Spouses and dependents of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals, who relocate to other Member States, will now be entitled to access benefits such as health and education services, which were not previously afforded to them.
This applies to individuals and their families, who move across the region to work, provide services and establish companies within the framework of the free movement regime under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
Jamaica is among six CARICOM countries that have agreed to facilitate the benefits with the signing of the Protocol on Contingent Rights on Friday (July 6). The others are Barbados, Haiti, Suriname, St. Lucia and Grenada.
The signing took place on the final day of the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, which was held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St. James from July 4 to 6.
Addressing a press conference after the signing, Prime Minister and CARICOM Chairman, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, said the move is a crucial step in making CARICOM more functional and relevant to the people of the region.
“This is a matter that has been long outstanding and is a major step that should encourage greater use of the free movement regime as it ensures a greater level of comfort and peace of mind for families,” he said.
The Prime Minister noted that coming out of the meeting, CARICOM Heads have recommitted to the free movement of skilled persons.
He said it was agreed that by December 31, 2018, all States will put in place the necessary legislative framework to facilitate all 10 approved categories of skills under the free movement regime.
The categories of persons are: graduates of all recognised universities, artistes, musicians, sportspersons, media workers, nurses, teachers, artisans with Caribbean vocational qualifications (such as those issued by HEART Trust/NTA), and holders of associate degrees or comparable qualifications.
Barbadian Prime Minister, Hon. Mia Mottley, welcomed the initiative, describing it as a fundamental development since the introduction of the CSME.
“For this protocol to have been signed today is the most significant event in the history of Caribbean affairs since the single market was signed here in Jamaica and came into effect here in Jamaica 2006,” she said.
The CSME is an integrated development strategy, which is intended to benefit the people of the region by providing more and better opportunities to produce and sell goods and services and to attract investment.
It is built on five core regimes: free movement of capital, free movement of goods, free movement of skills, the provision of services, and the right of establishment. In addition, the CSME facilitates hassle-free travel for all CARICOM nationals.
The meeting of CARICOM heads was chaired by Prime Minister Holness. Among the key agenda items were crime and violence, disaster management and climate change, and the CSME.
The Conference of Heads of Government, which consists of the Heads of Government of the Member States, is the supreme organ of the Caribbean Community and determines and provides its policy direction.