Comissiong: Haitians ‘Key To CARICOM Economic Development’

The content originally appeared on: St. Lucia Times News

By Shanna Moore

Haiti’s large and youthful population could help unlock solutions to major economic challenges facing the Caribbean region, Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong has contended.

Speaking at a CARICOM forum in Canada on Haiti Now: Development Priorities and Interventions, he said Haiti – a full member of the 15-member bloc since 2002 – presented unique opportunities to address labour shortages and stimulate growth amid ageing populations in many member states.

“Haiti could actually be the key to the robust economic development of CARICOM,” the envoy said, noting the nation’s population makes up a significant portion of the 18 million people across the 15-member regional bloc.

He contrasted Haiti’s demographics with Barbados, which he said was underpopulated despite being CARICOM’s most densely populated country. “Barbados does not naturally reproduce its population. Were it not for inward migration, we would have a decline in population and we have a kind of first world profile… an ageing population.”

Ambassador Comissiong argued young Haitian economic migrants could “play a role in building the economy, contributing to the tax revenues, contributing to the social security system” in Barbados and other countries such as Guyana, Suriname and Belize, which he described as “very large geographical spaces with relatively minute populations”.

“Haiti has a demographic resource that could be deployed [and] utilised right across the Caribbean Community,” he said.

But the ambassador acknowledged Haiti would need to achieve a degree of stability to effectively harness this potential, recounting a situation in 2018 when a visa-free regime for Haitians coupled with new flights from Panama led to so many arrivals in Barbados that “the whole situation became untenable”.

“If we could only stabilise Haiti so that there’s not that great push factor where so many Haitians are seeking to leave, we could have a more orderly and managed migration policy,” Ambassador Comissiong said. “A CARICOM well-thought-out, well-constructed migration policy with Haiti at the centre of it can be the key to the future development of our Caribbean Community.

“CARICOM  must play a very central role and one of the critical components of that central role must be a migration policy with Haiti at the centre of it,” Comissiong said.

PHOTO: Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong. (FP)