Thursday, 27 December 2012

A TRUE SPORTSMAN – Kirani James to receive the Spirit of Sport award

GRENADIAN quarter-miler and Olympic 400m champion, Kirani James, will be in Trinidad and Tobago today, when he will be honoured with a Caribbean Spirit of Sport award after picking up his country’s first Olympic medal in the event at the 2012 London Games in August.

A Sport Company of T&T (SPORTT) announced the award, and heaped praises on the athlete for his achievements in 2012, while still a teenager.
Kirani James celebrates after winning the Men’s 400m final
at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“Kirani James is also credited with bringing an unparalleled spirit of humanity and true sportsmanship to the London 2012 Games,” the release stated, “as the world took notice of him swapping his Olympics tags with double amputee, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa. He stands as a perfect example of true Caribbean class, and is a role model of the people of this region, particularly our youth.”

The statement also said that T&T, as part of “Team Caribbean”, shares in the “absolute joy” of victory, evidenced by T&T’s haul of four Olympic medals.

“This unity will extend far beyond Kirani’s impressive 43.94 seconds of glory as it embodies the ideals that CARICOM seeks to foster and promote,” it further read.

“In recognition of his athletic performance and spirit of fair play, Kirani James is to be awarded the Caribbean Spirit of Sport Award 2012. James will arrive in Trinidad on December 27, accompanied by his parents, and will attend the Spirit of Sport Awards red carpet gala on December 28, to receive the award.”

Another agreement with Europe

FEW people in the Caribbean are likely to have ever heard of the Joint Caribbean EU Partnership Strategy. Agreed on November 19, it establishes a new political framework within which all future co-operation between Europe and the entire Caribbean region is intended to take place.

The document, which has been under negotiation between Cariforum and the European Union since May 2010, follows from a decision taken more than two years ago at an EU-Cariforum Summit in Madrid to establish core areas of mutual interest: namely, regional integration, the reconstruction of Haiti, climate change and natural disasters, crime and security, and joint action in multilateral fora.

This potentially far-reaching strategy which is also little known in Europe, is intended to provide a framework for a long term political relationship between the EU and the nations of Cariforum. The document’s covers not just the members of Caricom and the Dominican Republic, but also embraces the independent Caribbean’s relationship with the Overseas Territories of Britain and the Netherlands and the French d├ępartement d'outre-mer (the DOM). It implies through a footnote that lists Cariforum’s members that the strategy may apply to Cuba too; presumably a reflection of Europe’s desire to ensure similar language in the EU Cuba agreement that the European Commission has just begun drafting a negotiating mandate for.

The process that led to the agreed document began formally in March 2010 in Kingston, Jamaica when a small number of Cariforum and European Ministers and officials agreed that there was a need to formalise exchanges between the Caribbean and Europe. They did so in the light of an earlier European agreement with Latin America and the Caribbean on the need ‘for a structured and comprehensive political dialogue’. Since that time the text has been largely developed by Caribbean Ambassadors working with European Officials with reference to Ministers.

The content of the twenty page document is unusual, not least because it sets out in detail joint actions to be undertaken. While much of what it says is to be expected, common place or simply codifies the nature of existing co-operation, it hints at longer term thinking and a changed approach.

In relation to regional development, it makes clear that a common objective for Europe and Cariforum should, from now on, be to strengthen regional integration and co-operation with neighbouring countries in Central and South America, as well as with the dependent territories and the DOM.

Haiti has a chapter of its own. The strategy makes clear that the objective is to advance Haiti’s role in intra-regional co-operation through a range of measures relating to trade, financing, climate change. It also proposes measures facilitating cross border trade, investment and dialogue with the Dominican Republic.

Climate change and natural disasters are another theme. Apart from proposing actions to address the more obvious concerns of small island states in relation to global warning, the document envisages positive interaction between all in the Latin American region, recognising the Caribbean Sea as a special area in the context of sustainable development.

When it comes to crime and security the document breaks new ground. Up to now co-operation with Europe has been on a bilateral and regional basis with those EU member states that have had a long-standing engagement with the region.

The strategy document makes clear that Europe is now going develop with Cariforum on a bi-regional security policy to address criminality, the trade in weapons, narcotics trafficking, gang violence and money laundering. It also sets out areas such as maritime and airspace control, trafficking and financial compliance standards as being areas on which Europe and the countries of Caribbean will work together.

The joint strategy also makes clear that enhanced policy co-operation is anticipated in international bodies on matters of common concern such as human rights, regulation, trade and competitiveness.

Surprisingly perhaps, since it is a joint EU Cariforum document, the strategy mirrors the controversial new thinking and priorities underpinning Europe’s proposed future approach to development assistance. This proposes the graduation out of aid of countries and regions like the Caribbean and a future focus being on the same thematic areas that appear in the strategy.

The document has appeared at a time when it is far from clear how the Caribbean ought to best to position itself in the world.

Global interrelationships are in flux, trading patterns are changing, new powers are emerging and individual Caribbean nations have only recently begun to consider how to rebalance their relationships between Europe, North America, China, Brazil and others.

The EU of course remains a significant trading power, a source of funding, albeit diminishing, a promoter of shared values and for most nations a significant counter weight to US power in the region. However, this may now be of less relevance as new partners with significant resources, and strategies more in tune with longer term regional thinking move to fill the space vacated by the ending of preference. In particular China and Venezuela have become potent forces in the region through their investments, development assistance, concessionary mechanisms such as PetroCaribe and the new synergies that Brazil and Russia too, are creating in hemispheric and international fora.

What this may mean practically is that the new EU Cariforum strategy may be coming into force when both the region and Europe have less interest and less ability to implement it.

The development of this little known new policy initiative with Europe is worrying for exactly the same reasons that were present during the EPA negotiations. It suggests yet again that the Caribbean is entering into a strategically important arrangement when the world around it is changing and before it has a clear future strategy of its own.

While it is to be welcomed that Europe and the Caribbean wish to deepen their many shared values and an already strong functional relationship, security apart the implied depth of the proposed partnership may be impossible to deliver.

What is odd is that the agreement comes at a time when Caribbean Governments are becoming more and more concerned about being graduated out of development assistance by Europe, are struggling to make the Economic Partnership Agreement work, are suggesting that a strengthened ACP is required that will broaden south-south relations, and more generally are opening the regional space to other nations that have the wherewithal and interest in developing a new political agenda with the region.

Put another way the agreement requires the region to make clear in its own terms how it relates to the other international relationships it is developing.

(David Jessop is the Director of the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at Previous columns can be found at

Rum, rivalry, resistance

THE Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Trade Ministers issued a statement on December 11 stating that “CARICOM countries continue to have serious concerns about the threat to the competitiveness of Caribbean rum in the United States market resulting from the massive subsidies provided by the Governments of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico to multinational rum producers in those territories”.

After seven months of writing about this matter, I welcome this statement from the trade ministers underlying that “rum production and export are critical to the social and economic well-being of the Region”.

Much valuable time has been lost and much has to be done quickly if the rum industry of the CARIFORUM countries is not to be displaced in the US market. CARIFORUM consists of the 14 independent CARICOM countries and the Dominican Republic.

In previous commentaries I drew attention to the adverse effects on CARIFORUM countries if the USVI and Puerto Rico governments continue to provide massive subsidies to rum companies in their territories – derived from a tax refund from the US Federal government called a “cover-over” tax. To recap, CARIFORUM countries stand to lose US$700 million in foreign exchange annually, the jobs of 15 000 workers directly employed in the rum industry and another 60 000 jobs that benefit from it. Governments will lose over US$250 million in annual tax revenues.

I have also pointed out that bulk rum producers in some CARICOM states have already lost contracts in the US market valued at millions of dollars because of the cheaper prices of the heavily subsidised USVI rum producers.

This situation will get far worse as these heavily subsidised companies increase their production.

Because I had also pointed out that the CARIFORUM country that would be the biggest loser is Barbados, it is encouraging to see Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart stating in Parliament on December 18 that, “We cannot rule out the prospect of this matter reaching the WTO” although he added “but that is not the first resort expedience”. Rum exports to the US market in 2010 were worth US$17.2 m to Barbados – twice as much as its exports to the European Union market.

Delay in taking firm action is not in the interest of CARIFORUM countries. The longer they wait to stop these subsidies, the more unfairly entrenched the subsidised companies in the USVI and Puerto Rico will become in the US market.

Diplomatic efforts have been made consistently during the past few months and, by all accounts, the Barbados Ambassador to the US, John Beale, has been particularly active. But these efforts have produced no meaningful results. A letter written on August 24 to US President Barack Obama by St Lucia Prime Minister, Kenny Anthony, as Chairman of CARICOM, has remained unanswered, and a previous letter on August 9, sent by CARIFORUM Ambassadors in Washington to the US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, received a non-committal reply in October.

This led CARICOM trade ministers, at their December meeting, to call on the US government “to engage early with Caribbean rum-producing countries with a view to achieving an outcome that will support the continued competitive access for Caribbean rum to the US market”.

Frankly, there is not much chance of the US government responding to that call, anymore than anyone should expect – as has been suggested – the US Attorney-General, Eric Holder, to be helpful because “his parents were born in Barbados”.

The US government did not pick this fight. Neither did the CARIFORUM countries. The local governments of the USVI and Puerto Rico have created the situation. Unfortunately, for the US Federal Government it has responsibility for the actions of its territories under international law and treaties. So, in as much as neither the US government, nor the CARIFORUM governments like it, they have a dispute on their hands, and it cannot be solved by diplomatic consultations alone. In the US, this is not a matter for the government only; Congress also has a hand in it. And little or nothing will be done without compulsion.

The only compulsion is what some CARIFORUM governments appear reluctant to invoke, and that is to take the matter to the Dispute Settlement Body of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
CARIFORUM governments have received at least three expert legal opinions that WTO rules have been violated by the actions of the USVI and Puerto Rico governments and they have an eminently winnable case against the US at the WTO. There should be no stopping them now.

Throughout its history, rum producers from CARICOM countries have faced unfair rivalry. They have been compelled to resist, as recorded in the excellent account, “Rum, Rivalry and Resistance” by Tony Talburt, published by Hansib in 2010.

Resistance continues to be necessary to safeguard this spirit which is so deeply intertwined with our Caribbean civilization. The government of the Dominican Republic has shown its readiness to proceed to the WTO; indications are that Barbados may now be willing to join. All of the governments of the CARIFORUM countries have a duty of care to their people; they will be doing no more than fulfilling that duty by going to the WTO. At the very least, the governments of Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago should throw their weight behind the Dominican Republic and Barbados.

Those CARIFORUM countries that do not join resistance at the WTO will not only show no spirit, they will also be entitled to no benefits that may be awarded. And, if none of them do anything other than engage in the delaying exercise of diplomatic consultations with the US, more than the spirituous Caribbean rum will die; the Caribbean spirit of resistance will die too.

The US Trade Representative’s Office is expert at prolonging “consultations” and delaying WTO arbitration. But, time is not on the side of CARIFORUM rums, as Trade Ministers agreed.

(The writer is a Consultant and Visiting Fellow, London University. Responses and previous commentaries:    

A licence to kill?

We imagine that most of our readers are familiar with the notion that the two zeroes in the number that follows the name of the film character, James Bond, Agent 007, signifies that he has a licence to kill without fear of prosecution. In the real world, however, such a licence does not exist of course, even though as the recent mass murder of some 26 defenceless women and young children in Newtown, Connecticut, demonstrates, all that appears to be required is a murderous intent, the means of effecting the deed and a suicide wish to avoid the prosecution.

The intent and wish may arise from some disease of the mind that persuades the assailant that what he (very few mass murderers are women) is doing is not only right but also necessary, or from some imagined or real slight or humiliation by another. The means of carrying out the dastardly deed, while less easily acquired, is arguably facilitated somewhat by the readiness of access to explosives or, in the instant case, powerful assault weapons.

And, in the US, this latter access has been accommodated by the rather liberal construction which the Supreme Court has placed on the right to bear arms. While the Amendment at issue would seem to regard this as a collective right to in order form a “well regulated militia”, the learned judges have preferred to interpret it in a way that suggests each citizen has a nearly unfettered right to a semiautomatic assault weapon of his choice; a weapon whose only real purpose appears to be to kill another person or group of persons. One BBC news report claims that there were 88.8 firearms for every 100 Americans in 2007.

The recent murders of these innocents should have effectively foreclosed any such debate. But it will not. According to an article by Michael Cooper in the New York Times, “…the day before [the tragedy], lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons in schools”. The official responses have also been rather vague and inoffensive, such as President Obama’s call to “take more meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this” and another from an officer of an anti-gun violence group that “we are poised to harness [the] outrage and create a focused and sustained outcry for change”.

Still, if all that is required for the licence to commit mass murder are the intent and the means and the death wish, it remains difficult to see what effective action might be taken in the realm of the temporal other than a judicial acceptance that the current interpretation of the Second Amendment is not only inconsistent with modern reality of the protective state forces but also inherently conducive to incidents such as the Newtown horror.

Thomas Sowell, the celebrated social theorist, dismisses this thesis as a fallacy. In a column for  the London Guardian, he argued that gun control laws do not in fact control guns but simply disarm law-abiding citizens, while people bent on violence find firearms readily available. He points to the statistic that while handgun ownership doubled in the twentieth century, the murder rate went down.

This argument may itself be fallacious. If we are concerned with reducing the incidence of mass murders such as those at Sandy Hook and the relatively recent incident in Aurora, Colorado, then the fact of disarming a law-abiding citizen or the murder rate for single victims are no longer material considerations. These incidents create a general insecurity in the populace distinct from that of the crimes of passion and contract killings that are no less worrisome.

Events such as the Newtown murders usually engender copycat action by some who perceive an opportunity for brief notoriety. While we remain thankful that a similar occurrence locally is unlikely, today we say a prayer of condolence for the parents of those children so tragically slain.


Information Minister, Senator Glen Noel, said last week Wednesday that the island does not have a problem with its payment to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), although there is credible information that the island is 180 days in arrears and that has contributed to the downgrading of the Bank’s long-term rating by the US-based rating agency, Standard & Poor’s (S&P).

Claiming that all of the five CDB-funded projects  on the island are on-stream, Noel said in a radio interview that when there is a problem it will affect the projects, but the Grenada projects are functioning normally.

“Generally, when you default you have a problem; we don’t have a problem, everything is flowing smoothly,” said Noel, who felt that critics of the Tillman Thomas administration are looking for ways to blame Grenada for the downgrade. “There are several countries that are attached to the CDB and they may very well be in default, it’s not Grenada,” he said.

S&P downgraded the long-term rating of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to AA and warned that the ratings could plunge even lower if a regional government borrower fails to “clear its arrears” with the financial institution. S&P said that the decision to lower the ratings from AA+ to AA reflects “embedded credit risks in CDB’s loan portfolio”.

“Our view of the treatment of CDB as a preferred creditor by its borrowing member shareholders, which is established by practice, is a pivotal component of this analysis.

“We could lower our ratings on CDB if the government borrower, more than 180 days in arrears, does not clear its arrears with CDB; if other member governments fall more than 180 days past due, or if, contrary to our expectation, the Bank’s funding conditions or liquidity weaken.”

S&P has not named the offending government in arrears of more than 180 days, but informed sources have told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that Grenada is the country being referred to by the US-based rating agency.

“The ratings could stabilise at current levels if the public sector loan performance improves and if member capital contributions comply with scheduled payments,” S&P noted.

S&P said that following a review of the CDB, it lowered the long-term foreign currency issuer credit rating on CDB to AA from AA+ and also affirmed an A-1+ short-term foreign currency rating.

The CDB, established in 1969, comprises 26 member countries and contributes to the socio-economic growth of the region. The bank provides loans and guarantees principally to sovereign governments, public sector companies and to a small portfolio of private enterprises.

At the end of 2011, the Barbados-based devel-opment bank had one billion US dollars of development-related exposure.

But it said that the bank’s near-term funding and liquidity outlook has strengthened since the last review in May.

S&P said that to address its liquidity gap and US$226 million in funding needs for 2012, the bank issued a US$300 million bond in November that has improved its liquidity position and smoothed its near-term maturity schedule.

“CDB expects it will need up to US$30 million of funding in 2013 to support approximately US$100 million of disbursements. CDB’s liquidity now is sufficient to cover 12 months of debt service and scheduled loan disbursements, on par with peers.”

But S&P said the bank continues to face structural financing risks.

“As a small MLI (multi-lending institution), the issuance costs and size of its financing needs limit frequency of CDB’s international capital market issues, similar to other small MLIs, and make its debt maturity schedule uneven.”

It said it expects that CDB’s higher rated sovereign shareholders – Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom – to provide “extraordinary shareholder support in the form of callable capital in the event of a capital call”.

Diplomatic ties established with Sri Lanka

GRENADA and Sri Lanka are now officially diplomatic friends, although both countries are members of the Commonwealth as former colonies of Britain.

Sri Lanka and Grenada established formal diplomatic relations recently. Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, Dr. Palitha Kohona, signed the Memorandum of Understanding on
behalf of Sri Lanka, while Permanent Representative of Grenada to the United Nations, Dessima M. Williams, signed on behalf of Grenada.

Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations,
Dr. Palitha Kohona, and Permanent Representative of Grenada
to the United Nations, Dessima M. Williams, shake hands
after signing the Memorandum of Understanding.
Dr. Kohona spoke of the similarities in history between Grenada and Sri Lanka as spice producers and members of the Commonwealth.

A news release from the UN Mission said that the two countries share similar goals as developing countries, both internationally and domestically, especially in the areas of cultures and their love for cricket.

Williams expressed Grenada’s interest in learning more about Sri Lanka and building on the existing relations. She also said that the establishment of diplomatic ties would enhance existing close relations and co-oper-ation in the political, socio-economic and cultural fields.

The release said that both Permanent Representatives expressed their expectation that this Memorandum of Understanding will significantly contribute to the consolidation of bilateral relations, particularly the promotion of economic and cultural relations and people-to-people contact between the two countries.

Known until 1972 as Ceylon, Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest. Sri Lanka’s documented history spans three thousand years. Its location and deep harbours provide great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II.

Sri Lanka is home to many religions, ethnicities and languages. The country’s recent history has been marred by a three-decade inter-ethnic conflict, which decisively but controversially ended in a military victory in 2009. Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state governed by a presidential system. (LS)

Look forward to the New Year

PEACE on earth and goodwill to all mankind.

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Grenadians; with that greeting, I bring you best wishes for this Holy Season of Christmas.

Grenadians are this year observing the Holiday Season against the backdrop of yet another difficult economic year, where they have seen their earning power further eroded in the face of continuing decline in the economy.

The year 2012 will go down as one of the most difficult ones in our modern history. Given that reality, we appreciate that the observations of this year’s Christmas may be more muted than usual. Obviously there will be fewer gifts to hand out and maybe a little less food on the table this year. But as people of faith, we can hold on to some things that are deeper, and that cut to the real true meaning of Christmas.

The very essence of Christmas is built on the message of both faith and hope.

The Christ Child Jesus came into the world, lived and died, so that man can have a second chance. Inbuilt in the message of Christmas is that of redemption and revival. And it is that revival we can all look forward to in the New Year.

Even in the most difficult times, we as a people will not despair nor lose hope. Yes, it has been
difficult; and yes it has been challenging. But with our faith and our collectively will as a people, we know we have the potential to turn things around. And so, we can all look forward to beyond the Christmas season – and to beyond the pain and the hurt.

The coming New Year will provide new opportunities to restart all of our lives.

As a politician, my role – through the grace of God and inspired by the aspirations of you the people – is to offer a leadership that ushers a renewed hope. With each passing year, I learn more and more through the example of the Christ Child about humility and service. And even in the rough and tumble of politics, he has also taught us all about forgiveness. My solemn commitment to you in this season of love, is to strive to be a better person in the leadership I offer to this nation, understanding the power of both revival and redemption. While we will have less material things than normal this season – the greatest gift we can give each other is Love.

The most difficult times have not dulled our legendary sense of community – of neighbour reaching out to neighbour. That is the Grenadian spirit that is most embodied at Christmas time. And so, we must use the season to look out for the least among us; for the most destitute; for the sick and for the lonely. And we must, as a people always be forever thankful for the other gifts we have been given.

We were spared any major national disaster this year, and the entire nation beamed with pride following the awe-inspiring performance of Kirani James at the Olympics. His homecoming was a rare sign of
national unity that was indeed needed and welcomed, and should inspire all of us as we go forward in the New Year. The performance of our young people in academics, sports and culture continue to give all of us hope.

Grenada is a proud nation with a rich legacy with which we all can be proud.

The party which I lead has revived its organs, refreshed its leadership and has positioned itself to be at the vanguard of the Grenadian recovery we all look forward to. And so as we observe this season of Christmas, let us deepen our faith in our God and our nation, and let us move forward together.

As Leader of the New National Party and as the Leader of the Opposition, I want to wish every Grenadian – at home and abroad – the very best for the season.

We all look forward to even greater things in the New Year.

Remember always the Psalm that says: Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Once again, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I thank you very much.

(Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, 2012 Christmas Message)

NDC gets green light to name candidate

Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Karl Hood.

By Linda Straker

THE matter did not go through the formal court mediation process, but both parties in a matter which had political implications for the ruling administration, walked out of court feeling victorious.

The High Court last week Thursday ruled that former Foreign Affairs Minister’s injunction to prohibit the party from naming a candidate for the St. George’s South East constituency could not stand, thereby giving the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) the green light to appoint a caretaker for the constituency.

The Court ruled that the expulsion of Karl Hood at the September 30 convention was not in accordance with the Party’s Constitution and he should be re-instated as a member of the party.

The former Foreign Affairs Minister had filed an injunction calling on the court to prevent the party, headed by Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, from naming a caretaker as well as his expulsion from the party earlier this year.

In her judgement, Justice Mohammed ordered that the Defendants and each of them whether by themselves, their agents, servants and successors or otherwise with immediate effect are restrained from taking any action whatsoever or howsoever styled aimed at preventing, or otherwise impeding participation of the Claimant in the activities and processes of the NDC pursuant to the decision communicated to the Claimant by letter dated October 4, 2012 until the determination of this action.

“This order is conditional on the Claimant undertaking to be liable in damages to the Defendants in the event that the Court later finds that the Defendants have suffered any loss or damage as a consequence of the making of this Order,” said the judgement.

“The substantive matter about the expulsion will be argued in the court when the date is set, but for now we can go ahead and name our caretaker for the same constituency,” said NDC General Secretary, Bernard Isaac.

Prime Minister Thomas has already defended the decision to expel five former government ministers, two former party chairmen and a leading trade unionist from the party at the end of September, accusing them of colluding with the opposition “in their vengeful bid to bring the government down and then thereafter to deliver votes to the opposition”.

Former Tourism Minister, Peter David, who also served as the party’s general secretary for the past 10 years, and Hood, who filed a motion of no confidence in Parliament against the Thomas administration, were among those who were expelled.

Prominent trade unionist, Chester Humphrey, who is also president of the Technical and Allied Workers’ Union (TAWU), was also given the boot.

The others expelled included former government ministers – Joseph Gilbert, Arley Gill and Glynis Roberts.

Medical coders complete training

THEY are small in numbers, but have the ultimate task of ensuring the accurate and timely compilation of Grenada’s health data, which tells the epidemiological profile and future direction of the country.

Recently, seven staffers of the Ministry’s Epidemiology & Health Information Unit (EHIU) attached to
the Medical Records, General and Princess Alice Hospitals, and the Registrar General’s Department, were awarded certificates for having successfully completed eight weeks of Mortality Coding training.

They were trained by one of the most experienced and sought after medical records clerks in the Caribbean, Grenadian Angela Paul-Joseph.

Mrs. Paul-Joseph, who is a senior officer within the EHIU, throughout her career, was exposed to many years of training in and outside of Grenada, and in recent times facilitated a series of training workshops, teaching her colleagues the methods and codes used in their field of work.

In addressing the participants at the closing ceremony, Mrs. Paul-Joseph reminded them of the consequences of inaccurate coding practices, noting that it can have serious adverse effects on the country at the local, regional and international level.

“So it is fundamentally important to get it right, at all levels.

“And in order to do so, you must understand the process and stick to your deadlines. Therefore, I want to encourage you to keep practising because it is the only way you will be able to do an effective job,” she told the participants.

During the ceremony, Health Minister, Sen. Ann Peters, and Permanent Secretary, Isaac Bhagwan, commended Mrs. Paul-Joseph and the participants for the job they have been doing while at the same time acknowledging that their job may appear simple, but it’s a rather significant function.

They both shared sentiments that the train-ing, if put into practice, will positively impact Grenada’s health data as it is of vital importance for the proper planning and implementation of programmes at the national level.

In June of this year, the Ministry of Health held a similar training seminar for doctors employed by the Ministry. Last week Thursday’s ceremony was the first in a series of in-house coding seminars to be organised by the Ministry.

Thousands of Canadians projected to visit Grenada during winter season

By Linda Straker

IT APPEARS that the decision of the Grenada Board of Tourism and other tourism stakeholders to invest in travel agents and writers embarking on familiarisation tours is paying off, as thousands of Canadian tourists are expected to descend on Grenada between December 2012 and April 2013.

During the 2012/2013 winter season there will be weekly flights from Air Canada with a 120-seater and CanJet with a 160-seater through Transact Holidays, while Caribbean Airlines will continue with its regular two weekly flights. Sunwing is also expected to make one charter flight during the period.

“For the first time, we welcome CanJet Airlines from Canada by Transat Holidays. These passengers are destined for various activities ranging from family reunions to the enjoyment of the Christmas festivities,” said a statement from the Grenada Board of Tourism.

A check with local hotels confirmed that there are moderate increases in Canadian bookings when compared to the 2011/2012 season.

“The Canadian market provides a lot of tourists who will stay at properties, we do have Grenadians returning but it’s mainly tourists who are coming from Canada,” said one stakeholder.

The GBT said that there are reports that most international flights are arriving filled to capacity and with regards to other markets, Caribbean Airlines will operate an extra service to Grenada from New York for the holidays.

However, compared to the Canadian arrivals which are mainly tourists who will be residing at hotels, guest houses or apartments, the New York flights will consist mainly of returning nationals who will be spending the Christmas holidays with family and friends.

“The Canadian and British arrivals will be good news for our properties while the New York arrivals will be good news for families,” one airline official said.

Data from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation shows that there were 6 745 non-residential air arrivals during 2011.

Carriacou national among 14 to win in Compass Shipping Christmas promotions

A NATIONAL from Carriacou won the grand prize in promotional competition sponsored by one of the leading shippers in the Brooklyn area.

Compass Shipping, which is owned by Grenadian Hilarius Borroughs, said in a new release that Louise Bartholomew is the grand prize winner of its Christmas Appreciation Promotions, which ran from September to December 2012. She won a round trip ticket to any Caribbean Airlines destination.

The release said that the promotion – which was a joint initiative with other businesses – was aimed at encouraging all clients who used the service during the promotional period to submit their names in the promotional box after conducting a shipping transaction.

The draw was held on Saturday, December 22nd at the Compass Shipping headquarters at 730 Chester Street, Brooklyn, New York.

“I am very pleased with the outcome of the promotion, as it not only told customers that we appreciated their business during the year, but it also provided an incentive that saw 13 persons receiving gifts from our associated partners,” said Gillian Forde, Office manager.

“On behalf of the Management and staff, I will like thank everyone for their patronage during 2012 and we look forward to serving them better in 2013. I also want to give the assurance that we will continue to develop on this initiative in the New Year,” she said.

Compass Shipping ships weekly to all Caribbean destinations from New York and through its agents in other Caribbean islands. Its Grenada office is located in the GCNA Complex. (LS)

The winners are:
Louise Bartholomew: Round trip airline ticket compliment Caribbean Airlines
Norma Cadore: Weekend stay at Kalinago Beach Resort Grenada
Theresa Lendore: Christmas black cake from Conrad’s Bakery
Sigbert Stowe: Membership at Pacplex Fitness Centre
Basilissa Vital: Shipping Voucher compliment Compass Shipping
Fernuda Paul: Shipping Voucher compliment Compass Shipping
Mavis Thomas: Shipping Voucher compliment Compass Shipping
Selma Andrew: Gift Certificate compliment Hermie’s Beauty Salon
Marie Providence: Gift Certificate compliment Hermie’s Beauty Salon
Michelle Peters: Gift Certificate compliment Hermie’s Beauty Salon
Jasmine Noel: Gift Certificate compliment Hermie’s Beauty Salon
Lloyd Frederick: One Bottle Rivers Rum
Bernard Forrester: One Bottle Rivers Rum
George DeSuze: One Christmas Hamper

iTAG to hold first ever LAN Party

COMPUTER gamers in Grenada will on Saturday December 29 gather at the National Stadium for the island’s first LAN party.

The LAN party involves a large group of computer users playing video games with each other across a Local Area Network (LAN). This event will bring together over 250 gaming enthusiasts to witness as never before, gaming at its best, as we crown the top gamers in country.

iTAG – a non-profit association of IT Professionals, instructors, technicians, analysts, and executives – will host the first ever LAN Party for computer gamers and enthusiasts.

The event which begins at 10:00 am is open to all persons 16 years and older and will play for a top prize of a Samsung Galaxy P1000 Tablet, among many others, sponsored by LIME and Courts Grenada Ltd. Gamers can compete in three games: Call of Duty, Need for Speed and Halo.

Other partners contributing to this event are JDLC, Kool System,  and Courts Grenada Ltd.

A news release from the organisers said that registration can be completed by visiting iTAG website at or Kool System at their Bruce Street Mall. (LS)

Region needs ease from effects of rising food prices

AS rising prices of food continue to impact the region’s economies, the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM’s) Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) has emphasised the need for increased production of agriculture products.

The COTED recently called for urgent acceleration in the pace of implementation of the measures to alleviate the nine key binding constraints to agriculture production and trade (commonly referred to as the Jagdeo Initiative).

Member States were urged to co-ordinate, develop and implement interventions aimed at addressing these constraints.

“Failure to do so cannot be an option. The removal of these constraints would also strengthen food security measures and reduce the level of food imports into the region. When, in 2002, the Heads of Government agreed that agriculture can and must play an increasingly important role in the development trajectory of CARICOM States, the lead Head of Government proposed a strategy for Strengthening Regional Agriculture for Sustainable Growth and Development.

“That thrust is as important now as it was when the Initiative was launched in 2005, given the region’s burgeoning food import bill, the sustained high food prices, the risks associated with climate change, and the current global financial and economic crisis,” the report stated.

All of these directly impact the thrust and focus of the Community on food and nutrition security and combating non-communicable diseases, and impose new challenges to the alleviation measures. We are confident that steady progress in addressing the nine key binding constraints, both at the national and regional levels, will open the gateway to vast profitable opportunities for economic development and increased production and trade.

Supervisors move to improve credit union oversight in Eastern C’bean

THE Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) with financial support from the World Bank has engaged the international consultancy firm of Dave Grace & Associates to aid the single regulatory units in Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in building the capacity of credit union supervisors.

The first meeting was held via videoconference on November 14, 2012 and the engagement will run through to April 2013.

Credit Unions are important financial intermediaries in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), holding deposits of up to 30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in some of the ECCU member countries and serving as the primary financial institution for many communities.

The responsibility for the regulation and supervision of credit unions resides with local regulatory authorities in the respective countries. The objective of this programme is to strengthen the capacity of the regulators responsible for the credit union sector in the six ECCU member countries, thereby enabling such institutions to further their economic impact in communities.

The programme will focus on the development of a harmonised on-site supervisory manual, improving the reporting mechanisms for credit unions, training supervisors through a week-long workshop and conducting joint inspections with national level supervisors.

The credit unions in the Eastern Caribbean are some of the most systemically important financial co-operatives to their national economies that can be found around the world. The World Bank and the ECCB look forward to the successful outcome of the consultancy.

Full agenda for CDF in 2013

The CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) is looking forward to the new year when it will be working on new projects.

According to Chairman of the Board of the CDF, Nigel John, 2013 will be a busy year for that organisation.

Speaking at the official opening of the CDF’s new office at Mall Internationale, St. Michael, Barbados, Mr.  John, reported that the CDF will be actively participating in the Task Force established by a recent decision of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), to further prioritise the support programme for the full incorporation of the OECS, Belize and Haiti into the integration process.

“This is in keeping with the role of the CDF under Chapter 7 on the Treaty [of Chaguaramas] as well in the decision of the last meeting of the Heads on Government in St Lucia, which emphasised the need to strengthen the CDF in order for it to play its full role in the execution of the regime established to support the disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors,” John stated.

The Chairman further announced that the CDF is also pioneering research in the Caribbean on the development of cohesion indicators and operational indicators for disadvantaged regions and sectors.

“This work, which is being executed in close collaboration with the Centre for Leadership and Governance of the University of the West Indies, will assist in the development of criteria to determine disadvantaged sectors and regions so that its contributing Member States, including Barbados could possibly benefit in the next contribution cycle,” John explained.

He added that the research will also develop an evaluation framework for CDF interventions using the cohesion index. John said that this will help to facilitate an objective review of the operations of the CDF at the end of its subscription cycles. (AN)

CTO makes new year’s resolution to tackle aviation issues

THE Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) will lead a mission in the New Year to meet with top ministerial officials and technical personnel in its member countries to seek their assistance in the
advancement of better intra-regional air links to help boost tourism in the region.

This was one of several recommendations coming out of the inaugural meeting of the CTO Aviation Task Force which took place at the regional tourism development agency’s headquarters in Barbados recently.

The recently appointed CTO Chairman, the USVI Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, reported a successful inaugural meeting which discussed the cost of intra-regional travel, the
economic impact of the declines in travel, improving the ease of passenger movement, and launching actions to improve the efficiency of Caribbean aviation. The meeting was jointly chaired by Commissioner Nicholson-Doty and CTO past chairman Ricky Skerritt, Minister of Tourism and International Transport of St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Aviation Committee discussed the San Juan Accord – a memorandum on the regional air transport sector that was agreed by CTO members in 2007 – as well as other important issues such as minimum revenue guarantees, communication among regional carriers, “open skies” agreements, government taxes and fees, fuel costs, visa restrictions, passenger security-screening arrangements, airlift capacity and the dependency of local hotels on the intra-regional market.

Another key item addressed was American Eagle’s possible departure from the San Juan hub in 2013 and both the opportunities and challenges this presents.

FAO pushed forward despite challenges

Despite the challenges that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations faced, it continued to strive towards making headway in various areas aimed at reducing the effects of the global financial crisis, building partnerships with important stakeholders and attaining their mandate.

This was one of the messages that Florita Kentish, FAO Sub-Regional Co-ordinator (SRC) for the Caribbean made as she delivered remarks at the Farewell and Appreciation Luncheon held in honour in Barbados recently.
Yvonne Moses Grant, Division Chief of the Social Sector
Division of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) (left) and
Jean Lowry, the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on
Agriculture (IICA) in Barbados (right) greet Florita Kentish,
FAO Sub-Regional Co-ordinator (SRC) for the Caribbean
before the start of the Farewell and Appreciation Luncheon held
in Kentish’s honour at the Island Inn, Barbados.
Recognising that communication is key in attaining and strengthening relationships with stakeholders, they embarked on a number of projects in this regard.

This included “improved communications with stakeholders with the preparation and distribution of publications – FAO at Work 2012 and FAO at Work 2011. These publications launched at stakeholders’ reporting sessions in Barbados and shared with stakeholders in the OECS during various events, the use of media by staff, the publication of technical reports, the launch of a Eat Safely radio public service announcement (PSA) campaign and the highlight of FAO projects by National Correspondents as well as the showcase of FAO products and services at major agricultural related events such as World Food Day (WFD) celebrations and the Caribbean Week of Agricultural (CWA) among others,” she said.

Mobilising resources is another area that they worked on as with any project in any other industry, seeking and attaining funding is critical to the agricultural sector as well.

“We participated in initiatives to mobilise funds for the development of the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors including meetings with the Caribbean Development Bank to seek and use funds under its Poverty Reduction Fund and the Chinese Fund,” he explained.

The FAO would also be seeking to hire a Policy Officer and this appointment would go a long way towards enhancing their mobilisation of resources.

Meanwhile in the area of food and nutrition, they “continued our programme to target increased production and productivity of farmers and moved to put in place Food and Nutrition Security Policies and Action Plans at the Sub-Regional as well as national level”.

These initiatives helped the FAO address challenges in areas related to the climate, productivity, distribution, management and competitiveness; natural disasters; the weak economies of some CARICOM nations; the global financial crisis and the high employment levels; high debt; increasing poverty and food insecurity; weak demands for export produce and rising inflation in some territories. (PJT)

Kentish: Overcoming future obstacles will depend on all

Recent Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations indications show that they would continue to be confronted with obstacles in the future, but their ability to overcome these hurdles, seek out opportunities and find the political and personal to address these issues will rest squarely on all of their shoulders.

This was the advice that Florita Kentish, FAO Sub-Regional Co-ordinator (SRC) for the Caribbean gave to her soon to be former colleagues at the Farewell and Appreciation Luncheon held in honour in Barbados recently.

Building capacity is one such area that they can do this and in order to communicate more effectively with their partners, Spanish tutors were brought in for individuals who were interested in learning or expanding their knowledge in conversational Spanish at all levels.

This move would especially help them with improving their relationships with other countries, where “relations with the seven countries under the Barbados Representation continued to be very good”.

With regard to Barbados and the Sub-Regional Office Agreement, “slow progress has been achieved regarding the transfer of junior professionals within the context of capacity building”.

However, she is hoping that this matter would be quickly resolved so that the island can reap the benefits.

Meanwhile, partnerships with other organisations such as the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the University of the West Indies (UWI), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the European Union (EU) continues to be

This especially holds true for their partnership with IICA which has improved since both parties signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in March of this year in Argentina while their partnership with the CARICOM Secretariat would be enhanced via scheduled meetings.

Along this line, the United Nations Sub-Regional Team (UNST) for Barbados and the OECS and other participating UN agencies along with their respective programmes and funds worked with stakeholders such as the Government of Barbados and the OECS to sign a United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for 2012-2016.

The FAO also appointed two consultants charged with the portfolio of improving Food and Nutrition Security for that period.

The FAO also developed initiatives in the area of disaster risk management.

“The Agricultural Sector DRM Committee made significant progress on its mandate through improved information sharing and collaboration among agencies on the DRM Committee; the establishment of a Climate Change Sub-Committee through the mandate of the Council for Trade and Economical Development (COTED) and Agricultural Insurance and Praedial Larceny/DRM Sub-Committees through a decision of the Committee and involvement with the implementation of a number of specific initiatives in DRM within the agricultural sector.” (PJT)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

NEW IMAGE FOR MAYAG – to be unveiled in 2013 at Toronto Boat Show

THE Marine and Yachting Association of Grenada (MAYAG) will unveil a new logo and brand to increase awareness and market the tri-island nation’s yachting heritage at the Toronto International Boat Show in January 2013.

Adjoining the Caribbean’s favourite sailing grounds, Grenada Grenadines Yachting is part of the Windward Island chain and its beautiful islands have sheltered anchorages, high quality marina and boatyard facilities, a full range of yacht services, international air links and all the ingredients needed for a perfect Caribbean sailing experience.

Year after year, people from all over the world delight in the culture, food, wildlife, beaches, rainforest, unique attractions and the island’s uniquely warm welcome. Grenada is quite simply an authentic Caribbean yachting destination.

“Grenada as a yachting destination is perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the Caribbean and it is time for the secret to be revealed with a new brand identity for this great destination,” explained Anita Sutton, President of MAYAG. “Through a major project supported by a grant from CARTFund, administered by the Caribbean Development Bank, we will greatly improve our ability to provide the services yachting visitors require. The project includes measures such as providing formal marine technical training and certification and reinforcing our commitment to security for yachts.

“We are thrilled that we will be launching our new brand at this high-profile show and this has all been made possible with the generous support of CARTFund and the Centre for the Development of Enterprise with major contributions from the marine and yachting industry of Grenada.”

The Toronto Boat Show, the largest in Canada, runs for 10 days from January 12, 2013 and over 77 000 visitors are anticipated. Stand 1541 at the show will be used to showcase why Grenada Grenadines Yachting should be the destination of choice for 2013. (LS)

Going all the way

Ajmal Khan, Chairman and CEO of Verus International, has promised to “invest whatever it takes” to make the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) a reality.

The private merchant bank, which operates primarily in New York and Barbados, officially launched the new franchise-based Twenty20 tournament on Monday.

“I’m looking to invest whatever it takes, in the hundreds of millions, in order to be able to turn this passion into a reality that it is sustainable,” said Khan.

Whatever it takes!: Ajmal Khan, Chairman and CEO of Verus International, addressing the media during the launch of the Caribbean Premier League. 
He was speaking during a press conference at Cove Spring House flanked by Dr. Julian Hunte, President of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB); and Michael Muirhead, the WICB’s Chief Executive Officer.

The CPL will replace the current Caribbean T20, with the WICB agreeing to a 20-year licensing arrangement with Verus International, the financial details of which remain undisclosed.

“Globally speaking, I do not think this kind of platform has ever been scaled to where I think it can go,” said Khan, who was born in Nigeria to a diplomat and educated in the United Kingdom.

He is a resident of Barbados and a citizen of both Canada and the United Kingdom.

“Growing up in England, I used to sneak out of school to watch the games and that always resonated with me, so living in Barbados since 1997, I’ve become very fond of the island, with the people, the passion and the cricket being at the heart of it,” added Khan.

“We are pleased to announce our long-term partnership and investment in the Caribbean here today, and we are honoured to be in the position to partner with a region so rich in cricket history and

“As the Twenty20 World Champions, it is fitting that a high quality, well-financed franchise-based Twenty20 League be solidified in the West Indies.”

The CPL, which will initially have six city-based teams, will be played across several Caribbean countries over a one month period each year.

Comprising the best of West Indies cricket talent, each franchise will be built around local Caribbean players complemented by a “few” international “star” players.

Following the lead of established leagues, such as India’s IPL and Australia’s Big Bash, players will be bought, sold and transferred during an annual auction.

Logistical details, such as tournament dates and venues, will be announced in 2013.

Dr. Julian Hunte, President of the West Indies Cricket Board,
addresses the media during Monday’s launch of the
Caribbean Premier League at Cove Spring House.
“The realisation of the CPL is another landmark of the investor and commercial confidence which has been placed in the WICB and the brand of West Indies Cricket,” said Dr. Hunte.

“The WICB is particularly pleased about the opportunities the CPL will provide to players but is equally elated with the agreement which will allow for regional retainer contracts for a broad pool of players.

“This will truly allow for cricketers in the Caribbean to pursue their profession as professionals and not as semi-professionals or amateurs.”

Verus International also said the CPL would be beamed across the world in a high-definition, first-class production, though a host broadcaster and the specifics of a broadcasting deal are yet to be completed. (AH)

Venezuela President Chavez and the Caribbean

Venezuelans must prepare for “complex and difficult days” ahead, according the country’s Vice President, Nicholas Maduro. It is a message that nations across the Caribbean and Central America that have come to rely on PetroCaribe, President Chavez’s concessionary oil arrangement, would also do well to heed.

In the last week it has become clear that President Chavez’s health is deteriorating and that it would be necessary for him to undergo further surgery for the cancer for which he was being treated.

As is now well known, Mr. Chavez returned to Cuba on 7 December and underwent surgery during which complications arose. Although reports suggest that he is recovering progressively it is far from clear when he might return to Caracas. Initially Ernesto Villegas, the Venezuelan Minister of Information, had said that it was hoped that the President would return home in time for his January 10 inauguration. However, a subsequent less certain statement suggested that the President may require a longer period of time to recover than first thought. It would, the statement said, ‘be irresponsible to hide the delicacy of the present moment and the days to come’.

President Chavez is due to be sworn in 10 January 2013 after winning the October 2012 elections. If he were to fail to be able to do so, the nation’s electoral authority would be constitutionally obliged to hold new elections no later than 11 February until which time, until which time the National Assembly President would temporarily take charge of the government.

What this opens up is the possibility of a period of uncertainty and potential instability. Although President Chavez said before returning to Havana that if an election were to be held, Nicolas Maduro, the current Vice-President and Foreign minister should be elected as President, it is far from clear how, in practice, vying elements within the factions that support President Chavez might react.

By effectively anointing Mr. Maduro as his successor, President Chavez seems to have been trying to ensure certainty and continuity and that National Assembly President, Diosdado Cabello, would not eventually assume the Presidency were Mr. Chavez, to be incapacitated or die.

However, matters may not be so simple. Mr. Cabello, a former officer, derives much of his support from Venezuela’s powerful military while Mr. Maduro, a lifelong socialist, trade union leader, and centrist among the senior figures around Mr. Chavez, derives his political support from civil society.

Whatever the eventual outcome in Caracas, what is becoming clear is that in nations across the Caribbean Basin there is some nervousness about whether, if Venezuela has to go to elections, the terms of the PetroCaribe arrangement for preferential energy supply might be modified in the medium or longer term.

During President Chavez’s tenure in office, Venezuela has become of huge economic and social significance with the PetroCaribe arrangement underwriting the stability and energy security of most economies in the Caribbean and Central America.

Created in 2005, it has as its members, Antigua, the, Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, St Kitts, St Vincent and, St Lucia, Suriname and Venezuela.

It works on the basis that nations receive Venezuelan oil on concessionary terms on a scale that adjusts depending on the world market price of oil. The arrangement operates in such a way that member countries are allowed to retain a part of their payment for balance of payment purposes, budgetary support and for an agreed range of development programmes.

Since its inception the scheme has been extended to incorporate oil exploration, distribution and storage. More recently it has also included a development fund, and the establishment of joint ventures between members, creating a trade in agrochemicals and petrochemicals, and developing a regional gas supply.

According to Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA ) the overall arrangement in 2011 involved the supply of 0.2m barrels per day (bpd). The largest share of which has been allocated to Jamaica (21 000 bpd) and the Dominican Republic (50 000 bpd) while Cuba receives somewhere between 64 000 and around 100 000 bpd under a more complex arrangement.

Although the programme has changed the nature of the region’s long-term indebtedness; with Caracas projecting that over one third of the Caribbean’s external debt by 2015 will be owed to Venezuela, it has offset for many nations the real danger of economic collapse during the recession.

The country potentially most at risk from any change in the arrangement is Cuba, where Venezuela supplies more than two thirds of the country’s oil needs, and has a trade relationship that results in a net gain to Cuba, some published figures suggest, of around US$3 500m in 2010. So seriously is this dependency taken in Havana that Cuba has been working for some time now to globally diversify its energy relationships, an objective it has yet to achieve.

Despite criticism from those outside the Caribbean who do not like the implied political leverage the programme gives to Caracas, no other nation at this time has the political will to provide this level of support to Caribbean states. So much so that the US in particular continues to face the paradox of needing, until renewable energy is commonplace, Caracas’ continuing commitment to maintaining economic and social stability through PetroCaribe’s programmes in the region.

The strong probability is that whatever happens, Venezuela will remain for a while yet under the control of its governing party, and will continue to pursue President Chavez’s populist domestic policies. However, independent analysts suggest that PetroCaribe could still under certain circumstances be subject to change as it has limited support within the governing party, the National Assembly, PDVSA and the military.

The debt the region owes to President Chavez is enormous and has been recognised by CARICOM Heads of Government.

What President Chavez’s poor state of health points to is the need for much greater realism and for Caribbean governments to analyse what happens if Venezuela finds itself in the future, for whatever reason, having to significantly change or even end the arrangement.

No one should be in any doubt about the critical importance of Venezuela’s PetroCaribe programme.

Much of the region’s economic stability especially at a time of austerity and IMF programmes depends on the continuation of the PetroCaribe arrangement and its pricing structure.

If it were not for the energy lifeline that it has provided much of the region would by now be in economic free fall.

(David Jessop is the Director of the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at
Previous columns can be found at www.

Why ignore Cuba’s welcome mat?

Cuba has long been an economic, trade and investment opportunity that has been neglected by the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. This neglect could become a matter of grave regret as Cuba continues to open up its economy to other countries and groups of countries, for by the time businesses in the CARICOM countries wake up to the opportunities Cuba offers, companies from Europe, Canada and Latin America might already have filled the space.

European and Canadian companies are already in Cuba and more are entering the market. Whenever the US embargo is lifted on Cuba, the space for investment and trade will become even smaller and more highly competitive as US companies (especially those owned by Cuban-Americans) enter the fray.

To the government of Cuba’s credit, it has continuously sought to encourage CARICOM governments to establish machinery that would promote trade and other economic relations between them. In 2000, Cuba and CARICOM signed a Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement, but in the 12 years that have elapsed there has been little investment of any significance by any Caribbean companies, except one hotelier from Jamaica. What is more, despite a request from Cuba to expand the coverage of the Agreement, it has lain dormant.

Under the same 2000 Agreement, CARICOM countries had committed to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Cuba to be brought into effect in 2001, but nothing was done. Since then CARICOM countries have each signed an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union that would make the terms of any FTA they might now conclude with Cuba less advantageous than it could have been.

This situation has not stopped Cuba from contributing meaningfully to CARICOM countries. Scholarships given by Cuba have increased the number of persons trained in a range of areas including health, engineering, agriculture, sports and culture. Additionally, the establishment of clinics and the provision of medical personnel by Cuba have allowed for the delivery of health services many of these countries would not have been able to afford.

As CARICOM’s current Chairman, St. Lucia Prime Minister Kenny Anthony has observed, “what is most striking about the solidarity displayed by Cuba with CARICOM is the quantum and diversity of the assistance that Cuba provides despite the constraints placed on its own economic development by the United States economic, commercial and financial embargo”.

Cuba has continued its assistance to CARICOM countries because the Cuban government recognises the courage it took 40 years ago – on 8 December 1972 – for the newly independent Caribbean countries – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – to defy the wishes of the United States government by establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. When they did so, Cuba was isolated in the Western Hemisphere except for Canada. By risking the wrath of the US, that single act by four small CARICOM countries opened the way for other countries to similarly recognise Cuba.

The Cuban government has continuously pushed for the implementation of trade and investment as set out in 2000 Economic and Trade Agreement. Part of its proposals is that the 6 independent countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States would not have to grant preferential duty access to Cuban goods, and Cuba would seek preferential access to the markets of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago for an additional 167 products (over those named in the 2000 Agreement) while, in return, it would give these four countries preferential access to the Cuban market for 227 additional products.

There are of course difficulties in transacting commercial arrangements with Cuba. An important consideration would be the means of being paid and of repatriating profits. But, Canadian and European companies are doing it. Further, at least two Trinidad and Tobago banks are operating in Cuba to facilitate trade between the two countries. So, the means of overcoming these hurdles exist, particularly as Caribbean banks have correspondent relationship with banks in Canada and Europe through which transactions can be handled.

Cuba and CARICOM have had a Joint Commission since 1993 – even before the 2000 Economic and Trade Agreements was signed. It is supposed to meet every year, but it has met infrequently. Nonetheless, if it were to meet, it could iron out any practical difficulties so as to make the terms of the 2000 Agreement work.

One of the clauses of the 2000 Agreement provides for the establishment of a CARICOM-Cuba Business Council to review business opportunities, furnish information and promote trade. So, if it is that the CARICOM business community needs to interact with Cuban companies to explore areas of investment and trade, why not initiate the Business Council to provide that opportunity?

Often when Cuba is discussed in the context of the US government lifting its embargo, it is said that an “opened-up” Cuba will pose a real threat to those CARICOM countries that are dependent on tourism. There is no doubt that Cuba – without the US embargo – will provide even greater competition than it does now, and in more than just tourism. But, apart from speculating on that competition, very little is being done to counter it even though another article of the 2000 Agreement specifically encourages co-operation in tourism covering multi-destination travel, training, language exchange and passenger transport.

CARICOM’s business community should insist now on the launching of the CARICOM-Cuba Business Council and they should take advantage of a recent Memorandum of Understanding between the agency, Caribbean Export, and the Cuba Chamber of Commerce to do business. If this does not happen soon and meaningfully, the Cuban economy will be occupied by others who are taking advantage of it to the exclusion of CARICOM.

CARICOM businesses could be a real part of a bustling Cuban market of 11 million people in the future, if they and CARICOM governments take advantage of what is on offer by the Cuban government today.

Cuba has laid out a welcome mat for CARICOM trade and investment – why ignore it?

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant and former Caribbean diplomat. Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders. com)

Redefining rights

It would appear that the gay rights movement may be seeing some gains much closer to home, very soon. According to a report in a recent Trinidad Guardian, that country’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has promised an end to discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the proposed national gender policy.

It was only a few weeks ago, following popular votes in some US states that approved same-sex marriages, that this some editorials speculated about how soon changes would occur in the region. According to the Guardian report, Trinidad & Tobago will be looking to remove the discrimination against homosexuals that currently exists in that country’s Sexual Offences and Immigration Acts.

Mrs Persad-Bissessar made the pledge in a letter to a UK-based NGO whose director had written a letter of complaint to the Prime Minister about the stigmatisation of homosexuals stemming from such laws. The letter stated, “I share your view that the stigmatisation of homosexuality in T&T is a matter which must be addressed on the grounds of human rights and dignity to which every individual is entitled under international law.”

If Trinidad & Tobago’s gender policy does in fact begin to address this issue, it could get the momentum going for Caribbean governments to take concrete action, in support of the rhetoric that they all subscribe to – in theory – with regard to human rights and discrimination.

It is certainly the belief of the international community that defending these values are critical to long-term development. On Human Rights Day (December 10), UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, said, “As countries in the Eastern Caribbean continue to further development progress, it will be critical to also change some patterns of our development process so far and give true meaning to the independence movements of the Caribbean that were rooted in the pursuit of social justice and the right to development for all, irrespective of colour, creed, class, sex, national or ethnic origin or other status.”

It is not unreasonable to assume that ‘other status’ could refer to sexual orientation. However, while in some instances, governments institute policies for the greater good and then attempt to garner public buy-in, when it comes to homosexuality and related issues, it seems governments around the world are content to let that be a people-driven issue.

It certainly seems to be what’s happening in the US and here too. At a recent HIV research symposium, Family Minister Stephen Lashley noted that since there had been no large outcry to have the anti-buggery law repealed, it was highly unlikely it would be addressed soon. But, given the shift in outlook with regard to gay rights taking place across the United States, and now apparently, closer to home, how long might it be before a similar change in thinking occurs among our own population?

New frontier

Moving away from the area of human rights, another news item that caught our attention, it seems that intellectual property rights are also heading into new territory.

International technology website CNet is reporting that the popular photo sharing site Instagram, has changed its terms of usage, laying claim to the perpetual right to sell all photos uploaded by users without payment or notification. This means that they will in effect be creating one of the world’s largest stock photo databases.

This development has the potential to influence the evolution of social media, reignite privacy concerns and perhaps even shape the definition of intellectual property rights. For a country still struggling to navigate its way around such issues, we would do well to pay attention.

TAKE A REGIONAL APPROACH! - PM Thomas wants to see election campaign regulations

Prime Minister Tillman Thomas wants to see a regional approach with regards to regulations for financing of electoral campaigns.

Addressing a question on Monday evening on need for legislation for the financing of election campaigns, he said that such regulations should be implemented across the region.

“There is need for regulation with regards to campaign financing and I fully believe in some form of regulation and I think it will be done best from a regional level,” said the Prime Minister on the popular “Beyond the Headlines” programme, who admitted to receiving financial contribution for and on behalf of his party.

OAS observer teams, which have monitored general elections in the region over the years, have in each of their reports called for the need to regulate elections with regards to campaign financing. (LS)

Sir John Watts honoured

THE Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association, as part of its 50th Anniversary Year celebrations, held a special cocktail reception at Spice Island Beach Resort last Saturday to honour Sir John Watts, who was very instrumental in the formation of the association in 1961.

Governor General, Sir Carlyle Glean, and his wife, Norma; Prime Minister Tillman Thomas; and Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Keith Mitchell; as well as persons from tourism and business communities were among the guests in an evening where only words of commendation were showered on Sir John Augustus Watts, KCMG, for his contribution of service to the country.  

Sir John Watts (right) receiving his recognition
from Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
During his discourse in the honour of Sir John, Sir Royston Hopkin, KCMG, recalled the days when Sir John called on him to serve. He recounted Sir John’s tenure as Chairman of the Grenada Tourist Board when he decided that it was time for the hotels in Grenada to form themselves into an association.

It was then that Sir John called on Sir Royston to begin serving his country and invited him to serve on the Grenada Tourist Board as the Jaycees representative. Sir Royston went on to serve on the Grenada Tourist Board for 17 consecutive years and he was also president of the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association for 14 years.

He referred to Sir John as his mentor and said even outside of the tourism arena, Sir John is known for his dedication to service. Sir John, in 1974, became the first Rotary District Governor for District 404, which includes all the French, Dutch, and English-speaking islands in the Caribbean Diaspora.

Minister of Tourism, Senator George Vincent, made reference to Sir John’s work in the field of dentistry. He cited the fact that Sir John has not only demonstrated his penchant for service by being a doctor by profession, but has also done so in government. Sir John Watts served as President of the Senate from 1988-1990.

Sir John Watts poses with Governor General, Sir Carlyle Glean (fourth from left); Prime Minister Tillman Thomas (second from right); Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Keith Mitchell (third from left); Sir Royston Hopkin, KCMG (left); and representatives from the tourism and business communities.
Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, recounted Sir John’s stance when Dr. Mitchell challenged the leadership of the New National Party. He noted that contrary to the views of his colleagues in the party, Sir John took the unpopular position that democracy has prevailed and that all should allow democracy to rule. This, he said, was one of the many ways where Sir John demonstrated strength of character and illustrates the measure of the man we are honouring.

Prime Minister the Hon. Tillman Thomas was called upon to present Sir John with his plaque of honour and in his response, Sir John accepted graciously all the praises bestowed upon him and left a very profound message for all Grenadians.

He said: “You must take time out to serve your country in whatever small way you can.”

Sir John noted that once you serve your country, the country will improve and by extension your life will improve. If you do not serve and the country deteriorates, your life is also likely to degenerate.

In accepting the recognition, Sir John said that he felt very honoured to receive the recognition.

“I am a man of service, service is my business,” he said. “If we as citizens don’t set aside time to serve, I don’t think we ought to be recognised.”

He said that citizens should not be ashamed or afraid to serve. “Come out and serve the country, if you serve and the country improves then your life improves,” he said, while quickly pointing out that failure to serve the country can result in the detriment of not only the country, but the people. (LS)

Mardigras Water Treatment Plant officially commissioned for use

THURSDAY, December 13, 2012 marked yet another major achievement for the National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) in the delivery of the Authority’s 2009-2014 Strategic Plan.

Built in the 1960’s, the Mardigras Water Treatment Plant continues to receive investments from the Authority including installation of a clarifier, coagulation, chlorination equipment, controlling, monitoring instruments and a generator during 2010-2011. This resulted in high quality water for communities served.

In 2012, a total of 2.7km of 6” and 4” ductile iron transmission mains, 800 metres of distribution lines and required materials were installed for a total spend of EC$946 000. Road reinstatement is ongoing and when completed will signal the end of eight months of dedicated work.

Last week Thursday, the Authority officially signalled active engagement of the upgraded pipelines, which are serving communities from Mardigras through to Africa, Back Street and Mt. Parnassus, at a ceremony at the Mardigras International Pentecostal Assembly Church. (LS)

Be thankful this Christmas

FELLOW Grenadians, visitors, friends.

I bring you greetings on behalf of my Cabinet, my family and on my own behalf for a wonderful and festive season. Once again, it is the time of year that as a people we acknowledge and celebrate the birth of the Christ child, his life and legacy.

This is also a unique time of year for Grenada, our region and for the rest of the world as we are all still deeply affected by the lingering difficult economic conditions. It is, however, the season of hope, peace and goodwill to all men, and in Grenada we have good reason to be thankful.

We must recognise the fact that most businesses and government have been able to preserve the jobs of the employees. We must recognise efforts of the GCNA in ensuring a better Christmas for our nutmeg farmers by paying more than EC$3 million in bonuses this year.

We must recognise the untiring efforts of our OECS government and the welcomed payment to BAICO policy holders in excess of EC$5 million. We must also recognise the fact that we were able to continue all of our safety net programmes, ensuring that our disadvantaged were cared for.

It is with the expectation that things would indeed be better and with a renewed sense of hope that we look to the future. Collectively, we look forward to increased growth in the economy, the arrival of the first guests at the new Sandals La Source Resort, and the resultant benefits to our local farmers and small business owners; to reaping the benefits of the exploitation of our oil and gas resources, in collaboration with Trinidad and Tobago; to the implementation of the many projects that we have been able to bring to the commencement stage.

Therefore I encourage us all, as a people, to use the opportunity of Christmas to be thankful for what we have and what we have been able to achieve. As the turnaround continues, albeit slow, the onus is on each Grenadian, every single one of us, to put our shoulders to the wheel to produce our way to prosperity.

Our efforts have begun to pay off and our economy is slowly on the rebound.

However, we must recognise that the challenges remain and resources are limited. We must therefore spend wisely and be prudent. I encourage you to purchase and utilise more locally produced fruits, vegetables and products, especially during this period.

As we enjoy the festivities that accompany the celebration of Christmas, we must remember and pay special attention to those who are less fortunate, challenged or incapacitated among us. We should take some time to read the Christmas story to some of our retirees or the children at the various children’s homes. They too deserve our love and our attention during this season.

I wish you all a season of peace and joy as we work together, hand in hand, to build a more sustainable future for all.

(Christmas Message from Prime Minister Hon. Tillman Thomas)

2012 an exciting and challenging year

I THINK it’s fair to say that 2012 has been both an exciting and a challenging year for the Caribbean tourism industry. Visitor arrivals to the region continued to rise, fuelled by improvements in the US and Canadian markets. Yet, we continued to face challenges in Europe, particularly the UK market from which the numbers have been falling. Visitor spending has also been sluggish.

The latest figures from our research department reveal a five per cent rise in arrivals overall. There are clear signs that our performance in the US – our region’s main source market – is improving, with arrival numbers up by 5.3 per cent. The Canadian market has also continued to grow, with total arrivals from the Great White North matching the US at 5.3 per cent.

The UK, on the other hand, has recorded a decline of over six per cent. The Summer Olympics did have some effect, leading to marginal growth in the UK economy, which is still struggling to rebound.

Another factor we can’t ignore is the severe impact that the unfair and discriminatory Air Passenger Duty is having on our region’s performance in the British market. Much to the disappointment and frustration of the Caribbean, this crippling tax is due to rise even further in April 2013 while the discriminatory aspect of the distance ‘banding’ system remains.

A family of four visiting the Caribbean and flying in economy will be expected to fork out 332 pounds sterling for APD – and double that amount for a few extra inches of leg room if they fly in any class above economy. On the contrary, that same family would pay less APD to fly to US destinations that are far further away from London than any Caribbean country. This is an issue the CTO and its member countries and partners will continue to fight.

Despite the many challenges which the Caribbean faced, we got through 2012 with our chins up and our resolve unfazed. Many of our member-countries have scored major successes regionally and inter-
nationally, often parlaying those wins to the benefit of their tourism sector.

We at the CTO have been energised by our new vision “To position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year round, warm weather destination by 2017” and the recently elected  CTO Chairman, Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, has begun her two-year tenure with a pledge to refocus attention on urgent and essential areas including aviation. She immediately established an Aviation Task Force to develop solutions to the region’s aviation problems, including the issue of taxation.

As we prepare to enter 2013, we look forward to working more closely with all of members and partners. As the international agency that leads tourism development in the Caribbean, we know there are plenty of opportunities to improve the quality and the value of the services we provide. We take our responsibility seriously and will use every resource available to us to improve the quality of life of all Caribbean people through tourism.

On behalf of the Chairman, the Hon. Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism, the Board of Directors, the diverse membership and Staff of the CTO, I wish you and yours a happy and blessed Christmas and a safe, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

(Christmas 2012 Message from Hugh Riley, Secretary General, Caribbean Tourism Organisation)

Be agents of hope

Christmas is usually a time of joy, of merriment, of laughter, of family reunion; more importantly, it’s a time of great rejoicing at the coming of the Christ-child into our hearts and into the world. This year, these joyful moments become elusive for many as they succumb to the onslaught of our worsening financial situation and its devastating effects. Many are desperately looking for some degree of hope.

It is in such situations that the words of the prophet Isaiah can help to put our celebration in the right perspective. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Our world gives us excuses for sadness, but also good reasons for joyful hope. All through the ages mankind has had to face serious challenges, some of which man has been able to overcome. Our problems are not merely economic or political or social; they are fundamentally spiritual. In that regard the words of Pope Benedict XVI rings out: “So Christian prayer depends on our continually looking to Christ, talking with Him, being silent with Him, listening to Him, doing and suffering with Him.”

In this the “Year of Faith” as proclaimed by the Holy Father, our Synod implementation must find expression in the many challenges that confront us as Church within the wider global crisis. This Faith enables us to be hopeful and optimistic, even in the intangible – in what we cannot see. The psalmist says: “If the Lord does not build, in vain does the labourer toil.” This is the message that numerous men and women of good will must not cease to proclaim by putting the Gospel into practice. The great message of that hope is Christ himself.

This Christmas, you and I can make a positive difference in the lives of persons who seem to be of weak faith and hopeless. We are being challenged to be agents of hope, to be little spots of light that would illuminate the lives of others. Our celebration ought not to be just about merriment, but to focus on Christ who came into our world to be in solidarity with us through suffering, and thus giving us enhanced faith, new vision, new hope, new life as we prepare to face the future with all its challenges.

I wish all a Merry Christmas and God’s abundant blessings for the New Year.

(Christmas Message by Bishop Vincent Darius, OP)

Celebrate the Christ Event in hope

PEACE to you and Grace from God our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit the comforter!

The Conference of Churches in Grenada takes this opportunity to extend Christmas greetings to all, as we celebrate the Christ Event.

As we reflect on the pre-Christmas season and the many sentiments expressed, we cannot help but detect a sense of despair and hopelessness among many of our people. When we hear statements like: ‘things really bad’; ‘this is going to be the worst Christmas ever’; and when we see the facial expression of many as they seek to survive the present economic climate or, as they seek to make sense of the state of our nation’s politics or, as they try to come to terms with the reality of unfulfilled dreams and failed promises, we are convinced that our people need to hear once more the message of hope, which is indicative of this festive season.

We need to hear again the words of John 3:16:

“For God loved the world so much that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”

That is, God’s plan for fulfilling man’s greatest need: the restoration of the pristine relationship man had with God and creation before it was spoiled by sin. The Christ Event therefore is a significant and pivotal juncture in God’s rescue mission. It provides vital sustenance for man – HOPE – as he journeys towards consummation with God – eternal blessedness with God.

This hope is deeply embedded in the birth narrative stories. Example:

The narrative from Luke which tells of how Jesus was born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling cloth and laid in a man-ger among the animals makes the point that God enters every human situation even that of our impoverishment.

The narrative from Matthew which speaks of the visitors from the East, the escape of the Infant His parents to Egypt and the slaughter of the children, while it highlights the lengths to which man may go to hold on to power, does make the point that neither human guile nor deceit can derail the plans of the Divine.

Another part of the birth narrative in Luke, which speaks of the birth of Jesus at the time of the census ordered by Caesar Augustus that took place during the reign of Quirinius as governor of Syria, confirms the birth of Jesus as an historical event which can be dated in world history and thereby authenticating the Christ Event.

When we search the depths of the birth nar-ratives as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels – Matthew and Luke – we can certainly draw strength from the hope they present. A hope which says that the God we love and serve is a God who enters every human condition as He works His purpose out and that no construct, whether man-made or otherwise, can defeat that purpose. Isn’t that something worthwhile rejoicing over?

What joy and peace can be ours as we come to know, to experience and to trust the assurance that in God’s unbounded love and mercy all things will be well!

It is this trust the psalmist had in God that allowed him to boldly answer the rhetorical question about the source of his sustenance in Psalm 121. “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Dame Juliana of Norwich, a 12th century English mystic who loved God and devoted herself to seeking a deeper knowledge of his love, in her writings, shares these words of assurance from Christ: “I can make all things well; I will make all things well; I shall make all things well and thou canst see for thyself that all manner of things shall be well.”

Throughout the ages man has found God to be the only sure foundation on which to stand. God never fails!

The Conference of Churches Grenada calls on all, as we celebrate the Christ Event, to embrace the promise of God and to place our faith in Christ and Christ alone so that our hope may be well-founded and we may enjoy the peace and joy of such sure hope.

The words of the Apostle Paul as found in his letter to the Romans Chapter 15 verse 13 is our prayer for you:

May the God of hope fill you with all Joy and Peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope!

We wish you the joy, peace and abundant life which Christ offers and may we celebrate the Christ Event in hope and receive God’s blessings as one family and one nation.

God bless you all.

(Christmas Message from the Chairman of the Conference of Churches in Grenada, Archdeacon Christian Glasgow)