereotyping and stigmatization does not advance the regional integration process that the CSME (Caribbean Single Market and Economy) has as its objective.

There are some concerns that are legitimate. Some legitimate concerns have to do with imbalance in terms of trade, economic development and migration. The larger islands, with a bigger economy are going to benefit substantially since they produce more, they have a bigger job market and they are more developed.

According to Dr. Timothy Harris, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, there are still problems at ports of entry within the Caricom Member States. Minister Harris has called for a more enlightened approach to inter-regional travel by Caricom Nationals.

“In the context of where we say we are going and what we are committed to, there is a need certainly in my view for a more enlightened immigration policy, which basically treats persons within Caricom in a courteous and civilized way,” Dr Harris said.

A Hassoo of West Coast, Guyana, had this to say about the CSME.

“Prior to the implementation of the CSME, there was a great hype as to the changes it will bring about. I do acknowledge it is still ‘early days’, however, the impact to date has been disappointing. This goes to show the caliber of leaders we have in Caricom: people with very limited vision and ability to inject life into regional ventures. It may be worth the while to examine the E.U and their way of doing things.

“I think bigger economies are afraid to commit themselves for fear of losing their prestige and regional status. Regional progress has been severely curtailed by a high level of distrust over the years. It’s time we stand up and be counted. We need to up the ante and think big (not that, o my God all those Guyanese will flock to our country). Look at the level of dignity that was shown to the Poles and other new European member of state by England and others.” (Taken from BBC’s Have Your Say- Feb. 6, 2007).

The Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom has decided to broaden the eligible categories to other workers. The year 2009 has been targeted by Caricom for the full and free movement of labour within the CSME.