Opening Remarks by Titus Preville Director – CARICOM Single Market At Workshop on Supporting the CSME on Gathering and Harmonizing Free Movement Data

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Tuesday, 15 August 2023):


Mr. Brendan Tarnay, Programme Support Officer for the Caribbean under the Western Hemisphere Programme of the International Organization on Migration (a UN Agency), representatives from Member States of the CSME, staff of the IOM Office, staff from Directorate for CARICOM Single Market and Trade, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, all. It gives me great pleasure to deliver remarks at the opening of this workshop which is focused on getting a better understanding of the challenges of collecting and using data on the movement of CARICOM nationals directly arising from the exercise of their rights in moving either as skilled nationals, temporary service providers or in the exercise of the right to establish economic enterprises. We already have a fairly robust system of data collection on the movement of persons associated with travel for tourism-related activities. And that data is heavily utilized by tourism-related institutions as part of marketing and other destination-oriented activities. The question is how can we improve data collection and use on the movement of CARICOM nationals associated with economic endeavors within the Community and what is the potential value of that data.


The CSME was established for many reasons but critical among those reasons was the building of resilience to external economic shocks. The free movement of goods regime is well advanced, and it sought to address two compelling matters. One was the expansion of regional production and trade among Member States thereby building competitiveness of regional enterprises within the Single Market context and secondly, building the capacity and competitiveness to compete in markets external to the CSME region. It was perceived that achieving these two objectives would address the lingering issues of high unemployment, persistent poverty, and sustainable economic growth.

Now central to achieving these objectives is the free movement of the factors of production, key among which is the movement of labour. The movement of CARICOM nationals for non-economic activity such as vacationing is well facilitated with the absence of visa requirements and automatic six months stay in any receiving Member State. Article 46 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas paves the way for the movement of CARICOM nationals to seek employment by first identifying a short list of skilled categories in 46 (1) and makes it possible to enlarge that list through the provisions in 46 (4) (a). As a result of these provisions, we now have 12 approved categories of skilled nationals who have the right to seek employment activity in any sector in any Member State, save for two Member States, Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis who have obtained derogations for two categories of skilled nationals in keeping with provisions of the Revised Treaty under Article 27 (4).

We also have provisions in Articles 32, 33, 34, 36 and 37 which pave the way for CARICOM nationals to exercise the right of establishment and temporary provision of services. Both of these activities involve the movement of CARICOM nationals.

The Use of Data

Having taken these decisions, especially considering how critical access to the right skill set is for production purposes, it is of utmost importance that there is a robust means of capturing, analyzing and interpreting how the free movement of skills and temporary service providers regimes in particular, are performing in the CSME.

There are so many questions to be answered. For instance, what are the primary skill sets moving within the CSME? Are they persons who are highly skilled, semi-skilled or low-skilled? The 2019 ILO report on labour migration clearly shows that two-thirds of global labour migration comprises of highly skilled labour. Is that global pattern replicated in our regional context? And if not, what is our predominant skill category moving? Is that indicative of skills gaps in our respective economies and should the receiving Member State invest in meeting that needs from its own population or should it allow this matter to be addressed from the free movement regime in the Community? How does our free movement regime support the human resource development plans of Member States?

What is the labour migration pattern in the CSME Member States? Are most of our skilled nationals moving to destination countries outside the Region and if so why? Is it administratively easier to move to a country outside the CSME than it is within the CSME? Are the opportunities that are made available to our CSME nationals in the main countries of destination outside the CSME Region more attractive than within our own Region, and if so, can we compete or should we not look to developing a strategic migration policy and strategy for each Member State based on its circumstance and a resulting regional policy and strategy? Are we approaching free movement and migration as part of our national development strategy?

How Has the Free Movement Regime Performed

In November 2021, the CSME Unit conducted a study to estimate the level of usage of the free movement regimes, particularly the skills and right of establishment regimes from inception in 2007 to 2018 using as a basis, the number of indefinite stay stamps issued. There were many challenges with data availability as several countries simply did not submit the data sets to the CARICOM Secretariat (CSME Unit) on an annual basis as agreed. Failure to do so have made it more difficult to report to this workshop on how the free movement of skills regime has performed in the context of the CSME. However, from the data that was submitted, we were able to produce estimates of the utilization of the free movement regimes.

Cumulatively, between 2007 and 2018, we estimate that about 15,000 CARICOM nationals moved utilizing either the skills or the right of establishment regimes. Our estimates show that twice as many persons moved in the first five years, that is, between 2007 and 2012 than between the second five years, 2013 and 2018. We now need data to do a similar analysis for the period 2019 to 2023. We were also able to deduce that annually, between 2013 and 2018, approximately 680 CSME nationals from one Member State moved to other Member States in the Community. Importantly, the countries that were net recipients of skilled nationals in that period were Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda in that order of magnitude. The net senders in order of magnitude were Guyana, Jamaica, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Suriname. In Belize, the overall flow tended to be even.

From the limited data that we have received from you, the Member States, we have been able to extract that picture. From the start, I posed a short series of questions (just a sample) that I believe we, as a Community, should be able to answer at any time when asked. The real issue is the availability of data. To compound the issue of being in a position to provide answers on our free movement regime for people driven by economic factors, the Conference of Heads of Government have decided that full free movement of CARICOM nationals must be a reality by March 31, 2024. What does this mean in terms of facilitating that mandate in terms of systems that should be operational to ensure that the Community is able to measure whether the CSME, which is the regional economic integration arrangement, is delivering on the intended objectives? This meeting should give creative thought to how we accommodate the Heads mandate with the reality that there must be systems to provide the Heads and indeed the Community with an accurate assessment of how the policy prescription is or is not performing. It is only by so doing, we will be able to make policy adjustments to achieve our stated objectives of building a resilient and competitive regional economic space.

I thank you and thank the IOM for their support in bringing focus on this important matter of data collection on free movement of skilled CSME nationals which is in support of Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals which speaks to promoting decent work for all.

I thank you.

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