Free movement key issue at CARICOM summit

GEORGETOWN, Guyana: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders ended their annual summit in Guyana last weekend by outlining various initiatives for deepening the regional integration movement and coping with the global economic crisis.

Guyana President and new CARICOM Chairman, Bharrat Jagdeo, said he was pleased with the outcome of the summit, “given the serious issues on our agenda that warranted the full attention of all our heads”.

Regarding the free movement of Caribbean nationals, Jagdeo said the leaders had formulated a response, taking into consideration the provisions of the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the need to observe their obligations within international treaties that emphasize the need to respect basic human rights.

The CARICOM heads have agreed to allow household domestic workers who have obtained a Caribbean vocational qualification (CVQ) or equivalent to join other categories of workers already enjoying free movement within the region. The new measure takes effect on January 1, 2010.

Antigua and Barbuda have been granted a five-year derogation from allowing the new category of worker to move freely within its shores.

Jagdeo said the new measures were intended to “convince many people that the region is serious about its obligations and moving forward”.

During the summit, the regional leaders established a task force to facilitate mobilization of funds and, present a core set of proposals as member nations struggle to deal with the effects of the global economic crisis. The task force, headed by Jagdeo, would seek to mobilize resources to help disadvantaged countries cope with the crisis.

“If they don’t have emergency assistance, the situation could become catastrophic for some of these countries. We also recognized that we would need to formulate some ideas in each of these countries that would be both the medium and long term focus of their development strategies.

“Many of the sectors we have encouraged in the past – particularly the services sector – have been decimated by global events. Tourism, which provides a significant part of our income, financial services…have taken tremendous hits and, countries have seen the contagious effect of the crisis through the reduction in global demand for their exports.

“All of this has led to a situation where many of the territories…are in grave difficulty. In some countries we have observed rapid depreciation of exchange rates, most countries have tremendous balance of payment difficulties at this point and they don’t have the fiscal space to do the spending that would give a boost to the economy or even make payments in certain areas, particularly debt repayment,” Jagdeo said.

The leaders also issued six “declarations” addressing issues ranging from agriculture and food security to climate change and the progress of the regional integration movement.

The leaders also agreed to reactivate security facilities – implemented for the 2007 Cricket World Cup and the Fifth Summit of the Americas – for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in November and the Cricket Council’s World 20/20 Tournament, scheduled for next year in Guyana, Barbados and St. Lucia.


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