Monday, 23 December 2013

WI TEAM OVERHAUL ON THE HORIZON?


Disappointed.

That sums up how West Indies captain, Darren Sammy, feels after the regional side fell to yet another humiliating defeat against New Zealand on Sunday.

The West Indies capit-ulated to 103 all out in its second innings of the third and final Test in Hamilton, leaving New Zealand with a target of just 122 runs. The hosts easily overhauled the meagre total for the loss of two wickets.

Sammy told the media after his team’s horrific performance that he was quite disappointed with the performance, especially as the wicket was a good one to bat on.

“We were thinking anything above 200 on the last day; with the wicket spinning, it would have been a very interesting game. I guess again we are singing the same song. To come here with good batting conditions, it is not a 103 pitch, def-initely not. But credit must go to McCullum and his boys. They looked like they had a plan for each and every batsman, and the way their bowlers bowled on that wicket, it put us under a lot of pressure and we just didn’t have a response,” said Sammy.

The West Indies’ woeful performances in recent time are cause for concern for the usually optimistic Sammy. The St. Lucian admitted that there will be tough decisions to be made and some conceded that some careers, including his own, may just be on the line.

“There are tough decisions to be made by the coach and the director of cricket – some careers are on the line, could be mine as well, you never know. We cannot continue like this. In any organisation, you need to show graft and commitment. The coach keeps saying if we do the same thing, don’t expect a different result,” he said.


Sammy bemoaned the fact that the West Indies seem unable to perform well for a prolonged period of time. He pointed out that the team usually plays well in one innings, but doesn’t back it up in the next.

“You watch us play when we play well and you say, wow, we are moving forward. But then we take two steps forward and then two or three steps backwards, so I think we are not really moving forward. Before we went to India, we were on the back of six consecutive Test wins, New Zealand included. Then we had that tour in India, got beaten miserably. We came here, we escaped in Dunedin, fighting hard where our backs were against the wall. In the last two Test matches, especially here, we had a good first innings total,” said Sammy.

Sunday’s defeat meant that the Caribbean side lost the three-Test series 0-2, following a defeat by an innings and 73 runs in the second Test, which ended two Fridays ago at the Basin Reserve in the New Zealand capital of Wellington. Rain forced a draw in the first Test, which ended three Saturdays ago at University Oval in the South Island city of Dunedin.

The West Indies will now try its luck in the One-Day International Series, which began on Thursday, December 26, in Auckland. (PG)

‘Regional integration must start at grassroots level’


Former long-standing Barbados Member of Parliament, Hamilton Lashley, believes that regional integration cannot be achieved through the efforts of politicians, but by ordinary Caribbean people.

He was speaking at a recent reception at the Divi Southwinds Resort for the visiting Clarke Road United Youth Development Unit from Trinidad and Tobago. The Hamilton Lashley Foundation organised the tour to Barbados and he noted that such relationships augur well for the regional integration movement.

Founder of the Hamilton Lashley Foundation, Hamilton Lashley
(second from left), receives a donation from Coach of the
FirstCaribbean Bank Clarke Road United Youth Development Unit,
Simboodath Beepat. Also in the photo is Gregory Small (left),
Assistant Technical Director of the Foundation and Rodney Simpson
(right), Technical Co-ordinator and Coach at the Foundation. 
“We are very much hoping that this could develop into a very lasting relationship and not a temporary one. Today when we talk about relationships, most relationships in these modern times tend to end in what we call a divorce. We are hoping that this marriage of both teams will augur well for the Caribbean integration movement,” said Lashley.

He made the point that there is the prevailing belief that the Caribbean will be united through the efforts of political parties and the politicians in the Caribbean.


“I tend to take a dissimilar view and my view is that the Caribbean will be united, most likely in our lifetime, but not through the political efforts, but more so through the grassroots interactions and through sports and culture.
The Members of the Clarke Road United Youth Development
Cricket Team with Coach Simboodath Beepat (far back left)
and Ravindra Ramnanan (far back right) . 

“In actual fact, the movement of the Caribbean people in the region clearly should have signalled to the politicians of the region over a period of time that a United States of the Caribbean is not a fleeting illusion and can be a distinct reality if we follow  the trend that has been started by ordinary persons in Barbados and throughout the region interacting with each other,” he pointed out.

The former Member of Parliament for St. Michael South East in Barbados made the point that it was the young people in the region who had a very important role to play in the process.

“The road will not be easy – it will be filled with criticism; the road will be full of ups and downs, but at some point, there will be a nexus, there will be a balance. Each and every one of you are future leaders, and you are the ones who will be given the awesome responsibility of making sure that we as Caribbean people are united as one,” said Lashley. (PG)

Citizenship, debt and the Caribbean


Governments in North America and Europe are beginning to look more closely at citizenship for investment schemes, after a small but growing number of incidents have raised concerns about who passports are being issued to.

Although much of the media have confused the illegal issue of diplomatic or regular passports with those provided under legal citizenship by investment programmes that many nations operate, it is clear that the whole question of being able, in one or another way, to offer citizenship without a residence requirement is coming under increasing international scrutiny; with the real danger being that ordinary citizens may come to face blanket requirements for visas where none previously existed.

Citizenship for investment schemes, of which there are globally very many on offer, provide passports in return for payments or investments of between US$0.1 million and US$1 million and requirements that range from the challenging to the simple or non-existent regarding residence.

Among those most interested in such provisions are newly wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs whose interest in holding alternative citizenship, or residing elsewhere, relates to unspoken concerns about their Government’s anti-corruption drive, personal freedom, or seeking a location that provides an international education for their children.

Wealthy Russians too have an interest in relocating, as do a growing number of wealthy citizens from the Middle East, the former Soviet Republics and Africa unsettled by instability and war, and US entrepreneurs who want to escape the US’s ever widening tax net.

The problem is that such schemes, the nature of the due diligence undertaken in granting citizenship, and in some cases those who are appointed to sell such schemes globally, have become controversial.

The latest nation to attract attention is Malta, a full member of European Union where its government recently announced a scheme that in effect sells citizenship of the EU in the form of a Maltese passport. Government there had proposed that citizenship would be available for US$890 000 (Euro 650 000) without any residency or investment requirement and without the names of those granted citizenship being published.

However, the proposal, which the Maltese government had predicted would bring in US$41 million (Euro 30 million) resulted in a domestic political storm. It also resulted in concern being expressed by other EU member states as the effect would have been to offer entrance and residency into the other 27 EU member states. The result was the temporary suspension of the programme, a debate in the European Parliament next month, and pressure from a number of member states for consistency across the EU.

In the Caribbean, the revenue raising potential such schemes have understandably become of particular interest to some of the region’s smaller heavily indebted nations.

Earlier this month Grenada became the latest Government to announce a citizenship programme as one of a number of decisions to try to put the nation’s fiscal house in order. In his budget address the Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, announced that he will bring before parliament in early 2014 a new citizenship by investment programme tailored to Grenada’s needs, which will, he said, take great care to attract clean and credible investors. This programme will be under the control of a Committee led by the Attorney General which will receive and determine applications for a programme conservatively estimated to bring in US$10 million (EC$27 million) in 2014.

Antigua has a similar a scheme, as do Dominica and St Kitts-Nevis, which offer investment variations on citizenship without a residency requirement. More recently, British overseas territories have been told by London they may only consider programmes for residence as long as there is no guarantee of citizenship.

In contrast, St Vincent has said that it will not follow other OECS nations. Speaking about this in August, the islands’ Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, said “I know what the downsides are, and I insist that the highest office in the land is that of citizen and it is not for sale.... the passport is the outward sign of the inward grace of citizenship and it is not for sale either”. Mr Gonsalves said that instead he preferred to see citizenship garmented to those who “come in and they invest and later on” [become citizens].

Risks and repercussions

Citizenship programmes are extraterritorial in their effect, so the offer of an OECS passport potentially provides any new citizen with the ability to move freely within the region and in some cases beyond, to the Schengen area, to Canada, or to other parts of the world that do not as yet require visas from citizens of certain Caribbean nations.

Not only is this creating unease within some Caricom countries and the suggestion that there is a need to examine the implications in relation to free movement and national security, but it is also clear that traditional partners are watching closely the development of such programmes.

Recent private research also suggests that concern among Caribbean citizens has been growing. Among the doubts listed about economic citizenship programmes are: a country being associated with criminals; being inundated with foreigners; funding being given by foreigners to political parties or individuals rather than the state; damage to international reputation; and visa restrictions being applied to all nationals by other states.

Assuring the Caribbean people that they will not suffer visa restrictions from other nations as a result of an economic citizenship programme is an issue that has domestic political implications. It requires any Government envisaging such programmes to ensure that they communicate their plans to those countries that it citizens most frequently travel to and develop clear procedures in relation to security and the administration of their scheme.

As international views on monitoring money laundering and transparency evolve, it is possible that economic citizenship could at some point become the subject of more intense scrutiny by external governments and international institutions.

In its desire to create new sources of income, Caribbean nations and the region should consider carefully the implications and reputational risks. If economic citizenship, without any significant residence requirement or the most detailed and exhaustive of checks, were to be proved to have facilitated criminality or terrorism, the measure will not only have become self-defeating for the country concerned, but also potentially damaging to the region as a whole.

David Jessop is the Director of the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at david.jessop@caribbean-council.org. Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org

A gloomy time


The announcement on Friday December 13 by the Government of Barbados that it will lay-off some 3 000 public servants in January as a first step in cutting back government expenditure and reducing national demand for goods and services has rightly rattled other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) members. Concern has been greatest in neighbouring Eastern Caribbean countries, particularly the six independent ones that, with the British overseas territory, Montserrat, form the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

While the economic recession that began in late 2008 has abated in North America and Europe, its effects have been prolonged in those Caribbean countries whose economies are highly reliant on services, the principal one being tourism. From the start of the recession, policies were required to cut government spending on anything but economically sustainable projects, scale back borrowing to finance only infrastructural development that would lift the tourism product, and prepare the economies to take immediate advantage of a return to economic health of their main markets. Instead, for many countries, it was business as usual. The net effect is large debt-to-GDP ratios, significant fiscal deficits, and in many countries little capacity by governments to pay wages and salaries without incurring even more debt.

Of the 14 independent CARICOM States, only the four commodity-exporting ones – Belize, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago – have escaped the now alarming prospect of implementing austere measures in order to survive.

The Barbados situation was set out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after its annual inspection in early December of the state of the country’s economy. The inspection is euphemistically called an “Article IV consultation”, and the statement issued by the IMF at its conclusion is a highly sanitized script designed not to offend the government concerned while, at the same time, setting out worrying developments.

In short, the IMF report on Barbados was as follows: Central government debt had risen to 94 per cent of GDP by September 2013; the government’s deficit is expected to rise to 9.5 per cent of GDP in 2013/2014; the government wage bill rose to 10.3 per cent of GDP in 2012/13 – “the highest in the region”; and, most worryingly of all, international reserves had fallen to US$468 million at end-October.

The majority of CARICOM countries should be troubled by the Barbados situation for two reasons. The country has been regarded for decades as a model of good governance and stability in the Caribbean. To the extent that this reputation is eroded in the international community, the region will suffer on the perception that if matters have reached a sorry pass in Barbados, it must be a lot worse in other countries.

At a more fundamental level, Barbados is the second largest importer of CARICOM goods and has been so for many years. As an example, Barbados imported goods from CARICOM worth US$616 million (2012), US$600.2 million (2011) and US$523.3 million (2010). Therefore, a cut in Barbados’ demand for goods (resulting from a lay-off of over 3 000 public servants and consequential job losses in the private sector) will have an impact on the quantum of Barbados’ imports from CARICOM countries. Those affected countries will either have to find alternative markets or face losing some foreign exchange earnings and jobs associated with their exports to Barbados.

The economic situation in the majority of the neighbouring six independent countries of the OECS has been similar to Barbados’ for some time. Unemployment has been in double digit figures for over four years and rises every year; foreign exchange receipts are moderate; and investment in education and knowledge creation has declined.

Worrying indicators

Over the last four years, none of the OECS countries, The Bahamas, Barbados or Jamaica has enjoyed economic growth of 2 per cent or more; indeed, for much of the period their economies weakened. When it is considered that these economies require approximately 5 per cent growth per year simply to absorb school-leavers into employment and maintain existing infrastructure, it can be seen that the last four years of minuscule or no growth have set them back significantly.

The only CARICOM countries that showed growth over the period 2010 to 2012 were three of the four commodity-exporting countries – Belize 5.3 per cent (2012), 1.9 per cent (2011), 2.7 per cent (2010); Guyana 4.8 per cent (2012), 7.8 per cent (2011), 3.0 per cent (2010); and Suriname 4.8 per cent (2012), 4.7 per cent (2011) and 4.1 per cent (2010). In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, it had a mere blip in economic growth of 0.2 per cent in 2012 after a decline in 2011 of 2.6 per cent and a similar blip in 2010 of 0.2 per cent, but consistent oil and gas revenues helped it to weather the storm.

On top of all this is the high debt-to-GDP ratio of almost all of the CARICOM countries projected for 2013 by the Western Hemisphere Department of the IMF. With regard to debt-to-GDP ratios, apart from Trinidad and Tobago (33.4 per cent) and Suriname (37.1 per cent), the others are troubling. At the high end are Jamaica (142.7 per cent), Grenada (115.8 per cent) and Antigua and Barbuda (95 per cent); and at the lower end are Guyana (58.2 per cent) and The Bahamas (56.1 per cent). None of the others are below 75 per cent. Unless debts are reduced considerably by the countries with debt-to-GDP ratios of over 70 per cent, debt repayment will consume much of their dwindling foreign exchange reserves summoning them to the hard path that Jamaica has travelled recently with the IMF and that now beckons to Barbados.

The financial institutions in Barbados and the members of the OECS are also facing difficulty.  The asset quality and profitability of many of the banks are now troubling given that clients are finding it difficult to repay both personal and commercial loans. In the case of some banks – particularly the indigenous ones – over-exposure to governments for loans and advances pose a real problem. Some time ago – certainly among the members of the OECS – a programme of mergers and acquisitions of the indigenous banks should have been actively encouraged. Now one collapse could spell calamity.

It is a gloomy time.

(The writer is a Consultant, Senior Research Fellow at London University and former Caribbean diplomat. Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com)

Dealing with the debt problem


ONE of the things that we ought to be hearing more about is how the countries making up the Caribbean Community are going to handle the issue of rising debt levels.

The talk in global circles and even right here in this region, is the imminent debt crisis which is staring several Caribbean countries in the face. These small countries owe billions of dollars in foreign debt to international lenders, a situation that has drawn comments from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other observers like the Financial Times newspaper.

The economic plight facing many of these countries is pushing them against the wall to repay loans and giving rise to fears that yet another group of countries in the Western Hemisphere, right in the United States’ backyard, faces the spectre of a debt crisis of unprecedented proportions.

These countries which make up the Caribbean Community are now ranked as among the most heavily indebted countries in the world, a situation that, if not resolved, will have significant repercussions.

The group which passed this way before is that making up Latin America which, interestingly enough, now boasts low debt levels and can look back on those years of the crisis as lessons for current and future policymakers.

Recently the IMF said it plans to assist members in charting new growth policies. Such measures will strengthen policy buffers against shocks and advance programmes to help include more inclusive growth going forward with a particular focus on capacity building.

The proposals to promote economic growth will be greeted warmly since once an economy shows sustainable growth, that in itself can assist in lowering the dreaded indicator of high debt to GDP levels.

In recalling the Latin American debt issue, the influential Economist Magazine said it started in 1982 when Mexico stated point blank it would not be repaying international bankers for a while. That spread to other countries and the magazine went on to acknolwedge that for most of the 1980s, dubbed ‘the lost decade’, Latin America was a pariah in international capital markets. No self-respecting Wall Street house would touch a Latin American bond or equity underwriting, nor would a foreign banker lend new money except as part of a debt rescheduling.

Since the 1990s there was a turnaround in economic policy making in that region – economic reforms that included privatisation, the Brady Plan of debt resheduling, more market friendly policies, and debt write-offs brought that region back in bed with international financial and commercial lenders.

Based on what the IMF has said, one must indeed wonder whether the options used in Latin America are likely to be pursued in the mini-states of the Caribbean. These islands have small economies and many of them are limited to a single sector with tourism being the dominant activity in the economy.

This is unlike the bigger states (Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Belize and Jamaica) which have more diversified economies, although the latter is facing the same debt issues as the smaller territories.

Something has to happen to bring not only greater attention to the debt profile of this region, but also how to go about settling it.

As it stands, securing financing is always going to be costly for many of these states given the status of their economies. We wait to see what happens.

US$20M ‘CHRISTMAS GIFT’

By Linda Straker

China’s Ambassador to Grenada has described the turning of the sod to signal the commencement of work on the football and athletic stadium as a Christmas gift to the people of Grenada from her country.

“It is a witness of the friendship of the two peoples. This is a gift for Christmas and New Year, but not for it only. It is a gift for the people of Grenada in future life,” said Ambassador Ou Boqian in her remarks during the sod-turning ceremony last week Tuesday.

Ambassador Ou Boqian (left) and Sports Minister, Emmalin Pierre,
turn the sod while Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell looks on.
“In the near future, a high standard modern and multifunctional international athletic and football stadium will be here, as another symbol of our friendly relationship. We are happy to do so because we understand what sports mean to the Grenadian people. You have a former Cricket Star as Prime Minister, and you now have the World Champion, the shining star Kirani James, who is the pride of the nation,” she elaborated.

The Ambassador believes that when the stadium is completed, more and more national, regional and even world level games will be held here.

“I hope and I am confident that more Kirani James will run out of this stadium to the field of Olympic as the World Champion,” she said, while explaining that sports make one strong and bright.


“Sports-loving people are bright and friendly people, because when people are doing sports together, they are communicating with each other and sharing their friendship. And I believe that is the reason why, as a foreigner, I can always experience the friendship in this country,” she said.

In his remarks, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell asked the Chinese constructors to push work on the constructions for the remodelled football and athletic stadium, so that a major event can be held there during the first quarter of 2015.

The construction project is scheduled for completion and handing over by the summer of that year, but Prime Minister Mitchell hopes that the country’s inter-college athletic games will be staged at the facility in early in 2015.

The next Inter-College Games in 2014 is expected to be staged on the grass tracks at the cricket stadium.

The US$20 million project is being undertaken by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation. It will include the building of three main stands with 7018 seating capacity, international standard athletic tracks, a professional size football field, and media facilities.

Sports Minister, Emmalin Pierre, said that with the immediate start of construction on the new athletic facility, Grenada will be vying to host the 2016 CARIFTA Games.

The CARIFTA Games is the region’s foremost junior meet, and was staged once before in Grenada.

Priorities

The New National Party (NNP) administration, which was voted out of office in 2008, had signed an agreement eight years ago for the refurbishment of the facility following its destruction by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. However, only the cricket stadium was built before the NNP led Keith Mitchell Government lost the general elections.

The incoming National Democratic Congress government, which replaced the administration, had stated that rebuilding the athletics and football stadium was not among its immediate priorities.

The demolition of the existing facility will be done by March of 2014.

Integrity Commission embarking on public education initiative


AS it prepares to accept declarations of assets, the Integrity Commission will embark on a series of public information activities aimed at educating persons who will be directly and indirectly affected by the Public Life legislation.

Chairman of the Commission, retired Justice Monica Joseph, said that various mass media publications will explain the objective of the law and what are the responsibilities for those who are affected.

“These publications will focus on the purpose of the law, its objective and what will be the process for declaring assets,” she said.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell recently told a sitting of the House of Representatives that he will be the first to comply with the Public Life Act.

“At present, I am awaiting a call from the Commission to make my declaration. As promised, I will be the first to do so. I expect this to happen well before our first anniversary in office. I am ready and willing,” he told the House while presenting the 2014 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.

However, Joseph said that even if Dr. Mitchell is prepared to comply, a date will have to be set for him to submit his declaration.

“The process will first start with a notice from the Office of the Integrity Commission with a given date for submitting the relevant forms with the necessary information,” she said.


There are 33 categories of persons who are described as Public Life officials starting with the members of the Commission. It also includes Parliamentarians, Permanent Secretaries, Senior Administrative Officers, Magistrates, Members of the Public Service Commission, Chairpersons, Deputy Chairpersons, Chief Executives and Deputy Chief Executives of all Statutory bodies to all public officers including non-established officers receiving a salary in excess of EC$2 000.

According to the Public Life law, all declarations filed with the Commission and the records of the Commission are secret and confidential and shall not be made public, save and except where a particular declaration or record is required to be produced by an Order of the Court for the purpose of court proceeding directly linked to the Public Life Act or the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Where an authorised person publishes information that was submitted to the Integrity Commission, that person according to the legislation commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding EC$20 000 or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year. (LS)

Churches called on to put more safety measures in place


Police in Grenada say that they have observed a surge in robbery at religious institutions and want church administrators to place marks on properties owned by churches, so that they can be quickly and easily identified.

“It’s not a case where we are seeing people stealing food from the churches, but valuable things such as musical instruments, sacramental wines and even candles,” said Head of the Community Relations Department of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF), Rebecca Jones.

Encouraging churches and faith-based organisations to increase safety measures this festive
season, given the recent spate of break-ins at places of worship, Jones said that the upswing in crime against churches became obvious during the last six months of the year.

“We are making this plea for the festive season, but we noticed the increase robbery on church properties a few weeks,” said Jones, who is not certain if there is an underground market for musical instruments as this is one of the more popular things stolen from churches.

A statement from the RGPF called on church administrators to ensure houses of worship are properly secured and locked, and identification marks are placed on musical instruments and other valuables.

“Members are encouraged to pay particular attention to opportunist thieves in their congregation, who may be visiting for illicit purposes,” said the statement, which encouraged church members who live in close proximity to make periodic checks on church buildings and report anything suspicious to the police.

In providing an update on the spate of robberies at the places of worship, the police said that unrelenting efforts by criminal investigators have led to major breakthroughs in a string of island-wide break-ins and related offences.

Four men have been arrested and charged in connection with 21 reported matters, which began in August 2013. So far various charges related to housebreaking, and housebreaking and stealing have been laid against Kevon George, 22 years old of Crochu, St. Andrew; Donel Williams, 20 years of Mt. Horne, St. Andrew; and Grand Anse, St. George residents, Rodney Thomas, 23 years and Enroy Williams.

Of the reported cases, five are church related with most of the offences taking place in the parishes of St. Andrew, St. Patrick, St. David and St. George. More than eight charges have been laid against George, who was jointly charged with Donel and Thomas in relation to a break-in at the Holy Innocents Anglican Rectory in St. Andrew. Charges against George also include two counts of housebreaking and stealing committed against two Catholic priests.

Ombudsman to receive reduced salary


AS of January 2014, the monthly salary for the Ombudsman will be EC$10 000 instead of EC$15 000, which was paid to the first Ombudsman who retired from the post on account of him reaching retirement age.

At present Mr. Wilfred Hercules is the Acting Ombudsman, but there is no clear indication that he will be appointed to the post. With a vision to furthering good governance through delivery of responsive, equitable public service to all, the Office of the Ombudsman mission is to provide effective service through complaints handling procedures that are timely, ensuring always through the high level of confidentiality and impartiality.

The projected amount budgeted for the Office of the Ombudsman for 2014 is EC$467 363.20 and that amount will cover salaries, rental and utilities. The office of the Ombudsman was established for the purpose of assisting persons who believe that they have suffered injustice or unfairness by public authorities. The Ombudsman may investigate complaints against public authorities, including statutory bodies.

Former Ombudsman, Argar Alexander, in his 2012 Report to the Parliament, described the attitude of some senior public managers to him as disrespectful with some of them be-having as if they are above the law.

“There is a seeming tendency for some senior managers to give the appearance that they are above the law and that, as mentioned by one such individual, the Ombudsman should find better things to take up his time rather than resorting to writing letters to them,” said the report.

The Ombudsman said then that he was of the view that there is evidence of arrogance among a class of such officers and such disposition did not in any way augur well for the social development of the country.

“The message needed to be repeated time and time again that nobody was above the law, regardless of the status which one may enjoy at a particular time,” he wrote.

CBSI paying off


The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) is already paying off, according to Ambassador Colin Granderson, CARICOM’s Assistant Secretary General in Foreign and Community Relations.

He identified that the CBSI had come about as CARICOM Heads agreed that there must be a concerted effort to confront such threats while simultaneously addressing the issue of crime prevention in issues such as the threat of illicit trafficking, gang and youth violence, terrorism, and cyber security.

“CBSI-partners’ three-pronged approach, which seeks to substantially reduce illicit trafficking, advance public safety and security, and promote social justice, has made noteworthy steps on the road to improving citizen safety and security in the Region,” he reasoned.

“Through the CBSI cooperative dialogue process and partnership, the various CBSI Technical Working Groups have developed programmes and projects leading to significant progress in the areas of Maritime and Aerial Security Co-operation, Law Enforcement Capacity Building, Border/Port Security and Firearms Interdiction, Justice Sector Reform and Crime Prevention for At-risk Youth. The CBSI Joint Implementation Report, recently presented at the Fourth Meeting of the CBSI Commission held in November 2013 in Guyana, highlights the significant work undertaken, the results-based outcomes and tangible achievements to date,” Granderson continued.

He noted that the CBSI initiative and its tangible results have also garnered the attention of international development partners such as Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Spain, France and the Netherlands.

Addressing the opening of the Fourth Caribbean-United States Security Co-operation Dialogue, he told those gathered that the assistance of their countries in helping to advance the implementation and mandate of the CBSI was deeply appreciated.

“While CARICOM continues to welcome this invaluable support, we also underscore the parallel need to maximise the effectiveness and sustainability of such support, not by replacing existing initiatives with these countries or diverting resources, but by avoiding the duplication of efforts and generating a more effective impact,” he said. (JMB)

Chesney: Co-operation needed


AGAINST the backdrop of rising food prices and the threats associated with climate change, Executive Director of the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Dr. Arlington Chesney, believes that stakeholders now more than ever must work closer together.

His comments came in the form of a message during a recent open day held at the Graeme Hall Field Station in Barbados. He explained that the open days were started back in 2008 against the backdrop of rising food prices and the greater incidence and intensity of severe natural disasters in the Region.

“Unfortunately, in 2013 the situation remains basically the same. Food prices, particularly of basic staples, remain high and perhaps, more importantly very volatile, making it difficult for planning.

“Climate Change is also now a total reality, impacting not only on productivity, but in pest and disease incidence and the management of soil and water resources and the biodiversity. Further, we have seen that the majority of countries in the region are undergoing tremendous financial and economic stresses causing them to relook at the whole development approach.”

He said that these situ-ations mean that CARDI must work much more closely with its stakeholders, particularly Governments, strategic partners like the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), farmers associations and clients to ensure that its research for development makes a major impact on agriculture, as a major economic driver in the sustainability of the region’s economy.

“As a result of this necessity, CARDI, FAO and IICA have started a process of working much more closely together so as to optimise the potential benefits of the limited resources that we singly and collectively have.

“It is expected that the fruit of this work will start to be seen in early 2014 as together we meet with stakeholders in each country to chart our Work Programmes for the short and medium term. We believe that this will allow countries to make much better use of resources of our three Institutions. CARDI, as Chair of the Agriculture Cluster of CARICOM Institutions will play a major role in leading this process. We seek your support,” he stated.

“At all times, it must be remembered that CARDI works for you, the individual entrepreneurs, the Ministries related to Agriculture and Rural Development, Member States singly and collectively, and others in the agricultural sector,” he said. (JH)

C’bean countries unlikely to qualify for HIPC programme


Countries in the Caribbean region lobbying the international community for help with their high debt levels are unlikely to benefit from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) programme.

This is the view of a commentator in a recent analysis in the Financial Times.

The FT writer said that most countries in the region are struggling with large government debts and lacklustre economies after the global financial crisis hurt tourism, the dominant industry of the Caribbean.

As a consequence, they are lobbying the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for assistance under the HIPC facility.

That facility, first established in 1996, has provided Bds$150 billion of debt relief and concessional loans to 36 poor, mainly African countries, in return for economic and political reforms.

“But HIPC is only available to low-income countries, while most of the Caribbean is classified as middle-income or higher,” the writer said.

The author of the article said that since 2010, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda and Jamaica have had to restructure their debts and enter IMF programmes – twice.

Others, including Barbados, are also being forced to impose austerity. This is causing social hardship, exacerbating already high crime rates, and even endangering the health of their democracies, some senior politicians fear.

Just recently, the Government of Barbados announced plans to lay off 3 000 public officers, in an attempt to bring down a high fiscal deficit.

Government debts of the Caribbean as a whole amounted to roughly 70 per cent of the region’s GDP last year, or $47 billion, according to the IMF.

“There is not much more we can ask our people to do, so the international community has to help,” Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis was quoted by the FT as saying.

“We are highly indebted, because we are so small and so vulnerable that even small shocks – whether financial or natural – can have a huge impact.”

The lobbying efforts are primarily happening under the aegis of the Commonwealth, the group of former UK colonies that has 12 Caribbean coastal and island members.

Wigglesworth said that the Caribbean countries argue that focusing merely on national income ratios ignores the idiosyncratic vulnerabilities confronting mini-states, which typically have populations of 1.5 million or less.

Dire consequences

Some politicians predict dire consequences if no help is forthcoming.

“If you create conditions where states are unable to meet the legitimate expectations of their populations, and you create social-political turbulence, there are consequences for the entire globe,” said Peter Phillips, Jamaica’s finance minister.

There are 31 Commonwealth states classified as “small”, but the lobbying is being primarily led by the Caribbean members. One of the options touted is to use money promised by rich countries to combat climate change for development, or to pay back or offset their government debts.

Nonetheless, the Caribbean countries face an uphill battle. Although the IMF and the World Bank acknowledge their vulnerability to natural disasters and economic shocks, officials privately predict there will be little appetite for debt relief for countries that are far from impoverished.

“These proposals are a matter for our membership to consider and can only be taken forward if sufficient support is forthcoming from shareholders in multilateral institutions,” Gerry Rice, an IMF spokesman, said in a statement. (JB)

Indigenous CXC materials being produced


By November 2014, the students of the Caribbean will have more indigenous learning materials to use for their educational development.

Through teacher-shared experiences via two media: Video and print, more knowledge will be available to students at the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) level.

However, the challenge with reaching teachers across the island chain is accessing iPads for distribution. Therefore, a call is being made for Corporate Caribbean to provide sponsorship to make this initiative a reality.
Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science,
Mathematics and Physics, UWI Cave Hill Campus, Dr. Janak Sodha,
says that ‘The Caribbean Teachers on: Mathematics’
should be available next November.

This was revealed by Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, Mathematics and Physics at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, Dr. Janak Sodha.

He disclosed recently at the Barbados Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, in a brief interview, that on the heels of creating the UwiTube App, providing material for CXC students taking Mathematics, now while in the process of compiling videos for the English Language curriculum, a book series in on the way.

Hopeful, Dr. Sodha said, “The Caribbean School Teachers on: Mathematics book will be on Amazon next November”.

But, the text which will be the first in the ‘The Caribbean School Teachers on: Mathematics’ series is to be no ordinary book. He has taken to calling it an AppBook, because the students will have the textbook to use in the classroom, and through the free App online they can access the educational accompanying videos.

Dr. Sodha says that is the next step, “bringing the Caribbean teachers’ experiences in print. The textbooks would be us [the teachers]”.

His hope is to see more of the private sector throughout the Caribbean providing funding and making donations to assist with the purchase of more iPads. He appealed, “Please, private sector, if you’re out there, we need iPads.”

He urged, that the reach and success of the programme would increase if they had more iPads to distribute to teachers in other islands, such as St. Lucia, Grenada and more, “because it’s not The Barbados Teachers, it’s The Caribbean Teachers”.

He assured contributing teachers that the book will be multi-authoured and gave further incentive to Corporate Caribbean, stating that their contributions can be made public via logo placement in the videos and the book, “if they wish”. (KG)

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

EDUCATIONAL BOOST


THE Caribbean Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (RADO) recently concluded a successful two-day meeting in Barbados with its 15 member countries where Board Members and  Educators met to
advance anti-doping education across the Caribbean region.

Sponsored by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the education training was designed to provide member countries with specific educational tools and approaches that can be adopted and adapted to suit local realities. Rob Koehler, Director of Programme Development & Education at WADA, stressed that, “It’s not all about testing ... education must be the hallmark of our global
efforts, so that athletes understand the fundamental difference between cheating and playing fairly in all sports.”

Leading the education training was Lea Cleret, WADA’s Manager of Education, who was satisfied that participants left the training more empowered and equipped to implement anti-doping programmes in their countries.

WADA officials also had discussions with the Hon. Stephen Lashley, Barbados’ Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports, and Mr. Steve Stoute, President of the Barbados Olympic Association.

The Board of the Caribbean RADO also met to review this year’s operations, and to plan for 2014 ahead of the revisions to the World Anti-Doping Code that will take effect on January 1, 2015. The recent events will make a significant dent in accelerating current regional anti-doping programmes and ensure that all countries expand efforts to reach the sport fraternity, especially athletes, as comprehensively as possible.

The Caribbean RADO’s member countries include Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Turks & Caicos Islands, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Will Bali breathe life into the Doha Round?


Seemingly out of the blue, trade ministers, meeting just over a week ago in Bali, formally agreed for the first time in nearly 20 years, a new multilateral trade agreement.

What was announced at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) gathering in Indonesia fell far short of the comprehensive trade round envisaged when the Doha Round negotiations were launched in 2001. However, it did address some of the easier to resolve trade liberalisation issues and propose that more difficult matters start to be addressed next year; possibly in new ways.

The final outcome in Bali, after five days of intense and sometimes overnight discussion, was an agreement on trade facilitation aimed at making cross border commerce less subject to bureaucracy; declarations on four agricultural issues; and an agreement on a number of development focussed provisions of relevance to the world’s poorest in the least developed countries (LDCs).

Of those aspects touching the Caribbean, potentially the most significant is the agreement on trade facilitation. All WTO members agreed to simplify customs procedures by reducing costs and improving the speed and efficiency of customs clearance. The agreement, once ratified locally and by two thirds of WTO members, will be a legally binding and will have to be implemented. The agreement also involves a related provision for assistance for developing and least developed countries to update their infrastructure, train customs officials, and to cover costs associated with implementing the agreement.

In Bali one Caribbean issue almost halted the final agreement when, in the closing stages of the negotiations, Cuba, together with Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua, withheld consensus until their demands were met for language that would prevent countries applying discriminatory measures to goods in transit.

Cuba argued that its objection was aimed at counteracting US legislation that prevents ships that enter Cuban ports from entering or unloading cargo in the US for 180 days thereafter; a reference to the 1992 US Toricelli Act.

After an all night session involving the WTO Director-General, Roberto Azevedo, and the US and Cuban delegations, the two sides agreed politically to an alternative compromise text.

According to the US think tank, the Cato Institute, quoting the specialist trade publication, Inside US Trade, the compromise language agreed consisted of one sentence appearing immediately after that adopting the trade facilitation deal, and states: ‘In this regard, we affirm that the non-discrimination principle in Article V of the [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] 1994 remains valid.’

According to the Cato Institute, Cuba was not looking for an end to the embargo but recognition that this ‘one small component of the embargo violates the new, US approved, WTO rules’. Although the compromise text remains relatively obscure in its implications, it would seem to allow for a WTO challenge if the US embargo were to be extended in future in respect of goods in transit or if in future vessels entering Cuban ports continue to be restricted in entering US ports.


In Bali there was also an interim agreement that shields public programmes for food security in developing countries from any legal complaint, even if a country’s agreed limits for trade-distorting domestic support were breached.

A further area of agreement of relevance to the Caribbean relates to situations where a tariff quota is persistently under-filled. WTO members agreed on a combination of consultation and information provision when this occurs, but some countries – Barbados, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala and the US – reserved the right not to apply the system after six years.

Another aspect of the agreement touches Haiti, the only LDC in the region. Here WTO members agreed that wealthier nations that have duty-free, quota-free access for LDCs but have so far not increased this to 97 per cent of products ‘shall seek to’ improve the number of products covered. It was also agreed that there should be preferential rules of origin for LDCs, making it easier for them to identify products as their own; and a services waiver, allowing them preferential access to richer countries’ services markets.

Separately from the multilateral trade agreement in Bali, and of some importance, Ministers agreed to give special consideration to issues of small vulnerable economies, instructing the Committee on Trade and Development to consider proposals and make recommendations to the General Council.

But beyond the detail, what the meeting in Bali achieved was a sense that the there is still life in the WTO process when as recently as six months ago it had seemed that the multilateral trade negotiating process was on life support.

That said and despite the new found optimism, what will happen next is not clear. Although there is clearly a desire on the part of WTO members to address other more difficult issues next year, what form the negotiations will take has yet to be decided.

The final Ministerial Declaration contains language that suggest that the WTO’s future work programme may be developed ‘in a way ... that may allow members to overcome the most critical and fundamental stumbling blocks’. What this means has so far not been defined. It could mean pursuing plurilateral initiatives that could later be multilateralised, or alternatively might involve seeking further small packages of agreement of the kind reached in Bali.

What seems certain is that it is unlikely to slow the negotiation of the preferred approach of major powers for bi-regional agreements such as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or remove the continuing inability of developed and advanced developing nations to achieve consensus on trade issues that touch the still changing balance of global economic power.

Despite this, there remains some justification in the language used after the event hailing the agreement as historic, if what was agreed genuinely stimulates global trade and results in renewed interest using the organisation’s ability to find further ways to do so.

Above all the sense emerging from the meeting in Bali is that it has provided a systemic boost to the WTO and has begun to restore confidence in a body that had every sense of just idling or even becoming an irrelevance in relation to trade liberalisation.

(David Jessop is the Director of the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at david.jessop@ caribbean-council.org. Previous columns can be found at www. caribbean-council.org)

Standing by Mandela


A single word appears on the stone marking his burial place. It is “Mandela”; and it is enough.
Since December 5, that fateful day when Nelson Mandela left the world bereft of a leader the like of whom mankind had seldom experienced, much has been written and spoken in deserving tribute to him. But, it should not be forgotten that he was once called a “terrorist”; and apartheid – the system of institutionalised racism against which he fought, losing 27 years of his freedom – was justified by many governments for whom the Cold War alliance with the racist regime that controlled the country was more important than the rights of non-white South Africans.

The purpose of this commentary is to recall the role played by Caribbean people in freeing Mandela and ending apartheid. No Caribbean people or leader played bigger roles than the Cubans and Fidel Castro. Much Cuban blood was spilled and many hundreds of Cubans were buried in Angola over a 13-year period in a war against South African forces for the liberation of Southern Africa. Mandela did not forget that sacrifice.

Other Caribbean people played important roles too. Despite the antagonism of the United States government, which then stood beside the apartheid regime in South Africa, the Prime Ministers of Barbados and Guyana, Errol Barrow and Forbes Burnham, opened up their countries’ airports in the mid-1970’s for Cuban planes to refuel to and from Angola transporting Cuban military advisers and equipment.

Long before this – in the 1950’s – English-speaking Caribbean countries, though still British colonies, boycotted the importation of South African products to protest the institutionalisation of apartheid in South Africa as well as a series of laws that stripped non-whites of rights, corralled them into concocted reserves, exploited them as cheap labour and banned their political parties.

Some contributions were overt, such as the financial support given to Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) by the governments of Guyana and Jamaica under Forbes Burnham and Michael Manley in the 1970’s. Other contributions were not in cash but significant nonetheless – like the government in Antigua under V.C. Bird Snr giving its passports in the 1980’s to ANC exiles who were deprived of travel documents by the apartheid regime and were otherwise stateless.

The sporting boycott of South Africa initiated in 1977 by Commonwealth Heads of Government proved painful to white South Africans and was one of the sanctions that helped to end apartheid. The small Group of leaders at Gleneagles in Scotland that negotiated the boycott included prominently, Michael Manley The Group had as support the deft hand of another Caribbean man, Guyana-born Sir Shridath Ramphal, who by then was Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.

The sports boycott of South Africa hit the apartheid regime hard where it counted most – at home, and amongst white people whose teams could no longer participate in the Commonwealth Games or play international rugby and, worse of all, could no longer compete in cricket. Other Caribbean men stood-up then as well. Between 1982 and 1984, South Africa lured cricketers from many countries to play in South Africa to break the sporting ban. Some West Indian cricketers went without the consent of their governments and their cricket authorities, but not the most outstanding ones the South Africans most desperately wanted to parade – among them Clive Lloyd (Guyana), Vivian (later Sir Vivian) Richards (Antigua), Joel Garner (Barbados) and Courtney Walsh (Jamaica) who stood firm in their solidarity with the oppressed in South Africa.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1985 in Nassau, The Bahamas, is remembered by historians as the turning point of the Commonwealth’s struggle with Britain’s Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in her obdurate opposition to ‘sanctions’ against apartheid South Africa. Thereafter, she no longer held a veto on Commonwealth sanctions. The Bahamas Prime Minister Lyndon Pindling, as Chair, steered the meeting to that end. It was sanctions - started by the Commonwealth and pushed into the United Nations - that eventually crippled the apartheid regime, drying up loans from the international market and deterring investment.

But the Nassau Meeting also established the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) with a mandate to promote a process of dialogue for change, for ending apartheid and establishing a genuine non-racial democracy in South Africa. Seven Commonwealth countries, The Bahamas among them, would consult with the Secretary-General, on their nominees. Sir Shridath wanted Dame Nita Barrow of Barbados and Prime Minister Pindling agreed that she would be his nominee from the Caribbean. As a member of the EPG, Dame Nita would be the first West Indian to see Mandela – in prison. She was a vital member of the Group - the first among them to enter the grim Soweto – dressed as a local woman accompanying Winnie Mandela. The EPG’s Report Mission to South Africa exposed the iniquities of apartheid, became the catalyst for sanctions, and produced a negotiating concept to which the regime turned in the end to surrender its apartheid apparatus - including Mandela’s release.

Shridath Ramphal’s engagements were central and manifold as he acted for the Commonwealth in its crusade to free Mandela and end apartheid. His efforts, over 15 years, to end a system of inhumanity that besmirched the 20th century entailed constant mobilisation of Commonwealth governments and use of contacts with leaders in Europe, Asia, Canada and even Washington to bolster the crusade of front-line African States; even using at some times conduits in the religious community to get messages to Mandela in prison.

Mandela never forgot that tireless and determined work. In a memorandum (now public) Ramphal recorded that five days after Mandela was released, they spoke by telephone. Mandela was at Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s residence in Pretoria, and he made it clear that despite the prison bars that confined him, he was always aware of all of this support. Later, he acknowledged fulsomely the Commonwealth Caribbean’s special solidarity when receiving an honorary degree from the University of the West Indies in the first months of 1991.

The Caribbean’s drive for Mandela’s freedom and the end of apartheid came in other forms – like from the region’s leading musical icons, for example, 1976 Jamaica’s Bob Marley (War) and 1977 Peter Tosh (Apartheid), and in 1988 Guyana’s Eddy Grant (Gimme hope, Jo’anna). Those songs formed part of the anti-apartheid battle cry and helped to arouse popular outrage around the world.

In memorialising Mandela, Caribbean people can proudly say that they stood with him in the time of the great struggle against apartheid – and he showed his appreciation.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, Senior Research Fellow at London University and former Caribbean diplomat. Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com)

Keeping Mandela’s legacy alive


It was just two weeks ago that the world learned of the death of the inimitable Nelson Mandela. Since then, and not surprisingly, there has been an outpouring of tributes to the man who was much more than just a man – his political, social and moral influences on South Africans and populations across the globe is undeniable. In reflecting on his contributions, many have wondered if his legacy will live on in others or if this global icon’s efforts at social integration and peacekeeping will die with him.

One would tend to believe that people the world over would have learned from the lessons shared by Nelson Mandela, who put aside anger at the injustice of being wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years and instead promoted compassionate justice for all. However, the reactions of some during Mandela’s memorial service recently, and even of those watching around the world, proves that there is still a lot more maturing to be done before an ideal is reached.

One incident that made headlines, especially in the US, was “the handshake heard around the world”, according to one Miami news station, when US President Barrack Obama shook the hands of Cuban leader Raul Castro. While not placing too much significance on the gesture, which might very well have been a simple courtesy, it nevertheless could provide an easier transition towards accord between Cold War foes and was a perfect demonstration of Nelson Mandela’s message of unity and camaraderie. Yet, many Cuban emigrants presently living in the US were up in arms over the purported offense and saw Obama’s actions as a betrayal of sorts.

Another occurrence which sought to undermine Mandela’s legacy was seen in the behaviour of South Africans to their current president Jacob Zuma. Cheering every speaker and applauding several dignitaries, even the last apartheid president F W de Klerk, spectators booed Zuma when his image appeared on the big screen in the stadium, embarrassing him on an international stage. This behaviour was reflective of the overwhelming discontent with the ruling party’s alleged misuse of taxpayer’s money and corruption. It is true that Mandela would have frowned upon this type of injustice, but he also spoke of tolerance and a memorial, especially his own, was neither the time nor place for such a political statement.

Then there was the overwhelming controversy surrounding the sign language interpreter, who was exposed after failing to correctly translate the speeches made. He later admitted being a schizophrenic with violent tendencies and claimed he was distracted by visions of angels descending into the stadium. The ensuring uproar over the security breach continues to this day.

All in all, too much of the coverage associated with Mandela’s memorial was focused on unnecessary criticism of the event and of the hundreds of world leaders in attendance. This was the perfect occasion to put aside differences and celebrate the life of the great man; a chance to show the world that his legacy will live on and put good intentions and heartfelt words into actions. And, for the most part, the memorial was a tribute to his life’s teachings. However, for Mandela’s legacy to truly live on, each and every one must make a conscientious effort to be the best that they can be long after the great man has been laid to rest.

Do not let Nelson Mandela be relegated to a wonderful hero story. As with any father guiding their child, let his lessons emanate in our lives.

TOURISM MINISTER OPTIMISTIC – says Radisson brand will positively impact hotel sector

Daniel Nicholas
By Linda Straker


Tourism Minister, Alexandra Otway-Noel, believes that the Radisson hotel brand’s entrance into Grenada’s hotel accommodation sector will have a positive impact on the tourism industry as tourism stakeholders and Government put structures in place to increase stay-over visitors to the island.

“Radisson has a big following, it’s a brand that is known for its excellent service and through its membership rewards programme with individuals and companies. I am sure that Grenada will benefit from its wide and extensive collection,” she said.

“This brand will do us well, as through its club members we will tap into a pool of people who can come to Grenada, which will not only be reflective on our visitor arrivals, but impact on the hotel itself as well as those other stakeholders who provide services directly and indirectly to the hotel,” she said.

December 16, 2013 marked the official commencement of the Radisson brand in Grenada. It was not a new property on Grand Anse Beach, but a change in management and branding of what was formerly called the Grenada Grand Beach Resort and Convention Centre.

Daniel Nicholas said that the brand change is being done in two phases and the first phase involves converting the entire property into Radisson standards. “For example, the rooms are totally different to what they used to be from design, decoration, furniture, just about everything; they are now reflective of the brand standards,” he said.

Though phase one is only 60 per cent complete, more than EC$10 million was spent to upgrade the property. “During Phase Two, more money, lots of more money will be spent as we will be constructing more than 100 rooms, thereby adding to our room stock and at the same time increasing our room stock on the island,” he said.

The Radisson Grenada Beach Resort officially began
operations on Monday, December 16, 2013.

Otway-Noel, who toured the upgraded facility, said she is very pleased with what she has seen. “It’s the appropriate step taken by the management of the hotel as it’s raising awareness about quality service to the staff and as you know service counts in this business; excellence speaks for itself and that is what those in the sector have to always bear in mind. Quality is what will build this industry.”

The commission of the Radisson brand in Grenada took the form of a welcome reception, which was attended by tourism stakeholders, Government officials including Ministers Alvin Dabreo, Anthony Boatswain and Otway-Noel; Senators Winston Garraway and Sheldon Scott; as well as Acting Cabinet Secretary, Nordica McIntyre, and other permanent secretaries.

Business representative in the Upper House of Parliament, Senator Christopher DeAllie, was also among the invited guests who reflected a wide cross-section from the business community, including those who supply goods and services to the hotel.

Also present were former government officials, including Tillman Thomas and others members of his cabinet.

Audit conducted on VAT system


A review of the Value Added Tax system, which Grenada implemented in February 2010, has identified a number of areas for improvement and enforcement for those businesses or individuals who violate the law.

Conducted by the Audit Department in the Ministry of Finance, among the recommendations is that a comprehensive education process be undertaken to provide officers who originally were not part of the VAT process, with knowledge of the requirements of the VAT legislation and the existing policies and procedures.

Despite the observation, in general, the audit found that the activities in respect to the administering of VAT were in accordance with the laws of Grenada and all the other established policies and procedures. The audit report also recommended that there should be proper supervision over the manual filing of VAT returns and other documentation to ensure that taxpayers’ records are complete and up-to-date.

With regards to granting time before the waiver of a fixed penalty, the audit recommends that all waivers should be adhered to in accordance with law. The report, which was tabled at the December 10 sitting of the House of Representatives, said that letters were issued granting “one-off” waivers of
late filing penalty to three taxpayers. However, there was no evidence that an extension of time was granted as stipulated in the Act.

Other recommendations included enforcing clauses relating to garnishing and seizures for those who fail to comply with the VAT law and establishing a policy of management reporting on compliance performance.

In the area of registration, it was recommended that a mechanism be created to identify the new businesses which are registered at the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office, so that they are captured on the VAT list.

VAT is a tax on consumption and it’s charged on the value of imports and on the value added on goods and services supplied by one business to another or to the final consumers. For the year ended December 31, 2012, the amounts collected from VAT were EC$77 million on domestic transactions and EC$79.1 million on international transactions. (LS)

Unemployment rate is 33.5%


There has been much speculation about the rate of unemployment in Grenada and a recent labour force survey has provided the answers.

Preliminary data of a Labour Force Survey conducted in September has revealed that Grenada’s unemployment rate is 33.5 per cent. This was announced by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also Finance Minister, when he presented the 2014 Budget last week Tuesday.

He said that based on the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) definition of unemployment, which is persons who are not working, want work, actively seeking work and available for work, the rate of unemployment in Grenada now stands at 33.5 per cent. Among our youth (ages 15-24), it is 55.6 per cent.

“The Survey’s findings validate our assertion, in Opposition, that the rate of unemployment was at least 40 per cent. Let us examine this issue a little further. The current labour force in Grenada is just under 60 000. Remember, the labour force is the employed and the unemployed. How do you get the unemployment rate? You divide the unemployed by the labour force and multiply by 100,” he said.

A Labour Force Survey is a Household Survey. The data was collected through face-to-face interviews with members or a member of a sampled household.

The survey was a project of the St. Lucia-based Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States and it was conducted in the nine-member sub-regional grouping with funds provided by the European Development Fund. (LS)

Parliamentarians no longer to receive constituency allowances


By Linda Straker

AS of January 1, 2014, Parliamentarians in the Lower House of Parliament would no longer receive personal cheques to assist with the operations of their constituency offices, but the Office of Parliament will take responsibility for paying expenses relating to the operations of those offices.

Following the General Elections in 1999 when the New National Party initially won all 15 seats in the House of Representatives, the then Government made a decision to provide an allowance of EC$1 500 to assist with the operations of constituency offices. This money was in addition to their monthly payment of EC$1 200.

Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
According to the Minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance, which is chaired by Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, “The Chairman pointed out that the key reason for the new arrangement was that no monies would be going through any one of the Parliamentarians’ hands, which would be safeguarding the Parliamentarians and all concerned.”

The Minutes of the Committee, which in actuality is a coming together of all elected parliamentarians who must approve Government Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue before it’s presented in Parliament, were tabled at the December 10 sitting of the Lower House.

The minutes further explained that the permanent secretary stated that the amount would properly cover the expenses of the offices and at the same time would take the pressure off the individual Members of Parliament.

The minutes said that a guideline was established for parliamentarians to observe as part of the new changes. Because of the amount allocated, the guidelines provide strict rules as to the maximum fee for rental, payment to staff and other supplies for the effective operations and functioning of the offices.

Following the February General Elections in which all the seats were won by the candidates for the New National Party (NNP), a decision was taken to convert these NNP party offices into parliamentarian or constituency offices.

The EC$1 500 allocation to each office is expected to cover the monthly payment of all expenses related to the operations of these offices, including rental space, a secretary and utility bills.

Two Government departments to become statutory bodies


Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also Finance Minister, has disclosed that two Government departments will be converted into statutory bodies as part of plans to reduce Government expenditure and the size of the public service.

In his debate to the 2014 Budget, Dr. Mitchell informed the House of Representatives that the Government Information Service (GIS) and the Government Printery are departments that will become statutory bodies within the coming months.

While research is still being done to decide on the best format to be adopted for the GIS, it was disclosed that the Government Printery staff have embraced the idea and are excited to become a statutory body.

“The staff is competent and we believe that they will be able to do a great job with the service they will offer. A lot of printing business can be done here, but instead we see it being exported out of the country. Once we get the printery in a position to offer those services, millions will remain in the country,” Dr. Mitchell told the House.

“Just look at newspapers, thousands are sent out of the country weekly. There will also be printing services for printing invitations, wedding cards, magazines, and other reports,” he added.

Statutory bodies were created to be more efficient than central Government and to be independent of central Government. Among the statutory bodies are the National Water and Sewage Authority, Gravel Concrete and Emulsion Production Corporation, the Grenada Postal Corporation, the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation, the Spicemas Corporation and the National Lotteries Authority.

While presenting the 2014 Budget, Dr. Mitchell announced that there will be a review of statutory bodies and on the instruction of Cabinet, line ministers have been meeting with their respective Boards to inform them of the new direction and Government’s expectations.

Statutory bodies rely on subventions and concessions and they do not pay any dividends to Government, even if the operation realises a profit from its operations. (LS)

EU to provide more financial assistance to region


THE European Union has promised to double the amount of financial assistance to the Caribbean Community countries.

This commitment has come from the European Union Delegate to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mikael Barfod, who was defending the EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and its slow pace of implementation in the Caribbean.
EU Delegate to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean,
Ambassador Mikael Barfod (foreground, second from right),
speaking to media representatives at a recent function.
Responding to suggestions that there is disillusionment in the Caribbean with the EPA, Mr. Barfod told journalists that under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) covering the period 2014 to 2020, they will be doubling the amount of aid to the Caribbean.

He said that will be an improvement on the allocations in the current 10th EDF.

“We have been told that we need to speed up implementation (of the money) from day one. So that means we will have lots more money coming on stream in a couple of years while current programmes are continuing,” the Ambassador remarked.  

He stated that with the Caribbean experiencing deep financial crisis, now is not the time to measure the value of a trade agreement.

“It would be better to do that when the economic situation is a bit better,” Mr. Barfod told the media.

“But in my opinion there are a number of challenges,” he said, while suggesting that one area the region ought to take up is the agreement covering services.

He said that this is one on which the economy of Barbados depends a lot.

“It is clear that for the EPA to be a full success, companies have to exploit services and that is the only beginning,” said the Ambassador. “But it is beginning, it is a long process so I will not join the pessimistic commentators who say the EPA is going nowhere. It is going somewhere,” according to him.

The CARIFORUM EPA is the only one that Europe has signed with the Caribbean. It was reviewed some weeks ago in Grenada. Mr. Barfod said that the view then was that although implementation is not perfect, some progress is still being made. “There have been implementation units set up in many countries and when it comes to the tariffs which were to but cut in January 2011 and again this year, the picture is more mixed but we are making progress,” he remarked.

The official said the EU has provided financial support for the implementation of the agreement. “These operations are in full, I mean here we have CROSQ, Caribbean Export, development agencies are doing well having helped a number of industries that I hear a lot of positive comments,” he said.

A Mandela-type could effect change in region


THERE is a suggestion that Barbados and the Caribbean need to be more forgiving and as such, the region could do with a Nelson Mandela-type individual to effect that.

That suggestion has been raised by Ambassador Mikael Barfod, Head of the European Delegation
in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, who believes there should be more unity across the region.

“I would postulate that the Caribbean might still need a Mandela because of his forgiving and his uniting character,” the Ambassador said.

He has said this region needs to worry less about the injustices of the past and perhaps focus a bit more, like Mandela had done, in our context, on a viable and inclusive and a very practical solution for the present and for the future.

“I think this is something that is worth thinking about because you can use the spirit of Mandela in many parts of the Caribbean, also here in Barbados as well,” Mr. Barfod reasoned.

In an address to a function on the occasion of World Human Rights Day, the EU official among other things paid tribute to Mandela, the former South African President who died recently and who was buried on Sunday.

“I feel it is astonishing that one man was able to clear up the mess and the evil system in South Africa,” he said of the late Mandela.

“The reconciliation and the even-handedness he showed in all of his actions was really quite remarkable and putting people together to feel like a nation for the first time in South Africa’s history. I have no idea how he did it, but he was able to pull it off,” he noted.

The Ambassador pointed out that unlike a number of other places, Barbados is lucky it has never had a Robert Mugabe and the human rights abuses “and here you can consider yourself lucky”.

He remarked as well that the human rights situation in Barbados is bolstered by some degree of social protection, although there are still issues.

According to him, the way people are treated around the world is far from universal. The Ambassador stated that conflicts, the absence of democracy and extreme poverty are leading to the abuse of human rights in many parts of the world.

“That is something we should keep as headlines for human rights day,” said the Ambassador.

The EU official said that the EU has been very forthright in getting countries to observe proper human rights. He stated that they  have been very supportive of the restoration of democracy in Burma, the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons, the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria and good governance and reconciliation throughout Africa.

The EU also holds dialogue with strategic partners in China, Russia South Africa and Nigeria, and fights terrorists and pirates in Africa.

He promised that Europe intends putting more money to help the Caribbean combat drug trafficking. (JB)

Criminals refused entry – thanks to fingerprint records



Through the work of the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency and the Joint Regional Communications Centre (JRCC) based in Barbados, over 400 human subjects have been identified as being inadmissible to Caribbean countries and have been refused entry, thanks to the work of these two agencies.

The above was revealed recently by Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Christopher Sandrolini, as he spoke of the success of the collaborative efforts between the United States and countries in the region to fight crime.
Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy to Barbados
and the Eastern Caribbean Christopher Sandrolini.
The Chargé d’Affaires noted that one significant partnership has seen the US assisting the region in establishing fingerprint records, through the donation of automated fingerprint identification system terminals.

“There is clearly a great benefit to making sure that a criminal does not escape justice  simply because he has travelled to a different country, and finger print records are an important part of being able to link our networks together,” he noted.

Acknowledging that 400 human subjects have been denied entry to date with the use of the automated fingerprint identification systems, Sandrolini noted that these subjects include illegal immigrants, convicted criminals, narcotics traffickers and sexual predators.

“Every week we are seeing five to ten of these people identified and prevented entry into our countries,” he stressed.

Sandrolini also revealed that the US drug enforcement administration in joint operations with Eastern Caribbean partners has seized more than 300 000 kilogrammes of narcotics. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has also been instrumental in introducing issues of cyber security in the public and private sector, throughout the region.

The Chargé d’Affaires further pointed out that the United States is very proud of its Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), created in 2009 with three goals in mind.

“The first was to substantially reduce illicit trafficking of narcotics and weapons; second, to build citizen security and anti-crime programmes to reduce crime and improve border security; and thirdly, to promote social justice through programmes to reform justice systems and combat corruption and assist vulnerable populations who risk being recruited into criminal organisations,” he pointed out, adding that since the creation of CBSI, the US has dedicated US$236 million to programmes across the Caribbean.

Sandrolini also remarked that in the past year and a half, the US has sponsored more than 180 different training courses for the benefit of more than 2 000 participants across the region, building human capital and covering a host of subjects, including civil aviation security, crisis management, maritime terrorism, forensics, homicide investigations, gang training, anti-corruption, cyber security and leadership.

Sandrolini’s comments on these matters came as he addressed top law enforcement and security officials at the recently held Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police, held in Barbados. (RSM)

Canada supporting C’bean in security matters


“Canada is very much aware that security in the Caribbean has a bearing on security of us in the North.”

So stated Canadian High Commissioner, His Excellency Richard Hanley, as he addressed key law enforcement officials from across the region, gathered recently in Barbados.

The Canadian High Commissioner therefore noted that Canada’s efforts are focused on assisting Caribbean partners by strengthening local capacity, particularly through justice and security system reform, as well as on stemming drug trafficking and money laundering trough out the region.

His Excellency Richard Hanley also cited a number of security related Government of Canada programmes currently in place in the Caribbean, including Canada’s Anti-crime Capacity Building Programme, which has contributed $22 million between 2009 and 2013.

Hanley stated that other initiatives include the establishment of a virtual training institute  in the Eastern Caribbean via the Regional Security System(RSS); supporting the RSS Air Wing through the provision of radar equipment; working with the US to establish a regional integrated ballistic identification network among Caribbean community members; supporting police professionalisation in the Turks and Caicos; assisting in reforming the justice sector in Trinidad and Tobago; supporting several projects
implemented by the Organisation of American States and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Canada’s Department of National Defence, through its Military Training Cooperation Programme, also offers professional development training to members of the armed forces in the Caribbean, Hanley said.

Hanley stressed that the region’s law enforcement officials are faced with difficult challenges and with limited resources they still have to seek to make the region safer for Caribbean citizens and also Canadian tourists who like to visit the region.

Hanley’s comments on these matters came as he addressed top law enforcement and security officials at the recently held Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police, held in Barbados. (RSM)

Crime, violence a threat to region


All across the Caribbean there is a common appeal for safer societies, as an upsurge in crime and violence is threatening the well-being of the region.

As such, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Warren Smith, has noted that the onus is on commissioners of police across the region to put their heads together to find sustainable, strategic solutions to the crime situation.

“As police commissioners, you lead forces that are charged with creating a feeling of security in our communities, by providing protection against threats to life and property. So you’d also be familiar with surveys that indicate that Caribbean publics regard crime as either the most important or second most important social problem facing our Caribbean region,” Dr. Smith remarked as he addressed regional police commissioners at the opening of a two-day Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police, held at Divi Southwinds Resort recently.

“Across the Caribbean region, the common appeal is for safer societies. Many of us recall the days when we could roam the streets at day or at night; when our night rest was undisturbed by gunfire; when schools were a safe haven for our children; and when the church door remained opened, always a place of refuge,” he reflected.

“Rising crime rates have changed that landscape in a rather remarkable manner. I know that the mushrooming of violent crime causes you very great concern. When people are fearful, the ability of the police to provide adequate protection comes under scrutiny and the Force’s credibility and access to intelligence is undermined,” the CDB President stressed.

Noting that “all of the evidence now points to crime and violence threatening our well-being and certain feelings of insecurity among Caribbean citizens”, Dr. Smith quoted a number of startling statistics:

“Our region accounts for only 8.5% of the world’s population, but an estimated 27% of the world’s homicides. Overall, homicide rates are 34% higher and robbery rates are 26% greater than in countries with comparable macro-economic conditions. Murder rates averaging some 30 per 100 000 population annually are higher than for any other region of the world. New forms of criminality, including organised drug trafficking, gang-related violence, kidnapping and corruption, have emerged. With
advances in technology, the incidences of cybercrime are also increasing,” he stated.

“Just recently, here in Barbados we learnt of customers of a number of banking institutions becoming victims of international ATM banking fraud. We also know of the now infamous scammers in Jamaica, who have been fleecing senior citizens in the United States and elsewhere. Assault rates, especially against women, are significantly above the world average. Three of the top ten recorded rape rates occur right here in the Caribbean,” Smith lamented.

“In general, rising levels of crime and violence lead to a concomitant dampening of the pace of economic growth and development. Empirical research done by the World Bank and the IDB has confirmed this. The economic cost of violence and crime is five to 15 per cent of GDP,” he revealed.

Therefore, he said the ACCP must become natural champions of co-operation in the development of policing strategies and the implementation of protective measures, to prevent crime and allay the fears of Caribbean citizens. (RSM)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Grenada has first female Certified Ringside Physician


Professional boxing is back in Cuba after some 53 years and Grenada was part of that historic event, being represented by International Boxing Association Certified Ringside Physician, Dr. Deborah-Ann Stephens-John.

Dr. Stephens-John is the first Grenadian as well as the first woman in the whole of the Western Hemisphere to hold this post in this field of international professional boxing.

The competition was on December 6 between Cuba and Russia in Havana, Cuba. Dr. Stephens-John is the leader of the team of Physicians who conducted the medicals on participants and examined the physical conditions of the ring and venue.

Grenada’s Ambassador to Cuba, Her Excellency Claris Charles, congratulated Dr. Stephens-John for being the pioneer in this area of professional boxing, going into a field that is traditionally male
dominated and projecting Grenada on the international landscape again. (LS)

Hard to predict end result of Caricom-DR dispute


Far from moving towards a resolution, the inter-regional dispute over a Constitutional Court ruling in the Dominican Republic has become polarised, with Caricom, the Dominican Republic and Haiti taking seemingly entrenched and antagonistic positions.

It had widely been expected that, with the help of Venezuelan mediation, a basis had been agreed on which to begin to address a tense situation that could make stateless large numbers of undocumented individuals mainly of Haitian origin living in the Dominican Republic; the precise number is disputed.

On 21 November, agreement had been reached to prioritise a dialogue between the two states and to de-emphasise the increasingly damaging regional and international debate over the issue. However, this collapsed within days of having been agreed when on 27 November the Dominican government decided to put an end, ‘for the time being’, to the planned discussions on the basis that Haiti had reneged on its commitment to prioritise dialogue.

On that date, the Dominican Minister of the Presidency, Gustavo Montalvo, announced his government’s decision not to attend a follow up meeting scheduled for 30 November in Caracas. He did so on the basis that it was felt that Haiti, by actively seeking and agreeing to a strongly worded statement produced by the Caricom Bureau on 26 November, had effectively broken the word and spirit of what had been agreed with Venezuelan support.

Mr Montalvo said: “We feel that (by doing so) the Haitian government has broken the agreement that we signed last week, in which a process of dialogue was prioritised by the two countries in order to seek solutions for any issues on our common agenda. Haiti has preferred to take another road.”

At the Caricom Bureau meeting, which brought together Trinidad’s Prime Minister, Kamla Persad Bissessar; her St Vincent counterpart, Dr Ralph Gonsalves; the President of Haiti, Michel Martelly; plus the CARICOM Secretary General, Irwin la Rocque, it was agreed to defer consideration of the Dominican application for membership of Caricom, where it currently has observer status.

In a statement, CARICOM condemned “the abhorrent and discriminatory ruling of September 23, 2013, of the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic on nationality which retroactively strips tens of thousands of Dominicans, mostly of Haitian descent, of citizenship, rendering them stateless and with no recourse to appeal”.

The Caricom Bureau also indicated that Caricom would review its relationship with the Dominican Republic in other fora, including Cariforum (Caricom plus the Dominican Republic, a construct largely related to the Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe); CELAC, the new political grouping which brings together all of the nations of the Americas other than the US and Canada; and in the OAS, which includes all nations of the Americas but in which Cuba does not participate.

Since then, in an effort to try to address the impact of the constitutional court ruling, which cannot be appealed, President Medina has signed a decree that establishes the terms and conditions for the legalisation of all foreigners living in the Dominican Republic with irregular status. The measure aims to simplify and expedite procedures and sets out what foreigners living in the country must demonstrate to regularise their situation. The Medina administration also announced that in the coming weeks it would publish a bill establishing a basis for special naturalisation that will be sent to Congress.

What is less well known is that the Dominican President’s position has come under pressure from within from ultra nationalist groups such as the National Network for Defense of Sovereignty, which are critical of outsiders seeking to intervene in matters of national sovereignty or touching the Dominican constitution.

That said, the Dominican case was initially not well explained until its Ambassador in Washington provided a detailed commentary separating fact from fiction. While the absence of any detailed rebuttal up to that point may have been because its Foreign Minister had been hospitalised, it enabled international NGOs to capture opinion.

What happens next is far from clear. Although the Dominican Republic has previously suggested that it has no desire to be isolated within the region in which it is located, it is likely that the emotional aspect of the rift will last, even if a basis can be found for a mediated settlement.

This has significant implications for regional integration and in relation to trade agreements with external partners, if for example, the construct of Cariforum were to cease, or if achieving any future consensus on hemispheric or international issues were to become hostage to an inter-regional dispute of the kind that has emerged.

The problem is that it is hard to see how Caricom, having backed Haiti on the basis of morality, will in future be able to repair what was already for almost all but a few trade negotiators, investors and traders, a distant relationship with the Dominican Republic; matters not helped by the fact that the media in the Anglophone and Hispanic Caribbean have little ability to report on the nuance of what is happening in each other’s part of the region.

The reality is that few in the Anglophone Caribbean know the Dominican Republic, understand its history, know much about its internal politics, have thought much about what it is to have a land border with the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, have shown any interest in understanding the Dominican electorate’s fears, or even know of the role being played by the Republic’s xenophobic ultra-nationalists.

Much the same holds true in reverse. Efforts by the Dominican Republic to improve relations with the countries of Caricom have been sporadic at best; there is little investment or trade with Caricom other than in relation to Trinidad; much of the negative thinking about the Anglophone Caribbean from the days of President Balaguer and before remains; and there is a broader, deep-rooted, culturally-based failure to try to understand Caricom and its history.

This is not to take one side or another, or to minimise the ways in which Haitians have been treated, including within their own country, but to attempt to take a longer view and to suggest that this dispute has broader, hard to predict consequences for both the Caribbean and Latin America.

(David Jessop is the Director of the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at david.jessop@caribbean-council.org. Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org)