Wednesday, 29 May 2013

IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE – Grenfin finishes third at Barbados swim meet


By Petra Gooding

LED by top 15 and Over girl Oreoluwa Cherebin, Grenfin Swim Club finished a commendable third place at the Aquatic Centre International in Barbados last weekend.

Grenfin was also the highest-placed visiting team with 477.50 points for third-place overall. Barbadian teams took the top two spots with Alpha Sharks Swim Club finishing on top of the standings with 1 371 points, while Pirates Swim Club was second with 1 034.50 points. Rounding out the top five teams were Antigua Aquatic Club with 431.50 points for fourth and in fifth was Bajan club Titans Aquatic Swim Team with 407.50 points.
Grenfin Swim Club finished third at the just concluded
Aquatic Centre International in Barbados.
Cherebin was the only female swimmer from outside of Barbados to be crowned an Age-Group Champion. At the end of the three-day meet on Sunday, Cherebin was crowned the winner of the 15 and Over Girls’ Category with wins in two events and numerous top five finishes.

She won the Girls’ 15 and Over 50-metre freestyle in 29.34 seconds, while Titans Aquatic took the next two positions with Lee-Ann Rose second in 29.50 seconds and Zabrina Holder third in 29.72 seconds. She also won the Girls’ 50-metre Breast in 36.31 seconds, second was Kimberley Willoughby in 37.11, while Holder was third in 39.30 seconds.

Delron Felix was another swimmer who kept the Grenadian flag flying high with some wins, including one in record-breaking time in the 11-12 Boys’ Category. He finished second overall in that category behind Damon St. Prix of Alpha Sharks and Luis-Sebastian Weekes of Pirates, who tied for the top spot.

Felix’s meet record came in the 11-12 Boys’ 50-metre backstroke, which he won in 31.31 seconds, just edging out St. Prix, who was second in 31.33 seconds. Jack Kirby of Pirates was third in 32.65 seconds.

The 2013 Powerade Aquatic Centre Invitational was an official qualifier for the upcoming FINA World Championships as well as the World Junior Championships. Over 355 swimmers from 23 teams, inclusive of 14 regional teams, competed in the three-day event.

Final Points Standing of the 2013 Aquatic Centre International

1. Alpha Sharks Swim Club, B’dos 1 371
2. Pirates Swim Club, B’dos 1 034. 50
3. Grenfin Swim Club, Grenada 477. 50
4. Antigua Aquatic Club – Storm 431. 50
5. Titans Aquatic Swim Team, B’dos 407. 50
6. Wadadli Aquatic Racers 349. 50
7. Sharks Swim Club, St. Lucia 158
7. Racers Swim Club 158
9. Lightning Aquatics Swim Club 110
10. Sea Jays Swim Club 102
11. Guyana Combined Teams 56
12. Black Sands Swim Squad 54. 50
13. Petrotrin Barracudas, T&T 53
14. HighTide Stingrays Swim Club 52
15. Heatwave Aquatics, B’dos 51
16. Silver Fins Swim Club, B’dos 50
17. Southern Flying Fish 43
18. Dolphins Swim Club, B’dos 33
19. Blue Marlins Blue Marlins 28
20. Cobra Adventures Swim Club 1

Full draft list for CPL T20 released


AFTER months of waiting, cricket fans from around the world can finally get a peek at the full list of players who make up the Caribbean Premier League T20 Draft.

The CPL draft is scheduled to take place on June 5 in Jamaica with over 150 players divided up into three pools: Pools ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’. The draft process will be overseen by the members of the CPL Cricket Committee which is chaired by former Jamaican Prime Minister, the Most Honourable PJ Patterson.

From right: Digicel’s Group Marketing Operations Director,
Kieran Foley, addressing those gathered for the CPL press conference
at the Hilton Barbados Resort. Also in the photo is CPL Operations
Manager, Senator Carlisle Powell, and Rhoda Kelly, Event Director.
The details of the draft process were revealed last week Thursday at a press conference at the Needham’s Point Ballroom at the Hilton Barbados Resort. Pools ‘A’ and ‘B’ will comprise of both West Indies players and International players, while Pool ‘C’ will be made up of talented Under-23 players from throughout the region. The full list of players is now available on the CPL website www.cplt20.com.

Newly installed Operations Manager, Senator Carlisle Powell of Nevis, told regional media that each team will have a selection committee consisting of the head coach, assistant coach, the West Indies Franchise player and the Overseas Franchise player.

“Together, these four members of the team selection committee will plan and formalise their strategy and picks for each round going into the official draft. It is up to each selection committee to do their research on players and formalise who they are targeting in the draft,” said Senator Powell.

In Pool ‘A’, there will be a total of 26 players up for selection; 14 will be Elite West Indies players, while the other 12 will be Elite Overseas players. Each of the six selection committees will have four selections from this pool and a maximum of two overseas players may be selected for each squad. Teams are not required to select an overseas player if they prefer only West Indies players, but they are restricted to two Overseas Elite players.

If by the fourth round draft of Pool ‘A’ a team finds itself in a position where the remaining players are only overseas players, and they have their quota already filled, then they may select their fourth round player from Pool ‘B’.

Within Pool ‘B’ there will be a maximum of six overseas players, over one hundred West Indies players and the balance of Pool ‘A’ players who have not been selected. Each selection committee will have five selections from this pool. If a team at this point has one or two International players, only one may be selected. Any remaining players from this pool will drop down into Pool ‘C’.

Pool ‘C’ consists of Under-23 developing talented players from across the region and the balance of Pool ‘B’ players who have not been selected. No overseas players will be up for selection from this pool.

Each selection committee will have four selections from this pool. The first two selections will be done in the same way as Pools ‘A’ and ‘B’ with each team getting a turn based on the order already established. The last two selections will be non-competitive and teams must select Under-23 players from their country only. The only exceptions will be St. Lucia and Antigua which in this case would mean players from the Windward and Leeward Islands respectively. (PG)

CPL hoping to forge strong relationships – with regional Governments


CPL Operations Manager Senator, Carlisle Powell, is hoping that strong relationships are birthed between the CPL and regional governments after he recently met with high ranking Cabinet ministers in the six franchise countries.

The six CPL franchise countries are Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St. Lucia and Antigua & Barbuda, and Powell described the meetings as quite productive. Powell was speaking during a press conference earlier this week where the full CPL draft list was released.

“The foundation for a solid working relationship has been established and I know that I can call on each of them to assist with the operations and logistics in their respective countries. We are seeking to partner with the regional tourism authorities to find ways to capitalise on the economic boost that the CPL will bring to their countries,” he said.

Powell, who took up the post of Operations Manager three weeks ago, also met with the cricket boards for the respective franchise countries and the various venue operators. He also had a chance to visit each venue to see what they each had to offer and what needed to be done to meet the CPL’s goals.

He added that the CPL is not only about cricket, but that they wanted to help regional tourism authorities to enhance their products. Powell noted that the addition of the CPL to their calendars is certainly a step in the right direction, as it is expected that there will be an influx of regional and international visitors to the franchise countries during the course of the tournament.

“We expect an influx of regional and international visitors for the tournament and the respective Governments are keen to work with us to accommodate them and this is very encouraging,” said Powell.

Powell is a Senator in Nevis where he was a Minister of Communications, Works, Utilities, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Environment. He is also a past member of the West Indies Cricket Board.

The CPL will get going on July 31 at Kensington Oval with an opening ceremony followed by the first match between Barbados and St. Lucia. (PG)

Will new UK tax approach harm Caribbean?


Last week, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to the leaders of all of the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies*.

The letter formed a part of the UK Government’s attempt to have the leaders of all G8 nations agree to a concrete action plan to tackle tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance.

Cameron’s initial objective is to be able to demonstrate by the time of the G8 meeting on June 17/18 in Northern Ireland, that he is getting his own house in order by first bringing the UK’s Overseas Territories and Dependencies into line. His hope then is that all G8 nations, including the US, will agree to adopt similar principles, with the ultimate objective being a changed global approach to taxation and tax information exchange.

As Cameron’s letter states: “There is no point in dealing with tax evasion in one country if the problem is simply displaced to another…. I hope others around the world will follow the lead we are setting together.”

He also made clear that while he respects the right of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to be lower tax jurisdictions, he believes that that they must change their approach by addressing two key issues: tax information exchange and beneficial ownership.

Cameron could not have been clearer: “Dealing with tax evasion is not just about exchanging information. It is also about improving the quality and accuracy of that information. Put simply, that means we need to know who really owns and controls each and every company. This goes right to the heart of the ambition of Britain’s G8 (chairmanship) to knock down the walls of company secrecy.”

In other words Britain, and it hopes the G8, will agree that the true owners of any offshore vehicle anywhere in the world should cease to be invisible or by extension be able to be hide their tax affairs behind nominees in on one or multiple offshore jurisdictions.

The path that Britain has now embarked on has great implications for the future of the BVI and Cayman in particular, but may eventually impact on all Caribbean economies that have developed offshore financial services regimes.

What the UK is proposing is that is that its territories and dependencies agree to bring within their government registry details of the ultimate beneficial owners of trust companies, funds and other financial vehicles. It intends that they should move from an opaque to a transparent regime sharing information on nationals of nations with which they have signed tax information exchange agreements.

To achieve this, the UK expects its dependencies and overseas territories to provide for, to quote the British Prime Minister, “fully resourced and properly managed centralised registries that are freely available to law enforcement and tax collectors, and contain full and accurate details on the true ownership and control of every company”.

At present the Overseas Territories seem uncertain how best to respond.

They fear they are being caught up in a British domestic political issue that is being driven by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the media. They are concerned that any commitment they might make, without the agreement of the US and EU member states to tackle the more questionable aspects of their own tax regimes, or without any indication as to how opaque offshore environments in independent countries will be encouraged to adopt similar principles, will only result in them damaging irretrievably a significant part of their economy.

This is because it is likely a high percentage of offshore companies currently registered in the Caribbean Overseas Territories, as well as the large numbers of resident professional  advisers, will relocate to environments where the beneficial owners can continue to retain their anonymity, whether operating legally to minimise their tax bill, or illegally to hide assets
questionably acquired.

Speaking in St Lucia last week about the potential dangers the changing global tax environment poses, the Premier of Montserrat, Reuben Meade, pointed out what worries Overseas Territories most is their small size and limited resource base. This means, he noted, they rely totally on tourism and financial services; sectors, he said, that are negatively affected by the global recession and by actions taken globally to combat crime and corruption.

“(Present) actions have serious implications for the territories because their economies are not sufficiently diversified to absorb the fallout from major reductions in income from tourism and financial services. The reality is that their entire economy can become unsustainable from failure or major disruption in these markets,”  Meade told participants in a Caribbean Development Bank meeting.

What remains far from clear is how the UK intends taking this issue forwards in the Caribbean.

If it is really its intention to see the principles it wants to apply to its Overseas Territories eventually adopted through a consensus, achieved on a multilateral basis by all nations including those in independent Caribbean, then it needs also to explain in the region how it and other wealthy nations intend supporting the likely transition out of yet another sector that has previously enabled the Caribbean to prosper.

What seems to be happening is that a new global policy, driven by concern about tax arbitrage, tax evasion and avoidance, organised crime, cyber criminality and financing for terrorism, has coincided with domestic lobbying by political parties, the media and NGOs on increasing the tax take at a time of austerity. These factors together are now leading to the promotion of change without any serious consideration being given to the collateral damage in regions like the Caribbean, let alone any understandable basis on which such a policy might be applied globally.

While Cameron, Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, Mr Obama and others clearly hope that all
nations will act in a similar way, in the real world, where large sums of legal and illegal money flow rapidly across the global financial system using multiple jurisdictions, the detail is fraught with problems.

As matters stand, the UK is hoping that its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies will agree to demonstrate publicly at an event on June 15 that they intend making the changes that Britain
requires. Under the present poorly defined circumstance, this may be wishful thinking.

*Bermuda; the British Virgin Islands; the Cayman Islands; Gibraltar; Anguilla; Montserrat; The Turks and Caicos Islands; Jersey; Guernsey; and the Isle of Man.

(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)

Legacies of Empire: The good, the bad and the ugly


This commentary is a much shortened version of a paper delivered at a public seminar at London University on May 20 on the Legacy of the British Empire in the Caribbean.

The Legacy of Empire in the Caribbean is a mixed one – some aspects are good, many aspects are bad, and one in particular is ugly. I will start with the good aspects:

The Good:
Language

The first is language. Because English has become the first language of international commerce, the legacy of the English language in the former British colonies has been beneficial to the English-speaking Caribbean countries in a range of global transactions.

Governance

With regard to institutions related to governance, important legacies of Empire were: an established legal and judicial system; a functional public service; and, at independence, written constitutions based on the rule of law.

These institutions – apart from the independence constitutions – were set up to serve the interests of Britain. The civil service is a particular example where the role of a colonial power group was to carry out the instructions of the British Colonial Office rather than to bolster policies locally devised by local officials.

A former Prime Minister of Barbados, Errol Barrow, described the civil service in the pre-independence Caribbean as “an army of occupation sent down to the area by the colonial office”.

Education
Basic education in the Caribbean – largely missionary led – ensured literacy in English at an early stage. Then in 1948 – 14 years before the first English-speaking Caribbean country became independent – the University College of the West Indies was established in Jamaica to serve the region as a whole.

The university’s second campus was established in 1960, two years before the independence of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

While the British education system was set up in individual Caribbean countries to serve British colonial interests and was narrow in that context, it was a solid grounding in basic education, sufficient for a region of five million people to produce three Nobel Laureates – one in Economics and two in Literature. Additionally, Caribbean nationals have served – and are serving –in high capacities in Commonwealth and International Organisations, in international business institutions and in international Courts in a manner that is disproportionate to the small number of the region’s population.

Their accomplishments belie the doctrine of inferiority that underpinned the excuse for slavery and indentured labour in the Caribbean.

But it should be noted that the basic and limited education system was not matched by industrialisation or the building of infrastructure that could create employment or professional opportunities for the tertiary educated. As a major consequence, more than 60% of the region’s tertiary educated people have had to migrate to developed nations such as Britain, Canada and the United States of America.

The Bad
One-crop economies

One of the bad legacies of Empire in the Caribbean was the concentration in production of one crop – sugar, and the non-industrialisation of the economies.

Sugar production for the benefit of British conglomerates remained the mainstay of many Caribbean economies even after independence.

In smaller islands of the Caribbean – Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada – British interests turned to another one-crop economy, bananas.

Production in both these sectors was based on low wages and poor conditions of work. While British companies benefited first from Commonwealth preferences in the UK market and then preferences in the European Market after Britain joined what was then the European Economic Community, workers in the Caribbean remained poor with all the consequences that flowed from poverty.

Poor transportation links for trade

In the post-independence period, Caribbean countries have sought to diversify their economies and their trade, but these efforts have suffered from the need for vital infrastructure, and from the absence of transportation links to markets. Such transportation links as exist are based on the colonial model in which to get to Africa, Asia or the Pacific, the route is through Britain with all its attendant additional costs, making trade in goods difficult and expensive.

Divided societies

In Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, their politics and development have suffered from the racial divisions between their two major ethnic groups, Africans transplanted as slaves and East Indians transported as indentured labourers.

The racial division – which is a direct result of British colonial policy of divide and rule – continues to frustrate the politics and governance of these two major countries in the English-speaking Caribbean and retards their development.

A fragmented Caribbean

A bad feature of Empire in the Caribbean was the acquiescence of Britain in the plantocracy’s determination over 300 years to maintain the region as separate enclaves of influence.

When it was overcome in the late 1950s by the effort of local leaders, it is arguable that the British Government’s abandonment of the Federation of the West Indies by offering Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago the opportunity of independence individually in 1962, assured for the future a weak and vulnerable region.

While the British government’s action was not the sole contributor to the break-up of the West Indies Federation that lasted from 1958 to 1962, the seeming desire to be shed of its Caribbean colonies resulted in the creation of what is now 12 independent states – many with populations of less than 100 000 and each struggling to survive at various levels as sovereign states, beset with high levels of crime, high rates of unemployment, no economies of scale for production, low rates of technological knowledge, and little capacity to bargain in the international community.

The Ugly
Slavery and Indentured labour

African slavery and East Indian indentured labour were the mainstay of cheap production of sugar from the Caribbean that contributed for centuries to the wealth, growth and
development of Britain.

In 1838, when slavery was abolished by Britain, British slave owners in the English-speaking Caribbean received £11.6 billion in today’s value as compensation for the emancipation of their “property” – 655 780 human beings of African descent that they had enslaved and exploited.

The freed slaves, by comparison, received nothing in recompense for their dehumanisation, their cruel treatment, the abuse of their labour and the plain injustice of their enslavement.

The fact that African slaves in particular received no compensation for their captivity and enforced exploitation is a stain on Britain’s legacy of Empire in the Caribbean.

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

Be disaster ready


THE experts have predicted an above-normal hurricane season for this year and with the heavy and persistent showers being experienced across the region in the last few weeks, we are reminded that the hurricane season is upon us. In fact, it begins officially tomorrow, June 1. With the frequency and intensity of storm activity during last year’s hurricane season exceeding forecasts, households would do well to take heed of the warning which points to another active season.

By now, the basics of disaster preparedness are well known – home repairs and installation of protective fixtures, stocking up on non-perishable items, storing water for household and personal use, protecting important documents, making arrangements for animals, and preparing kits for family members with special needs, including infants and the elderly. It can only be hoped that after so many years of being sensitised to the necessary preparations, homeowners and businesses now have an established routine when it comes to preparing for the hurricane season. Equally important are preparations made on a longer timeline, such as purchasing home insurance and for businesses, making provision for off-site and/or digital storage, for example.

While caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparations, we can forget that it is all in an effort to make life as comfortable as possible in the unfortunate event that a storm should severely affect the island. However, we need only cast our memories back to 2010, with the experience of Tropical Storm Tomas. Though some households suffered serious damage, the island on a whole escaped relatively unscathed from that encounter. But days without electricity and water in some areas left many feeling quite desolate and uncomfortable. The truth is, we currently enjoy so many ‘creature comforts’ that many can scarcely imagine living for a few days, let alone weeks without the amenities we have come to take for granted. We can also recall the havoc wrought by Hurricane Sandy just last year in New York, New Jersey and other parts of the United States. Indeed, it later went on to be dubbed ‘Superstorm Sandy’ by the US media.

To see such major cities and ‘developed’ areas so crippled was impactful for many of us. More importantly, it is a reminder that if we ever do feel the full brunt of a natural disaster, the recovery effort will be just as important as the preparation. Indeed, some might argue it is even more vital, as it would be a major exercise to return to a sense of normalcy following the devastation caused by such a catastrophe.

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency has been carrying out training of community responders throughout the region, and it is essential that persons who have benefited from such training, and others who have similar knowledge, embrace these responsibilities and uphold the trust that has been placed in them. They are a vital part of the disaster response mechanism, as they are already on the scene long before the ‘calvary’ can arrive. Indeed, their presence can mean the difference between life or death for someone trapped by debris or swept away by flood waters.

But while participants no doubt get involved in such programmes with the best of intentions, these can fly through the window in a crisis situation. Therefore, beyond reminding the general public about preparedness measures, we hope that the disaster authorities are also keeping in touch with community responders to ensure that they remain committed to their role.

Disaster preparedness goes beyond preventative measures. Many persons only think about what happens during the event, but what about afterwards?

SEEKING SOLUTIONS – Governments urged to pursue comprehensive agreements


By Linda Straker

Regional governments should seek far-reaching agreements with creditors when pursuing debt restructuring instead of accommodating short-term measures that will eventually have to be re-negotiated before feeling the positive impact.

That is the view of Jurgen Kaiser, co-ordinator and Research Fellow at the German Debt Network, who is presently in Grenada facilitating a workshop on debt relief organised by the Conference of Churches Grenada.
Jurgen Kaiser, co-ordinator and Research
Fellow at the German Debt Network.
“The conditions for these agreements should be deep and all-encompassing, as the further it goes the better the impact will be on the country,” he said while pointing to Jamaica, which had to recently undergo re-negotiations with the IMF.

“Something was agreed before, but yet within a short time another negotiation had to be held,” he said.

The workshop, which was organised long before the Dr. Keith Mitchell administration declared its intention to pursue debt restructuring, provided an opportunity for Economic Affairs Minister, Oliver Joseph, to address the participants.

“Unless the problem of debt is addressed, it does not allow for economic growth and development,” he told the participants.

“The solution requires stock treatment, which will address the quantum of Grenada’s debt,” he said.

Kaiser’s German Debt Network is among groups in various parts of the world advocating the message of jubilee from debt based on scriptures, and are calling on creditors such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to offer poor and vulnerable nations sustainable debt restructuring agreements or debt forgiveness.

“There is no country on earth who has not run into debt crisis, but offering debt relief should not be a reward for good behaviour from the country who may have had to adopt social strategies and measures that will affect the people of the country negatively,” he said.

In 2012 Grenada defaulted on its debt, and by February 2013 when a new Government was sworn in, the administration announced that it would be pursuing debt restructuring with its creditors. Chief Economic Advisor to the Government, Dr. Patrick Antoine, said that the global financial crisis affects Grenada’s ability for growth in the productive sector. “This in turn affected Government’s ability to raise revenue and without revenue financial commitment will be affected,” he said.

More sponsors needed for Carnival


Angus Steele, General Manager at LIME Grenada, wants more companies which benefit directly from the annual hosting of Carnival celebrations to partner with Spicemas Corporation to ensure that the activities remain a sustainable product.

“If you profit from Spicemas, time to come aboard and contribute,” Steele said on Monday during a press launch of the celebrations, which will conclude on the second Tuesday in August although
the period for Carnival is from June 1 to August 24, 2013.
From left: Angus Steele, General Manager of LIME Grenada,
along with Arthur Hosten, Chairman of the Spicemas Corporation (SMC)
and Alister Bain, Deputy Chairman of SMC.

The clarion call came against the background of the corporation having to find ways and means of paying an outstanding debt of more than EC$400 000 from the 2012 celebrations and data indicating that approximately EC$18 million is generated during the Carnival period.

“All that money is circulating in the country and all we need is EC$2.5 million for us to have the celebrations debt free and there are business places which benefit significantly directly and sometimes indirectly from the celebrations, but they don’t make any contribution to support it,” said Deputy Chairman of the Corporation, Alister Bain.

LIME is this year into the second year of a three-year title sponsor agreement, which involves among other things marketing and sponsorship title for the soca monarch show. Steele said that his company is not a sponsor that gives some financial support and sits back. “We don’t sit at arm’s length, but we are integral part of the activities.”


Chairman of the SMC, Arthur Hosten, said that the corporation has this year protected the trademark “Spicemas” and any person or entity that uses the trademark in their promotional activities before, during and after will first need permission from the SMC. “That permission will come with a fee and this is one of the ways we are hoping to raise funds this year,” he said.

Spicemas 2013 will be launched on Saturday in a form of a free concert and exposition on the Carenage. The event will provide an opportunity for carnival bands and calypsonians to display their work for this year, which sponsors and partners will exhibit their products.

Expected to perform are the top three entertainers of the 2012 soca monarch and calypso competitions, while seven-time winner of the calypso monarch title, Edison “Ajamu” Mitchell, who is celebrating 30 years in the entertainment business, will be a feature act.

There will be no national queen show as part of the 2013 celebration, but a private entity will be hosting a regional beauty pageant on August 3 at the Spice Basket. (LS)

Agriculture, Food and Health Safety consultations for Grenada and other OECS members


Grenada will be the last OECS member state where consultations will be held with agriculture stakeholders in an effort to enhance Agriculture, Food and Health Safety systems in the sub-region.

The OECS Trade and Integration Project, funded under the 10th EDF, is a key support project for the OECS Economic Union as the region works towards one space where there is easier trade of goods and services and the free movement of persons.

“Hence, maintaining good quality agriculture products through compliance with international standards   and effective food quality surveillance will help ensure food and nutrition security and easier trading across Member States of the Union, minimal quarantine of food and agriculture products, a significantly low percentage of food-borne illnesses associated with imported foods and enhanced consumer and investor confidence,” said a press release from the Secretariat.

OECS Agriculture Economist, George Alcee, said the importance of dialogue on enhancing food security because of the major contribution the sector makes to economic development should not be taken for granted. “The sector continues to play a significant role in food security, health and nutrition, providing sustainable livelihood opportunities, employment creation, rural development, foreign exchange generation and preservation of the natural resource base,” he said.

Rodinald Soomer, who heads the OECS Secretariat’s Economic Development Policy Unit, says Member States are committed to transforming the agriculture sector to ensure that its system for ensuring quality food security makes the region more consumer and investor friendly.

“What we have done is to bring this down to the programme level at the OECS Secretariat and we recognise that a sound Agriculture, Health and Food Safety System is critical to the achievement of many of the priorities identified by OECS Member States in the OECS Agriculture Plan of Action,” he said.

The agriculture and food sector remains an essential pillar in the social and economic development of the OECS. The strengthening and upgrading of Agriculture, Health and Food Safety Systems to effectively operate within the single productive space of the OECS Economic Union as well as CARIFORUM will go a long way in facilitating  production, trade and sustainability of all agricultural commodities.

The first consultation opened in Dominica on May 12 with further engagements scheduled for St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Grenada.

Gov’t presented with nine recommendations



By Linda Straker

THE Conference of Churches Grenada (CCG) has presented Government with nine recommendations that it believes can create a framework for restructuring the island’s debt as Government embarks on initiatives aimed at reorganising the nation’s public debt with creditors.

The recommendations were the outcome of a three-day workshop on “Debt Relief in the Caribbean: A Grenada Perspective”, organised by the CCG in which the main facilitator was Jurgen Kaiser, co-ordinator and Research Fellow at the German Debt Network.

The participants in the workshop, which was held at the National Stadium, took as the basis of their involvement the biblical concept of “Jubilee” (Leviticus 25:1-7) (with its prescription of debt forgiveness) and the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

A statement from the CCG said that a clear and frank presentation of Grenada’s debt situation was made by Chief Economic Advisor to the Govern-ment, Dr. Patrick Antoine, while Minister for Trade, Economic Planning and Co-operatives, Oliver Joseph, gave a policy approach to resolving the debt situation.

The participants, which also comprised delegates from other OECS member states in particular Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, acknowledged that successive Grenada governments would have accepted those loans in their efforts at socio-economic development.
“Through energetic deliberations,

the participants concluded that while the obligation to repay loans must be acknowledged, the governments of small nations are not helpless at the mercy of their creditors,” said the statement, which said that the participants came to an in-depth understanding of the role of debt and the impact unsustainable debt has on vulnerable nations such as Grenada.

During the opening ceremony, Minister Joseph challenged the participants to come up with recommendations to government and by last Friday morning, which was the last day of the workshop, a number of recommendations arising from the discussions of the previous two days had been formulated and were formally presented to the minister.

Included in the recommendations from the CCG is the need for the Dr. Keith Mitchell administration to seek the involvement of an independent and impartial expert to assess Grenada’s debt relief and parliamentary approval for the debt restructuring process.

The nine recommendations are:

A comprehensive process to restructuring the national debt – An endorsement of the proposal of government for a comprehensive process or approach to restructuring the debt.

Independent assessment – That the Government of Grenada seeks the involvement of an independent and impartial expert to assess Grenada’s need for debt relief.

Parliamentary approval – That Government table a proposed framework for the debt restructuring process for discussion by, and approval of both Houses of Parliament.

Sustainability of debt level – That the existing benchmark as set by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) or the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative be a guide as to Grenada’s sustainable debt level. That the government seeks the cancellation of debts that exceed this limit.

Safety Cushion – That given the exceptional vulnerability of the islands to natural disasters and external shocks, debt relief should not go beyond that mandated by the sustainability level referred to above.

Independent Mediation Process – That the government invite all creditors to a debt conference in Grenada facilitated by a prominent high-level mediator.

Debt Relief (Benefit the Poor) – That debt relief should go towards socio-economic development with a preferential option for the poor.

International Support – That government seek political and financial support from sympathetic governments such as Norway and Germany, and international organisations such as UNCTAD, in support for its renegotiation strategy. We offer our support in that process through our international contacts.

Governance – That the legal and administrative structures be strengthened to ensure greater accountability and transparency, in the management of public expenditure. That the 2007 national, social and economic development plan be re-visited and updated in consultation with civil society as a framework for ongoing development and debt management. That consultation through the Social Partners meetings continues.

Another outcome of the workshop was the creation of a regional network of “jubilee advocates”, whose task will be to raise awareness about the Jubilee message with a view of having it become fundamental to negotiations with creditors.

The activity marks a significant milestone for the CCG, which sees its role as presenting a biblical perspective on social issues and raising its voice on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society.

Dr. Angus Friday is Grenada’s new USA ambassador


Former United Nations Ambassador Dr. Angus Friday will be Grenada’s new Ambassador to the United States of America and Mexico.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nicholas Steele made the announcement last week Wednesday, while updating the media about ongoing activities within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Friday, who demitted office in 2009 after the National Democratic Congress was elected into office, was employed with the World Bank.

According to Steele, the necessary arrangements were engaged for Dr. Friday to resume diplomatic work with the Government of Grenada. As Ambassador, he will be based in Washington, while Government will continue to appoint Honorary Consuls in various US cities, chief among them will be Derrick James in New York City.

Steele, who is also the minister for International Business, said that Government has decided not to make any changes at its Trade and Tourism Mission in Toronto, but will relocate the office to a less expensive space.

Since winning the February 19 General Election, the Dr. Keith Mitchell Administration has announced a London High Commissioner and new Ambassadors to China, Cuba and Venezuela. Steele said that Government is also considering opening two new trade missions in major trading cities of China as well as a trade mission in Kuwait. (LS)

CDEMA continues to enhance response capacity


THE Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) continues to pursue interventions aimed at enhancing the national, regional and community level response capacity.

“Important among these have been the provision of support for review and revision of national disaster plans and development of community level vulnerability risk profiles and disaster programmes,” disclosed Executive Director of CDEMA, Ronald Jackson.

He recently told the fourth session of the ‘Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction’ that as small islands at risk, we are ever cognisant of the implications of climate change for the sustainable development of societies.

“In light of this, we have begun a process of and will continue to make concerted efforts to make the linkages in the ongoing regional and international dialogue between climate change adaptations. CDEMA has already embarked on a process to support the integration of climate change adaptation into national level disaster management planning and programming and we urge its integration into broader national sustainable development plans and policies.”

According to Jackson, the establishment and maintenance of strong partnerships with development partners, the civil society sector, regional agencies and educational institutions have been instrumental in their successes to date.

“We will continue to pursue the development of relationships with new partners in the international arena as a means of drawing on and sharing expertise...,” he said.

The Executive Director further indicated that going forward, CDEMA will seek to build on and advance the achievements to date.

“There are also a number of key areas that CDEMA will be considering, including greater emphasis on the role of hazard risk assessment in development planning; encouraging governments of the participating states to make greater investments in reducing the underlying drivers of risk; accelerating the application of Information and Communication Technologies to disaster management; promoting gender equality in disaster management interventions; strengthening of partnerships with the private sector; and building of disaster risk reduction capacities to address the growing challenges of climate risk while supporting sustainable development,” he highlighted.

“We will also seek to capitalise on the ongoing regional and international development dialogue on Climate Change, Risk, and Resilience and associated financing for adaptation as this is a priority for SIDS, such as our participating states.” (TL)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

GIBSON CONFIDENT OF WINDIES' CHANCES


West Indies have started their preparations in a bid to capture the International Cricket Council’s Champions Trophy 2013 title with a one-week camp in Barbados. Under Head Coach Ottis Gibson, the Windies went through their drills at Sagicor High Performance Centre at the 3Ws Oval.

The camp started on Monday and will end today. The team will depart from Barbados on Saturday. They will have another camp in Cardiff, Wales from May 25 to June 2 as they try to get acclimatised to the foreign conditions.

Gibson has been at the helm for over three years and is confident the players will get maximum use of the five days of intense work. He also believes the team, to be led by Dwayne Bravo, has the right combination to capture the trophy for the second time. Brian Lara’s team won the 2004 tournament, when they beat host England by two wickets in a memorable final at the Oval.

“We will have a week in Barbados where will we put in some hard work as well as look to do team building exercises,” Gibson said. “We will then leave for Cardiff where we will put in some more work and get ready for the tournament. It is a great opportunity for us. We have quite a few players who have played in England and Wales before.”

Gibson added: “The hardest thing will be to get used to the conditions early. But we have quite an experienced One-Day outfit at the moment, so once we get there and get acclimatised early we will be OK.

“We believe we can win these big tournaments, having recently done it in Sri Lanka when we played brilliantly to win the ICC World T20 Championship. So, this is something that we are really looking forward to. Getting acclimatised to the conditions early will be a huge factor.”

The ICC Champions Trophy will feature eight teams: Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies. The tournament will be played across three venues – Cardiff Wales Stadium, Edgbaston and The Oval – over 18 days in this action-packed event from June 6-23.


The Windies have been drawn in Group B alongside the Indians, the Pakistanis and the South Africans. They open against Pakistan on Friday, June 7 at the Oval and return to the famous venue on Tuesday, June 11 to take on India. The final preliminary match will be against the Proteas on Friday, June 14 in Cardiff.

“We understand what it will take for us to do well in England and we recognise we will have to be able to bat out the 50 overs, absorb the pressure and be able to catch up at the back end of our innings. We will need a lot of good efforts from the top order to get us in good positions and we believe we have the bowling attack to do very well in the English conditions,” Gibson said.

“We haven’t done all that well in the 50-over format recently and that is something we are trying to address. We had some success against Zimbabwe recently at home and that is certainly something that we can build on as we head to England.

Gibson noted that the ICC Champions Trophy is an important tournament ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. “This is a good opportunity for us as a one-day team to see where we are compared to the other guys. This tournament format is similar to how the World Cup is going to be – you have to get out of the group stage to advance to the second phase,” he said.

“We hope the success and the experience we had in Sri Lanka will help everybody to stay calm when the pressure is on. Our stated aim is to move up the ranking and this tournament will give us a really good opportunity to see where we are compared to the other teams.”

FULL SQUAD:

Dwayne Bravo (Captain), Denesh Ramdin (Vice Captain/Wicketkeeper), Tino Best, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith.

TEAM MANAGEMENT:

Ottis Gibson (Head Coach), Richie Richardson (Team Manager), Toby Radford (Assistant Coach), Andre Coley (Assistant Coach), C.J. Clark (Physiotherapist), Hector Martinez Charles (Strength & Conditioning Coach), Richard Berridge (Video & Statistical Analyst), Philip Spooner (Media Manager), Virgil Browne (Massage Therapist).

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

CPL officials meet with governments and cricket boards


WITH the start of the inaugural Caribbean Premier League tournament less than three months away, CPL officials have recently concluded a tour of the six franchise countries – Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago – meeting with Government Ministers of Sports and Tourism, cricket board executives, stadium management teams/owners and tourism authorities.

The man charged with the task of keeping the relevant parties in each franchise country informed about, and satisfied with the preparations as it relates to their country and the overall tournament is CPL’s newly-appointed Operations Manager Carlisle Powell, a Senator from Nevis and father of West Indies batsman Kieran Powell. Powell is also a former Minister of Communications, Works, Utilities, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Environment in Nevis and a past member of the West Indies Cricket Board. He brings years of political diplomacy and finesse to the table as well as experience and relationships with the cricket community.

Powell says the meetings in all of the countries have been positive and encouraging, and that the excitement has started to build.

“The opportunity to sit down at the table with each of these groups in the six franchise countries was imperative because we wanted to make sure we answered the questions, and addressed any concerns they had,” explained Powell. “Once we did that, everyone had a greater understanding of the CPL vision, what we hope to accomplish and the benefits to their country specifically and the region in general. The result was that the governments, the cricket boards and the tourism boards are all pleased to give their full support to the CPL, and are excited about the prospects of a first-class sporting event being hosted annually in the region, bringing a much-needed economic boost to the Caribbean and attracting new and repeat visitors.”

Powell went on to say that the general response from the country heads and boards was that of a desire to co-operate however they could, and do what is necessary to ensure the tournament’s success.


Speaking about the relationships between CPL and the local boards, CPL CEO Damien O’Donohoe expressed, “Our goal is to keep the countries abreast of as much of the planning surrounding the tournament as possible. After all, they have demonstrated their hospitality by welcoming us into their jurisdiction, opening their grounds to us and allowing us to utilise the valuable resources that they have. We are eager to reciprocate.”

In Guyana, Powell had appointments with the Ministers of Tourism and Sport, Hon. Mohamed Irfaan Ali and Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony.

After the meeting, Hon. Minister Ali, commented “CPL is an amazing opportunity to use sport as a catalyst to advance the region’s tourism product since CPL will give us access to reach important global markets. In this regard Guyana has the best potential since we have the largest diaspora who love cricket, and so we in Guyana will pull out all the stops and give the CPL our full commitment.”

The first ever Caribbean Premier League will get underway on 30 July with 24 matches played in six franchise countries – Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad & Tobago.

Six top West Indies stars have been confirmed as Franchise players – Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels. Also confirmed are six overseas franchise players – former Australia captains Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting, ex-New Zealand captain Ross Taylor, Pakistan Twenty20 International captain Mohammad Hafeez, Herschelle Gibbs of South Africa and Sri Lanka spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan.

A total of 90 players will be contracted to play in the CPL. Each of the six Franchise teams will comprise of 15 player squads. All teams are required to have a minimum number of local players from their franchise country and at least two of them must be under the age of 23.Teams can also field a maximum of four international players. The remainder of the team must consist of regional and/or local players.

Also confirmed is the make-up of the CPL Cricket Committee, which is being chaired by former Jamaica Prime Minister The Most Honourable PJ Patterson and include Zorol Barthley, Conde Riley and Walter Scott, QC alongside Ian Bishop, Lance Gibbs and Charles Wilkin, QC.

Changing European policy


Spend time in Brussels, or in any other European capital that has a close relationship with the Caribbean, and it soon becomes apparent how fast thinking about policy is changing on a broad range of issues that may affect the region’s long term interests.

Look at the matter from the other direction, however, and it is clear that while Caribbean Ministers, diplomats and officials may be aware of what is being considered, there is little public debate, clear idea or word about how the region will respond.

The number of issues, in Europe alone, requiring the Caribbean’s attention are challenging. Despite most are little known in the region, let alone debated or afar as one know, have had the necessary research undertaken on their likely impact.

Most topical are the negotiations for a EU-US free trade agreement known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), These, if Europe is to be believed, are likely to move forward rapidly as this proceeds. The objective is to achieve a reduction in the remaining tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers that exist between Europe and the US, with the objective of boosting growth and global economic recovery. Although transatlantic tariffs are already low and any agreement likely to require the resolution of contentious issues requiring hard to obtain acceptance of the US Congress, or individual EU member states such as France, the thinking is that such an agreement is a practical alternative way forward in the absence of any comprehensive or new global trade round.

For much the same reason Europe has, in parallel, embarked on the negotiation of a bewildering range of trade agreements, all which are advancing at different speeds. They involve negotiating free trade arrangements with Canada; India; Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Morocco, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia and with other parts of the world; to say nothing of the EC’s slowly moving remaining negotiations on Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with other regions of the ACP.

Despite this, there seems to have been little thought given in the Caribbean, outside of Cuba, the Dominican Republic and a few CARICOM foreign trade ministries as to how TTIP in particular might impact Caribbean exports and services. That is, if as is likely, the diminishing value of existing preferential arrangements for commodities from sugar to rum, for manufactured goods, or the small window of opportunity for services provided by the EU-Cariforum EPA were to be further eroded by access granted to the US.

Beyond this there are also other significant developments occurring in Europe that will affect region.
There is, as has now been widely reported, the ongoing process of the graduation of the Caribbean out of European bilateral development assistance; a process which, despite ACP and Caribbean protests, will likely remove all but Haiti from bilateral European support and see the focus shift to programmes relating principally to the private sector, the environment and security, delivered on a regional basis, likely through a multiplicity of bodies.

Secondly, there remains considerable uncertainty about the future of the Cotonou Convention that links Europe to what are mainly former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. With the signing of bi-regional EPAs with Europe, changes in the structure of development assistance and a rapid strategically led diversification of EU foreign policy, views are mixed in Europe as to whether there is utility in negotiating another such agreement to succeed Cotonou in 2020.

Thirdly, and linked to both the EPA and the future of the Cotonou Convention, there remains concerns about the future of the ACP Group. Europe, which has supported it financially for far too long, has a declining interest in sustaining it. While the ACP’s future role is being considered by its members, most in Europe involved in policy formulation believe that its utility as a vehicle for European dialogue and co-operation is over.

Fourthly, the UK – the sometimes diffident champion of the Anglophone Caribbean in Europe – is planning to have an ‘in or out’ referendum on its future membership of the European Union after 2015, or possibly before. The strength of anti-European political opinion amongst UK voters and the growing political volatility amongst an austerity hit electorate make the outcome of such a vote uncertain. In addition there remain questions about what the UK might consist of after September 2014 when a referendum on Scottish independence will take place. In both cases there are no signs yet of anyone in the region having considered the negative impact of the absence of a strong British voice in the EU.

Fifthly, austerity is now so severe in many EU states that any long-term thought about significant future bilateral or multilateral development assistance or any substantial physical European defence presence, as opposed increasing levels of security support, should be quietly forgotten.

Sixthly, Europe may before long negotiate an association agreement or a similar type of arrangement with Cuba covering economic and political relations, trade and development which, depending on Cuban thinking, may result in a slow move to freer trade. While this is welcome, it is yet another issue on which it seems the rest of the region has not yet undertaken any impact study or analysis.

Seventh the global discussions that are under way and led by Europe and the US about the future of offshore financial services will change the nature of a number of dependent and independent Caribbean economies. As G8 governments move to close down opaque offshore environments and ensure the beneficial owners of such offshore facilities become known, the impact will most likely be a diminution in the numbers of companies registered and a decline in the value of financial services to Caribbean economies.

And finally, there are also a host of other more technical issues that for the most part remain unseen. These range from new policies on maritime boundaries that include those parts of Europe that are considered remote (the French D├ępartements d’outre-mer, and the Dutch and British overseas territories) to changes in EU agricultural policy that have relevance to the Caribbean.

In short, the old world of Europe is changing at a pace has not yet been matched either by the Caribbean’s response or by any sense of strategic repositioning between traditional and newer partners.

(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)

Not a Caribbean Man?



Tension is developing toward the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) from some quarters in Jamaica. This was exemplified by a column in the Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper written by an Immigration Attorney, Mr. Ronald Mason.

I believe it is fair to summarize what Mr. Mason said as follows:

He is a Jamaican; not a Caribbean man.

He wants no part of the “totally useless creation we label CARICOM”.

The people who populate “those islands 1 000 miles away” are not “brothers and sisters”.

He is unhappy about his reception in Eastern Caribbean countries he has visited where he was “not imbued with a sense of belonging”.

He had a period of “enforced residence” with persons from the Caribbean at a North American University and in Jamaica and the memories are not pleasant.

He says that “the Trinidadians have this over-bearing, suffocating attitude. The Bajans have this bombastic self-importance. Both of these nations waste no time in displaying these traits towards Jamaicans”.

He was prepared to suffer my advocacy of Caribbean integration in silence, but not anymore. He says Jamaica needs “to give the six-month notice and leave CARICOM” and he adds, “Keep your oil, money, flying fish and population. We will deal with the world as it is and forge our way therein as best we can.”

He says that Jamaica has “the resourcefulness, aptitude and personnel to make our mark. Let us use what we have and be inspired by George Headley, up to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Usain Bolt, the Nobel laureate in our midst and those high achievers in the diaspora”.

On trade matters, Mr. Mason sums up his position in the following way: “They see Jamaica as the market to be exploited, not where fair trade exists” and our local purchases will boost jobs at home. As for me and my house, we will not buy CARICOM products”.

With regard to the Caribbean Court of Justice to which Jamaica has not signed on as its Court of Final Appeal and, to date, refers final appeals to the Privy Council in the UK, he says Jamaica should give thought to looking to Canada as its final Court of Appeal. He ends by saying that “CARICOM cannot hope to be viable without some states ceding to the whole some political power. God forbid that Jamaica should do that”.

I have a certain sympathy for some of the attitudes that Mr. Mason has developed and to which he has given expression, although, not surprisingly, I dispute the basis on which he has arrived at his conclusions.
Caribbean leadership in the 15-nation CARICOM group bear responsibility for some of the impressions of the region that Mr. Mason has, although his attitude to other Caribbean people, who he met at University in North America and in Jamaica, are entirely a matter of his own personal relations.

Caribbean leadership in governments, in the private sector, in the trade union movement has not provided the people of the region with sufficient information, knowledge and understanding of the benefits of Caribbean integration. In the case of governments, too often public statements about CARICOM are made only at times of disputes usually related to trade, and the same is true of the private sector. Although every day, trade in goods and services between CARICOM states occurs with no hitch benefitting employment and revenues, it is the far fewer instances of disputes that receive attention, creating the impression of a dysfunctional or unfair trading system.

Private sector companies complain the minute that they believe they are disadvantaged and government representatives feel the need to speak out in support of them, rather than pointing to the machinery for resolving these disputes that exist in the CARICOM Treaty. And, for some curious reason, the Labour movement from which the intellectual argument for Caribbean integration sprung, has gone silent.

This lack of information, knowledge and understanding about regional integration has been crying out for attention by governments and the private sector for over a decade. Important as it is, regional integration is not just about trade in CARICOM; it is also about a range of common services and institutions such as the University of the West Indies, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Examinations Council, the Caribbean Hotels and Tourist Association, and, yes, the Caribbean Court of Justice, that individual Caribbean countries cannot afford individually and in some cases lack the capacity to administer.

Regional integration ought to be about much more including debt negotiations, access to capital, creating pan-Caribbean companies that can compete in the world market and create more jobs.

On the matter of treatment of Jamaicans at the ports of entry of other Caribbean countries, Mr. Mason might be surprised to know that some Caribbean nationals have complained about their treatment at ports in Jamaica. What is more, far greater numbers of CARICOM nationals, including Jamaicans, travel hassle-free in the Caribbean than those who encounter difficulties. Unfortunately, the difficult cases attract publicity creating the impression that “hassle” is the norm. But, again, governments should address more effectively than they have the matter of CARICOM nationals travelling in the region. For the ordinary CARICOM national, treatment at Caribbean airports speaks more convincingly to the feeling of belonging than any other matter.

With regard to Mr. Mason’s declaration that he is a Jamaica man and not a Caribbean man. No one would expect a Jamaican to subjugate his or her Jamaican-ness to being Caribbean, any more than a Texan would be expected to subjugate his Texan-ness to being American. Being Jamaican and Caribbean is complementary, not mutually exclusive; the first is limiting, the latter provides wider opportunity. There is every good sense in being both.

It is also unfortunate that Mr. Mason employed language of rejection of Caribbean brothers and sisters and bordered on suggesting Jamaican superiority. The reality is that the entire Caribbean has been remarkable in producing athletes, innovative musicians and artists, Nobel Prize winners, and high achievers in the international community. That is a mark of what the St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves calls our ‘Caribbean Civilization’; but it is not unique to any one Caribbean country.

The call for the isolation of Jamaica from CARICOM is not in the interest of the Jamaican people; they would be weaker and much more vulnerable than they are. The same is true for every other CARICOM country. That is why every effort should be exerted to strengthen regional integration and make it work.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Visiting Fellow at London University and a former Caribbean Diplomat. Responses and previous commentaries: www.sir ronaldsanders.com)

Seeking a solution


A day hardly went by last week without Caribbean Airlines (CAL), the Trinidad and Tobago-owned air carrier, being featured prominently in the press in that country.

Losses at the airline, issues relating to management decisions, debate about some routes including those to London, and the acquisition of Air Jamaica, were among the dominant themes.

Then came reports of the eventual sacking of the majority of the airline’s Board of Directors, which in the process capped an eventful week of events for CAL as the owners sought to find answers to improve the company’s performance.

Trinidad’s Finance Minister, Larry Howai, was quoted in the press there as saying that the immediate mandate of the new board was to provide a detailed diagnostic review of CAL and offer recommendations to turn around the airline. He acknowledged that the new board may not be able to make overnight changes, but must be able to take the airline forward. “This is why I said the first step will have to be a diagnostic review,” he said.

Not that the news about the losses and the other aspects of the airline’s operations broke a week ago, since they had been ongoing for a long time.

However, it seemed as though everything came to head bringing the full realisation that the financial plight of the carrier demanded urgent attention.

From the perspective of this country, what goes on within CAL has implications for us even if the airline does not at present, provide this country with many international connections. CAL offers connections between regional destinations including Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Jamaica and a few international destinations. Any disruptions therefore in flights linking Grenada to those markets will affect this island’s tourism numbers – something the industry here can do without in these troubling economic times.

The CAL media hype came on the heels of the announcement that shareholder governments of LIAT were seeking a meeting with the Trinidad and Tobago government to iron out issues regarding subsidies which CAL receives as opposed to none going to LIAT. When combined, the situation regarding to the two carriers has to be an area of grave concern.

What is happening with CAL and LIAT demonstrates a failure by regional governments to come up with a workable solution for our airlines. These are issues which date back several years ago although Caribbean governments have talked about air services and how to position the few carriers appropriately so that the region secures maximum benefits.

For as long the loss making continues at the existing carriers, they will not be able to carry out their mandates of serving a region that sees integration as a must for the survival of the small island states.
High airfares which the Caribbean travelling public has been asked to bear, have been a deterrent.
Visitor arrivals to Barbados from Caribbean destinations have declined as the most recent tourism figures have shown. One of the major explanations for that was people were not keen on travelling based on the fares being asked. Our wish is that the new Board at CAL will be able to sort out a plan and put the airline on firm footing. As for LIAT, there must also be a resolution with regard the subsidy. Now is the time for action.

ABOVE BOARD – Police Force denies spying accusations


Describing law enforcement officers as above reproach and political games, the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) has denied accusations of illegally spying at two meetings of support groups of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

During a recent news conference, senior officials of the NDC said that members of the Special Branch in the Force attended two meetings “uninvited and unannounced” and proceeded to record the sessions without permission.

“The RGPF cannot and will not support this accusation and regrets that senior executive members of the NDC would classify the following two incidents as spying,” said a statement from the police, which explained why the police officers were present at the meeting.

On Wednesday, May 8, 2013, a police officer heard an advertisement of a public meeting to be held at the Grand Anse R.C. School, to discuss Youth and Disaster Preparedness and attended the meeting in plain clothes. “At the conclusion of the meeting, he was seen by some senior members of the NDC, who knew him very well and who made some remarks to his hearing,” said the police statement.

Explaining the second in-cident, the RGPF said that on Thursday, May 9, 2013, one of their plain-clothes officers was in the Grenville area on duty when he observed a crowd of persons standing in the yard of the St. Andrew’s Anglican School. “In an effort to ascertain what the gathering was about, the officer walked into the yard and while there saw some persons entering the school building,” said the statement, which added that the officer was seen by Glen Noel in the school, who again began casting some remarks.

Cognisant of what was taking place inside the building, the officer immediately left.

“Our Police Force is above reproach and political games. The RGPF is a completely independent institution and its officers will continue to work diligently to ensure that there is no weak link in our security and that no one will allow himself or herself to be used by any politician,” said the statement from the Community Relations Department of the Force.

“We pledge that wholeheartedly and believe that this is consistent with the message conveyed to us by the new Prime Minister in a recent town hall meeting with the Police Force in Carriacou.

“The RGPF remains committed to the preservation of law and order and efficiency in the execution of its duty to our country,” the statement assured. (LS)

Good work from RSS


Even in the face of several challenges, the Regional Security System (RSS) continues to make a significant contribution to the fight against illegal drug trafficking.

This was the view of Deputy Executive Director of the Regional Security Systems, Major Horace Kirton, as he outlined over 2 700 counter drug missions have been conducted in conjunction with the RSS Air Wing.

Deputy Executive Director of the Regional Security Systems,
Major Horace Kirton, as he outlined concerns.
“From 2001 to April 2013, the maritime sector has netted in excess of 90 000 pounds of cannabis, 15 400 kilograms of cocaine and seized approx-imately US$2.52 million. In addition to these seizures, as a joint effort, Coast Guards and Marine Units have also assisted in the seizure of 131 vessels, 11 vehicles and the arrest of 618 persons. These statistics only reflect operations that involved the RSS Air Wing. Of course, there are other maritime operations which were successful and add to the statistics identified here,” he said.


Addressing the closing of the RSS Basic Seamanship Course on Friday at the headquarters of the Barbados Coast Guard, Kirton outlined that there were significant obstacles being revealed as the RSS carried out its operations against illicit narco-trafficking activity.

“Trends in illicit narco-trafficking activity in the RSS domain have revealed deficiencies with having an unbalanced complement of vessels. Take for example the coopering vessels carrying the illicit materials, which now prefer to cooper at least 40 miles from shore. Offshore patrol vessels are better suited to intercept at this range,” he indicated.

Kirton added that with “a mere 11 per cent” of their operational vessels built with capacity to perform effectively in the Exclusive Economic Zones, it was critical for the maritime sector to take centre stage in the RSS’ work plan. (JMB)

Health and Wellness Centre opens


By Linda Straker

George F. Huggins through its Foodland Supermarkets and a group of producers of local products have come together and established a Health and Wellness Centre aimed at promoting locally produced products through a message of healthy consumption.

With its theme of “Buy Local, Stay Healthy”, the idea is for consumers to purchase the products of the Grenada Network of Rural Women Producers (GRENROP) without fear of experiencing the negative effects of chemically induced flavouring and additives, which research has shown is linked to some chronic and non-communicable diseases.
GRENROP produce on display.

Describing the products of the group as one that focuses on health and safety of consumers, Dr. Guido Marcelle said that the products are of a quality that aids in positive development of the human body that encourages positive living.

“Here is a treasure waiting to be unfold to make us all better human beings,” he said at the launch of the centre last week Thursday.

Products range from fresh fruits and vegetables to confectioneries including culinary and therapeutic herbs.

“The realisation of such an initiative will not only increase the competitiveness of local products, but also provide an opportunity for developing and marketing of our agriculture produce,” said Chief Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Daniel Lewis.

“Marketing is a key component of this sector and if at the end of the day marketing falls down, then everything falls down,” he said, while confirming that marketing has always proved to be a challenge for the farming community.

“Yes we encourage the planting and so on, but if at the end there is no market, then farmers will not be encouraged to develop that sector. So what is happening here today is a good initiative and can only work for improving the agriculture sector,” he said.

GRENROP comprises almost 65 women between the ages of 18 and 79, who work directly or indirectly in the agricultural sector. Their products can be found at different outlets such as supermarkets and gift shops, but the arrangement with George F. Huggins provides an avenue for a central hub where all the products can be found. Each of the women’s products will have a different label, but because they will all be available in the “GRENROP Health and Wellness” area, consumers will immediately know that the products are of the GRENROP quality.

Describing the initiative as working together in unison, Agriculture Minister Roland Bhola said that the joint venture between GRENROP and Foodland Supermarkets will assist in stabilising the rural economy where much of the members are located.

“What you are doing is providing significant foreign exchange and developing the value-added chain of products we have locally,” he said.

Calling for other businesses to embark on similar ventures, Bhola said that when local products are pushed and promoted the same way as imported, there is the real possibility of more money remaining in the country.

“Unless these products are not supported then these initiatives will not go very far, so businesses need to start telling consumers to support the local industry,” he said.

Playing a significant role in establishing the GRENROP group was the office of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture and its representative in Grenada, Mr. Cosmos Joseph, said that it was a significant day for women in agriculture in Grenada and added that he was very delighted at the undertaking between the two bodies.

“Today’s launch demonstrates what can be achieved within a well-organised group,” he said, while explaining that the organisation puts a lot of effort in using agriculture as a means of job and food security.

Scotiabank observing Golden jubilee


Customers conducting transactions last week Friday at Scotiabank locations in Grenada were treated in a special way as it was Customer Appreciation Day and the activity was among initiatives undertaken by the bank to commemorate its 50th anniversary since opening its doors on the island.

Other activities include a 50-day promotion “Rate to celebrate”, which commenced on Tuesday, May 14; Mortgage clinic at the St. George’s branch on June 5; Grand Anse branch on June 12; and Mortgage clinic at Grenville branch on June 26. There will also be a series of small business seminars; a thanksgiving service; and the annual HIV testing day.

Speaking at a news conference last week Tuesday where the media was provided with the local history of the bank and activities that will be undertaken to observe the golden anniversary, Kelly Roberts, Assistant Manager – Personal Banking, explained that during the 50 days special promotion, customers will have access to special rates on mortgages, personal loans, lot loans and new auto loans.

“These rates were solely approved for Scotiabank Grenada and are valid until June 30,” he said, while explaining that the rate of interest during the celebrations will be 6.5 per cent and during the celebratory period, clients will be provided the opportunity for 100 per cent financing on new vehicles.

“During the mortgage clinics, persons will be guided as to the actions necessary to make life easier with regards to their financial obligations,” Roberts said.

“We are as strong as the economy and the information that will be provided will not only impact the customer, but us as a financial institution,” he added.

Assistant Manager for Small Business, Sterl Lyons, said that during the small business seminars, participants will be provided with information on the bank’s requirement and procedures for developing the small business sector.

During its 50 years of operations, the bank not only played a role in developing the economy, but also contributed and continues to support many social programmes. These include the official sponsor for the InterCol games for 33 years; providing UWI scholarships and the widely known Kiddy Cricket programmes; and the regional HIV/AIDS testing day.

“It’s all part of our commitment to give back to our customers, part of our social corporate responsibility,” said Kingsley Ashby, Commercial Banking Manager, who witnessed the presentation of the first cheque to the management of the intercol games. (LS)

Financial institution promises to be around for a long time


By Linda Straker

Head of Scotiabank in Grenada, Mr. Elie Bendaly, has given the assurance that the financial institution, which is this year celebrating its Golden Anniversary since opening its doors in Grenada, will be around not just to celebrate its 100th anniversary, but many more years.

“Based on our foundation, we will absolutely survive another 50 years here and celebrate not just the 100th anniversary, but more. The history of this Bank shows that it opened its first office in 1832 and is foundation you can build on,” Bendaly said last week Tuesday during a news conference to launch the bank’s activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Scotiabank Country Manager, Elie Bendaly.
The first Scotiabank branch opened in Grenada on May 17, 1963 in the building formerly known as Everybody’s on Halifax Street with eight employees. It soon moved to the corner of Halifax and Granby Streets – its present location – and over the years has undergone many internal redesigning as part of its global rebranding initiatives aimed at pleasing customers.

Everything in the bank was done manually until 1987 when the bank introduced computers, this in turn made it the first bank in Grenada to introduce Automatic Teller Machines.

“At that time, it was a major change for our customers and a milestone for the Bank and since then, we have kept up with the technology and customers now have other options because of technology,” said Kingsley Ashby, Commercial Banking Manager, who has served at the bank for more than three decades and recounted the history of the bank during the launch.

Technology comes with its challenges, but the management of the bank has given the assurance that its security system is always strengthening and where as they cannot stop breaches from attackers, the system is able to identify violations speedily.

“Persons are always trying to defraud the system, but we have invested in a security system that will identify breaches at the quickest possible time,” said Bendaly, who assured customers that the bank is “sound and safe”.

The Bank of Nova Scotia opened for business in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1832 to facilitate the thriving trans-Atlantic trade between Britain, North America and the West Indies. Within the CARICOM
region, it opened its first branch in Jamaica in 1889.

In 2012, Scotiabank was named Global Bank of the Year and Bank of the Americas by “The Banker” magazine. Worldwide it employs more than 81 000 persons, serving more than 19 million customers in more than 55 countries. In Grenada, it has three branches with a staff of over 75.

British travellers excited – about Grenada as the new Sandals destination


There are indications that British travellers are delighted about Grenada becoming the “Ultimate New Sandals Destination” as the island prepares for the December opening of the property, which will
be called Sandals LaSource.

Mr. Karl Thompson, who is the Managing Director of Unique Vacations which works on behalf of Sandals International, told Tourism Minister Alexandria Otway-Noel during her trip to London last week that Grenada has always been a pop-ular choice for the UK market, but the number of people that have booked since they went on sale has been phenomenal.
Minister of Tourism, Alexandria Otway-Noel, with the Sandals team.
“On the first day of our highly publicised annual sale, 28 per cent of all bookings were for Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa. The resort is currently our best seller and we expect it to become one of the best sellers year round, as people fall in love with the exceptional resort and stunning island,” Thompson informed Minister Otway-Noel.

A statement from the Grenada Board of Tourism said that Otway-Noel was reportedly pleased to pledge the full support of her team, both in Grenada and in the UK. “Working with the world famous Sandals in the UK will help us to secure additional flights, thereby focusing the world’s spotlight on our beautiful spice island, resulting in more visitors booking not just Sandals, but our other high quality boutique hotels and resorts,” she said.

In November 2012 Sandals Resorts International (SRI), parent company of Sandals Resorts, Beaches Resort and Grand Pineapple Beach Resort, announced that it purchased LaSource and since then a transformation has begun on the property once owned by Liberty Club and developer, Leon Taylor.

Initially, it was the desire of Sandals chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart and his team to reopen the property in December 2012, but following an inspection of the property, it was agreed that a full transformation will be better before any guests can check in at Sandals LaSource.

The new design property will have more than 100 rooms added to the existing room count. Guests will have a selection of more than 200 guestrooms, private cottages and suites.

More than EC$70 million is expected to be invested into the construction and renovation as the SRI team seeks to make its latest investment be a reflection of standards within the Caribbean properties.

“This project will end up being a five-star and if there is a six, we will head there too,” Stewart told the media recently. (LS)

Cell phone risk


Cell phone use while driving, whether handheld or hands-free, impairs a motorist to the same degree as 0.08 blood alcohol level.

That is according to Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of the United States based Distraction Advocate Network, who told The Grenada Advocate that this has been proven to be true in various studies and it is imperative that the Caribbean addresses the problem before it gets totally out of hand. She said that while persons recognise that cell phone use while driving is a problem, it has become an addictive behaviour making it difficult to get persons to break the habit.

“They think because they are looking at the window that they are seeing, but what is actually happening is that their brain cannot do two cognitively demanding tasks at one time, it cannot multitask in that manner and instead it is doing what is called task switching. It is going from one to the other and so it doesn’t matter where your hands are, it is where your head is,” she said.

Smith added that it is also important that persons understand that talking on the phone is a four times greater crash risk, but texting while driving carries an even greater risk and is suggested to be 23 times more dangerous. The distracted driver expert also noted that a recently released report suggested that teenage deaths in motor vehicle crashes are caused primarily by distracted driving rather than drunk driving.

“The fact is that you are essentially driving blind – your eyes are off the road, your hands are off the wheel and your mind is off the task of driving, so your car is basically on autopilot and you don’t even react to what you are seeing and that is why we are having so many accidents in the US – literally thousands every year,” she said.

The Executive Director also dismissed the argument that hands-free cell phone use was akin to having a passenger in the car. She contended that a passenger is a second set of eyes for the driver, and would be able to alert them if there is some danger ahead, and so she said that each additional adult passenger could be a safety benefit. On the other hand, Smith noted that in terms of younger drivers, there is a 25 per cent greater crash risk for every additional passenger.

“They are learning how to drive, they are new at it and so they can’t make the judgement decisions like the adults can,” she explained. (JRT)

Preparing for the post-2015 agenda


THE post-2015 world must take better account of the particular circumstances of middle-income small island developing states such as those in the Caribbean.

That is according to the United Nations Resident Co-ordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough. She made the suggestion while addressing those gathered for the recent launch of the 2013 Human Development Report in Barbados, as she spoke to the region’s ability to meet the goals set out in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which have a target date of 2015.

“The Caribbean must ensure that in the setting of goals and targets we can feed ourselves; that there are clear hooks on which the region can hang up national action and international co-operation, to address
the special challenges of middle-income states, because if development partners cannot see our needs and challenges in the global commitments and frameworks agreed, they are hard pressed to support solutions to them both technically and financially,” she explained.  

Gyles-McDonnough contended that the countries of the region must take the time to carry out analysis on their achievements and identify the gaps that exist, to be clear on the path for the region and its member states and she said that it is still possible in the 900-plus days until the 2015 MDG deadline. She added that to support this process, the UN Sub-Regional team for Barbados and the OECS led by UNDP is supporting St. Lucia and Grenada in national consultations on the post-2015 development agenda, and also supported the region of Latin America and the Caribbean with a specific Caribbean consultation last month.

“Until recently, St. Lucia was the only Caribbean small island developing state, amongst the first 50 countries to be engaged in this first round of consultations, to shape the global development agenda post-2015. Recognising the essentially, the importance of contributing to the shape of the post-2015 world, other Caribbean countries have launched their own national process – Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Belize and other countries around the world are expected to follow,” she noted.

The UNDP official suggested that the St. Lucia process is expected to allow for more than a national discussion in this region. She said that drawing on UNDP supported Millennium Development Goal ac-celeration efforts in Dominica and Grenada, the St. Lucia process allows the region to consider together the post MDG period, not just looking at the world they want to achieve, but the mechanisms that would get them there.

“Already in St. Lucia and other countries of the region, the issues emerging in the post-2015 discussions are supported by the analysis in this year’s Human Development Report ... for example, this region is challenged more and more to develop labour markets, education and social protection policies that respond to demographic change,” she stated. (JRT)

Hope for positive change from RSS course


The closure of the Regional Security System (RSS) Maritime Training Unit in Antigua has made life difficult for the agency.

Deputy Executive Director of the Regional Security Systems, Major Horace Kirton, outlined that since its discontinuation in 2010, no maritime training programmes had been held until last year, leading to a deficiency in the area of technical ability.

“The RSS has always enjoyed having a cadre of officers who were extremely adept at protecting the marine environment. They proved to be even more adept at producing remarkable outcomes with so little resources. These skilled officers are soon set to leave our ranks,” he said, while addressing the
recent closing of the RSS Basic Seamanship Course.

“You therefore are the ones who will be expected to accept the baton on leadership and chart a new strategic path for our maritime sector. You are now to hone the skills required to prepare yourself for the future,” he told those 22 members of the RSS from various Caribbean states gathered at the headquarters of the Barbados Coast Guard for the ceremony.

He therefore called the course timely, while expressing his hopes that this and other programmes like it would make a significant difference for RSS maritime agencies.

“These programmes are even more timely since, apart from the impact of our deficiencies in our vessel complement on successful border security operations, the inexperience of maritime personnel on proper boat handling and operational procedure have contributed to a few unsuccessful operations. In this regard, we remain committed to the further development of maritime skills through training
for recruits, junior and senior servicemen and women,” he said. (JMB)