JIS News

With the advent of the Caribbean Single Market (CSM) on January 1, opportunities have been presented for additional jobs for Jamaicans, a widening of the job market with more choices, opportunities to travel to other Caribbean countries for employment, as well as to expand businesses and create new ones.

Institutions in the island are hailing the initiative, which had been in discussions since 1989 when CARICOM Heads, in Grand Anse, Grenada, took the decision to further deepen the integration process by establishing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). It is seen as having the potential to create a multiplicity of opportunities for Jamaicans as well as other Caribbean nationals, and give the region the necessary trade tools to compete alongside the other 194 trading blocs in the world.

Robert Gregory, Executive Director of the HEART Trust/NTA tells JIS News that the CSM is an initiative, which should be taken seriously by all Jamaicans, and an opportunity that should be seized. “With the CSM, the Jamaican job market has expanded to become a Caribbean job market. The promise of the CSM and eventually of the CSME, is that all the skilled and certified members of Jamaica and other CARICOM workforce will now have access to the entire CARICOM as a single market. This means a multiplicity of opportunities for the skilled and certified workers,” he notes. “This is a tremendous opportunity and it should be taken very, very seriously. Imagine opportunities being multiplied threefold and that is essentially what it is. Here it is that we were operating in a local market, which has been joined up with other markets to form a regional market. So this is an opening up of a field of opportunities for us and it should be taken very seriously or be left behind,” he adds.

A concern for many is how long workers will take to get used to the idea of the CSM and its benefits. Mr. Gregory points out that although workers could take longer than expected or needed, once movement gets underway, people will catch on. “I hope not too long, but once people see formal movement they will spread the word to others that there is a formal structure without any need to hide and they can move about the region as certified worker and by 2008 should be able to move freely around the region. People will warm to it once they see others taking advantage and also once more promotion of the CSM is done and we are already seeing these. I think in a short time people will become acquainted with the fact that we are a part of a larger market,” Mr. Gregory says.

On Monday, January 30, CARICOM Secretary General, Dr. Edwin Carrington and a number of CARICOM Prime Ministers will be in the island to do the symbolic signing of the CSM, set for the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies.

The CSM will mean an expansion of job markets for the member states. However, what does Jamaica have to offer? Mr. Gregory tells JIS News that one asset firmly in Jamaica’s favour is its large economy.”Jamaica has the largest economy in the CSM, with the largest variety of job opportunities that exist in the Caribbean. With that we have much to offer in this partnership,” he points out.

Executive Director of the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF), Jacqueline Coke-Lloyd, tells JIS News what Jamaica will offer to the labour force in the CSM. “We are a very creative set of people, Jamaicans are known worldwide for their creativity, spirit and tenacity, so Jamaicans going to other countries will be seen as a group of persons who add value. What we also offer is our own ability to understand what it means and takes to survive. So we bring a sense of knowing to the other Caribbean islands,” Mrs. Coke-Lloyd says.

Another concern coming from Jamaicans is the possible threat to their jobs from incoming Caribbean nationals. Mrs. Coke-Lloyd however, assures that although these threats may be real, workers should have nothing to fear once they prepare themselves for the added competition. “Jamaicans will feel threatened once they are not prepared.the CSM is an opportunity, if they are unprepared they can’t take advantage of it and will feel threatened with other people coming into the country,” the Executive Director points out.

However, she cites the European Union (EU) as evidence of people not moving from country to country in droves as may be thought, and notes that the same can happen with the CSM. “The EU did not see a lot of cross border movement and that could become the situation in the Caribbean where people may not move as much as we are thinking. Workers in Jamaica should prepare themselves, they need to be re-skilled, retrained, certified. Get yourself certified to international standards so you have choices. The reality is Jamaica is not only ours as we have now opened our borders,” Mrs. Coke-Lloyd explains.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gregory stresses that workers and employers should not feel threatened but realize that they are now competing with a larger grouping of people. “They are now joining the Caribbean workforce, therefore they ought to be conscious of this and prepare themselves to compete in this new wider environment. There is nothing to be wary about. This is the nature of life in the 21st Century.countries compete, economies compete, individuals compete, therefore it behoves them to be life-long learners and be at the cutting edge,” he adds.

Currently, five categories of wage earners can move freely within the CSM without work permits, which have been replaced by the simpler Certificate of Recognition of CARICOM Skills Qualification, commonly referred to as the skills certificate. They are: university graduates, artistes, musicians, sportspersons and media workers.

Additionally, managers, technical and supervisory staff attached to a company and the self employed who may not be strictly defined as wage earners complete the list of those eligible for free movement. For Mr. Gregory, these are exciting times for Jamaica and the region, which he says need the CSM in order to survive the “cutthroat” nature of international trade.

“I’m certainly hoping that all member countries of CARICOM will become members of the CSM and I expect and believe that in short time the non-members will join. I think it is the only way to go and I don’t see, especially the smaller Caribbean states, surviving on their own in this ‘dog eat dog’ world. I think the only future for us {region} is a future together and I think we can create a wonderful future for ourselves as a united Caribbean people. There are a lot of opportunities for us to create,” Mr. Gregory emphasises.

Each CARICOM member state has been given a specific area of responsibility, and this should provide even more employment for qualified and certified workers. “Guyana has agriculture; St. Lucia has justice and governance; St. Kitts and Nevis has health; Jamaica has external trade relations negotiations, with Prime Minister P.J. Patterson being the CARICOM spokesperson for the Free Trade Area of the Americas; and Trinidad and Tobago has security, for example,” Senator Delano Franklyn, State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade explains to JIS News.

In addition, Belize has responsibility for sustainable development, which includes environmental concerns; Antigua and Barbuda has responsibility for services, and Barbados has lead responsibility for the CSME. The final cap is expected to be put on this historic regional economic integration process when the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is implemented in 2008.

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