March 10, 2010

The Great Immigration Hoax

In this era of recession, economic contraction and deflation, what the Barbados economy most desperately needs is a concrete and practical strategy for economic growth. And it is clear that the most likely arena in which Barbados can pursue such a growth strategy is in relation to the pan-Caribbean market and economy. Yet, this is precisely the time that the myopic Government of Barbados has chosen to turn its back on the Caribbean, to engage in an anti-CARICOM immigration policy, and to evict hundreds of hard working and productive workers and consumers from Barbados!

At present, the Immigration Department of Barbados is pursuing the most rigid and heartless policy against undocumented CARICOM migrants, and is routinely rejecting the applications of virtually all CARICOM migrants who have applied for Immigrant Status.

Just last year, the Prime Minister gave undocumented CARICOM migrants who came to Barbados after the 1st of January 1998, the assurance that if they filed applications for Immigrant Status that they would be treated fairly and every application would be judged on its individual merit.

Well, it is said that "a promise is a comfort to a fool", and our Immigration Department is in the process of turning the hundreds of CARICOM citizens who took the Prime Minister at his word into fools. The harsh reality is that the applications are not being judged on merit, and that the Immigration Department is simply rejecting the applications out of hand.

This is resulting in persons who have been living in Barbados for as long as eleven years, and who are gainfully employed and have children who were born in Barbados, being ordered to pack up their children and leave this country! How any of this is helping Barbados only God knows!

It seems as though the members of the present Administration have some-how gotten it into their heads that they can alleviate Barbados’ economic woes by expelling the so-called undocumented Caribbean "foreigners" among us. They seem to believe that the best way to solve the unemployment problem and to deal with the fiscal dilemma is to evict Caribbean "foreigners" who work in Barbados and access education, health care and housing.

Indeed, they seem to be so enamoured of this anti-CARICOM migrant strategy that they have even drawn up a "Green Paper" on Immigration Reform, in which they are proposing to alter the Barbados Constitution in order to deny citizenship to the children of certain categories of migrants who are born in Barbados, and to the spouses of native born Barbadians.

All of this constitutes a foolish and unintellectual approach to economic management, and a tragic repudiation of Barbados’ shining and unrivalled reputation as a leader in the Caribbean integration movement

Economic development is not a ‘zero sum game’ in which in order for one person to gain a job, another person must necessarily lose a job! Indeed, the typical scenario is that migrants enter the work force and help to grow the economy, to increase the ‘Gross Domestic Product’, and to play a catalytic role in the multiplication of job opportunities.

It is not surprising therefore that the period of the greatest influx of CARICOM migrants to Barbados was the period of Barbados’ most robust economic growth, and the era in which unemployment sunk to its lowest level in the history of Barbados.

It is not surprising either that with the continuing departure of hundreds of CARICOM migrants that a large number of Barbadian shops, small supermarkets, landlords and private schools are beginning to feel the pinch and have started to suffer from a significant loss of business.

Simply put, our anti-CARICOM migrant policy is causing a further contraction or deflation in the Barbados economy, at a time when what we desperately need are anti-deflation, pro-growth policies! Thus, the Government is going in the wrong direction, and is doing far more harm than good to the Barbadian economy and society

Our anti-CARICOM immigration policies are also going to make it much more difficult for Barbados to reach out to and engage with other Caribbean countries in a pro-growth regional economic strategy from which Barbados will derive the lion’s share of benefits.

As our government continues to paint Barbados into a small, isolated anti-CARICOM corner, the government of Trinidad & Tobago continues to reach out to its Eastern Caribbean neighbours, and to pursue a pro-Caribbean migrant strategy that may eventually lead to a lock in of the Eastern Caribbean economies with Trinidad & Tobago. Barbados could very well find itself on the outside looking in.

Truly, where there is no vision the people perish!


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