Inadequate details and misinformation have in some cases contributed to the apprehension some Caribbean residents have towards the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

This is the view of Labour Minister, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who stressed that communication and social dialogue were critical elements to the implementation of the CSME, which would allow stakeholders to ???buy-in’ to the regional process.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the CSME Unit’s Study on Engaging Labour Stakeholders at the Grand Barbados today, she said effective communication also provided transparency to the implementation process and assisted in the carrying out of two major goals – the shaping of the public’s opinion and workers’ attitudes towards the CSME and the strengthening of linkages between implementing agencies.

This in turn, Dr. Byer Suckoo added, would facilitate the sharing of experiences, the harmonisation of procedures and policies and the development of best practices.

The Labour Minister observed that while many persons were familiar with the general tenets of the CSME, there was still a widespread lack of awareness about exactly how it would work.

"They are still burning questions, such as how do I go about finding a job in another territory? Can I take my family with me? How should I go about setting up a business in another territory?

"The workforce is the backbone of the CSME. [They] must actively be involved in the implementation process if we are to achieve our goals. How do we achieve this? For one thing, the apparent misinformation about the CSME must be addressed. This will not only involve sharing as much information as possible about the procedural aspects of the Single Market, but also encouraging open and honest discussion?? about the concerns and implications of the CSME on individual lives," the Labour Minister opined.

Dr. Byer Suckoo noted that it was interesting the study provided evidence that some of the agencies that were critical in facilitating the process of creating the CSME were somewhat unclear about certain procedural matters.

"It is in these details that misinformation rears its menacing head. Misinformation that perpetuates fear …resistance …engenders frustration. It is the lack of understanding or misunderstanding of the logistics of free movement of labour, capital or the rights of establishment that is preventing individuals and companies from taking advantage of all that the CSME has to offer. It is also the weak exchange of information among member states that is creating a growing perception that not everyone is committed to the CSME," the Labour Minister maintained.

To solve some of these challenges, she suggested the development of a comprehensive regional communications strategy to better inform all stakeholders about the aspects of the Single Market and to establish a mechanism for information sharing.

This strategy would draw on the experiences of member states whether positive or negative; address concerns, challenges, successful resolutions and possible recommendations.

Dr. Byer Suckoo was also of the view that a major pre-condition for realising the potential benefits of the CSME, specifically the free movement of labour, is "Decent Work" for all persons.

"Decent work" is defined as employment where the rights of workers are protected, which generates adequate income and social protection.

In this regard, she encouraged regional governments to work assiduously to implement the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Decent Work Agenda, which addresses the pillars of employment creation, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue.

The Labour Minister revealed that Barbados was in the process of finalising a Decent Work Country Programme, with assistance from the ILO’s Sub-regional office in the Caribbean and she expected it to be operational by early next year.

Author: Andr?? Skeete

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