Last Updated on Sunday, 8 January 2023, 22:19 by Denis Chabrol
Guyanese, other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals and citizens of the D0minican Republic, who are already working in Antigua and Barbuda, will no longer need work permits, the government there has announced sparking off opposition accusations that the government has stolen its publicly stated election campaign promise.
Eligible voters in Antigua and Barbuda go to the polls on January 18 to elect a government of their choice. Among the eligible voters are thousands of Guyanese, Jamaicans, and nationals of Trinidad and Tobago as well as the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. who are naturalised Antiguan-Barbudans
The incumbent Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP)-led administration of Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced at the weekend that it has has decided to eliminate the requirement for work permits for nationals of CARICOM Community countries who are gainfully employed in Antigua and Barbuda, effective January 1st, 2023. The government said that is consistent with its obligations under CARICOM’s Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
“The Government has also decided that, in keeping with Antigua and Barbuda’s commitment to the economic integration of the Caribbean region, the elimination of work permits for persons who are gainfully employed, will be extended to people from the Dominican Republic,” the Browne administration said.
In combination with an earlier Government decision to waive all unpaid work permit fees, which were due up to 31st December 2022, this means that all nationals of CARICOM countries and the Dominican Republic who are now in Antigua and Barbuda and are gainfully employed will not be required to pay for a work permit.
These decisions are an acknowledgement of the role that our Caribbean brothers and sisters have played, alongside native Antiguans and Barbudans, in the development of our country; and the need for labour as our economy expands, government said.
The announcement followed an election promise by the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) in its leader, Harold Lovell’s New Year’s Message.
Mr Lovell said he is gratified to see the Browne administration adopt another of the UPP’s plans – this time the removal of the work-permit requirement for nationals of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic.
“That decision, which is contained within the UPP’s “One Caribbean” policy, was announced right after the New Year opened; carried in the press on Tuesday; and ventilated by Lovell on Thursday night at the political rally held in the City East constituency.
Its adoption by the Labour Party Government is accepted by the UPP as validation of its Political Leader’s vision and ideas and proof that it is the UPP who is poised to take this country to an elevated level,” the UPP said.
The UPP said it proves, as well, that its policies will not bankrupt the country, as the ABLP contends, since the Browne Administration already has adopted our proposals on fuel-price reductions and a revision of the minimum wage, albeit in disappointing quantum.
The UPP, at the same time, said it has its reservations about its implementation of the policy.
According to that opposition party, on the eve of the 2018 General Election, Prime Minister Gaston Browne had claimed he would remove the payment of ABST from eyeglasses and funeral expenses. To date, however, this has not been done. Further, that party said non-nationals had been deprived of the six-month work-permit waiver promised in 2014 and then rewarded with a sudden and brutal hike in work-permit and Extension-Form fees after 2018 – have not faded.
“In this current instance, the UPP can only hope the ALP Government has not filched Mr. Lovell’s plans simply to deceive these members of the immigrant community and secure votes by dishonesty,” the UPP added.
Antigua and Barbuda is a founding member of CARIFTA, which preceded the establishment of CARICOM. Antigua and Barbuda is also a founder of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, whose nationals already enjoy freedom from work permits