As March deadline looms, CARICOM says full, free movement of nationals ‘on target’


Nationals of the states within the 15-member bloc, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), will be able move freely throughout the region after next month, as the region’s leaders remain optimistic that they are on track for a March 31 deadline.

“We took the decision today that we are on target (to meet the March 31 deadline),” Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said at the closing press conference for this week’s CARICOM summit in Guyana.

She said there were two policy decisions left to be settled and once all outstanding matters – be it policy or legal matters – are settled, the CARICOM Heads of Government hope to meet again on March 15 and officially sign off on the full, free movement of CARICOM nationals.

Prime Minister Mottley also said the 15-member bloc, which Guyana currently chairs, is keenly focused on the minimum guarantees – or rights – that will be afforded to nationals once they move from country to country.

So what is really happening?

Prime Minister Mottley reminded those gathered at the closing press conference that CARICOM nationals are currently allowed to move throughout the region for up to six months without question.

What the leaders are working towards now is allowing CARICOM citizens to move freely, even past a six month timeline.

This was first discussed last year in Trinidad where the CARICOM Heads said nationals of most member states should be able to travel and live freely across the region after March 31, 2024 with the bloc’s Heads of Government backing the full, free movement of people.

Ahead of the summit this week, Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali said there is a tall list of decisions that CARICOM member states must implement on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) that await implementation.

Under CSME, which itself falls under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, CARICOM nationals are allowed to freely move in participating countries to engage in gainful economic activity.

Hassle-free travel is also promised. This joins other provisions for the free movement of goods and capital in most of the 15-member bloc. The Bahamas and Montserrat do not subscribe to the CSME.

Outside of the free movement of people, Prime Minister Mottley said CARICOM discussed how companies can more easily and efficiently set up shop in other states when people move.

“We agreed that we would work to get the mutual recognition of companies across the community settled, (and we are) working to get that done by meeting in July in Grenada,” she noted.

To facilitate this, CARICOM is inching towards a “common digital platform” so that businesses can be easily registered and processed in country to country.

Currently, companies must pay to set up shop in CARICOM countries they move to. This, PM Mottley said, is a “burden too heavy to carry in a single market and single economy.”

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