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22 January, 2004 - Published 22:29 GMT

Free movement slowed

Caribbean governments are being criticised for stopping Caricom’s goal of free movement of people becoming a reality through unnecessary bureaucracy.

Peter Wickham, a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, says the method being used to facilitate the movement of people across the region is not working.

He says the reality of the scheme means that instead of applying for a work permit people now have to apply for a certificate showing they are skilled nationals entitled to move.

"I think that this is a level of bureaucratisation that quite frankly is unnecessary and I think that it is retarding the whole process of free movement. I am curious to know why the leaders have supplemented one piece of paper for another," Mr Wickham said.

The free movement of labour is one of the goals Caricom has set itself as part of the Single Market and Economy agreement due to come into effect in 2005.

The arrangement is meant to allow media workers, graduates, artistes and sports people to work throughout the region without a permit.

Reality of proposals

But some say despite the agreement, the reality is skilled nationals are not being allowed free movement across the borders of some member states.

Ivor Carryl, programme manager for the Single Market and Economy, says the negotiation has given various member states an extended period to allow certain categories of workers to enter.

"These persons are free to move and work in any member state without the requirements of a work permit for as long as the member state to which they’re going had implemented the provisions regarding the removal of restrictions against these persons," Carryl said.

With the exception of the Bahamas and Montserrat the remaining 13 Caricom members states have agreed to allow free movement.

But to date Barbados and Surinam are the only two members that have enacted the regulations.

'Skilled workers'

But the problems of implementation is not the only area of concern regarding the legislation.

Some believe the current description of skilled workers is too limiting and has the ability to integrate only a very small percentage of the population of Caricom.

Wickham says the current proposals mean the single market will only integrate 10 per cent of the Caribbean population.

Many argue that if the policy was widened the wealthiest states would be forced to absorb too many people.

Wickham says it’s an argument without solid evidence.

"We are groping in the dark... I think that that is the type of speculation that serious leaders cannot contemplate unless they have studied it and unless they have evidence," Wickham said.