WHAT does CARICOM mean to you?
The question is particularly relevant at the moment, with Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis assuming the role of chair of CARICOM, taking over from President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, of Suriname.
On assuming the role, Mr Davis has spoken of the need to expand collaboration with member countries – but what does that really mean?
He pointed to countries working together ahead of the last international climate conference and said nations “were able to get a lot of things done at COP27, like loss and damage”.
Indeed, in his statement as incoming chairman, he spoke of how “we also continue to work closely and vigorously with other Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States to continue our advocacy on the many issues relating to climate change, which impact us all”.
He also pointed to the need to help Haiti resolve its challenges – though those challenges seem to be ever-escalating with no stable political structure.
But are there other issues that can draw CARICOM nations closer together?
In today’s column by Sir Ronald Sanders, who is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States of America and the Organization of American States, he details an eye-catching move that could bring opportunities to Bahamians.
The two main political parties in Antigua and Barbuda have decided to abolish work permits for nationals of CARICOM countries and the Dominican Republic.
The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) and the United Progressive Party (UPP) decided to liberalise the system by which CARICOM nationals migrate to, and work in, Antigua and Barbuda.
The basis for the decision harks back to the Revised CARICOM Treaty signed in 2001, in which all signatory governments were committed “to the goal of free movement of their nationals within the community”.
The idea was that there would be free movement within the community, with one currency, with no duties or tariffs on goods moving from one country to another – a single market for CARICOM members.
There was one exception – and that is us. The Bahamas does not participate in single market and economic arrangements.
But now, Antigua and Barbuda has opened its doors – the question is, will any other countries offer the same in return?
There are concerns – there have been for a long time. In Jamaica, for example, there were concerns that the country “would be overrun by the small islanders”, but as Sir Ronald notes, today it is Jamaicans that are heading in the other direction.
It is probably an intellectual exercise as no one here seems to be proposing such a move, but what would The Bahamas look like if it opened itself to greater movement from CARICOM countries?
There is certainly demand here for workers – the blossoming of shanty towns is evidence enough that people will come to work even if there is nowhere for them to live, and with many not having the appropriate documentation.
What if the doors were opened instead to workers from partner countries? Could workers with proper documentation fill the roles we need, reducing the amount of human smuggling that brings people to our shores? Could an influx of people revive areas such as Grand Bahama with investment in properly built accommodation and extra customers for local businesses to go with it?
Antigua and Barbuda’s move may not open the doors across CARICOM, but it has certainly opened the door to a conversation about how member states interact with one another – and whether some of the solutions we seek to our nations’ problems can be found within the Caribbean region rather than elsewhere.
For both The Bahamas and CARICOM, it is a landmark year, with both celebrating 50th anniversaries.
Next month, The Bahamas is to host a CARICOM meeting from February 16-18, bringing leaders to our doorstep to discuss issues such as Haiti, debt relief, climate change, financial reform and so on.
But Antigua and Barbuda’s move, going to the heart of the CARICOM treaty itself, gives the chance to ask the question what do we want CARICOM to be?
It is an opportunity to be seized – and Mr Davis, as chair, is in prime position to do so.
birdiestrachan 2 months, 1 week ago
The problem is if the Bahamas opens it doors there will be an over run , Antigua and Barbuda and Jamaica is a whole different story, even if the Bahamas is also used as a step to the USA They will come to the Bahamas ,
jamaicaproud 2 months, 1 week ago
Relax, get your BP down.
LastManStanding 2 months, 1 week ago
Looks like destruction of our citizenship is the next narrative that media establishment, in conjunction with the politicos, are trying to conjure up.
You have to be completely asinine not to see that our country can't even support the people we have now, much less bringing even more people in. The people agitating for this and trying to set the narrative have nothing but the most sinister of intentions in mind.
sheeprunner12 2 months, 1 week ago
Brave wouldn't dare try opening the "doors" of The Bahamas to CARICOM.
But he and his party has thrown every door and window open to the Haitians ...... Tout moum Haitien (as Rodney Moncur likes to say). The Govt's inaction against illegal immigration and shanty towns in NP, Abaco and Briland says it all.
Remember what Brave told the Haitians in 2021???? .............. "I am one of you"
Flyingfish 2 months, 1 week ago
This would require the Government to change its whole economic structure to prevent Bahamian business from being overrun whilst allowing International workers equal employment to Bahamians. Taxes such as customs would have to change and income tax would have to be taken to make up the deficit.
The government of this new day isn't ready as they refuse to make the basic reforms of today, democratic, economic, and state.
I think moving towards working with the Caribbean is the right direction. However, it should be limited and done slowly. We'd be better trying to get treaties and agreements with Bermuda and TCI at the moment who are our Cultural, economic, Geographic neighbors. Because they are economies that are more balanced to ours.
Things like a Travel Free areas, Common Fishing Policy, Common Certification, freedom of study policy, and freedom of work with them would be useful but tame treaties to make.
Unfortunately, for us opening up to CARICOM completely without assurance and compensation would leave this country in a bad places and swamped with immigration without the ability to provide said immigrants with services.
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