Dr Amery Browne, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs.

Rishard Khan

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The Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Dr Amery Browne, is rubbishing claims by opposition senator, Wade Mark, that proposed amendments to the Immigration (Caribbean Community Skilled Nationals) Act will harm the country. Chief among Mark’s claims he refuted was that it is a venture in voter padding.

Browne described the claim as nothing more than a “red herring”, designed to distract from the benefits the amendment will offer.

“These amendments have nothing to do with voter padding or the capacity of any CARICOM national to vote in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

“That is not being amended within this amendment bill that is before the Senate.”

He said there are more lengthy criteria for someone who comes to T&T under a Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) certificate to be able to vote.

“There’s a five-year residency requirement that didn’t arise yesterday. That has been in place for years. Even when the UNC was in power,” he said.

Through the amendments, the government is hoping to expand the categories of skilled nationals from CARICOM states that can apply to work in Trinidad or vice versa from five categories to 10.

Browne said this expansion will benefit the entire region. He said the country’s economy’s success is dependent on the success of CARICOM.

He said studies have also disproved claims that increased regional movement will lead to higher unemployment rates.

“A study that was done in Europe for the European parliament showed that between the years 2010 and 2018, their free movement regime did not displace nationals from employment nor did it cause an increase in unemployment in any of the destination countries,” he said.

“So contrary to the UNC position, records actually show that unemployment decreases with a national population when there’s a regional free movement regime.”

He also disproved Senator Mark’s assertion that Jamaica was the only CARICOM state to expand to all 10 categories. He presented a table showing that Grenada, Guyana, and St Lucia, all encompassed 10 skills categories while St Vincent and the Grenadines encompassed seven and Barbados 12.

Browne said that by passing the amendments the government is aiming to meet its obligations under the revised Chaguaramas Treaty.

“Also, we must expand opportunities for our people. Trinidad and Tobago nationals to seek employment and to live in participating CARICOM member states. We, our people will now have access to larger markets for employment, investment and business opportunity,” he said.