July 6 GROS ISLET,
St. Lucia: Antigua's Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has presented his government’s case to the Heads of CARICOM for
the retention of work permits for non-nationals after the implementation of the CSME in December 2005.
Prime Minister Spencer said that Antigua and Barbuda has always been a leader in facilitating
regional integration with 34% of the workforce coming from other Caribbean countries.
“We agree with the core principles of the CSME and will comply with its obligations.
Antigua and Barbuda is on-target to implement the free movement of skills legislation by December 2005 and will allow
free movement of persons within the special categories,” Prime Minister Spencer said.
In 1991, there were 7,796 Caricom nationals living in Antigua and Barbuda.
That number grew to 13, 695 by 2001, representing a 75% increase.
Sections of the CARICOM Secretariat have stated that the derogation which allows Antigua
and Barbuda to issue work permits will expire in December of 2005 at the beginning of the full implementation of the CSME.
Prime Minister Spencer said that such action would defeat the very purpose for which
it was originally granted keeping in mind that Antigua and Barbuda has already integrated the labour market of the region
with 34% of the country’s work force comprising CARICOM nationals.
“It must be underscored that this derogation will not be used to wantonly deny
entry of CARICOM nationals,” PM Spencer pointed out.
He outlined that due to the economic situation being experience by the country, Antigua
and Barbuda reserves the right, on a temporary basis, to control the entry of these categories of persons to lessen the adverse
effects on the economy.
The country’s leader therefore proposed that the derogation be reviewed by a
technical team after the CSME has been in full implementation for three years. This review he said should
include an analysis of the labour-market in Antigua and Barbuda.
The Heads were locked in Caucus late Tuesday night since convening at nine thirty
discussing issues ranging from Cricket to the Caribbean Court of Justice Trust Fund.