The Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) involves the free flow of labour, goods and capital among participating Caribbean Community (CARICOM) members states. The emergence, of this single market means that legal and administrative restrictions affecting trade, labour and technology within the CARICOM region will generally be a thing of the past.
But one of the greatest advantages is that it will encourage intra-regional trade and allow CARICOM states to negotiate as a single entity. This will afford them a better opportunity to influence policies concerning global trade. Perhaps the region may soon be a force to reckon with in the next round of World Trade negotiations.
The major issue for each state is whether its existing businesses and workforce can survive the increased competition when businesses that are more successful enter the local market. Many states are uncertain as to whether their local economy can survive the transition. From all indications, it appears that the CSME is about survival. Businesses that do not have the resources or capacity to compete will surely whither away. States that fail to develop their capacity must prepare to deal with economic calamity.
But the most debated issue is the implications for employment. The free movement of labour is limited to qualified and skilled persons. Therefore, the idea that with the emergence of the CSME will result in mass movement of unskilled persons to more prosperous member states seems far-fetched.
Of major concern to the Governments and people of the region is the potential for an increase in local unemployment as a result of more persons competing for the few available jobs. Another concern is the increased pressure that may be placed upon social and economic institutions, in the event of mass migration, and their ability to cope. Governments of the region are exploring various measures to assist the public and private sectors to adapt. However, many are of the view that, the question of whether these states have the resources to deal with negative externalities including increases in crime, poverty and unemployment levels is yet to be strategically addressed.
Whatever the issue, the CSME is a reality that all member states must confront. At the end of the day, sink or float, it’s all about survival of the fittest.