The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States which are participating in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) have all signed on to the Protocol on Contingent Rights and a majority are prepared to immediately begin provisional application of the Protocol.
The full complement of signatories to the Protocol was acquired at the just-concluded 30th Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, in Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis. The two-day Meeting wrapped up on 27 February.
Back in July 2018, at the 39th Meeting of the Conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica, when the Heads of Government reviewed the operation of the CSME, they reiterated the need to accelerate its implementation and adopted the Protocol on Contingent Rights. The Protocol covers the rights of persons moving to another country under the free movement of skills regime, as well as the spouses and dependents of those who move to another country.
On Tuesday, Chair of Conference, Dr. the Hon Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, announced that all 12 Member States had now signed on to the Protocol and nine of those countries were prepared to provisionally apply the Protocol: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
“This means that the nationals of those countries, their spouses and dependents will benefit from additional rights such as primary education when they move from one Member State of the Community to another,” the CARICOM Chairman explained.
Also at the Meeting, the was the Agreement on the Protocol for Public Procurement was opened for signature. That Protocol can be provisionally applied when seven Member States have signed a declaration of intent. It will enter into force when all parties to the Revised Treaty sign on.
“We’ve also reached agreement on a protocol to deal with public procurement that would open the regional market for goods and services procured by public entities. Two countries signed this agreement during the course of the Meeting,” Prime Minister Harris said.
Another decision that was made in the context of the CSME was the strengthening the consultative mechanisms for engagements with the private sector, labour and civil society. Heads of Government agreed to meet with representatives of national Business and Labour Advisory Committees (BLAC) twice every year. They emphasised that this was essential for enhanced regional decision-making, particularly in the context of the CSME.
Please listen to the press conference:
In a major step that would encourage greater free movement of skills across the Caribbean Community, CARICOM Heads of Government adopted the ‘Protocol of Contingent Rights’ at their just ended Summit in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and several Heads of Government immediately signed on to the agreement.
Contingent Rights are those rights granted to a CARICOM national and his or her spouse and immediate dependent family members if he or she moves to another country under the free movement of skills regime. These include access to social services.
In welcoming the decision, CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica said:
“We promised that we will ensure family unification through the granting of important rights to spouses and dependents of citizens who move across the Region to work, provide their services and establish companies. We have guaranteed these rights through the Protocol on Contingent Rights.
“This is a matter that has been long outstanding and is a major step that will encourage greater use of the free movement regime as it ensures greater levels of comfort and peace of mind for the families. This is a crucial step to making CARICOM more functional and relevant to the people of the Region.
And in commending the move, Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, who has Lead Responsibility in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet for the Single Market and Economy told journalists at the Summit’s closing press conference:
“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 in 2006.
“This is where it matters. This is where it makes a difference to the lives and decisions of people.”
CARICOM Heads, at their Montego Bay meeting, also adopted the Procedures on the Refusal of Entry of CARICOM Nationals and the harmonised form to be used by Immigration when refusing entry. This should be implemented by 1 August 2018.
In recognition of the need to keep focus on the CSME, a Special Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government will be held in November in Trinidad and Tobago. The Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on the CSME will also meet quarterly to guide and invigorate the implementation process.
BARBADOS has joined six other members of CARICOM in the signing of the Protocol of Contingency Rights.
Prime Minister of Barbados, the Hon. Mia Amor Mottley signed on behalf of Barbados during the final day of the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Montego Bay Jamaica on Friday evening.
The Protocol, which has been in the works for over a decade, paves the way for dependents of persons with approved Skilled Certificates to not only move freely with their loved-ones, but access basic social services. Other signatories included Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.
It is just one of the many initiatives co-signed by the Heads of Government. Chairman of the conference and Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, acknowledged that there is a sense that CARICOM is “all about talk”, and the view that representatives are just “kicking the can” down the road during Heads of Government meetings, with little to show for it as it relates to the CSME. However, he assured that this is far from the truth.
Prime Minister Mottley agreed with her Jamaican counterpart and defended the positions taken over the two-and-a-half day conference saying: “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 in 2006.”
“This is where it matters. This is where it makes a difference to the lives and decision of people and I think that the media can work with us to communicate in a tangible way what this means for every Caribbean citizen who belongs to a country that is signatory to the Single Market.
“I also want to point out that far from being kicked down the road, the Council of Finance Ministers had not met for five years. The Council of Finance Ministers met on Wednesday morning. We agreed at this Conference of Heads that that conference will meet again in September in Barbados to do the critical work on the competitiveness issues for the Single Market….
“The integration of capital markets, the financial services architecture, the common policy for investment and the code for investment, such that we are not competing against each other in a mad race to the bottom.”
She stressed that these areas are critical towards being able to make the market work more effectively for those who want to invest across the region. She used Barbados as an example.
“In Barbados we have collective savings of just under BDS$9 billion. I would like to believe that our citizens will have an opportunity to have a larger return of what they get now if they put their money in a bank account. A bank account they are getting for savings 0.01 per cent. They are effectively paying the banks to keep their money. If there are opportunities in Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname or Guyana, then our citizens should be able to mobilise their savings to make that investment and vice versa,” she said.
Additionally she noted that the conference mandated that those agreements must be in place for signature before next July.
She also made the point that a number of timelines, dates and meetings have been set to address other matters of regional importance, including a Council for Finance and Planning committee meeting in September.
Mottley also commended the recommendation from the Golding Commission with respect to dispute resolution. “Whether persons should have to go to the Caribbean Court of Justice, which is a heavy cost or where they ought to have some intermediate dispute resolution body that is more effective or more efficiency, whether there are other aspects of how we change how we do business.”
“We can’t do this while doing ten other agenda items at a heads meeting. So far from kicking the can down the road we have created a special place and special space in November to deal with some of the larger issues that will hopefully inform our work over the next decade,” Prime Minister Mottley assured. (JH)