Government’s policy of openness to the free movement of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) citizens, goods and services could unlock much needed economic development for Barbados, says Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson.
During a BLP City branch meeting last evening Hinkson said the country’s previous anti-CARICOM policy was partly to blame for the near decade-long economic recession.
Bemoaning former Prime Minister David Thompson’s controversial immigration policy when he advocated ‘ever so welcome, wait for a call,’ Hinkson pledged to “bring immigration to a Christian understanding if it’s the last thing I do”.
“They had immigration officials picking up people at 5 o’clock in the morning and reportedly making people leave their belongings behind to be put on planes. That is inhumane and it caused tremendous dislocation for Barbados’ economy because businesses closed down.
“This is one of the reasons why Barbados’ economy was the worst in the entire Caribbean. International problems had a part to play, but there were some countries that did not go into recession,” he argued.
During a wide-ranging attack on critics of Government’s pro-integration stance, he said that Barbados’ future was “tied up to a significant degree with the future of CARICOM.”
Currently, he claimed, over 50 per cent of Barbadian goods are exported to CARICOM countries making integration necessary for the progress of key local businesses.
“Without CARICOM and without the Treaty of Chaguaramas which established the CSME in 2005, unemployment would be much higher. A lot of Barbadians have jobs in various industries because of CARICOM . . . because we can sell our goods to other CARICOM countries without duties or tariffs.
“I have been to St Vincent and seen Mount Gay rum selling cheaper in St Vincent than Barbados. That is possible because it is entering St Vincent without duties, tariffs or anything,” said Hinkson.
He added: “It was sad for me to hear that a Democratic Labor [Party] leadership can be criticizing that when their founding father was the first one to open up Barbados to Caricom citizens of other islands to work in a sugar industry that Barbadians did not want to work in,” said Hinkson of former Prime Minister Errol Barrow’s contribution to regional integration.
“They helped build up this country like Barbadians who have gone overseas, whether to England, Canada, America or other CARICOM countries.”
The Minister’s comments come amid a huge debate about the recent CARICOM amendment bill, which extends contingent rights to the spouses and children of skilled nationals.
Hinkson also promised that CARICOM immigrants would not be subjected to inhumane treatment at the country’s borders under his watch. He however said Government would act within the confines of the law as it continued to take immigration seriously.
“My mother is Guyanese so let me say that up front and I am proud of that, but I will still send out the Guyanese sex workers as I did a few months ago if they’re here illegally. I sent them out and got cussed, but I sent them out,” he said.