Caribbean foreigners, CARICOM psyche and pipe dreams

 As we continue trying to give true meaning to CARICOM and to plant firmly the ideal of a CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) into the psyche of Caribbean people, some interesting rumblings have emanated from the Bahamas. But that nation is not the first from which such noise has come.

The positives of regional unity should be an easy sale to our people. But it is not. The benefits of viewing the Caribbean as one economic space should be obvious to most. But it is not. The inanity of small, independently dependent nations trying to make their way alone should be a no-brainer. But it is not. It can be argued that one of the failures of CARICOM and CSME is that neither has been convincingly sold to common or average folk in the region. Our politicians and persons of letters often speak of these ideals and arrangements in the halls of power or academia. But have they sought to address them within the context of the insularity that exists among those millions of folk across the region who can truly give substance to our regional template?

The newly installed prime minister of the Bahamas, Dr Hubert Minnis, this week reportedly gave a directive that Bahamians must fill “all available posts” before any consideration was given to foreigners. The Bahamian minister of labour Dion Foulkes made it abundantly clear that Mr Minnis had given him directions to ensure that “no foreigner gets a permit where there is a Bahamian available to do the job”.

“Wherever there is a Bahamian who is qualified to do the job and a foreigner or an expat is applying for that position, we will refuse the application,” Mr Foulkes stated.

The politician referenced a specific case where a work permit request from a hotel was turned down because there were unemployed Bahamians qualified to fill the post.

The minister had this to say: “We had an application from a major hotel for a food and beverage director. I declined it, because there are Bahamians who are trained in food and beverage in this country who are unemployed and we know who they are and we are sending some of them to that hotel to be interviewed.”

The minister of labour went even further. He indicated that where special skills were required and a non-Bahamian was hired, the employer had subsequently to identify a skilled Bahamian to train for the particular post to eventually replace the foreign worker.

Though the Bahamas is a full member of CARICOM, it is not a signatory to the CSME. The Bahamian government used the word “foreigners” in broad terms to suggest non-Bahamians. The government did not indicate that CARICOM nationals not born in the Bahamas were exempted from the classification of “foreigners”.

One can appreciate politicians seeking to give the electorate that installed them the assurance that home drums will beat first. It is a tightrope they often walk and a sensitive course of governance trying to balance regionalism and what in essence is parochialism. Chapter III of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas makes provisions for the free movement of skilled CARICOM nationals as well as for the free movement of persons to establish businesses and provide services. But politicians instinctively have votes and power in their focus when having that final say or making that relevant decision on which drumbeat to listen to.

What can prove most distressing, though, is when the message sent by politicians to the average citizen is that “Caribbean foreigners” are the cause of their own unemployment or are poaching jobs that nationals can do themselves. If CARICOM or the CSME is to mean anything or is to be taken to a best-case scenario, the region’s political leaders must take their people in the direction that there is no such thing as a “Caribbean foreigner”. The people of the islands must be pointed towards a path where Bridgetown, Georgetown, Port of Spain, Kingston, Kingstown, et al, are all virtually interchangeable entities, even though divided by the expanse of the deep blue sea. But, regrettably, that notion is a palpable pipe dream.

If prime minister Minnis’ edict were adopted to the letter across the region, the displacement and disillusionment of “Caribbean foreigners” would be unimaginable. But the words in the ears of potentially xenophobic Bahamian listeners are just as potentially psychologically damaging to regionalism as our own infamous “ever so welcome, wait for a call” once uttered by a late Barbadian leader.

8 Responses to Caribbean foreigners, CARICOM psyche and pipe dreams

  1. Anthony Jacqueminot
    Anthony Jacqueminot June 1, 2017 at 12:27 am

    It is true. Every caution must be taken before integrating into larger multinational unions, the flood of cheaper labour is good for larger corporations but can be quite devestating on local small businesses and the local workforce. Someone on a different yard will work for small change and more hours.

    Reply
  2. Professor Gilbert Morris June 1, 2017 at 2:32 am

    Editor:
    Please, with your leave, I wish to add to remarks drawn from this issue’s editorial:

    I consider myself a Caribbean man; as comfortable in St Lawrence Gap as I am in Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
    However, in respect of CARICOM, I fear nothing in those comforts aforementioned, derives from CARICOM.

    I fear to put the matter plainly, I find CARICOM irrelevant at best and at worst, a talisman of Caribbean failures and a symbol of our propensity to give so much attention to a thing which is ceaseless to be born.

    The ways to express and explain my CARICOM consternation are myriad. Let’s express it as a feature of globalisation:

    There are two types-
    a. Treaty Globalisation: where old men gather and make agreements having nothing to do with reality, as with the European Union; with the result that their agreements lack the urgent dynamism of the streets.
    b. Innovation Globalisation: this is that dynamism aforementioned; such as was experienced in the making of SKYPE! No government mandated it, no law sobroned it. It emerged out of the creative energies of young people who met over the Internet from nearly 30 countries, who converged in Estonia to build Skype.

    This has led to a revolution in communications and business and is now a primary driver of audio/visual communications to this day.

    CARICOM is Treaty Globalisation or Treaty Regionalism. It has nothing to do with the creative energies of young Caribbeans. This is largely because for most of them/us, our countries are corrupt, crime-ridden, with stale economic models benefiting political cronies, tourism dependent and stuck in a British system of administration that was designed, not for prosperity, but to control us.
    Essentially, we switched out the British for our own nationals who merely exploited the system as they found it.

    CARICOM’s problems go deeper:
    I. No one has explained whether CARICOM is a Liberalisation of sovereignty or a Harmonisation of sovereignties. So it remains stuck in place.
    Ii. In the CSME, why would “Free Movement of Labour” be a central plank in the digital age? It is a very 19th century concept, particularly amongst countries suffering from “brain drain”, when basic technologies (like Skype) permits us to work from anywhere on earth.
    iii. I found the Caribbean court a curious construct, when – with the exception of the Eastern Caribbean Court – no court in any Caribbean nation enjoys the admiration of those it presumes to serve. How do you build a regional court from such a decrepit tradition?
    As such, it is hardly surprising to hear Dr Minnis – the new Bahamas Prime Minister – speak about Bahamians first employment policies with no reference to CARICOM. It has no relevant in the lives of Bahamian people.
    I marvel that after all this time, I cannot incorporate a CARICOM COMPANY, where I pay a fee to CARICOM and a nominal fee to any member state to recognise my company.
    I marvel that UWI is in such a sorry state, but yet, it is an institution that has produced scores of Caribbean professionals and two Nobel Laureates, and yet CARICOM members are wasting money setting up universities with no reference to UWI!
    I find it astounding and beyond belief that in the midst of these immense, repetitive failures, admisst crime, corruption, self-inflicted debt and economic disgrace, CARICOM could find the time to engage in the embarrassing mendicancy of Reparations; when we have done so much to prevent our people from becoming their best selves and living their best lives in their own countries.
    Structurally, CARICOM was bound to be inert. Trade between ourselves was half of one percent according to Pasad-Davenport. The better model for the Caribbean is to create a basic agreement, beginning with shared procurement (hard when that’s the source of political patronage), shared training of Nurses, Teachers and Civil Engineers. These professions would generate “intramural-Caribbean knowledge”, to serve as a basis for integrative initiatives.
    Second, Caribbean nations should look outward in their near abroads, and bring value into CARICOM; especially sonfor the “big 5”: So, Trinidad, Guyana and Barbados to South America, Jamaica in Cuba and the Bahamas in America. Drawing these trade-paths into the Caribbean Basin would generate efficiencies, competitive pricing, gains advantages from our English law traditions, and exposes use to technological innovations outside the G-7; resulting Ina cosmoplolitian dynamic Caribbean and a relevant CARICOM.
    One hopes beyond reason at the possibilities…

    Professor Gilbert NMO Morris

    a.

    Reply
  3. Tony Webster June 1, 2017 at 3:10 am

    Madam Ed. The conundrum yet haunts us: the first seeds of cross-fertilization, of virtually limitless opportunities to young people of one Caribbean ( more specifically,none island of tge then B.W.I.), was when one citizen on any place above water, stretching from the Bahamas, through British Guiana, though the entire archipelago down to British Guiana, could board any schooner or vessel, OR BeeWee’s DC-3’s, and Sally Forth with one currency in pocket; buy or sell anything anywhere; engage in any form of legal commercial or professional activity, marry anyone ( or everyone) anywhere; buy or sell property of any and all kinds; ; and return home with fortunes of wife ( or wives) and world, or to permanently be accepted in one’s new country . All were unfettered; free to come and go; free to prosper without let or hindrance, and in so doing, all….ALL…were enriched to mutual benefit.
    Don’t believe me? Just travel the Caribbean , and take note of so many Bajan surnames you bump into, and vice cersa. Now….we worship flags…..and HOGS rituals are the order of the day. Pity that George Orwell never got around to writing “Island Farm”.

    Reply
  4. Tony Webster June 1, 2017 at 3:18 am

    P.S. Did you know, that “our” cherished, dearly-departed Newman E. Wilson….our very own black Bajan totemic businessman, was a Grenadian? My dear friend , Mr. Arnold Cruickshank, ( also Grenada’s Interim Minister of Agricultiure c.1983) , told me that he rued once lending him his motorcycle…which Newman promptly rode into the waters of the Carenage, in St. Georges.

    Q.E.D.

    Reply
  5. Haskell Murray June 1, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Tony I agree with you and would even go further , this individual island independence was a huge mistake which was made in the 1960’s by our leaders who were following the African nations.
    In my opinion the federation should have been kept alive after Jamaica pulled out , but it was Errol Barrow who put the final nail in its coffin when he said the Grantley Adams dose nor speak for the government of Barbados. Adams who was the federal prime minister was trying to keep it going until Barrow finished it off.

    On the issue of the Bahamas should never have been included because their political leaders and influential people don’t consider themselves a part of the family and that is why they did not sign the CSME, they believe that their destiny is tied to Florida. In my opinion
    the UWI hotel campus should be removed from there

    Reply
  6. jennifer June 1, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    @TONY WEBSTER@Haskell Murry – fully agree. If we truly and HONESTLY examine these issues of caricom with the blind folds off (a must) we will see that it is the same whipping stick. This conundrum called IDENTITY. if an identity is LOST all is lost for a future until it is found. The animal farm hogs has cleverly supplanted the idea that we are separate people and we therefore treat each other as such. Barrow, coon grantley were the starters of all of this called Integration with a people 300yrs ahead.with money and usury called slavery. Our HISTORIANS are no better keeping us tied to that shallow minded branch of the tree of separation. All of this NEGRO people in the MAJORITY is the same RACE/ nationality of people. UNTIL WE CAN COME TO GRIPS WITH THIS AND CUT THE CORDS OF PUZZLERISATION
    NOTHING WILL MOVE as no one feels any unity. THEN WE GOT
    ANOTHER CONUNDRUM in which we are still a COLONIZED
    PEOPLE. With forces working to ensure that there is only
    fragmentation and no togetherness. We as a people are very educated, but in what and who’s education, this is why brother Bob Marley said don’t let them school ya. We forget our history and its connection to the whole problem. Placing little SIGNIFICANCE on this big piece of the puzzel.

    Reply
  7. jennifer June 1, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    We keep calling our brothers and sister negroids foreigners and FICTITIOUS NAMES, not seeing all of our Ancestors was chained in the Hull of those ships layered like fish caught in a net. Where there is no true VISION the people staying on LOCK DOWN.

    Reply
  8. J. Payne June 1, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    CARICOM cannot work. Because the media in the various countries of the Caribbean do not effectively cover all news stories in all the various countries across CARICOM. Two contributions above help highlight lack of understanding of local issues.

    Reply to Professor Gilbert Morris : (qutote)Structurally, CARICOM was bound to be inert. Trade between ourselves was half of one percent according to Pasad-Davenport. (end quote)

    ME: All of the countries of CARICOM signed World Trade Organization treaties which indicates that no member state of that body can give more favored trade status to any other nation. So Barbados cannot sign a deal with Trinidad which is better than one Barbados has with Belize. Similarly, Barbados cannot give CARICOM nations a better deal than what it grants Europe under the E.P.A. agreement CARICOM signed with the European Commission. Anything that ANY CARICOM state signs between one-another that leaves Europe in a weakend position under the CARIFORUM-EU treaty can be challenge in a European Court of Justice for dispute resolution. Which why the Dominican Republic said they had no reason to join CARICOM anylonger since CARIFORUM is granted the same trade access to any Caribbean island as CARICOM only difference if they join CARICOM they must pay costly dues that drains more of their government’s revenues for nothing. Nations near Haiti fear CSME because it means Haiti may one day gain free movement status and that would flood their islands and become a non-starter politically. Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, The Commonwealth of the Bahamas, BVI/USVI, the USA, and to a lesser extent Jamaica all have a contentious relation with Haiti in regards to illegal immigration. That is the main thing driving their public-opinion towards any idea of opening the flood doors.

    Reply to Haskell Murray
    : (Quote) On the issue of the Bahamas should never have been included because their political leaders and influential people don’t consider themselves a part of the family and that is why they did not sign the CSME, they believe that their destiny is tied to Florida. In my opinion
    the UWI hotel campus should be removed from there (end quote)
    Me: The old colonial plot of the colnizers to just have the region be a single space has long been attempted by the European nations without success they long wanted integration in the region because it would have meant they could cut out soo much redundancies in government in the Caribbean area. But Caribbean nations kept foiling Europes attempt at getting the Caribbean states to just be joined up together. The referendum by Jamaica at that time was the final nail in the coffin for much of the islands. The Dutch have had better success, and France has their islands groupped under shared governance successfully with Guadeloupe controlling several surrounding French islands and the like. Britain held consultation in 2010 to device how to rebalance their relationship with their current overseas territories but other pressing matters in the UK have placed those efforts on the back burner. In terms of your claim that Bahamas should have a branch of UWI removed shows your lack of understanding between CARICOM which you claim to support and a separate entity like UWI. If the Bahamas is a fully paid up to the separate organization of UWI then regardless of their position on CARICOM you cannnot just kick yank a venture out of their nation unless you’re prepared to pay them back the money they’ve invested and don’t forget they still have the building and phyisical infrastructure. They much just give UWI back their teachers, offer some of them a position in a Bahamian entity and then what are you going to do? Ask CARICOM to pay another set of money to develope their own? Most CARICOM nations are working on their own campuses now. Grenada has been working on it’s own campus. Trinidad has a second South Trinidad campus. and I believe one or two other OECS islands are building their own government support campuses so they don’t have to pay a whole heap of money to fly their students to Jamaica, Barbados, or Trinidad and Tobago to get an educaiton and they can just have their students learn at home. Your desire to yank another venture from the Bahamas that has nothing to do with CARICOM won’t achive what you want. Fact remains Bahamas fears immigration from Haiti more than anything.

    Reply

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