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Stabroek News

Full free movement of Caribbean nationals by the year 2009
published: Friday | February 16, 2007

( L - R ) Arthur, Gonsalves, Manning

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government have agreed to fully implement the Single Economy component of the regional integration movement on a phased basis by 2015 and allow for the full free movement of the community's nationals by 2009.

Chairman, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur said these were some of the major decisions coming out of an "extremely productive" 18th Inter-Sessional CARICOM Heads of Government conference which concluded here Wednesday.

"It was a very positive three days of work done in a very joyous, warm spirit without rancour, with camaraderie and with love," Gonsalves said at the closing press conference.

Recommendation report

Arthur said while the framework for the Single Economy, the second component of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) would be on target for the 2008 schedule, it was agreed to accept the recommendation of a report on the CSME which suggested the phased implementation of the schedule.

"Do not expect to see the Single Economy coming in one fell swoop. We have sequenced the activity in two phases, that which will take place between 2008 and 2009 and then from 2010 up to 2015," said Arthur, who has lead prime ministerial responsibility for the CSME.

He said while "simpler" components would be approached in the earlier period, more complex issues such as harmonisation of fiscal and monetary policy and eventually a single currency, would be in the last period.

While it was agreed that artisans would not be immediately granted free movement status from January as was originally envisaged, Gonsalves said "streamlining" arrangements were being put in place to facilitate their movement in the regional labour market by the second half of this year.

"The system approved by the Heads of Government will allow for artisans to obtain credentials through the award of Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQ) based on occupational standards set by the industry. It is expected that the CVQ will be in place by July 2007.

"The conference has also agreed that the free movement of domestics and hospitality workers can be facilitated in a similar manner to the free movement of artisans and shall be considered after the CVQ Model is launched," he added.

Gonsalves said the leaders also agreed with stakeholders, including labour, business and civil society, who in March 2006, proposed the full implementation of the free movement of CARICOM nationals throughout the region.

Manning, the prime minister with lead responsibility for security issues, also announced that effective Friday, CARICOM nationals traveling throughout the Single Domestic Space would not need to use passports.

He, however, suggested that people still traveled with their passports as there would be random security checks.

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