A number of logistics would have to be worked out before Antigua and Barbuda could fully meet the requirement by Caricom to allow the full free movement of people within a single market by early 2024.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas says this includes statutory instruments such as the social security scheme and other programs that exist in each respective territory and whether or not they are transferable.
“I have certainly had a member of my constituency who has lived and worked in Trinidad and Tobago for a part of her adult life and would have stored up equity in that social security in Trinidad.
“Having now come to Antigua where she is settled. She now needs access to that retirement so they have to be a collaboration with the social security scheme in each respective territory,” Nicholas said.
He also added that the ability to know where these persons are will be advanced with the digital framework and Antigua and Barbuda is not yet at that stage.
Nicholas also spoke to crime management and other issues which have to be considered.
Incoming Caricom Chair Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit made the announcement in Trinidad and Tobago during his closing speech at the 45th summit.
Skerrit said that the measure will cover all 13 member countries adding that legal experts have been commissioned to prepare a report on this issue by March 30, 2024.
“We are giving the legal people some months to examine these issues and to ensure they can to us by that date to take a definitive position on this. We understand that there will be challenges for some but we are committed to this,” Skerrit said.
He stated further that in addition to the free movement, there will be certain continent rights that will be associated with the free movement of people.
This includes access to primary healthcare, access to basic education among other things.
“We believe that this is a fundamental part of the integration architecture and at 50 we could not leave Trinidad and Tobago and not speak to the core of the integration movement and that is people’s ability to move freely within the Caribbean Community,” Skerrit said.
He is also confident that the necessary requirements will be put in place before the March 30th, 2024 deadline.
“We hope to see that it will be implemented by March 30th. This is great news, I believe with all the issues we have discussed, this is the decision that we have taken and I believe our forefathers are smiling that the present generation of leaders we bold enough to arrive at this decision going forward”.
Antigua and Barbuda is perhaps the only country within the region to have fully accepted and integrated Caricom nationals into its population under the current structure.
A large number of Caricom nationals from Jamaica, Guyana, Dominica, and St Vincent and the Grenadines have migrated to the island making it their second home.
While living here they have adequate access to healthcare, schools, and various social programs.
In recent times, the government has also waived the work permit fees for Caricom citizens who are living and working in the country.