ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Labour Commissioner Hesketh Williams revealed that Antigua & Barbuda does not have an accounting of revenue lost subsequent to the implementation of the Caricom free movement of skills regime.
The commissioner admitted that attempting to track the loss of revenue from permit and time extension fees would be a “useful exercise” for the country, although such an undertaking could be complex.
“As it stands now, we’re not able to give an anticipation of debt figure,” Williams said in an interview with OBSERVER Media.
“It might be useful to conduct the exercise to give us an idea of what it might forecast for revenue; looking at the number of workers that are granted in those categories and seeing what would happen if you no longer grant permits in those areas,” he said.
Williams said that the first step would be to identify the amount of skilled professionals that have received permits since 2008 when the programme began in Antigua & Barbuda.
“We would have to figure out – because of different work permits for different persons at different prices – how those figures add up and make a determination as to what back-up plan there might be to deal with that situation.”
In 2011, the labour commissioner said he did not anticipate a massive revenue loss to the country due to the cancelling of work permits to facilitate free movement of labour in the OECS.
Williams also said that Cabinet is considering a proposal from the Labour Department and the Free Movement Committee to expand the permit categories to include artisans.
However, Williams does not believe that the twin island is ready to expand the categories at this time.
“We do not wish to open up that category until we are satisfied that we have the capacity and have indeed been certifying our skilled persons in that category,” he said.
He added that once assessors are trained and certified in the category, Antigua & Barbuda will be in a better position to include artisans amongst the categories that currently include graduates, media persons, artists, musicians and sports persons.
Antigua & Barbuda has not expanded the categories it initially agreed to in January of 2006 upon signing the Caricom Single Market agreement.
The Ministry of Labour is responsible for giving the Caricom Skills Qualification for those seeking permits in Antigua & Barbuda.