Now, as the region’s leaders prepare for their next summit in the St. Kitts & Nevis capital, Basseterre, much focus is expected on the discussions related to the free movement of CARICOM nationals and other outstanding programs, many of which have already been agreed to by the leaders, but have yet to be fully implemented in the member territories.
The leaders have already reaffirmed their commitment to the movement of skilled community nationals and all the related decisions previously taken in that regard.
Recalling their mandate to the Inter-Governmental Task Force to negotiate a Protocol on Contingent Rights in respect of those rights which were agreed, they underscored the need for certainty and transparency in according such rights.
Grenada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Karl Hood told the media after a recent retreat of the leaders in Guyana that the ultimate objective is to realize the dream of a Caribbean that affords residents the right to move freely but believes that the uniqueness of some member states would cause views and perspectives on the issue to differ.
He said that one country may feel that they do not want to go that way too fast and another country would say ‘yes we need to go,’ so it has taken quite a lot of diplomacy and working out to come to some agreement.
Guyana’s President, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo told his colleague leaders, during the opening ceremony of the 30th CARICOM Heads of Government Conference that, “if we are to remain apace and compete in today’s world, we must also be extremely vigilant in preserving popular faith in the cause of our integration effort.”
The continued delay of important programs within CARICOM continues to cast doubt on the effectiveness of the regional body and many Caribbean nationals have lost faith in their leaders to remain consistent with their decisions when the time has arrived for implementation.
Asked about his predictions about the issue of integration making headway at the upcoming CARICOM Heads meeting, Minister Hood acknowledged that its full implementation has been lacking in some regard even though its importance is fully known.
He said “We do have some measure of freedom at this point in time. Some of our countries have to bring their laws into line with what we are trying to do and that process has been a bit slow but it is coming on more and more.”
During the two-day CARICOM Heads retreat in Guyana last month, leaders recognized that the process towards full implementation of the single economy would take longer than anticipated and as a result agreed to pause and consolidate the gains of the Single Market before taking any further action on certain specific elements of the Single Economy, such as the creation of a single currency.
According to a release from the CARICOM Secretariat, the agenda has been set by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council of Ministers for what will be the Thirty-Second Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads.
Key on the agenda will be the economic integration, free trade and movement of persons, foreign policy coordination human and social development and security cooperation.
Security of the people in the region will also be among the priority topics that require fast tracking and so too the development of a regional health agency in the name of CAPA (Caribbean Public Health Agency), the implementation of which awaits the signature of all countries. It is hoped that all CARICOM Heads will affix their signatures as many have already done.
Consideration will also be given to supporting the crisis stricken island of Haiti, through a waiver of levy requirements on trade and visa requirements for national nationals.
When the next meeting of the Heads is hosted in St. Kitts, it will be under the chairmanship of this country’s Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas.