Wednesday, 27 March 2013

TOP-NOTCH SAILING – Excellent conditions for impressive Junior action

Grenada’s junior sailors enjoyed near perfect sailing conditions on Saturday, March 23, when they took to the water in Grand Anse Bay for the Budget Marine Junior Sailing Championship. In past events, the youngsters have had to contend with challenging winds and choppy water, but on Saturday the elements combined to provide great sailing conditions, and allowed the keen young sailors – as young as six – to show their talent and competitive racing skills.
Justin James (left) and Qwesi Paul (right) – the
winning team in the Laser Dinghy Class – receiving
their medal, trophy and prizes from Lera Griffith,
Budget Marine representative.

The event was sponsored by Budget Marine and supported by the Grenada Sailing Festival, Grenada Sailing Association, Grenada Yacht Club and Gouyave Sailing School. Nineteen young sailors took part, ranging in age from 6 to 18 years, and racing in three different classes – Optimists, Mosquitos and Lasers – making up an impressive fleet of some 14 dinghies, and showing the depth of sailing skills Grenada’s youth has to offer.
Karzim James winner of the Mosquito Dinghy Class receiving
his medal, trophy & prizes from Lera Griffith, Budget Marine.

Competition was tight across all three classes in a busy day of seven races, thanks to the disciplined race organisation of instructors Kevin Banfield and Michael McQueen, and there was still uncertainty about final places right up until the last race was run.

Brent McQueen winner of the Optimist Dinghy Class receiving
his medal, trophy & prizes from Lera Griffith, Budget Marine.
This was the second Junior Sailing event for the year, and part of a growing calendar of race days and regattas being organised to provide important competitive experience for Grenada’s young sailors. Organisers would especially like to thank Budget Marine for their title sponsorship of this event. The company has been a long-term supporter of Junior Sailing and its continued involvement and encouragement is extremely valued. Thanks goes particularly to Nicholas George, out on the water all day providing safety boat services, and to Lucille Pierre and Lera Griffith, who worked hard providing much appreciated drinks and refreshments in the HQ tent.

Special Achievement Award presented to Shavin
Joseph by Lera Griffith, Budget Marine.

Thanks also goes to Kevin Banfield, Gouyave Sailing School; Michael McQueen, Grenada Yacht Club; and Jacqui Pascall, Grenada Sailing Association, for their help and support, and to Oscar, Wayne and Andre in Oscar’s Water Taxi, in charge of mark laying & courses. Rene Froehlich, Sailing School Grenada, provided the unique hand-made trophies, and essential refreshments were provided by The Victory Bar & Restaurant, Bryden & Minors with Orchard Juice, Glenelg  Natural Spring Water, Grenada Bottling Ltd and Juicy Cool.

The competition was intense.
Plans are now starting for an even bigger event in 2014.

The final results were as follows:
1st Place: Karzim James
2nd Place: Trevell James
3rd Place: Michael Chiddick
4th Place: Shavin Joseph & Tavel James
5th Place: Alvin McPhee
6th Place: Dwaynelle  Henry & Kavin Henry

1st Place: Brent McQueen
2nd Place: Noah Bullen
3rd Place: Ralph Francis
4th Place: Michael Derrick
5th Place: Jamill Charles

1st Place: Qwesi Paul & Justin James
2nd Place: Dennis Bernadine & Romario Bernadine
3rd Place: Rondel Ferguson & Christon Henry
Special Achievement Award: Shavin Joseph

Reinvigorating private sector advocacy

A few days ago, the United States Trade Representative’s office informed the US Congress that it is planning to negotiate a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. Although this is likely to prove politically and technically challenging – the EC hopes to complete negotiations by the end of 2014 – it serves again to emphasise how rapidly the world is changing.

It should also make clear to Caribbean Governments and the private sector how much of a future struggle heavily indebted Caribbean economies, teetering on the edge of default, will have if they do not rapidly diversify their markets for both goods and services, and deliver a strong export-led strategy for growth. As recent troubling events in Cyprus have shown, there are fewer and fewer options available to Governments trying to avoid economic collapse, other than externally imposed programmes that are likely to be politically and socially destabilising.

The announcement that the US and EU are now moving towards a transatlantic agreement coincided with the ending of a conference mounted by Caribbean Export in Barbados. The event was aimed at exploring why Caribbean governments and the private sector have failed to grow exports, despite this being recognised more than two decades ago as being central to the region’s survival and independence, and what should now be done.

The one-and-a-half day event brought together voices from across the region from the public and private sectors and academia. It focussed initially on why so little had happened since the West Indian Commission recommended in 1992 measures necessary for regional integration and growth.

In an eloquent presentation, Sir Shridath Ramphal, the Commission’s former Chairman, lamented the fact that this manifesto for future generations had been sidelined. In the twenty two years since its completion, the failure to adopt its central recommendation to establish a Caricom Commission to implement political decisions had, he observed, led to a slow unravelling of the region, and a failure to bring about the economic and social development necessary to enable the Caribbean to compete in the world.

As with so many other Caribbean events, what followed from speaker after speaker was an acute analysis of the problems facing the region, and many recommendations as to what was needed to be done at a regional and national level by both the public and private sector. But, as is so often the case, this awareness was not matched by any conclusion, road map or practical agenda for change let alone an indication of who or which body might drive this process.

There was a consensus that the global landscape had changed. Despite this, Caribbean trade in goods and services remained stubbornly stuck with old partners such as Europe and the US; the region had developed no strategy as to how it was going to export to China, other fast growing markets, or even its neighbours in Central and South America.

The point was made that the Caribbean had spent much technical and political capital negotiating new trade agreements but this was not resulting in export led growth. Some put this down to the failure of governments to address supply-side constraints such as poor transport, the high price of energy, the absence of financing. Others suggested it resulted from the slow delivery of development assistance and the erosion of the Caribbean’s preference as trading partners came to offer similar levels of access to those once available only to the region.

There was also an analysis of what was happening to the private sector including a stimulating afternoon of presentations of case studies from regional entrepreneurs who made very clear that by thinking differently, through branding, linking products to tourism, selling beyond traditional markets, using for instance virtual shops, and by developing other innovative and new ways of thinking about products or services, export growth and profit were achievable.

There were references too to big opportunities that the region’s geographic location offered. Jamaica’s Minister for Trade, Anthony Hylton, spoke about the Caribbean Sea as being an asset enabling new ideas. The widening of the Panama Canal offered the Caribbean, and Jamaica in particular, the chance to become a logistics hub, but the region, he noted, had to decide whether it was to be a victim or beneficiary of change.

In the end, however, what emerged was the sense that the region was letting external forces and actors determine its future by default and governments were retreating into single often unviable economic units.

There was, however, the sense that while all recognised the now desperate need for action and for private sector export led growth to turn Caribbean economies around, the private sector no longer had any regional vehicle that could make its voice heard. The absence from the meeting of larger regional companies seemed to point to changed thinking and a divide between their concerns and a region of micro-enterprises.

Larger Caribbean companies were now global in outlook or were sometimes foreign owned and less likely to participate in regional initiatives. Others, with strong consumer facing brands, were coming to accept the possibility of changing their regulatory and tax domicile in order to continue trading profitably from more business friendly locations, while continuing to leverage their Caribbean origins for growth.

Surprisingly at the meeting there was little if any reference to how other small nations like Mauritius have adapted and remained competitive, or to the lessons that might be learned; there was no recognition about how oil, gas and minerals may change the economic map of the Caribbean making countries like the Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and the Bahamas and possibly Belize, nations at its edge, with Trinidad, its centre; and hardly anything was said about the difficult issue of how deepening trade and investment with larger neighbours such as the Dominican Republic or Central America might stimulate growth and new opportunity.

Above all, what the event made clear is that without a self-propelling body of like minded private sector individuals from the big Caribbean companies, able to resource advocacy for change and put pressure on governments and external partners, there will be no systemic regional approach to export-led growth.

Exploring this and related ideas further is an important task that Caribbean Export might now usefully pursue.

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

Export-led growth? Who will lead in the Caribbean?

A huge burden is presently placed on the private sector in the Caribbean. In the midst of steady economic decline of many Caribbean countries, governments have turned to the private sector to continue to earn foreign exchange, to keep down prices for goods and services, to maintain and expand employment, and to pay taxes.

It is in this reality that the Caribbean Export Development Agency held a Colloquium that gathered Ministers of the governments of the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica with representatives of large and small companies from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St Lucia and Antigua. They were joined by Academics and trade negotiators.

The outcome of two days of practical and realistic discussion reflected: widespread alarm about the Caribbean’s current woeful economic condition; the recognition that growing the economies of the region is absolutely urgent; deepening and widening markets for Caribbean goods and services must be a top priority; the private sector across the region has to raise its profile and its voice; and governments have to engage the private sector as a genuine partner in growing their economies to provide employment and improve the quality of life of people.

I will return next week to the outcomes of the Colloquium. This commentary contains the remarks I made at it on the urgency for action.

No one needs reminding that the Caribbean is facing its most challenging economic times in recent years. Indeed, the parlous state of some economies border on collapse, burdened as they are with high debt, alarming budget shortfalls and disquieting balance of trade deficits.

Some governments are unable to provide the goods and services that their communities require, and they have borrowed their way into calamity. Some are already in the clutch of the International Monetary Fund as a lender of last resort, complete with its iron-hard conditionalities; conditionalities that in Jamaica have impacted severely on domestic creditors who have been required to endure greater sacrifices than foreign creditors.

It is this same private sector who are also being asked to maintain employment, keep down prices, and to maintain and expand exports that would lead to increased economic growth.

Throughout the region, there is a steady break down in the institutions that are vital to the region’s well-being and progress. The consequences are higher unemployment levels, increasing crime, crumbling infrastructure including roads, ports and tourism plants, education - including the University of the West Indies - and restricted access to capital markets, and even then at higher rates of interest.

Altogether this is a troubling scenario that makes the private sector in the Caribbean less competitive in the global market place.

At the same time, in a region where some of its member states produce enough food to feed the entire area several times over, there is food insecurity and a US$4 billion bill for imported food that is unsustainable. In a region where there is no energy security beyond dependence on the generosity of an external government, there is no regional plan to pool regional resources in joint action to develop access to energy that would include oil and gas but also renewable sources of energy.

This is the scenario in which the private sector is expected to lead growth through exports.

It is the private sector, not governments, that exports or achieves export earnings from services. Yet, except in Trinidad and Tobago, where there is a government-appointed Standing Committee on Trade consisting of private sector and government bodies, the private sector is notably absent from the table of national policy-making and implementation in the region.

In Canada, the United States and the European Union – and now in China and India – governments consult widely and fully with their private sectors who are affected by trade rules and trade agreements. The negotiators for these governments negotiate for their national private sectors to expand and deepen their market penetration, to put them in the best competitive position.

However, this is not happening in the Caribbean where the distance between governments and the private sector is huge and the level of mistrust is high.

Private sector organisations are as much to blame for this damaging state of affairs as are governments. For instance, in which Caribbean country has the private sector said to governments that the fiscal situation is unsustainable, and asked for a plan in which they could play a meaningful role?

And at the regional level, where is the Caribbean-wide private sector organisation that commands the attention of governments by laying-out its own plan for overall economic growth and development?

Two private sector organisations presently stand-out in this otherwise barren field – the first is the Caribbean Hotels Association in collaboration with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, and the second is the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association. Both organisations are vital to the region’s foreign exchange earnings and to employment, and they, at least, have put forward proposals for the survival of their industries. Regrettably, governments have not reacted rapidly to these serious concerns.

And in any thinking that might be occurring about export led markets, what private sector plans have been made for China which now enjoys a huge balance of trade surplus with the Caribbean?

China is the world’s second largest economy after the United States. It has over a US$3.3 trillion in foreign reserves. What is the Caribbean plan for penetrating the Chinese market with goods and services, apart from the extractive industries that China wants?

In the best of times, there should be in the region a standing structure of regular and meaningful dialogue and consultation between governments and the private sector. In the worst of times – such as the times in which we now live – the urgent necessity for such a standing structure is a vital necessity.

The creation of that structure of government-private sector consultation ought not to be a waiting game. The Caribbean’s economic well-being is teetering at the brink.

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

Virtual afterlife

Every so often, mankind comes face to face with his mortality. Beyond thoughts of what awaits them in the afterlife, (which of course vary according to their religious beliefs or lack thereof), many persons find themselves preoccupied with thoughts on how and when exactly they will make the transition to the Great Beyond. No doubt the majority would prefer to go quietly in their beds in the twilight of their life, having made their peace with the world and their Maker and having put all their affairs in order. However, the unfortunate reality is that no one knows the day or the hour when they will leave this Earth. We could therefore wax philosophical about the need to live each day like it’s the last, but that is not the focus of today’s discourse. Rather, we are motivated by more mundane concerns that have arisen as our way of life continues to be transformed by the evolution of technology.

We are smack dab in the middle of the Internet Age and as such, social networks have become part and parcel of our lives. We use them as a medium of exchanging our thoughts and ideas; as a repository of mementos; and for many other personalised activities. The more we use them, the more we infuse them with the essence of ourselves, so much so that we may reveal even more of ourselves online than we do face to face. It’s no wonder then that through social networking, there has been an increased blurring between the virtual and real world. For many, their social media profile is simply an extension of themselves; just another avenue for persons to get to know them.

Ostensibly, this is why the news of a friend’s sudden death can see persons writing on the deceased’s Facebook timeline or by mentioning them in a tweet with a message of disbelief, sadness or farewell. For those ‘social media holdouts’ who either do not participate or are not as heavily immersed as others in that world, it can seem odd and even illogical for persons to maintain this type of interaction and address the deceased person as though they were still alive. This relatively new phenomenon has elicited a variety of reactions. Some frown upon the practice as being attention-seeking on the part of the mourner; others believe that mourners find comfort in saying a last goodbye to the person, even if only to their virtual presence. However, another perspective is that reading such messages can be a source of comfort to grieving family members and loved ones.

Wherever one stands on the practice, it is a reality of our modern age and already there are a number of companies, mainly in the US and Europe, which have seen this as a business niche to be explored, as they offer to wind up social network accounts on the behalf of an authorised family member. One company is even offering to post a final tweet or Facebook update after one’s demise!

Of course, there are legal considerations in all this. No doubt many readers would be familiar with the complications that can come after the death of a family member, especially when no will has been left to clearly indicate the express wishes of the dearly departed. Now the complex world of intellectual property is being thrown into the mix. As usual, however, while the law continues to plod along, technology is moving at warp speed. All we can do is try to keep up.

RENEWING RELATIONS – Partnerships important for development of Cruise Industry

By Linda Straker

Senator Brenda Hood, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, said that Government’s participation in the just concluded annual Cruise Shipping Miami Conference & Exhibition can impact positively on the industry immediately and in the long term.

“The Cruise Execu-tives prefer engaging with Government and even though we participated over the years, there were times when Government was not directly represented by our private sector; Government official can speak about the plans of Government. So by us attending this year, Grenada was able to renew relationship and start the process for re-developing a partnership that can bring benefit to cruise industry,” she said.

“We spoke about partnership building, we looked at the product being offered and will be talking with cruise officials and sharing information because they want to know what is happening, what we are doing as we seek to improve our attractions because these things are important not just for us, but also for the visitors,” she said, while explaining that Government is committed to the development of the tourism industry to contribute towards the economic growth of the country, of which the cruise sector is an important component.

“Critical to the growth of the cruise industry is the enhancement of the major sites and attractions, and the positive experience of the visitors on island. Improvements in these areas would generate additional revenue and visitor satis-faction, also resulting in the conversion of cruise passengers to stay-over visitors to Grenada,” said a statement from the Grenada Board of Tourism.

A seven-member del-egation led by Senator Hood, attended the annual Cruise Shipping Miami Conference & Exhibition, held March 11-14, 2013 at the Miami Beach Convention Centre, Miami, Florida.

A statement from the Grenada Board of Tourism said that Senator Hood was warmly welcomed back into the industry by the cruise executives with whom she had done business with on behalf of the destination, and was able to renew and establish new partnerships.

Members of the Grenada delegation, comprising public and private sector representatives, had the opportunity to meet with various cruise executives and other stakeholders in the industry regarding the status of, and the way forward for the Grenada cruise sector. Senator Hood also had the opportunity to meet with members of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) of which the Grenada Board of Tourism is now a Platinum Member, affording the destination to receive additional benefits that would ultimately positively impact the growth of the cruise sector in the country.

Kuwaiti Fund lifts suspension imposed on Grenada

A senior Government Minister has announced that the Keith Mitchell administration was able to get a suspension of funds lifted by a major funding agency on Grenada.

Works Minister, Gregory Bowen, last week Thursday announced that the Kuwaiti Fund has agreed to lift a suspension imposed on Grenada since February 2012 after Grenada failed to make payments on
outstanding loan agreements.

Bowen said on coming into office, one of his first orders of business was to get an update on the status of the negotiations between the Kuwaiti Fund, whose funds are mainly used for road construction in Grenada.

He said that Grenada was faced with two dilemmas. “The realisation that there was a suspension on the release of funds and the image that was being painted by a company which was owed millions,” he said.

Technocrats and negotiators in the Ministry were able to negotiate a new deal within the last two weeks and that paves the way for work to begin next month.

Highlighting aspects of the agreement, Bowen said that the new agreement includes the payment of EC$1 million to the Fund this week, approval of a payment schedule to cover 11 million dollars in arrears, and the resumption of a three million dollar payment every six months.

“A condition of the agreement also involves Grenada paying monies owed to Caribbean Consolidated Contractors (CCC) Limited on a schedule of half a million dollars a month,” he said.

Bowen gave the assurance that Grenada will continue to make payments to the fund under the new arrangement.

This is welcome news for the approximately four hundred workers who lost their jobs after CCC pulled out of Grenada in 2009 after the Tillman Thomas administration opted to have Phase One of the project conclude and Phase Two returned to the bidding table.

Following international practice and standards four, companies submitted proposals for the project and it was again awarded to the CCC.

Bowen says CCC workers will be on the ground in significant numbers by next month as the project resumes in earnest with the construction of farm roads in various rural communities and villages. (LS)

New Attorney General named

Cajeton Hood

Legal Affairs Minister Elvin Nimrod has announced that the Cabinet has agreed to appoint Cajeton Hood as the new Attorney General of Grenada.

“We have full confidence in his ability,” said Nimrod when he made the announcement on Monday during the post-Cabinet briefing.

Hood is a former Permanent Secretary who was attached to the Office of Prime Minister in the previous administration of Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Hood takes over from Nimrod, who was appointed within days of the New National Party winning the February 19 General Elections.

Appointments to Senate providing platform for Opposition, says NDC official

By Linda Straker

A top official of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) believes that the decision by Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean to appoint three of its members who were unsuccessful in the February 19 General Election as senators in the Upper House is his way of ensuring that those who voted for the party have a voice in the Parliament.

“It’s providing an Opposition platform to speak about the choices of Government,” said Nazim Burke, who lost his third bid to represent the constituency of St. George’s North East in the House of Representatives, but was among three persons to be appointed to the Upper House of Parliament at the invitation of the Head of State.

“It is not for me to second-guess the judgement of the Governor General, but I am sure in making his decision, he concluded that the NDC is the main Opposition party with us having received more than 22 000 votes at the last elections. Now, even though none of our candidates were successful, there isn’t really another political organisation with major following,” said Burke, who is also the Deputy Political Leader of the NDC.

Grenada found itself in a constitutional crisis following the February 19 General Election when the New National Party won all of the seats in the House of Representatives. It means that there is no leader of the Opposition in the House and thus the three persons to be selected to represent the Opposition in the Senate would have to be appointed by the Head of State.

Last Friday it was disclosed that along with Burke, the other two persons were Franka Bernardine and Dr. George Vincent, who contested the Town of St. George and St. John constituencies respectively.

The Senate or Upper House of Parliament comprises 13 seats. Seven represent the interests of the Prime Minister; three represent the interests of the Leader of the Opposition; and the final three are one each for the Business Community, the Farming Community and the Trade Union Movement.

Oscar Bartholomew inquest to commence next week

By Linda Straker

Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Christopher Nelson, has announced that preparations are being made to have the Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Oscar Bartholomew commence on April 5, 2013.

Recently, the High Court ruled that the five Police Officers charged for causing the death of Oscar Bartholomew be reinstated to the Police Force and that an inquest be held to determine who is or are culpable for his death.
Director of Public Prosecution, Christopher Nelson.

Bartholomew was a Grenadian/Canadian citizen who, on December 26, 2011, was allegedly beaten by police officers at the St. David’s Police Station while on an island tour with his wife, Dolette. They had stopped to use the washroom at the station. While awaiting his wife, he mistook a plain-clothes female officer for a long lost friend and hugged her. Her screams reportedly resulted in other officers running to her rescue and beating him. He died hours after getting admitted to hospital. A pathology report said he died from blunt force trauma to his skull and body.

The Coroner’s Inquest will involve a Magistrate questioning a number of persons and his findings will determine if anyone should be criminally prosecuted. However, Nelson has expressed his concern over the High Court ruling, which ordered that the coroner’s inquest be conducted before any criminal proceedings.

“The Constitution provides the DPP with power to order criminal proceedings and in my view there is something fundamentally wrong with this ruling … my hands, the Office of the DPP and the Commissioner of Police are practically tied,” said Nelson, who is yet to receive the written judgement which was read out by Madam Justice Margaret Price-Findlay. The matter was heard by Justice Septimus Rhudd.

Nelson argues that the Coroner’s Act, which dates back to 1896, lost relevance when Grenada established a Police Force to deal with criminal matters  in the 1960s and with the island becoming an independent nation in 1974.

“The Coroner’s Act is not an act for prosecutorial prosecution. The criminal aspect of the Coroner’s Act was repealed when we adopted our Constitution; the Coroner’s Act is outdated! How the Judge used an archaic legislation to make that judgement, it beats me,” Nelson said, who explained that the order from the court is not an acquittal of the charges on the accused officers.

“It’s not an acquittal; it means we have to wait until the Inquest is heard.”

The Coroner’s Act provides for an inquest to be undertaken whenever someone dies while in confinement in a public place of unknown cause. Nelson said that the inquest is really a fact-finding inquiry and it’s not the appropriate vehicle for criminal prosecution.

“The Coroner can only determine if any person is to be charged for murder or manslaughter, but I as DPP will determine the final charge,” he said.

EU launches $104M investment facility for C’bean

 Several regional countries will benefit from a Bds$104 million Caribbean Investment Facility (CIF) which the European Union launched in Barbados last Friday.

The event took place at the Accra Beach Resort and Hotel with Barbados Government Minister, Senator Darcy Boyce, hailing the facility as a key plank for sustained economic development in the region.

Senator Darcy Boyce, Barbados Minister in the Prime Minister’s
Office, and Jolita Butkevicience, EuropeAid Director for
Latin America and the Caribbean, at the CIF launch last Friday.
Some of those gathered for last Friday’s launch.
The CIF, an innovative financing mechanism, was created by the European Union last year to mobilise additional financing from European and Caribbean development and finance institutions. It seeks to respond to the requirements to support investment projects.

Senator Boyce, who is a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said the initiative is timely. He told the delegates attending the function that the facility represents another area of co-operation between the EU and CARIFORUM countries.

Senator Boyce remarked that small states such as those in the Caribbean are very susceptible to global shocks and that with their economies closely linked to the global economies, this initiative is much needed.

“It allows the countries in the region to stimulate sustainable economic growth by attracting more foreign direct investment and by pooling trade-related activities through the provision of efficient transport and communication systems,” the Minister declared.

He said, too, that other areas for co-operation under the CIF includes fostering regional integration, the eradication of poverty and confronting climate change issues.

“This programme is one of many mechanisms provided by the European Union to assist regional countries in attaining their national economic goals,” Senator Boyce said.

To date, eight projects have been identified to receive funding from the CIF, with a total investment cost of more than Bds$760 million.

One of the first projects which the CIF Board approved was a Bds$20.6 million investment for the further development of geothermal power in Dominica. The agreement for that venture was signed last Friday by a representative of the Government of Dominica and others from the EU and Agence Francaise de Development (AFD).

Other projects in the areas of interconnectivity, energy, transportation, disaster mitigation and adaptation, communication, water and sanitation, and social services infrastructure are earmarked for funding under the CIF.  

Senator Boyce noted that based on the Indicative Programme sponsored by the European Union, Barbados has received assistance for the construction of the Barbados Hospitality Institute, the establishment of the Barbados Language Centre, tool kits for students pursuing the Common Entrance Examination and grants to small state actors on the island.

Barbados is also one of the first countries in the region for which budgetary support was provided for the health sector under the Ninth European Development Fund.

Support has also been given to a Government of Barbados Human Resource Development Programme.

The main objectives of the accompanying measures are to promote sustainable growth.

EPA, CSME Standby Facilities to aid region

CARICOM member states have been allocated £3.45 million to help enhance their capacity building via a CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) Standby Facility and a further £3.5 million, through an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Standby Facility.

Last Friday marked the launch of the European Union (EU) funded EPA & CSME Stand by Facilities at the Accra Beach Hotel, which saw representatives of the EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, the Caribbean Development Bank and other key stakeholders coming together to celebrate the launch.

The small ceremony was chaired by Mikael Barfod, Head of the EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, but it was Jolita Butkeviciene, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, EuropeAid, who noted that two agreements were signed with the CDB partner for both the CSME Standby Facility and the EPA Standby Facility, and one million of the close to seven million euros allotted for the facilities, have already been disbursed.

The aim is to allow CARICOM member states, through the Caribbean Development Bank, to get grant resources from those standby facilities, to build capacity at the national level, both in respect of the CSME and the EPA.

Direct beneficiaries as explained by Valarie Pilgrim, CDB Programme Director, will be agencies involved in implementation of national EPA/CSME focal points.

Pilgrim explained that in terms of allocation of funds under the EPA facility, Haiti has been allotted £466 000 and all other CARIFORUM states will have access to between 150 000 and 210 000 euros, while the limit for the CSME facility is 194 000 to 237 000 euros.

Pilgrim noted that while there is much flexibility in terms of what can be funded, eligible projects will have to be “results focused” and project outcomes must be able to be measured. The CDB will give assistance where it can, if applications need strengthening.

Other key persons addressing the gathering were Ivan Ogando, Director General of the CARIFORUM Directorate and Dr. Warren Smith, President of the Caribbean Development Bank.

Smith, in his address, noted that the bank was indeed happy to partner with the EU on this project, given the region’s developmental challenges and the need to render some assistance to countries of the region.

He described it as a smart partnership that can lead to good outcomes. (RSM)

Tourism playing vital role

Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Hugh Riley believes that if Caribbean
people are the most tourism-dependent in the world, then they must care more.

“We must pay attention to the sustainability of this industry, the training and motivation of our staff, the engagement and sense of ownership of our people, the safety and security of our citizens and guests, the quality of the experience we deliver, and certainly the reliability of the information upon which we
base our decisions,” he said.
Hugh Riley, Secretary General of the
Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).

He was at the time addressing the opening of the Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA) Regional Technical Coordinating Committee Meeting, held on Thursday, March 21 at the CTO’s Headquarters at the Baobab Towers in Warrens, St. Michael, Barbados.

The CTO Head acknowledged that the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world, with that sector employing a larger percentage of the population, and representing a greater proportion of GDP than in any other region of the world.

He revealed that last year the Caribbean welcomed more than 25 million stay-over arrivals and 19.5 million cruise passengers who spent in total US$28.8 billion in the region, a figure which he expressed is thankfully continuing to rise despite the ongoing challenges.

“Estimates of direct employment of Caribbean people in the regional tourism sector are placed as high as three million. So clearly, our region’s dependency on this very dynamic, highly competitive, extremely challenging business is not casual. In fact, this is essentially our livelihood.”

Mr. Riley went on to point out that the two-day High-Level meeting was a result of the CTO signing an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in March 2011 to execute the Regional Tourism Satellite Account Implementation Initiative.

He further explained that the TSA is a globally accepted, conceptual framework, developed by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for measuring the direct contribution of the tourism sector to the economy.

“Imagine for a moment the strength of conviction with which we would go about our business, if we always had at our disposal the factual information we need. For example, the number of visitors it takes to contribute one more job in the tourism industry in each of our countries; or the contribution tourism makes to the number of beds in hospitals, or computers in schools; or even the contribution a single visitor makes when he or she returns to our region 25 times,” Riley stated. (TL)

CTO focusing on TSAs

THE Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) is charting the way forward in establishing and maintaining a well co-ordinated system of Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSAs) in the Caribbean.

The objective of the TSAs is to help strengthen the capacities of the governments to assess the
impact of tourism on the Caribbean economies through accurate and timely provision of information, revealed Marisko Russell, Team Leader of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

Marisko Russell, Team Leader of the Inter-American Development
Bank (IADB), addressing the TSA Regional Technical Co-ordinating
Committee High-Level Meeting, on Thursday, March 21, at the
Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) headquarters.
She was addressing the opening of the TSA Regional Technical Co-ordinating Committee High-Level Meeting, “Harmonising Regional Statistics through Tourism Satellite Accounts”, held at the CTO’s Headquarters, Baobab Towers, Warrens, St. Michael, Barbados, last week Thursday.

“This will be pursued through the development of a harmonised methodological and institutional framework that allows the collection, organisation, reporting and use of the statistical data necessary for preparing the TSA per UNWTO recommendations.”

According to the IADB representative, the emphasis is on building sustainable technical and institutional environment for continuous construction of TSA.

“Equally, or even more important, is the use of the information TSA provides. Each country needs to start making a strategy for weaving the TSA in the high-level decision-making mechanism of the public and private sector, such as through investment, human resources allocation, positioning in the long- and medium-term development plans, etc.”

Barbados’ Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, expressed that such an initiative provides a platform for obtaining timely, valuable and accurate data for strategic planning.

“In particular, the TSA has now become one of the most sought after information systems used by tourism planners, investors and other tourism stakeholders globally,” she acknowledged.

The senator added that the participation of regional and international organisations, such as the University of the West Indies, CARICOM, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), is testimony to the seriousness to tackle the underlying challenges of consolidating tourism information systems, and improving standards in a co-ordinating way. (TL)

New and improved activities for Caribbean Week

THIS year’s “Caribbean Week in New York” will be engaged with exciting and unmatched new events, along with refreshed and improved familiar ones.

The week of activities, organised by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), will take place June 1-8 showcasing the warmth, spirit and vibrancy that makes the Caribbean the most desirable warm weather destination.

The CTO has described the event as a sensational holiday fair, at which prospective travellers to the Caribbean can purchase special deals, which is among the new elements to the week which has become one of the most important events on the tourism calendar in the “Big Apple”.

“The One Caribbean Vacation Marketplace will offer specially priced Caribbean holidays and indigenous Caribbean products at special prices available only during Caribbean Week. Professional retail travel agents will close the sales in an environment that evokes the colours and energy of the Caribbean.”

Events to look forward to include the “Gospel Celebration”, on June 1, which will feature inspirational messages interspersed with gospel, dance and other performances by talented and accomplished Caribbean artistes.

Caribbean Week in New York will end with its most exciting signature event, “Rum & Rhythm”. There, rum and food lovers can sample top-shelf, award-winning Caribbean rums and enjoy traditional Caribbean cuisine and rum-infested delicacies.

Other rousing activities on the week’s calendar include the fascinating “Students’ Colloquium”, at which Caribbean students studying at the tertiary level present sustainable tourism projects that are practical and can provide a sustainable source of income for Caribbean nationals. (TL/PR)

It’s time to move on!

PRIME Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, has told representatives of the region’s public and private sectors that any framework constructed to advance its economy must be one that is modern, people-focused and competitive, having tentacles which expand beyond the national level to the regional and global markets. All components of this formulation, he argued, were greatly needed at present.

Dr. Gonsalves was at the time giving the keynote address at a Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium which kicked off last week Wednesday at Hilton Barbados. The Colloquium finished last week Thursday and saw an impressive cross-section of speakers, including senior government officials, business leaders, and officials from business support organisations based throughout the CARIFORUM region.

From left: Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,
Dr. Ralph Gonsalves; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade,
Senator Maxine McClean; and Sir Shridath Ramphal, during a break
in the Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium, which kicked off
on Wednesday, March 20, at the Hilton Barbados.
Gonsalves, who delivered his address shortly before Session 3 of the first day’s proceedings, warned against lamenting about occurrences which may have dealt harsh economic blows to the region, but were inseparable from a post-colonial socio-economic framework.

“In a post-colonial world, we have to come to terms with all of these matters and don’t lament them. We fight certain battles but when we recognise that we have lost, we [must] move on to do [whatever is necessary to] sell our goods and services and ensure their availability,” he opined.

Using the breakdown of in some cases, pre-independence trading relationships, he urged the region to move forward by focusing on producing goods and services competitively, something that was critical for exporting.

Recognising that each island had its own set of circumstances with respect to the way in which it treated to export preparation and execution, Dr. Gonsalves stated that the common thread was the need to produce quality goods and services at competitive prices, in sufficient quantities and on a sustainable basis to target markets.


The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines highlighted several possibilities which the region ought to exploit, namely: the presence of various energy sources such as hydro, geothermal wind and solar power; good weather all year round; an educated and easily trained labour force; beautiful land and seascapes; close proximity to North America; an efficient public administration system and a patriotic domestic private sector.

He also highlighted the region’s ability to attract a modest level of foreign direct investment.

Dr. Gonsalves urged the Caribbean to “embrace unequivocally the deepening of regional integration amidst all of its challenges and [seek to adopt] a profound sense of international solidarity between like-minded nations, groups and people”.

He told his audience that with these possibilities and more, they should not leave the end of their deliberations with a sense of helplessness, but identify and pursue action steps to surmount prevailing challenges and difficulties. (RA)

Laziness crippling region’s export potential, says PM Gonsalves

THE region cannot get away from the fact that if it does not work hard, smart and productively, it will not reap the benefits of export-led economic growth.

This assertion was made by Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, while presenting the key note address on day one of the Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium at the Hilton Barbados last week Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking to a cross-section of officials, policymakers and business leaders, Prime Minister Gonsalves criticised the work ethics of a too large a percentage of the region’s labour force, remarking that a scourge of laziness was affecting not only the agricultural sector, but also manufacturing and services.

In the face of the limited hours we actually work, how can we expect to “produce anything...for export which is competitive, or even for domestic conception?” he questioned, added that the negative trend spanned across both labour and management.

“The truth is that 2 few people in our Caribbean today have to carry too many – and I am not talking about [carrying the weight of the unemployed]…but about people who are working! We have to get into our heads that a progressive society is a society which has hard, smart and productive work at its core!” opined Gonsalves, easily commanding the attention of his audience.

“[Sadly] there is a focus on leisure, pleasure and ‘nice-time’ by too many people [and] a society…preoccupied with [these things] will go the way of [early century] Rome,” he charged.

Crime one of our biggest emerging limitations

The keynote speaker also highlight crime and another growing limitation which grave economic implications. He referred to the extremely low detection rate of serious crimes in Trinidad and Tobago as a “joke” and referenced recent reports of criminal offences on tourists holidaying in Barbados in order to show the impact of crime on “bread and butter” industries.

Size was the third major limitation which Gonsalves addressed and noted that we needed to face in order to build a suitable business developmental model for the region. He warned against believing such a model was a “quick fix”, noting that changed needed to occur from the domestic household level, working its way through the wider society. (RA)

Regional action plan for economic development critical

LEADERS of governments, businesses, and business support organisations from around the region, converged at the Hilton Barbados last week.

There were two days of deliberations on matters related to trade, and export with the region, and between CARIFORUM member states and their trading partners.

The Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium, which ran March 20th and 21st, was part of a week of activities organised by Caribbean Export during its inaugural Caribbean Export Week.

Surrounding the theme of export-led economic growth, discussions kicked off with a re-examination of the relevance of recommendations from the 1992 seminal report “A Time for Action”. Panellists included Sir Shridath Ramphal and Dr. Arnold McIntyre of the Caribbean Regional and Technical Assistance Centre.

In his remarks as Former Chairman of the West Indian Commission, Sir Shridath lamented that there was no political action, or will to act on the recommendations of the above-mentioned report, despite it being accepted by regional heads some 24 years ago.

Relevant issues

The report would have addressed issues still being discussed today, such as foreign exchange problems, the quality of governance, dissatisfaction with the political directorate, and the then emerging drug threat which has now ballooned into a regional endemic.

Other points up for deliberation were the region’s export performance under trade agreements such as CARIFORUM-EPA, and the status of the Private Sector Advocacy.

One shortcoming voiced by some delegates were that not enough time was provided for discussions and cross the floor interactions between them and the panellists, something that would have added value to the already packed line-up of presentations.

Among other speakers during the course of the event were Dr. Frank Ward, Chairman of the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association Inc., and Dr. Desmond Ali, Executive Director of the Caribbean Poultry Association, who both gave a somewhat detailed outline of the roles which both organisations have played in driving export led growth within their respective industries.

Private sector to blame

Of note, Sir Ronald Sanders, moderator for one of the sessions, argued that private sector organisations were as much to blame for the struggle to achieve economic growth, as were governments. Singling out the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, in collaboration with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, as well as the West Indies Rums and Spirits Producers Association, Sanders, remarked that apart from the two, Caribbean-wide private sector organisations struggled to grab the attention of governments, by laying out their own plans to form overall economic growth and development.

Foods that fight ageing

Who doesn’t wish they could look healthy and as young as they can long into their lives?

There are many foods that are not only good for us overall, but that help to turn the clock back so to speak, on ageing. And, they’re usually easily accessible.

Here in Barbados, most green leafy vegetables are not very pricey and it’s a good thing too. You see, foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumber, carrots and spinach, are not only chock full of Vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, but they contain ‘wrinkle-fighting antioxidants’ as well.

They have a major role in removing harmful free radicals from our systems and in skin renewal.

Additionally, because of their immunity-boosting properties, they also protect against heart disease, arthritis and cancer.

Fish is great for the body, especially those like trout, sardine, mackerel and salmon, which are rich sources of omega-3 fatty oils. These oils play a critical role in the improvement of skin elasticity, which in turn reduces the presence of wrinkles. Additionally, individuals should try to get as much fish or other foods like nuts into their diets, as omega-3 fat is not produced naturally in our bodies.

Whenever you use oil for cooking, try to use oils like olive, sesame or coconut, instead of regular vegetable oil options. They might be a little pricier, but in the end are worth it, as they are carriers of fat-soluble vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins promote flawless skin and while they’re at it, your fried, sautéed or any other style of cooking that requires you to use oil, become much healthier.

Whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, fibres and to top it all off, contain antioxidants as well. Choose to use grains like brown rice, millet, barley and oats, which aren’t expensive at all and contribute to lower blood cholesterol levels, which in turn help to preventing heart disease. What’s any of this have to do with healthier, younger looking skin? Remember, at the end of the day, a healthy body on the inside, will extend to the outside.

We mentioned nuts earlier, though not in detail. They’re so many to choose from – almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, etc, and all are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamin A, which as we’ve mentioned before, are necessary for healthier skin.

By forming a fluid, rich membrane in the skin which is flexible and moist, these nutrients protect it, which keeps the skin supple and prevents premature ageing, wrinkles and blemishes.

Did you know that lycopene in vegetables is twice as powerful as beta carotene? When incorporated into the diet, they fight free radicals, increase immunity and keep the blood clean.

You can use foods like ginger, tomato and sweet potato to achieve the benefits of the many antioxidants, vitamins, minerals for skin regeneration, sulphur compounds and others.

Much pricier locally than some of your other options, but worth every penny, are foods like raspberries, blueberries, avocados, kiwi, apricots and the list goes on. They are also great sources of vitamins, minerals, fibres and antioxidants. The last contributes to clean blood and increases the body’s nutrient absorption, which of course means not only a healthier working system, but clearer, younger-looking skin.

It’s way too easy to achieve the results you want for healthier, ageless looking skin, not to change your diet to accommodate all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants available in this vast variety of foods. (JJ)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

SET TO SAIL! – Junior sailing action in Grand Anse Bay tomorrow

Sailing action for 2013 continues on Saturday, March 23, when young sailors from Gouyave Sailing School and Grenada Yacht Club  take to the water in Grand Anse Bay to race in the Budget Marine Junior Sailing Championship.

The event is supported by the Grenada Sailing Festival, Grenada Sailing Association, Grenada Yacht Club and Gouyave Sailing School. The young sailors range in age from 7 to 18 years and will race in three different classes: Optimists, Mosquitos and Lasers, making up an impressive fleet of some 15 dinghies, and showing the depth of sailing skills Grenada’s youth has to offer.

Young sailors from Gouyave Sailing School and
Grenada Yacht Club will be taking part in the
Budget Marine Junior Sailing Championship. 
This will be the second Junior Sailing event for the year and is part of a growing calendar of race days and regattas being organised to provide important competitive experience for Grenada’s young sailors. Grand Anse Beach makes a perfect location and allows even more people – hotel guests and visitors – an opportunity to watch our talented juniors. Spectators will also have more sailing action to see, as yachts from Grenada and Trinidad & Tobago will be taking part in the traditional ‘Girl Pat’ Race Series race further out in the Bay. There will be drinks and refreshments on sale to raise funds for the Junior Sailing Programme and everyone is invited to come and support our sailors of the future.

Organisers would especially like to thank Budget Marine for their title sponsorship of this event. The company has been a long-term supporter of Junior Sailing and its continued involvement and encouragement is extremely valued and appreciated. Thanks also goes to VitaMalt, The Victory Bar & Restaurant, Glenelg Natural Spring Water and the Sailing School Grenada.

The Budget Marine Junior Sailing Championship will be staged on Grand Anse Beach, by Camerhogne Park, on Saturday, March 23. Racing is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. with a break for lunch at 1 p.m., and the day will be rounded off with a Prize Presentation at approximately 5 p.m. It will be a fun day of sailing, so come and take a look.

42nd Annual Carifta Games receives sponsorship from CIBC FirstCaribbean

A team from Grenada will be among Caribbean athletes who will from March 29th – 31st, 2013, gather in Nassau, the Bahamas, for the 42nd annual Carifta Track and Field Championships.

The event takes place under the theme, “A Celebration of Caribbean Unity” and regional financial institution, CIBC FirstCaribbean, has announced its involvement as a sponsor of the event.

Managing Director for Customer Relationship Management
and Strategy, Trevor Torzsas with Carifta official.
Managing Director for Customer Relationship Management and Strategy, Trevor Torzsas, noted that the event was tailor-made for CIBC FirstCaribbean’s involvement as its footprint extends across seventeen countries in the region. Mr. Torzsas noted that the sponsorship is in keeping with the bank’s involvement in projects that promote the development of the region’s young people, through its charitable Community Trust Foundation, of which he is a Trustee. He added, “CIBC FirstCaribbean has recognised that an investment in our region’s young people is an investment in our future development, so we have concentrated much of our resources on projects that have a direct benefit for young people – in the areas of education, entrepreneurship and sport.”

CIBC FirstCaribbean’s contribution to the Carifta Games is through its community involvement programme, and Mr. Torzsas said that the bank also donates to several sporting activities, especially in support of the youth of the regions. He said: “CIBC FirstCaribbean’s message speaks to support for the overall development of our youth and encouragement of young people in positive activities, including sports.” He added: “We look forward to the high level of sportsmanship this event has become known for. Our sponsorship of the 42nd Carifta Games signals our encouragement for friendly competition and support for activities that foster Caribbean unity.

“Of course, our community commitment extends far beyond sports into initiatives that help charitable causes and vulnerable groups in our societies. In fact, the same weekend of the Carifta Games, about 100 employees and their families from CIBC FirstCaribbean’s offices all over the Caribbean will be cruising to Nassau and will engage in a community project that involves cleaning up downtown areas and lunching with residents of two local projects -the Nazareth Centre, a children’s home, and the Children’s Emergency Hostel.”

The Swimming Championships for the Games this year will be held in Jamaica. On a recent visit to Jamaica, Mr. Torzsas met with Dr. Warren Blake, President of the Jamaica Amateur Athletics Association, who noted: “We’re very proud of the achievements of Jamaica’s athletes locally and internationally and we’re working to give them the best possible foundation so that at the end of the day we have athletic stars at all levels.

A major focus now is our training coaches so that we have more coaches in schools across the island, to properly prepare athletes at the junior and professional levels”.

Mr. Torzsas also noted that CIBC FirstCaribbean is considering a number of opportunities for sponsorship of Carifta teams around the region through its businesses across the Caribbean.

The 2013 CARIFTA Games are scheduled to be held in the Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas between March 28 and 31st, 2013. These games will mark the seventh time in which the event was held in The Bahamas, the other years being 1976, 1978, 1981, 1984, 1992 and 2002.

St. George’s University Sports Department seeks affiliation with GFA

THE Department of Athletics, Sports and Recreation at St. George’s University in a recent application letter to the Grenada Football Association, advised of the university’s mandate to raise the profile of sports throughout Grenada.

In its letter written to the association, Dean of Athletics and Director of Athletics, Sports and Recreation, George Mc Guire, informed the association of the university’s desire to join the GFA as an affiliate in order to expand the number of opportunities offered to its students for sports, exercise sciences and recreation.

“We are therefore seeking affiliate membership with the GFA to pursue our common interests and to expand opportunities for professional proficiency and Coaching Certificate Programs in Football,” the letter stated.

“Working in collaboration with WINDREF’S Sports for Health Program, under the directorship of Dr. Calum MacPherson, SGU is committed to find the resources to develop dynamic programs in health and wellness, and to achieve sustainable growth and development of soccer in Grenada, the aim being to impact higher standards throughout the nation,” Mc Guire stated in his application.

St. George’s University recently hosted a very successful meeting at WINDREF, at which representatives of GFA, including the President, Mr. Cheney Joseph, and Mr. Lester Smith, Technical Director, assisted the SGU delegation in fine-tuning a project proposal aimed at strengthening the capabilities of our coaches in the island.

It is hoped that a Coaching Certificate Program will be launched soon at St. George’s University, which will attract the attention of all soccer coaches throughout the nation. The Grenada Football Association welcomes such a partnership with such a prestigious institution as St. George’s University.

Europe’s changing approach to Cuba

Is there an outside possibility that President Obama might use his second term in office to ease relations with Cuba? This is one of the intriguing questions that has begun to focus minds in European capitals.

While much of Europe, and in particular those parts of the continent such as the Czech Republic, that experienced Soviet style communism, had previously been reluctant to have anything other than a strictly conditional relationship with Cuba, this approach is now in the process of flux. In part this reflects the failure of the conditionalities imposed on the relationship by its common position. This came into being in 1996. Reviewed every six months, it introduced an agenda for political change in Cuba resulting in Havana all but ignoring most EU states.

Europe’s cautious approach also responds to a number of other factors.

Firstly, there is an awareness that Cuba itself is changing – about which more later – and that Europe must prepare to relate to a new largely technocratic, generation of emerging leaders who did not participate in Cuba’s early revolutionary process. Secondly, there is the real possibility, if the US were to begin to ease its relationship with Havana, that Europe would be marginalised at every level, if it did not have in place by then mutually agreed language with the Cuban Government. Thirdly, it is recognised that key member states, despite the common position, are moving to enhance their bilateral relations. And finally, there is also a sense that as Cuba is the only nation in Latin America and the Caribbean with which the EU neither has, nor is negotiating an association or Partnership agreement with, there is no structured basis for an all-encompassing dialogue.

At the level of Europe’s member states the relationship with Cuba has already begun to change. The first indication of this came in 2007 when Spain signed a bilateral co-operation agreement, despite the existence of the common position. Later in 2011, and perhaps more significantly given Madrid’s special relationship with Cuba, France and the United Kingdom agreed simple but all-encompassing formal bilateral co-operation agreements with Cuba. These documents establish a commitment by both sides to identify ways to improve relations at all levels.

Since then there have been an increasing number of European bilateral exchanges, agreements on debt rescheduling, discussions on expanding functional co-operation in areas such as narcotics interdiction, the development of trade and investment opportunities, moves to re-establish export credits, steps to enhance cultural exchange, and a more general deepening of the relationship through exchanges between higher level officials.

In response to all of these factors, and after sensitive discussions between EU Member states, the European Commission has now begun the development of a negotiating mandate that, if approved, will set the scene for the eventual negotiation of a bilateral agreement that will be similar in scope to the association agreements signed with Central America or Andean countries. In other words, there is the prospect of a political, trade and development agreement that, if agreed by both sides, would establish with Cuba a basis for long-term engagement, and which might include asymmetrical trade arrangements of the kind contained in the Economic Partnership Agreement with Cariforum. It may also offer new lines of development assistance.

However, this is far from being a done deal. For any such agreement to come about, not only will the negotiating mandate have to be acceptable to European member states, but whatever is eventually negotiated will have to contain the same inherent political conditionalities as appear in all such agreements that the EU has with other nations. Not only will this have be acceptable to both sides, but any final agreement will require the approval of the European Parliament, parts of which in the past have been far from friendly towards Cuba.

Despite this, a significant change in attitude is underway. Although not spoken about, the sense in Europe is that views in both Cuba and the US are changing.

There is a view that change in Cuba is real and that this will over time drive a new relationship with Washington. Some in significant positions feel this may come sooner than expected. They suggest that under the leadership of John Kerry as US Secretary of State, or later in the context of generational change in the Cuban leadership and within the Cuban-American community, dialogue may be possible.
With this in mind, key European governments have been or are considering making a near one hundred and eighty degree turn on policy towards Cuba.

This is not to say that concerns do not continue about human rights and political expression or that dialogue on such matters with Cuba will cease, but rather that Cuba will come to be regarded within the same European frameworks as other nations, and should cease to be an exception.

There is a certain irony about this as Cuba has been a member of the ACP group since 2000 and was considering at that time becoming a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement, which includes a political preamble. However, it withdrew when a number of EU states suggested that if it signed the Treaty it would immediately be suspended. Despite this, the EU has remained an important trading partner, with a third of all trade, almost half of foreign direct investment and more than half of all its tourists coming from Europe. Indeed, recent Cuban trade figures suggest that key trade beneficiaries are the Netherlands and Germany, nations that have until recently been reluctant to see a change in the relationship with the EU.

Underlying all of this is the real sense that change in Cuba is underway, albeit in fits and starts. President Castro’s recent remarks to the Cuban National Assembly that he would not seek another term in office after 2018 not only made clear that the transition to the next generation is happening, but also set a time limit on implementing the change he is overseeing.

In addition, the National Assembly agreed to the appointment of Miguel Díaz-Canel as First Vice-President of the Council of State; a step that President Castro indicated should be seen as “definitive in the configuration of the future leadership of the nation through the gradual and orderly transfer of key roles to new generations”.

What all this is suggests is that the political and economic map of the Caribbean may, before too long, change beyond present recognition.

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

The Commonwealth Charter and Sri Lanka

The most important reason for the selection of a country as the host-venue for a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is that it serves the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole.

If this reason were a consideration, President Mahinda Rajapaksa would already have withdrawn Sri Lanka from hosting the CHOGM in November. The President has not done so. Instead, he has insisted that the Commonwealth Summit must be held in Sri Lanka even as his government is mired in intense controversy over violations of human rights and disregard for the rule of law.

By this insistence, the Sri Lanka President demonstrates only an ambition to claim honour and respectability through hosting the meeting and representing the Commonwealth for the next two years as its Chair. This self-serving position of the Sri Lanka government is injuring the Commonwealth.

Every member state of the Commonwealth – particularly its small and weak ones – needs the Organisation to be strong and credible. A discredited Commonwealth, that cannot stand-up for its own declared values, would have no moral authority or convincing status to advocate effectively for the welfare of its member countries in the international community.

President Rajapaksa’s dismissal of the country’s Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake, after an unfair impeachment process that was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, and the appointment of his former Attorney-General to the post, is “serious” and it comes amid evidence of “persistent” human rights abuses of journalists, and other groups within Sri Lanka.

These developments follow the government’s refusal to allow an independent inquiry, as requested by the United Nations, into the deaths of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians in 2009 towards the end of a conflict between government forces and the Tamil Tigers.

The unsuitability of Sri Lanka at this time to host the CHOGM is drawn into stark clarity by the Charter of the Commonwealth that was signed on March 11 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth after the complete concurrence of 53 of the Commonwealth’s 54 Heads of Government. The fifty-fourth member state, Fiji whose military government seized power in 2006, is currently suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth.

The Charter was one of the important recommendations for reform of the Commonwealth made by an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of which I was privileged to be a member. The recommendation was accepted by all Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Australia in October 2011.

An important clause in the Charter reads: “We are committed to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights including the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of peaceful, just and stable societies”. Unless the Sri Lanka government demonstrates that it upholds that commitment through actions that have been urged upon it by the UN, many Commonwealth Governments, and a myriad number of international legal and judicial organisations, it is not qualified to host the CHOGM. Attendance by other Heads of Government would sully the Commonwealth by validating the Rajapaksa government.

This is not the first time that the Commonwealth has had to deal with violations of its values and principles by a member state. It did so in 1977 in relation to Idi Amin whose brutal regime in Uganda engaged in massive violation of human rights and sustained disregard for the sanctity of life.

At that time, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Shridath Ramphal, said to Commonwealth leaders: “There has been in the Commonwealth, of course, as in the international community, a long and necessary tradition of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. No Commonwealth country (indeed, who anywhere in the world?) is above reproach in some respect or other. If these traditions were not to be respected there would be no end to recrimination and censoriousness. How to strike a balance of political judgement between the two extremes of declamation and silence is sometimes difficult – but it would be entirely illusory to believe that such a judgment could, or indeed should, be avoided altogether. There will be times in the affairs of the Commonwealth when one member’s conduct will provoke the wrath of others beyond the limits of silence ... although the line may be indefinable, all the world will know when it has been crossed.”

It had been crossed in Uganda; and at their meeting in 1977, Commonwealth leaders stated that it was their “overwhelming view” that the excesses of Amin’s regime “were so gross as to warrant the world’s concern and to evoke condemnation by Heads of Government in strong and unequivocal terms”.

In those days, there was no Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) as there is now, tasked with dealing with States where the Commonwealth’s declared values have been violated. Nonetheless, Heads of Government themselves made it clear that the excesses of Idi Amin were unacceptable, as they did later with the white minority government of Ian Smith in Southern Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe) and the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

As CMAG has since suspended other member states – Fiji, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Pakistan – after addressing their violations of Commonwealth values, it should do so now with Sri Lanka, or the freshly minted Commonwealth Charter will simply become another set of words, not worth the paper on which they are inscribed in the name of the people of the Commonwealth.

There is also precedent for moving a Commonwealth meeting if the host government has breached Commonwealth agreed principles and values. In 1981, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, ignored the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement that banned sporting contact with Apartheid South Africa. Muldoon strongly supported the South Africa Springbok Rugby team’s tour to New Zealand. Commonwealth governments, feeling that Muldoon had violated agreed Commonwealth principles and values, moved a Finance Ministers meeting from New Zealand to the Bahamas as a mark of their displeasure.

The Sri Lanka government should withdraw from hosting the CHOGM in November, or the other Commonwealth countries should withdraw themselves from attending. Either action would strengthen the Commonwealth and enhance its authority. But, on no account should the CHOGM be held in Sri Lanka.

(The writer is a Consultant, former Caribbean diplomat and Vistiing Fellow, London University. Responses and previous commentaries at: 

New era for Catholic Church

Last Wednesday, members of the Roman Catholic Church and the world at large welcomed that ancient institution’s newest leader, Pope Francis I. Though the sovereign Vatican City may have a population of less than 1 000 persons, its influence spreads across the globe to the 1.2 billion professed Catholics in all the world’s continents. It is a community that spans race, cultural backgrounds and socio-economic brackets.

His selection is being hailed in many quarters as a sign of new hope for the Church, which in recent years has been rocked by scandals and also faces pressure from its own congregation due to changing views on issues such as gay marriage and the role of women in the Church. Dwindling numbers have been a challenge for churches everywhere – not just the Roman Catholic Church. There is great concern about how to stay true to traditional teachings, while still appealing to younger congregants who, while raised within the church, feel it is becoming increasingly irrelevant to a modern world. From all accounts of the new pope’s track record, however, it seems unlikely that he will be making any radical pronouncements on such issues. He is known to be a traditionalist, and it is reported that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he clashed with Argentina President Cristina Fernandez on issues such as gay marriage and adoption and free contraceptives.

However, while those who were hoping for an out-and-out reformist pope may be disappointed, it is likely that he possesses other characteristics which the conclave of cardinals saw as more critical for the Church’s survival in these troubled times.

He is the first pontiff to be selected from Latin America, yet as the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, he maintains a link to the Old World as well. It is believed that about 40 per cent of the world’s Catholics are in the southern continent and his selection sends a signal that the Vatican wants to embrace that massive section of its congregation and perhaps lure back those members of its flock who have strayed.

However, perhaps of even more significance than his origin, is the new Pope’s choice of name – Francis. Seen as a clear reference to the revered St. Francis of Assisi, from the very outset, it was a popular topic of discussion. Father Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, said, “The choice of the name Francis is very meaningful. It is a name that has never been chosen before and evokes simplicity and an evangelical witness.” Indeed, aside from being a traditionalist, Bergoglio has also made a name for himself as one who made an effort to reach out to the marginalised. He also became known for his decision to live simply – eschewing some of the luxuries afforded an archbishop.

So, the Roman Catholic Church now has a leader with a different cultural and political background than has been the norm, and one who, by his name choice, has signalled that he will be getting back to the church’s roots of evangelism and simplicity. No wonder Catholics, particularly in this part of the world, are energised. Given the considerable clout of the Holy See, could this mean that the issues confronting the developing world will have more prominence in world affairs?

WEEKLY UPDATES – Cabinet to hold Monday briefings

By Linda Straker

THE Keith Mitchell administration, which was elected on February 19, said on Monday that it will be holding weekly post-Cabinet briefings on Mondays in its effort to keep the nation abreast with cabinet decisions.

Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister for Communications, Public Relations, Information and Media Relations, Hamlet Mark, made the announcement on Monday when he hosted the first briefing in the absence of an appointed Press Secretary to the Prime Minister.

Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister for Communications,
Public Relations, Information and Media Relations, Hamlet Mark.
The briefings are expected to have a Government Minister as the main speaker and when necessary, the relevant technocrats to assist with technical clarity and explanation.

The first minister to face the press was Economic Minister, Oliver Joseph, who said that Government is working towards presenting the 2013 Budget by the middle of April, so that spending can be possible in May.

“It’s a constitutional requirement to have the Budget be completed by April 30th and we are aiming to achieve this,” said Joseph, who admits that the majority of Cabinet’s time has been spent discussing the financial situation of the country.

“It’s a challenging time ahead, but we have a competent team to deal with these challenges,” said Joseph, who confirms that the measures in place for the 2013 budget will cover up to December.

“This Budget that will be presented in April will come with certain measures and at the same time preparation will start for the 2014 Budget,” he said.

Government to announce final senator

AS of Monday, March 18, 2013, the Government only had to announce one more senator to the Upper House of Parliament because two of the last three were announced.

Mr. Simon Stiell has been sworn in as the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, while Mr. Jestor Emmons is the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs.

Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister for Communications, Public Relations, Information and Media Relations, Hamlet Mark, announced at the first official press briefing that the seventh Senator has been identified, but his name will be released later this week when the Office of the Governor General is officially informed.

The Upper House of Parliament comprises 13 persons, seven of whom represent the interests of the Prime Minister, three appointed by the Leader of the Opposition and three representing sectoral interests.

As a result of not having an elected Opposition, it is expected that Governor General, Sir Carlyle Glean, will appoint three persons.

The other Government Senators are: Kenny Lalsingh, Winston Garraway, Sheldon Scott, and Brenda Hood. The sectoral Independent Senators are: Keith Clouden, who will be representing the farming community; Christopher DeAllie, who will be representing the Business Community; and Raymond Roberts, who will be representing the Trade Union Movement.

In the meantime, the Ceremonial Opening of Parliament will be on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, at the Grenada Trade Centre. The highlight of the opening is the Throne Speech, which will be delivered by Head of State, Sir Carlyle Glean, in which he will outline the plans and activities to be undertaken by Government.

The ceremonial opening will pave the way for the presentation of the 2013 Budget, which is expected to be delivered by the middle of April.

State to decide best option – for pursuing manslaughter matter against police officers

By Linda Straker

Director of Public Prosecution, Christopher Nelson, said on Monday that the State will be considering its legal options with regards to the ruling by a High Court judge to order that manslaughter charges be dismissed against five police officers who were accused of causing the death of a Canadian visitor in December 2011.

Lawyers for the accused men filed a motion in the High Court claiming that the Director of Public Prosecution acted against the Coroner’s Act, which mandates that an inquest must be held for persons who died in a public place.

“This ruling means that the charges must be dropped and an inquest be held,” said Nelson, who explained that the written judgement is not yet available. “However, we are considering our legal options and a decision going forward will be announced during the week,” he said on Monday.

Derrick Sylvester, lawyer for the family, described the ruling as a short-term victory for the accused. “This is not the end of the matter, it’s a short-term victory,” he said.

On December 26, 2011, Oscar Bartholomew, a Grenadian/Canadian citizen, and his wife, Dolette, were on an island tour when they stopped at the St. David’s Police Station for his wife to use the washroom facility. Reports are while waiting for the return of his wife, he mistook a plain-clothes female officer for a long lost friend and bear hugged her. In the process, she screamed and other police officers ran to her rescue and beat Bartholomew into unconsciousness.

He died at the General Hospital hours later. The state pathology report as well as an independent pathologist hired by the family said he died from internal injuries, including skull fractures due to blunt force trauma to the body.

The officers charged were: Constables Kenton Hazzard, Wendell Sylvester, Edward Gibson, Shaun Ganness and Ruddy Felix.

CCRIF’s new excess rainfall product discussed at donor meeting

THE Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) hosted a strategic donor meeting at the offices of the CDB in Barbados recently, to discuss ways to support CCRIF’s new excess rainfall product and to co-ordinate with donors’ disaster risk management initiatives in the region.

In his opening remarks, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) President Dr. Warren Smith indicated that the CDB was pleased to facilitate this discussion, which will increase co-operation among CCRIF, donors and regional organisations, “in enhancing the disaster risk management capacity of the region as a whole and co-ordinating our efforts in keeping with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness”.

Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) President, Dr. Warren Smith,
as he addressed participants at the strategic donor meeting.
CCRIF’s recently appointed CEO, Isaac Anthony,
is happy with the outcome of the donor meeting.
The meeting brought together international development partners, including the UK Department for International Development (DFID), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Inter-American Bank, and the European Union among others. Regional institutions represented included the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Other participants included His Excellency Ambassador Appio Claudio Muniz Acquarone of Brazil and Mr. Yu Bu, Alternate Director for China to CDB and First Secretary of the People’s Republic of China to Barbados.

Donors have played a key role in helping CCRIF to meet its key objective of providing a cost-effective way to pre-finance short-term liquidity after a catastrophic event, allowing governments to begin recovery efforts immediately. A good example of this was the US$8 million payout made to Haiti 14 days after the devastating 2010 earthquake. This payout – which came before any other direct donor support – enabled the Haitian public sector and emergency services to continue to function in the weeks and months after the earthquake. By contributing towards the capitalisation of CCRIF, donors indirectly helped the Facility to reduce its expenditures on reinsurance, increase the financial security of the Facility, and decrease the premium charged to member countries.

One of the main items of discussion was CCRIF’s new coverage option – the CCRIF/Swiss Re Excess Rainfall product – which is now being made available to all CARICOM countries. Discussions focused on potential donor support to enable Caribbean countries at risk from extreme rainfall to take advantage of this innovative product. The excess rainfall product will complement the Facility’s tropical cyclone coverage, which is based on wind and storm surge losses. The excess rainfall product was developed in direct response to interest expressed by many CCRIF participating countries and stakeholder partners in enhancing existing options to include coverage against damage produced by heavy rain and its triggering of floods and landslides. Donors were impressed with the product’s potential to help all countries in the Caribbean region – including those which are not at significant risk from tropical
cyclones, such as Guyana and Suriname.

A number of commitments came out of the meeting:

• Donors committed to examine how they could support the roll-out of the CCRIF/Swiss Re Excess Rainfall product.

• CCRIF agreed to assist donors with helping governments to better understand the role of parametric insurance in disaster risk management and the importance of engaging in wider disaster risk reduction activities beyond insurance.

• The Inter-American Development Bank will seek to enhance its partnership with CCRIF in developing a technical co-operation initiative that would be designed to help countries better understand and assess their risks from natural disasters, and help them find ways to incorporate these risks into national decision making and planning.

• CCRIF committed to organise a regional meeting of key stakeholders and donors on the concept and implementation of a ‘Country Risk Officer’ initiative – for specially designated government officers who would act as a central point of contact for co-ordinated disaster risk management in their country.

CCRIF’s recently appointed CEO, Isaac Anthony, was pleased with the results of the meeting.

The meeting “provided an opportunity to create a mechanism for inter-organisation information sharing and collaboration that can be used to deal with a variety of development issues that face the Caribbean. CCRIF – and its current and future member countries – will certainly benefit from this co-
operative approach,” he said. (PR/RSM)