‘Reform immigration, citizenship to boost benefits’

Immigration within the Caribbean could benefit Barbados and its neighbours, noted economist and former central bank governor Dr DeLisle Worrell has suggested as he called for a reform of the policies governing the movement of people across the region.

He has proposed that the current prohibitions on travel for work within CARICOM, with only limited exceptions, be replaced with controlled migration arrangements, operated by licensed labour contractors.

“This would provide countries like Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago with a highly productive labour force for agriculture, construction and other activities, one which would quickly respond to seasonal and other variations in demand,” he said.

“A second useful policy initiative would be to revise work permit regulations that require the recruitment of domestic workers in the first instance. Insisting that companies be permitted to recruit abroad only if no suitably qualified local can be found is a barrier to the transfer of technology to the local market. This local recruitment preference stands in the way of the productivity gains that technology should bring.”

He said Caribbean governments should also “abandon the notion of education and skills training solely for domestic use”, adding that as they progress in their chosen career, locals should be encouraged to move abroad to take advantage of opportunities for advancement, and to broaden their work experience.

“Many will remain abroad but their services may still be available domestically thanks to communications technologies. Also, they will often choose to build their retirement homes in the Caribbean. However, others will be recruited from overseas to fill senior management positions in the Caribbean, bringing with them experience gained abroad,” he explained.

Dr Worrell argued that in addition to remittances, countries are able to realise “great material benefit” from both having their residents settle in another country and by welcoming those from other countries.

He said: “The benefit of immigration is by no means limited to those coming in from our sister Caribbean countries. Immigrants from all over the world bring with them new knowledge, new technologies, innovation and finance, along with networks with global reach and access to foreign markets.

“The presence of high-earning non-Caribbean immigrants is no less beneficial to the local economy than would be the recruitment of a person from the Caribbean diaspora. Both would be a source of rental income and purchases from domestic service providers and retailers, from supermarkets to cleaning services to auto dealers.

“What is more, the immigrant may add more value than would an equally qualified local recruit, thanks to their knowledge of processes, technologies and markets in industrial countries.”

Worrell also recommended changes to laws and regulations regarding citizenship of Caribbean-born people and long-term residents.

“The prohibitions on dual citizenship need to be removed, including limitations on office-holding. Other inconsistent, discretionary and overly bureaucratic barriers to citizenship for long-term residents should be cleared away,” the economist suggested.

“They should be replaced with a fully specified, transparent process, where applicants would know beforehand the needed qualifications for themselves and their families. All applications should be processed within a stated period of time.” (MM)

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