Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis allayed the fears of concerned citizens as he confirmed this weekend that The Bahamas will not sign on to the Caribbean Community’s Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The announcement came at a press conference at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) Saturday, after Dr. Minnins returned from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meetings held in Jamaica last week.
CSME is intended to benefit the region by providing better and more opportunities to produce and sell goods and services, and to attract investment on a larger economic scale.
Membership of a single market is commonly assumed to be a key factor in encouraging foreign investors to choose to invest in a region, however, Dr. Minnis stressed that he told the other heads of government that “The Bahamas cannot support the free movement of people throughout its boundaries”.
“As you know, we are a population of about 400,000 and there are countries within the Caribbean Community which have as many as 11 million, and the entire Caribbean Community is about 21 million,” he told regional heads.
“We are plagued with migration from Haiti, for example; and the free movement of people can pose great threats not only to our security, but employment of the Bahamian populace.” Dr. Minnis said.
He said he also told his CARICOM colleagues that The Bahamas is probably the most integrated CARICOM nation in terms the number of Caribbean nationals who are a part of its society.
“We have a great number of Jamaicans who are contributing to the growth and development of our country,” he said.
“We have a great number Barbadians who would have started our police force, [and are] involved in teaching and medicine, and St. Lucians who helped with land surveying and are still contributing to that.
“We also have a great number of Trinidadians. So, CARICOM nations have always been a part, and still are a part. So when you look at integration, they are there.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, he said heads of government reviewed the operation of the CSME and reiterated the need to accelerate its implementation.
In that regard, heads adopted the Protocol on Contingent Rights, which will cover the rights of persons moving to another country under the free movement of skills regime, as well as the spouses and dependents of those who move to another country.
The decision was regarded as a major historic step, which would encourage greater use of the free movement of skills.