St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Concerns about the impact of free travel within the region under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy are being revisited by Operation Rescue’s Dwyer Astaphan.
A former government minister who held a variety of portfolios including tourism and national security, Astaphan is reiterating concerns that locals could be at risk of losing jobs available in the federation to other CARICOM nationals.
He contends that Kittitians and Nevisians may have a harder time obtaining work in neighboring countries than people from other parts of the region coming to find work in the federation.
“I am not for our little country being called upon once again to bail out dysfunctional, corrupt, incompetent governments in countries like Jamaica and Guyana and other places which cannot provide for their own people and who do not reciprocate the hospitality and the embracing that they get here when their people get to our country. Their governments have failed abysmally to generate the social and physical infrastructure to maintain social and economic stability and growth in countries.”
According to the Operation Rescue official, the CSME free movement initiative is skewed in favour of some regional states.
“Now I am not xenophobic, I am happy to live in a country made up of people from different groups, different places and so forth, I’m all for that but this is a small country and if you think movement is free in CARICOM you try to go get a job in Trinidad or try to get a job in Jamaica or Barbados.”
However integrationist and regional broadcaster, Barbadian Julius Gittens, who holds a CARICOM Skills Certificate that allows him to work in other parts of the region, says free movement must be championed instead of being sidelined.
“There are a number of people who everyday make CARICOM and survive by CARICOM and speaking as someone who has devoted his entire life to working in the regional integration system who puts a roof over his head because of the benefits that I have sought and fought for as a CARICOM national, I think it’s important not only as I do in telling the CARICOM story to all that would listen, but I think it’s also putting that we really get up off our duff as Caribbean people, take a trip to another Caribbean nation, make friends, teach your children that United States and Canada and Britain are not the natural destinations for their skills when they leave colleges and universities .”
For Dwyer Astaphan, however, it is a case of other CARICOM nationals taking local jobs.
He expressed his position on the matter on The Operating Room, Operation Rescue’s weekly radio programme.
“The disrespect they mete out to us, a few Jamaicans came in on a plane here and one of them was extremely disrespectful to one of the entry point officers at the airport, and instead of them running him out of the place he’s in St Kitts now looking to take away a job from somebody. Yesterday nine Kittitians went to a worksite, where work is being given out, people are being hired, a construction site, to get work. All of them are qualified for the jobs that were advertised, they hired six of them and hired three Jamaicans as if there is a quota system in St Kitts to include non-Kittitians, non-Nevisians. Well I don’t subscribe to that kind of CARICOM, because no Kittitian can go to jobsite in Jamaica and get a job and I don’t mean that absolutely and literally but generally speaking that would be the case, he or she would not be hired. I am all for CARICOM but it must be based on an equitable footing for all, not selective.”
Broadcaster Julius discussing the same issue, suggests that there is need for a change in mindset in the Caribbean.
“If we start to change our mindset as we approach this thing called CARICOM, be a little more open to the message we might realize that the message could have resonance for us so it does require some offer on the part of Caribbean people rather than being automatically cynical, automatically distrustful and automatically ignorant of what is out there and not wanting to know. There is something to be said for actually seeing that this thing does work and can work positively in the lives of many Caribbean people, while accepting that there are limitations and pushing hard for more of those barriers to be broken down because at this level of economic development globally we will not be able to survive as individual outcrops of rock in the Caribbean sea battling each other and battling for a space in the global marketplace.”