The Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Audlew Shaw, says he’s staunchly opposed to the recent amendment to the Special Economic Zones Act in Parliament.
Under the amendments, Jamaicans no longer enjoy priority employment status.
Instead the word Jamaican has been removed and replaced with the term Caricom nationals.
Mr. Shaw says the move is a slap in the face of Jamaicans desperately in need of job opportunities.
Mr. Shaw has lashed out at the amendment, calling it a most bizarre and inexplicable move on the part of the Government.
He says it’s unacceptable for the Government to have moved in a direction to place CARICOM nationals on equal footing with Jamaican nationals, at a time when Jamaicans are being subjected to increased economic hardships, with many nable to find work.
Shaw says the public must take special note of what he says is a dastardly move on the part of the PNP Government, and ask them whether they are governing the country in the interest of Jamaicans or in the interest of others.
He says the Opposition takes no comfort in the justification provided by Industry Minister, Anthony Hylton, that the amendment was being made to satisfy requirements under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Shaw notes that prior to the amendment, Clause 34 of the Special Economic Zones Act placed an obligation on employers to offer jobs to Jamaican nationals before nationals of any other country, as long as those Jamaican workers satisfy the skills and competence requirements to access the jobs in question.
He says Minister Hylton amended that original provision so that priority is now to be given to all CARICOM nationals instead of Jamaican nationals only.
Shaw says he has looked at the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and has consulted with several competent persons whose considered opinion is that the Treaty does not require any such blanket opening of Jamaica’s borders to nationals of CARICOM member states.
He says any Jamaican legislation which says that Jamaicans must be given priority for job opportunities is neither discriminatory nor in violation of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Meanwhile the President of the Jamaica Employers Federation, JEF, David Wan, says Parliament needs to reconsider the Special Economic Zone, SEZ Bill.
Mr. Wan says goods produced within the zone should have the same access to CARICOM markets, as CARICOM nationals have to jobs in the SEZ.
And the President of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, JMA, Metry Seaga, says Jamaicans looking for jobs should take more advantage of the CARICOM treaty and seek employment in other countries in the region.