At the 45th CARICOM Heads of Government meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this month a decision was made to move forward with the free movement of people to live and work through the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) agreement. The Bahamas while a CARICOM member is not a part of the CSME.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service, the Hon. Fred Mitchell commented on the stance that The Bahamas has taken on the CSME. He said, “the fact is there are more Caribbean nationals working in The Bahamas than any other country so. The work permit regime doesn’t really resolve that because a country has, you know there are issues related to, for example, teachers. There’s a shortage of teachers, shortage of nurses, so you need to import labour. But the Bahamian people don’t support the single market economy so we couldn’t proceed with it.”
Mitchell continued, “if you work for the government now you don’t need a work permit so there’s no issue with it. Free movement of people is something which is done for, at the moment, professionals and people who are in sports and culture. And you get a certificate from the country to say that you are certified as a professional and this allows you to move into the other space without the need of a work permit. None of that applies if you work for the government. If you are a teacher or if you are a nurse there’s no work permit needed except, of course if you work for PHA (Public Hospitals Authority), that’s slightly different because that’s a corporation. But if you work directly for the government there’s no work permit and there’s a shortage of teachers no question.”