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(CARIBBEAN 360) – Despite being a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), The Bahamas will not be part of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis made his country’s position clear when he spoke to local journalists on return from Jamaica where he attended the 39th Annual CARICOM Heads of Government Conference last week.
The Bahamas, the only full member of CARICOM that has not joined the CSME, was not among six countries that adopted the Protocol on Contingent Rights – which provides a framework for the free movement of skilled labourers and their families between member states – on the last day of the CARICOM meeting.
“The Bahamas is not and will not be a part of CSME. The Bahamas will not allow free movement of people within our boundaries so we are not a part of CSME. That must be clear, so you do not feel that because of what has happened there, that Caribbean nationals would be able to move into the Bahamas quite readily,” Minnis told reporters in The Bahamas.
“We have our rules, our laws and they will continue to apply so we are not and will not be a part of CSME.”
Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, St Lucia and Grenada signed the Protocol on Contingent Rights which speaks to spouses and dependents of CARICOM nationals who relocate to other member states, being entitled to access benefits such as health and education services, which were not previously afforded to them.
The protocol applies to individuals and their families, who move across the region to work, provide services and establish companies within the framework of the free movement regime under the CSME.
Addressing a press conference after the signing of the protocol host Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman, Andrew Holness, said the move was a crucial step in making CARICOM more functional and relevant to the people of the region.
“This is a matter that has been long outstanding and is a major step that should encourage greater use of the free movement regime as it ensures a greater level of comfort and peace of mind for families,” he said.
The Prime Minister noted that coming out of the meeting, CARICOM Heads had also recommitted to the free movement of skilled persons.
He said it was agreed that by December 31, 2018, all states will put in place the necessary legislative framework to facilitate all 10 approved categories of skills under the free movement regime.
The categories of persons are: graduates of all recognised universities, artistes, musicians, sportspersons, media workers, nurses, teachers, artisans with Caribbean vocational qualifications (such as those issued by HEART Trust/NTA), and holders of associate degrees or comparable qualifications.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley welcomed the initiative, describing it as a fundamental development since the introduction of the CSME.
“For this protocol to have been signed today is the most significant event in the history of Caribbean affairs since the single market was signed here in Jamaica and came into effect here in Jamaica 2006,” she said.