Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Limacol CPL a raving success


IN grand West Indian fashion, the curtain came down on the inaugural Limacol Caribbean Premier League after an exciting final between two start-studded teams.

The final, which was played between the Guyana Amazon Warriors and the Jamaica Tallawahs, ended with the Jamaican franchise raising the first ever CPL championship trophy on Saturday night.

The competition, which saw six teams coming out treat fans all across the world to top notch action in 24 matches over 26 days, has been hailed as the most innovative and successful move for the sport in the region’s history. Founder and Chairman of the Limacol Caribbean Premier League, Ajmal Khan state that he was extremely pleased to see his efforts and labour come to fruition.

“We had a vision and we put it together and I feel elated that this has come out the way it has, and I think that we have something that is very sustainable and it’s going to be great for the region and I’m very excited and I’m blessed to have these great partners with me to make my vision come true,” he said.

Damien O’Donohoe, who holds the post of Chief Executive Officer of the organisation, said that it was a sweet feeling to see everything fall into place.

“I didn’t think 18 months ago that we’d be here today. We had many sleepless nights over this, but this is just absolutely mind-blowing and we’re over the moon. It’s been more successful than we could have ever expected. Every single stadium has been full – stadiums that haven’t been full in 15 years – and I firmly believe that we have changed cricket in the West Indies for good,” O’Donohoe said.

Now with the 2013 edition all done and dusted, the region and the world are looking forward to a bigger and better 2014 Limacol Caribbean Premier League. (MP)

China-Taiwan issue trumps Caribbean co-operation


China may still be classified as a “developing” country because of its per capita income, but that is as far as the description is pertinent. In almost every other way China is in the league of developed nations.

The World Bank gives China’s per capita income in 2012 as US$6 091. By comparison, with the exception of Haiti (US$771), Guyana (US$3 584), Belize (US$4 577) and Jamaica (US$5 472), the per capita incomes of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are greater than China’s.  Even so, it is difficult to regard China as a “developing” country in the common understanding of that term.

China continues to define itself as “developing” because of its need for diplomatic support from developing countries for the issues that are important to it in the international community. These are Tibet, human rights, Taiwan and reform of the global economic institutions that would give China a stronger standing.

Over the last three decades, the infrastructure of a great portion of China has been upgraded.  Its major sea ports and airports are far superior to those in many industrialised nations, and while the latter are crumbling and in need of major rebuilding, China’s new infrastructure has been constructed for the future. Further, China’s internal transportation system – its highways, railways and bullet trains are modern and futuristic. Above all else, the Chinese people remain disciplined, hardworking and thrifty, contributing immensely to China’s global competitiveness and to the healthy finances of the Chinese government. Chinese savings at the end of June this year stood at US$16.3 trillion.

China is already a magnet for financial services and Information Technology (IT) businesses.  The government has now announced plans to fully connect China to the Internet in two years’ time with urban and rural broadband speeds reaching 20 megabytes per second (Mbps) and 4Mbps respectively. Consequently, the value of IT businesses is expected to increase by US$2 trillion.

China is the world’s second largest economy after the United States. Even with the slowing down of its economic growth from a ten per cent average over the last two decades to a projected 7.5 per cent this year, China is expected to become the world’s largest consumer market within the next five years according to a Standard and Poor’s report.

A further indication of the wealth in China is a report by Forbes Magazine in March which puts China as the home of the second largest number of billionaires (122) after the US (442). The China Daily also reports that the number of millionaires in China this year is 1.05 million.

This is not to suggest that all of China has been modernised and is free of poverty. The Western area of China lags behind the development of the East. But this, too, is changing. Since 2000, the Chinese government has embarked on a programme to develop the West covering more than half of the country’s land and almost a third of its population.
It has now decided to introduce “differentiated” policies for the region that will include huge spending on infrastructure.

The government has announced that it will move “labour-intensive and environmentally friendly industries from the coastal region to the West”. Already, three Western cities have grown faster than their wealthier counterparts in the East.

Trading potential

All of this is to say that China is a strong economy whose growth may have slowed, but it has slowed to a rate that every other nation fervently wishes it had. China will continue to grow and it will remain an economic powerhouse. With US$3.4 trillion in foreign reserves, China also has an interest in investing in projects around the world that would not only give it multi-national companies but also a wider and diversified portfolio for a return on its money.

Apart from the mineral and forestry resources that China wants, Caribbean businesses cannot take advantage of the Chinese market. Access to affordable capital, costs of transportation, insurance, labelling in Chinese and marketing are beyond the capacity of the relatively small companies in the region. Of course, opportunities that are available for companies to integrate their production to penetrate the Chinese market (and others) are not even being considered.

Absent the capacity of the private sector in many Caribbean countries to export to the Chinese market, China will continue to enjoy a huge balance of payments surplus with CARICOM countries. China had a balance of trade surplus with the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries of US$3 billion in 2012 according to China’s trade figures. Only Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, which have resources such as forestry and minerals that China wants, could reasonably expect to export meaningfully to China. But, on present form, their exports will hardly compensate for the imports from China that now flood their markets leaving them with balance of payments deficits in 2012 of US$755.4 million, US$173.4 million and US$172.5 million respectively.

And since the balance of trade surplus in China’s favour is not likely to be reduced in any significant way, the sum of US$3 billion, which President Xi announced last June would be made available to Caribbean countries as concessionary loans, is simply not enough compensation. China will undoubtedly enjoy another trade surplus of US$3 billion this year and the next.

In this context, Caribbean countries should develop a strategy for their economic relations with China that would secure aid for trade, concessionary loans for national infrastructure projects and pan-Caribbean projects that would benefit countries nationally and regionally. The strategy should also pursue investment by Chinese companies in financial services, tourism facilities and manufacturing – not necessarily for the Chinese market – with such investment financed by the China Development Bank and the China Export-Import Bank on soft terms and conditions.

But, Taiwan remains the fly in this ointment. In August, in the wake of China’s President Xi’s visit with 9 CARICOM leaders in June, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou toured four of the five CARICOM countries with which diplomatic links continue. He has pledged ongoing economic assistance to each of them, and they have all pledged loyalty to Taiwan.

This suggests that CARICOM should now accept that regional co-operation has been trumped by division on the China-Taiwan issue, and the nine independent countries with links to China should proceed to formalise an economic partnership agreement with China outside of the CARICOM Treaty but with the concurrence of the five member states tied to Taiwan. The alternative is the present beggar-thy-neighbour practices from which the Caribbean is not a winner.

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

Taxes, safety and the cruise lines


Something interesting is happening in the US Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation committee. There in recent months a crusade has been underway to try to have the cruise ships that ply the Caribbean and the seas of the world, pay tax, become safer and be subject to greater US regulation.

After a period during which the reputation of cruise lines have been tarnished by events including the sinking of the Costa Concordia, a fire on the Royal Norwegian’s Grandeur of the Seas off the Bahamas, alarming reports in the US media about onboard crime and other incidents, and criticism of the industry’s legal but aggressive tax avoidance measures, the cruise companies now face a new form of censure.

Following hearings in which the cruise lines did not acquit themselves particularly well, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Chair of the US Senate Commerce Committee, has introduced legislation seeking to eliminate the tax exemption that the cruise industry enjoys and to provide for consumer protection.

The Senator’s proposed legislation aims to tackle the minimal levels of US tax the industry pays on its billions of dollars of profits, achieved by registering their vessels in the Bahamas, Panama and Liberia. His objective is to eliminate some of this exemption by imposing a five per cent excise tax on the lines’ gross income if passengers embark or disembark from a cruise ship in a US port.

Senator Rockefeller also aims to improve consumer protection for cruise passengers and close gaps in cruise reporting requirements relating to passenger safety and security by having the federal government afford greater protection to cruise ship passengers, and by making publicly available details of all crimes committed on cruise ships.

The legislation comes in response to a growing sense in the US that the cruise ships not only pay minimal taxes, but the normal safeguards expected by US consumers relating to hygiene, safety and security either do not exist, are not legally enforceable, or are obviated by the small print in the cruise lines contracts of carriage.

For its part, the Cruise Lines International Association has responded by releasing details of what it and its members are doing to be more proactive, and individual lines have  begun to publish details of shipboard incidents and are agreeing to meet the often huge costs of the US Coastguard and other emergency services following at-sea incidents.

How far Senator Rockefeller’s legislation proceeds remains to be seen, as does the level of support it receives from other committees, but an army of lobbyists has begun work to halt the bills.

Economic importance

That said, these are all issues that the Caribbean governments and tourism industry should be following closely as they touch issues that are of as much relevance to the region as to the consumers who use the cruise lines.

This is because, like it or not, the cruise industry has become of significant economic importance
to the Caribbean, with around 17.5 million of the total 25m visitors to the Caribbean in 2012 arriving for a day by sea.

Since the economic downturn began in 2007/8, cruise tourism has experienced a significant growth in popularity, in part because cruise vacation is seen as offering value for money in a manner only otherwise available through all-inclusive hotels and packaged vacations.

As a consequence the Caribbean, the closest point to the world’s largest cruise market, has become and is expected to remain, the dominant cruise destination in the world, hosting the leading share of the cruise industry’s capacity.

Despite this there is a still pervasive sense that the cruise lines use the region and leave little behind.
Although statistics vary as to the economic benefits the cruise lines bring, the industry suggests that in 2013 the region will account for around 37 per cent of all global cruise itineraries and receive on average a spend of around US$96 per passenger and crew member or US$225 596 per typical cruise ship port-of-call. Other estimates suggest less.

While these sums and the taxes paid by cruise ship passengers arriving in the Caribbean are minimal in comparison to what land-based travellers spend, the reality is that vast numbers of visitors are gaining their first impressions of the Caribbean from one-day stops on board cruise ships.

The commercial challenge for the region, therefore, is to develop programmes such as those in the Dominican Republic that actively try to convert cruise visitors to taking a future vacation on land, and to attract the cruise lines to home port in the Caribbean.

Although the cruise companies sometimes seem to be their own worst enemies by being less than transparent or forthcoming, a better relationship between land and cruise based tourism is long overdue, as are effective programmes to capitalise on the numbers of visitors they bring.

That apart, there are other, more fundamental concerns requiring attention. These include the manner in which the cruise companies play one destination off against another to reduce levels of taxation on cruise visitors; are less than keen on home porting, local employment or provisioning in the region; are active politically in a low key way to ensure their interests are protected locally; and are, at times, less than environmentally sympathetic.

This is not to suggest cruise ships do not have an important role in Caribbean tourism, nor is it to take the position of those who oppose their business model or presence. Rather it is to point to a need for better regulation, transparency, and proper understanding at a policy level in the Caribbean of the broader economic and commercial implications of cruising. It is also to argue for more thought and debate about finding new ways to sustainably integrate cruise tourism into regional economic development.

Cruising brings much needed revenue to the Caribbean region. Senator Rockefeller’s interest in greater regulation illustrates well that a significant part of the Caribbean economy and tourism product lies in the hands of a group of poorly regulated and taxed external entities that need to become more locally accountable and better integrated into the way in which the rest of the Caribbean’s premier industry operates and thinks.

(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)

Start at the root


IF ever there was an issue that needed to be confronted using a multi-pronged approach, it is that of domestic violence. The complexity of the matter simply does not allow for anything less. This is underscored by the unfortunate fact that a number of Caribbean countries have seen several widely publicised cases this year in which women have been brutally killed by their former or current partners. These killings have again raised many questions about what can be done to stop these incidents from happening.

What makes this type of attack unique is the fact that it usually accompanies a history of abuse wherein the persons are intimately involved and would have the complications of shared financial interests, property and children, making it difficult for them to simply cut the abuser out of their life. Furthermore, in a small society such as ours, the flippant advice from some to the abuse victims to ‘get out’ does not go very far when one cannot run very far.

As a result, we cannot simply look at the protection element of the equation. Police resources are limited, as are those of civil society groups who offer shelter. It is not feasible to have 24-hour protection, which therefore limits the prospects of abuse victims to earn a living and move around freely in society. Besides, the issue of protection comes in when the situation has escalated to untenable proportions. There must be continued efforts to head this off by working on addressing the root causes of the problem.

There is so much gender politics surrounding the issue that it hinders the ability to adequately address the matter. For some, domestic violence is synonymous with violence against women, and while women continue to make up the majority of victims, it is known that men too, suffer at the hands of their female partners. Nonetheless, one seldom hears of the abuse of males escalating to the point of murder and this is therefore perhaps why many feel justified in the ‘feminisation’ of the issue. We acknowledge, however, that men too find themselves in abusive relationships and that society’s view of manhood makes it difficult for them to get help, whereas women now have more avenues for support.

This seems to have created some tension, wherein men feel that women are being given special treatment in a day and age where gender equality is considered to be the ideal. This frustration about being at a constant disadvantage, especially before the law courts, may be contributing to the violence against women, as some men may feel they have to take matters into their own hands, since they will get no justice through the right channels.

Therefore, a collaborative effort must emerge between all social organisations. In order to change the society’s mindset about what is an appropriate response to such problems, we must ingrain certain values at every opportunity. Leaving this work up to the domestic violence or gender groups is waiting until it’s too late. Schools, camps, churches and the numerous service clubs that abound on this island all have a role to play, and it needs to start from as young an age as possible in order to counteract possible negative behaviours witnessed in the home.

Perhaps it is no longer even helpful to refer to such incidents as ‘domestic violence’, as the term implies on some level that it is a private matter. Tremendous work has been done in changing mindsets, but persons still tend to see these incidents as private matters between a man and a woman. They are not. They are as great a threat to the sense of security and safety in the wider society as burglary, assault, rape or murder.

RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE


By Linda Straker

Nationals of some countries will be restricted from applying for citizenship under the Grenada Citizen-ship by Investment Programme, while some who were turned down by other countries will also find themselves automatically getting turned down by Grenada.

A bearer of Grenada’s passport can travel visa free to 133 countries and Parliamentary Secretary for Information in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator Winston Garraway, explained that among the questions that will be asked of all applicants are the countries where he/she has applied for citizenship and whether or not he/she was rejected.

“Once that person answers yes or we have proof that the applicant was turned down by a country to which we can travel visa free, we will also reject that person,” said Garraway, who explained that like St. Kitts and Nevis recently did, Grenada will also be establishing a list of countries whose nationals will be not able to apply for citizenship under the programme. St. Kitts recently suspended nationals of Afghanistan and Iran from its programme.

Grenada first established an economic citizenship programme in 2001, but rescinded the initiative because of a number of challenges which included abuse by agents and the lack of in-depth due diligence, which resulted in criminals of other countries becoming citizens of the countries allowing them to have a Grenada passport.

However, Garraway said that in-depth due diligence will be concluded on all applicants and as compared to the last programme becoming a citizen will not be an immediate achievement.

“The due diligence that was lacking in the pre-vious programme is no longer an issue. No stone will be left unturned and it will be mandatory for all applicants to reside in the island for at least 14 days after getting their citizenship,” he said.

The Citizenship by Investment Programme is one of the initiatives that the ruling Keith Mitchell Administration believes can bring in millions in revenue to the country. However, a number of organisations and individuals have openly objected to the initiative. Among the persons objecting is Senator Raymond Roberts, who described the legislation to legalising the programme as “prostituting” the island’s passport.

GIs, IP tools to be used to protect spices


Tourism Minister, Alexandra Otway-Noel, has disclosed her Government’s intention to use a system of Geographical Indications (GIs), together with other intellectual property (IP) tools, to protect nutmeg and other spices and such a system will also form an important pillar in its branding strategy in pursuit of branding Grenada as the “Isle of Spice”.

Delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of a one-week workshop on Geographical Indications and Branding in the context of the Implementation of the Intellectual Property
provision of the EC-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement for CARICOM, she said that the Geographical Indication can have a positive impact on tourism and on the overall branding of Grenada.

Grenada IP Registrar, Annette Henry, and Head of Marketing
at the Tourism Board, Christine Noel, among participants at the
Geographical Indications and Branding workshop.
“The nation state of Grenada has always been recognised as ‘the Isle of Spice’, but sadly no step has ever been taken to establish any legal or other framework that would protect this tagline,” she told the participants, which not only represented CARICOM members, but also the organisations associated with the training which is spearheaded by representatives from the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

The Tourism Minister said that the intention is to use the Geographical Indication System to boost our agriculture and tourism, and that work has already begun on seeking to label the Grenada nutmeg as Grenada’s first Geographical Indication.

Otway-Noel said that apart from the impact on agriculture, the Government of Grenada is fully aware of the positive impact that a system of Geographical Indications can have on tourism and the branding of a region.


“We are very much aware of the positive impact that the Geographical Indication system has had on the Valais region in the Swiss Alps. We therefore look forward to the positive impact that a GI system can have on the Caribbean tourism product,” she said.

The objectives of the workshop, which concludes at the Coyaba Resort Conference room on Friday, include:

• Strengthening the capacity of CARICOM countries in identifying origin-linked quality products and carrying out inventories with a view to compile a list of prospective GI’s; and

• Providing the requisite training to participants not only on the use of GI’s for added value to nationally/locally produced products, but also that they become future resource persons for the identification of quality products linked to origin in the region to assist countries of the region in the implementation of the intellectual property (IP) provision of the EPA Agreement and provide training in branding techniques using the newly developed WIPO methodology.

Among the presenters were Mr. Malcolm Spence, Senior Co-ordinator, Intellectual Property, Science and Technology Issues, Office of Trade Negotiations, Bridgetown, Barbados; Mr. Paul Regis, Head, Caribbean Unit, Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean and Mr. Vincent Fautrel, Senior Program Co-ordinator from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation development program in the CARICOM region.

There were also presentations and discussions on key concepts of origin-linked products and geographical indications;  national/regional branding; contributions of trademarks and Geographic Indicators with regards to  development, use, protection, economic value of protection and enforcing and the basics of business strategy and the role of IP in marketing origin-linked products with a strong identity linked to a territory/region. (LS)



NCDs causing many deaths in the region


THE four major non-communicable diseases – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancers – are responsible for 65 per cent of all the deaths within the Caribbean region.

Dr. James Hospedales, Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) made that disclosure while speaking on the topic of ‘NCDs and Sustainable Development – Inextricable Linkages’ during a breakfast panel discussion held on Tuesday under the theme ‘Towards Sustainable Development of SIDS: Addressing the Threat of Non-communicable Diseases’ at the Hilton Hotel. The panel discussion was held as one of the side events of the Inter-regional Preparatory Meetings for the Third International Conference on SIDS which is underway in Barbados.

Dr. Hospedales added that those four diseases are driven by four common risk factors – high levels of alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, tobacco and poor diets. Together, he said the four diseases and risk factors as referred to by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are the ‘4x4’.

“…When in the Americas we looked at this, we felt there was a need to add 4x4 plus obesity, because our region of the Americas is fattest of the six WHO regions – nothing to be proud of. And there are a lot of things related to this [such as] mental health problems, depression, a lot of arthritis, dementia…So all is not well in paradise,” he said.

The CARPHA head noted that the Caribbean has some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world, which result in heart disease, renal failure and amputations. He added that apart from those who are obese, about 40 per cent of Caribbean people are living with some chronic type of NCD.

As such, he lamented that the risks are widespread and they are getting worse. In terms of diabetes in the Caribbean, he noted that about one in five to ten adults will have the disease and, with respect to hypertension, the figure is one in three to five adults. Moreover, he revealed that 20 to 35 per cent of children and adolescents are now overweight or obese and that figure, he said has tripled in the last 20 to 25 years.

“So something profound has happened in our countries in that regard. It is one thing if a middle age person puts on some weight and gets a big belly; it is another when it’s the children, because we have to protect them…It is a very high chance it is going to stay obese as an adult and this then is not just an NCD problem. It is connected to mental health issues, it is connected to employability and jobs, it is connected to stigma and discrimination,” he added. (JRT)

Incentives, frameworks will help renewable energy sector



HIGH dependency and rising costs of fossil fuels have contributed to unsustainable debt levels, making small island developing states more vulnerable to global energy price shocks.

This observation was made on Monday by UN Under-secretary General, UNDP Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan, who was speaking at a side event for Heads of Delegation at the SIDS Inter-Regional Preparatory Meeting, held at the Hilton Barbados on Monday.

From left: UN Under-secretary General, UNDP Associate Administrator
Rebeca Grynspan, Minister of Environment and Drainage Dr. Denis Lowe
and Deputy Director of the International Renewable Energy Agency
Innovation and Technology Centre, Elizabeth Press speaking at a side
event on renewable energy for Heads of Delegation at the SIDS Inter-Regional
Preparatory Meeting, held at the Hilton Barbados on Monday.
Grynspan remarked that too many have watched as their sustainable development dividends have been eroded or even wiped out by racing energy costs, but she says all is not doom and gloom.

“While the transition to sustainable energy requires committed leaders and adequate technical and financial support, the benefits to switch to renewable in promoting energy efficiency and conservation are also well understood. The decline of the cost of renewable energy is happening fast and is a welcomed development,” she stated.

Grynspan explained that while it is recognised that a part of the problem facing renewables is that there isn’t a level playing field to compete with fossil fuels, which enjoys large subsidies. To this end, she further noted that it is policy incentives and frameworks that will make competition with fossil fuels a possibility.

However, she lamented that too many people still have a lack of access to modern, adequate and safe sources of energy.

“One out of every five persons in the world has no access to modern energy. Twice as many use wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook their meals and heat their homes, exposing their families to smoke and fumes that damage their health,” she revealed.

“Indoor air pollution kills nearly two million a year in the world – namely women and children. They are the most exposed to the indoor pollution. These are more deaths than by malaria and still it continues to be an invisible cause of health problems around the world,” she further disclosed.

The Under-secretary General said that the meeting provides a welcomed opportunity to look at how best to carry forward the vision of SIDS.

“There is no doubt sustainable energy is essential to meeting the sustainable development objectives we have and the question before us is how best to harness its potential in the context of the outcome of the inter-regional meeting in the SIDS 2014 process.”

She said that the topic ‘Sustainable Energy: Placing Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency at the Centre of the Sustainable Development of SIDS’ is significant, recognising that energy is vital for human development, not only for growth.

“It enables communities, countries and people to generate jobs, economic growth, stay healthy, stay secure and advance the well-being of everybody in their family. By expanding access to sustainable energy services, countries can enhance productivity and help drive progress across the MDGs.” (JH)

Future of SIDS focus of conference


THE world will not be sustainable if the Small Island Developing States are not sustained.

This was the clear statement made by Under-secretary General, Department of Economic and Social Affairs for the United Nations, Wu Hongbo, as he spoke during a press briefing after the opening of the SIDS Inter-Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Third International Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States on Monday at the Hilton Barbados.
Under-secretary General, Department of Economic and
Social Affairs for the United Nations, Wu Hongbo.

He stated that while it was difficult to predict what will come out of the conference over the next three days, he nevertheless expressed his confidence that the countries would be unified in their position as to what the priorities of the grouping are, in order to raise their voices to the international community on the myriad of issues affecting them.

“What is the significance of the outcome of the conference is that it serves a far-reaching purpose. For example, the member states of the United Nations are discussing the post-2015 development agenda. In the next several months, they will tackle specifically some issues related to SIDS; for instance seas and oceans, special vulnerabilities of low and middle income countries. So this conference is timely,” he added.

Stating that the United Nations was very much engaged in ensuring the protection of the SIDS, he noted that the conference should be viewed as another step towards next year’s Third International Meeting on the Sustainable Development of SIDS in Samoa.

“I hope this meeting when it is concluded in Barbados is not the end of the journey, but only a starting point for the next process that will be next year in Samoa,” he stressed. (JMB)

PM, Minister DaBreo explore ICT partnership with T&T Government


PRIME Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Works, with specific responsibility for ICT, met with top officials from iGovTT, a state-owned ICT enterprise in Trinidad and Tobago, to explore the possibility of establishing a state ICT agency here in Grenada.

Prime Minister and Minister DaBreo welcomed the team and their ideas aimed at exploring the use of Information Communication Technology to modernise government services in the region.

The Prime Minister explained to the officials of iGovTT that the countries of the region need to “find practical, tangible ways within ICT to reach our people in the early stages of any initiative so as to get them on board, because if we do not move fast in enacting ICT to modernise our services, we will be marginalising our children, based on where the world is right now. Therefore we need use ICT to revolutionise the region.”

Minister DaBreo initially met with the Trinidad state-owned entity, iGovTT in Trinidad and the talks advanced to Grenada to meet with Prime Minister Mitchell, who has been the driving force among regional leaders for the advancement of Information Communication Technology in the region.

Grenada and Trinidad are interested in working together on a government-to-government level, to share information, enact initiatives and explore different avenues for growth in the ICT sector among the two countries. The primary aim of this venture is to reach and revolutionise the rest of the region with the use of Information Communication Technology.

The Trinidad state-owned iGovvTT is responsible for the design, development and implementation of ICT solutions in government services in Trinidad and Tobago.

Mother of slain Prime Minister dies

Almenta Bishop

ALMENTA BISHOP, mother of former slain Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, died on Saturday without knowing what happened to the remains of her son and where it is located.

The 98-year-old, who has being ailing for sometime, was among the dignitaries in 2009 who witnessed the ceremony in which the then ruling National Democratic Congress renamed Grenada’s lone international airport in honour of her son. The Point Saline International Airport was renamed the Maurice Bishop International Airport.

In 2005, Mrs. Bishop called on the authorities to release her son’s body to her for a proper burial.
“Every time I ask why can’t I get a word about my son’s body, they saying to forgive. But I am saying how can I forgive when I don’t have results about my son,” she said back then.

“Every year I get upset about the same thing,” she said, noting that even Jesus Christ, when he was crucified, “his mother was able to get his body to bury, but when I ask what happened to my son, nobody would tell me”.

Bishop, whose left wing People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) came to power in 1979 after successfully overthrowing the then-administration of Sir Eric Gairy, in the English-speaking Caribbean’s first-ever coup, was killed four years later on October 19 as a result of infighting within the PRG.

Mrs. Bishop, whose husband was also murdered, said that at least she had been able to get the body for a burial.

“I could go to the grave and say this is the spot where my husband is buried, but I can’t say that for my son.” (LS)

Former Minister denies creating Facebook page


SENATOR Franka Bernardine has disclosed that the Facebook timeline profile in her name and a second page called “Franka Bernardine for Prime Minister 2018” were created without her permission and has no knowledge who is behind the social media pages.

“I learnt of them after they were created but I am honoured that there are those who have expressed confidence in me,” Bernardine said when asked if she will distance herself from the profiles and publicly ask for a removal Facebook pages.

“People are expressing their belief in me, I cannot stop them from expressing that belief,” said the senator who attended Wednesday’s sitting of the Upper House in which members approved the Electronic Crimes Bill which makes it a criminal offence for someone to engage in electronic fraud and forgery and electronic identity theft. She did not fully support the bill; she told the house that she has reservation about sections of the Bill.

Among her 2 623 friends on the profile page is former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, former ministers of the National Democratic Congress, as well as well-known supporters while there are 47 likes on the page which is lobbying for her to be 2018 prime ministers.

Bernadine served as Minister for Education with the Tillman Thomas administration and the Facebook timeline profile continues to describe her as an employee of the Government of Grenada although she no longer holds that post. Since the National Democratic Congress lost the February 19th General Elections, the creator behind her timeline profile has made comments and continuously questions the decisions and initiatives undertaken by the ruling New National Party. (LS)

Grenadian doctor achieves her dreams



Esther Leah Strachan
EARLIER this month, a Grenadian finally realized her dream when she graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, with her Doctorate in Pharmacy.

From her childhood, Esther Leah Strachan nee Joseph, who now resides in New York, was fascinated with the medicines and how they were able to “find the exact part of the body that was sick and bring relief”.

“As a child, it was mind boggling how a medication – for example, Phensic – knew where the pain was in my body, go there and relieve me,” she said many years later, acknowledging the contribution of the Canada Save the Children Fund (CANSAVE) in supporting her educational development during her secondary school years. It was that lingering curiosity that ultimately led her to pursue a career in Pharmacology.

Leah, the name that stuck with her at home, had knack for the sciences when she attended the St. Joseph’s Convent in Grenville and was always pondering longingly about a career in medicine but did not have access to the financial resources needed to take her through university following her success at secondary school.

The only occupation I could envision was ‘Doctor’ and no one had the money to send me to medical school,” she recalls after a struggle with math. She finally had it in her grasp when she took evening classes at the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School.

Having conquered that obstacle, she studied computer programming in Jamaica, returning to Grenada to take up a posting with the Government of Grenada in the then newly-established National Computer Center.

“It was a good career choice, but I never gave up on what I really wanted, what I dreamed about,” she declares.

She stayed with the Computer Center for a few years and then migrated to the United States where she got the opportunity to move the spark of her dream into a full-fledged flame and began studies in Pharmacy.

In 1996, she graduated from the Bronx Community College with an Associate Degree in Applied Science (Pre-pharmacy), then in 1999 she gained her Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy from Long Island University in New York. She had now put the building blocks for the realizing her dreams in place.

She then took a long break from school to follow other interests, including marriage and family.

This month, in Gainesville, Florida, Leah finally touched the finish line with her Doctorate in Pharmacy. She credits her faith in God and the patience of her husband and two sons, for this achievement as she followed her life’s motto, ‘All the way my Saviour leads me’. At last, she is Dr. Strachan.

“I never stopped dreaming and I never gave up on the faith I had in God that this day will be possible. It all paid off. The support, understanding and encouragement I received from my family has been tremendous. It is just the end of one journey and the beginning of another step toward destiny,” she says.

Dr. Strachan notes the importance of remembering “your roots” and pledges to find ways to support Grenadian children, whose dreams and aspirations are stifled by financial challenges.

She pays special tribute to her first grade teacher Mrs. Joan Charles-Burke of the Belair Government School (now deceased) and Mr. Orleans John, retired school inspector with the Department of Education and family members.

DISPELLING MYTHS


Dr. Patricia McDougall-Covin, Professor of Entrepreneurship at
Indiana University, as she addressed participants gathered for the
start of a two-day JOBS Faculty Symposium hosted by the Cave Hill
School of Business last week Wednesday.
 ENTREPRENEURS do not have a common profile that automatically makes them candidates for success. While there may be certain characteris-tics that are common amongst those who make it to the top, entrepreneurs, like their pursuits, are diverse and varied.

This was the message sent by Dr. Patricia McDougall-Covin, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Indiana University, as she addressed participants gathered for the start of a two-day JOBS Faculty Symposium hosted by the Cave Hill School of Business last week Wednesday. The Job Opportunities for Business Scale-up (JOBS) programme was co-ordinated by the US Agency for International Development (USAID)/Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and Indiana University was selected to partner with the business school under JOBS, to strengthen its Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship and, by extension, cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in the region.

While speaking on the topic, “Fostering Innovation and the Entrepreneurial Mind-set”, Dr. McDougall-Covin noted that there are certain myths surrounding entrepreneurship and the view that entrepreneurs have a certain profile is one such myth. She noted that much research has been carried out to find such a profile, but with limited success.

The Professor noted that another myth suggests that all one needs is luck to be a successful entrepreneur. This is far from the truth, she argued, noting that if this was indeed the case, persons could choose their “lucky symbol” and set out as entrepreneurs, with a view to success.

Some of those in attendance at the event.
Another myth is that “all you need is money”. However, the professor made it clear that having money alone does not equate to success, since there are many wealthy entertainers and athletes for example, who have tried their hands at entrepreneurial ventures and failed. The idea that “entrepreneurs are gamblers and high risk takers” does not always hold true either, since research suggests that entrepreneurs must be able to manage risk and many of them are also investors.


Dr. McDougall-Covin pointed to a number of individuals who did not have ideal lives, but who capitalised on opportunities and followed their passion to create competitive businesses that have grown by leaps and bounds. And while there is no common profile to define them, Dr. McDougall-Covin listed a number of characteristics that do define successful entrepreneurs.

She noted that such individuals are passionate, have basic intelligence, are high energy people, are goal-oriented, see the big picture and have a tolerance for risk and ambiguity. They also seek feedback, learn from failure and seek opportunities at every turn.

Dr. McDougall-Covin stressed, however, that while it may be argued that “entrepreneurs are born, not made”, business schools can play a role in cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset by having entrepreneurial programmes for students, which can teach them about pitfalls in business as well as paths to progress.  (RSM)

Cave Hill School of Business on an ‘entrepreneurial journey’



IN an effort to remain financially viable and relevant to the target market it serves, the Cave Hill School of Business (CHSB) has been on an “entrepreneurial journey” of sorts, seeking to foster innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset through its operations.

Dr. Jeannine Comma, CEO and Director of the Cave Hill School of Business (CHSB) at the University of the West Indies, highlighted the school’s “entrepreneurial thrust” from its inception onwards, as she spoke on Wednesday at the opening of a two-day Job Opportunities for Business Scale-up (JOBS) Faculty Symposium at the business school.
From left: Dr. Jeannine Comma, CEO and Director of The Cave Hill
School of Business (CHSB), sits with Dr. Patricia McDougall-Covin,
Professor of Entrepreneurship at Indiana University and one of the
facilitators for the JOBS Faculty Symposium; and Dr. Don Marshall,
Deputy Dean in the Department of Management Studies
at the UWI Cave Hill Campus.
“As an institution of higher learning, our institution is one which has had to safeguard its financial sustainability and relevance. We have had to ensure that all staff and strategic partners journey with us along the entrepreneurial path,” Dr. Comma commented.

“I often say to my colleagues here at the CHSB, that when you come to work, think as if you are running your own business. You actually are, because if you are not delivering the quality of service – quality in all its many aspects – that the customers expect, then you cannot make money,” she revealed.

“There have been many highs and oftentimes many lows in this journey. However, I can assure you that the accomplishments and gratification which has been attained as we have embarked on this entrepreneurial journey, have been tremendously rewarding,” Dr. Comma asserted.

Dr. Comma noted that the Cave Hill School of Business to date is proud of its efforts to foster innovation, while moving in an entrepreneurial direction in order to achieve the strategic mandate of the school’s and the university’s expectations for the school.

The innovative Symposium the school is now hosting, is one measure aimed at cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset in Barbados and across the region, as it focuses on implementing and introducing entrepreneurial programmes and concepts in to the curriculum.

“Several years ago when our colleagues from the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University and ourselves were planning the initiatives for this project, a range of interesting, unique and challenging interventions were agreed upon. This Faculty Symposium is one of them. The concept of a symposium focusing on ‘Fostering Innovation and the Entrepreneurial Mindset’ was definitely different for us at the Cave Hill School of Business, and I am sure for many of us in the Caribbean who are involved in higher education and adult learning,” Dr. Comma remarked.

“For us at the CHSB, the concept and practice were not that new since, from our inception in 1991, we recognised that in order for us to play a key role in the development of management, leadership and organisational development in Barbados and in the OECS, as well as to remain competitive and viable, we had to embrace and embark on an entrepreneurial thrust,” Dr. Comma said.

“So CHSB, like most business schools today, recognises that in order for us to stay up to date and [to enhance] our ability to effectively [serve] the region and the market that we have identified, we must also be able to introduce a high measure of innovation into our curriculum and programme offerings to ensure that they are meeting the varied market demands and continuing to be relevant,” the Director concluded.  (RSM)

C’bean advocates set to influence global development agenda


As global discussions intensify around creating a new global development agreement, Caribbean government and non-governmental representatives supporting gender equality have together agreed on forward-looking Caribbean-specific priorities, that they will advocate for in the coming two years of discussions within the UN General Assembly, and beyond.

Under the UN Women-supported Caribbean Forum on Gender Equality and the Post 2015 Agenda, delegates generated a Joint Statement for ensuring gender equality and Caribbean priorities for development will be front and centre in the global discussions around the completion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreement in 2015, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) agenda.

The Joint Statement, which forms a platform for advocacy on the part of governments and civil society, stresses that in the context of the region’s social and economic challenges, there must be the recognition that women and men are affected equally, but differentially.

In a cost benefit analysis, if gender-neutral policies continue to be pursued, the full realisation of Caribbean nations’ goals will not be realised. As new development policies emerge world-wide, in the context of the Caribbean, it is essential that inequalities be tackled – and that not one person is left behind.

Among the main priorities articulated, the Joint Statement stresses the Caribbean Region’s right to live free from violence, and the need to overcome the lack of access to social security protections in a context of severely restrained national budgets.

Framework outlined

The Joint Statement goes on to outline the Caribbean’s expectation of a global post 2015 development framework, which must:

• Address the vulnerability of small island states to transnational crime, including the drug trade and trade in small arms, by strengthening international and national treaties;

• Address inequitable access to land, water, technology and markets, that inhibits women’s and youth’s involvement in agriculture;

• Ensure that socio-political and economic factors that negatively impact boys’ participation in formal education systems are addressed, and that formal certification carries equal social and economic value for both sexes;

• Support macro-economic reforms which reduce the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women and other vulnerable groups, including adolescent mothers, single women-headed households, persons with disabilities, the elderly, indigenous peoples, domestic workers and rural women in particular;

• Enable the emergence of a critical mass of women, to become corporate leaders, serving on private sector boards and involved in all formal and informal areas of economic enterprise.

Participants at the Forum included the ministers with responsibility for social care and gender affairs from six CARICOM territories – Barbados, the Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; gender bureaus and civil society partners from 14 CARICOM countries, in addition to representatives from the host agency UN Women, UNICEF, UN Economic and Social Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; UN Resident Co-ordinators from Barbados/ the OECS, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname; Diplomatic Missions, and Representatives from the Organisation of American States, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Caribbean Development Bank.

HPV linked to cancer


Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, but many women are still diagnosed with it because of no screening or delayed screening.

This was expressed by Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr. Erroll Byer, during the annual Ermine Holmes Memorial Lecture, on the topic “A Brief Sojourn across Some Cancers of Women”, held at the St. George Secondary School in Barbados, on Sunday night.

“There is no reason in today’s world for people to be dying from cervical cancer, especially when we have available pap smears and all other inventions to detect such.”

Dr. Byer explained that cervical cancer is an abnormality of the cervix, and that the majority of cervical cancer is caused by a virus called Human papillomaviruses (HPV).

According to him, most infections with high-risk HPV do not cause cancer.

“Most high-risk HPV infections occur without any symptoms, go away within 1 to 2 years, and do not cause cancer. These transient infections may cause cytologic abnormalities, or abnormal cell changes, that go away on their own.”

However, he pointed out that some HPV infections can persist for many years, and persistent infections with high-risk HPV types can lead to more serious cytologic abnormalities or lesions that, if untreated, may progress to cancer.

Dr. Byer, who is based in New York, went on to stress that it is important to note that more than half of sexually active people are infected with one or more HPV types at some point in their lives.

He said that recent research indicates that, at any point in time, 42.5 per cent of women have genital HPV infections, whereas less than seven per cent of adults have oral HPV infections.

He also indicated that low-risk HPVs, which do not cause cancer, can cause skin warts on or around the genitals or anus.

Which cancers are caused by HPVs? Dr. Byer stated that virtually all cervical cancers are caused by HPV infections, with just two HPV types, 16 and 18, responsible for about 70 per cent of all cases.

“The incidence of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer has increased during the past 20 years, especially among men. It has been estimated that, by 2020, HPV will cause more oropharyngeal cancers than cervical cancers in the United States.

“Other factors may increase the risk of developing cancer following a high-risk HPV infection such as smoking; having a weakened immune system; having many children (for increased risk of cervical cancer); long-term oral contraceptive use (for increased risk of cervical cancer); poor oral hygiene (for increased risk of oropharyngeal cancer); and chronic inflammation,” he highlighted.

The most reliable way to prevent infection with either a high-risk or a low-risk HPV is to avoid any skin-to-skin oral, anal, or genital contact with another person, stated Dr. Byer.

“For those who are sexually active, a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is the strategy most likely to prevent HPV infection. However, because of the lack of symptoms it is hard to know whether a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected with HPV.

“Research has shown that correct and consistent use of condoms can reduce the transmission of HPVs between sexual partners. Areas not covered by a condom can be infected with the virus, though, some condoms are unlikely to provide complete protection against virus spread,” he pointed out.

Dr. Byer continuously urged all women present to get regular Gynaecological check-ups. He further revealed that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two HPV vaccines: Gardasil for the prevention of cervical, anal, vulvar, and vaginal cancer, as well as precancerous lesions in these tissues and genital warts caused by HPV infection; and Cervarix for the prevention of cervical cancer and precancerous cervical lesions caused by HPV infection. (TL)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Improving the flavour of the Chinese menu in the Caribbean


There is a school of thought in China that the country’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean should be on a “holistic and integrated co-operation platform”. In other words, China should treat with the “Caribbean” and “Latin America” as one. This would be a mistake for China, and an unwelcome development for the small Caribbean countries whose interest would be subsumed by those of the larger Latin American states.

The advocates in China of a holistic and integrated relationship between China and Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole specifically want “an inter-governmental” platform in a wide range of areas “such as political, business, resources and energy, infrastructure, cultural, scientific and technological, think-tanks, youth and non-governmental areas”. They would like an early meeting of China-Latin America and the Caribbean Ministers, followed by a summit. They also argue that “China is a big country in the Asia-Pacific” and that “more and more Latin American and Caribbean countries have increasingly ‘looked to the Asia-Pacific’, hence co-operation in Asia-Pacific affairs has gradually become a new platform for China-Latin America and Caribbean co-operation”.

But, it is Latin American countries with a Pacific side for which ‘looking to Asia-Pacific’ holds an important interest. Caribbean countries lie on the Atlantic side, and the development of a more intense relationship between China and Latin American countries on Pacific links bears little relevance or benefits for the Caribbean.

The advocates in China of a holistic and integrated co-operation platform with Latin America and the Caribbean miss the point that “Latin American” and “Caribbean” countries are themselves not integrated. After centuries of separation by their colonisers, Latin American and Caribbean countries are now at a very early stage of efforts to overcome their lack of integration, including poor transportation and other communication connections as well as language barriers for commerce. Further, the differences in the size of their populations, the magnitude of their economies, and the amount of their natural resources place Latin American and Caribbean countries at significantly dissimilar points in economic and other co-oper-ation efforts with China. Any attempt, therefore, to treat “Latin American” and “Caribbean” countries as one would disadvantage smaller Caribbean states.

From China’s point of view, while the Caribbean’s natural resources and its small markets (despite China’s balance of trade surplus) may be of little significance to its well-being, in a global system made up of states the voting power of the Caribbean in the United Nations and other organisations is of value on matters of importance to China. Further, small though Caribbean resources and markets may be to the Chinese economy, they still represent revenues and employment for China.

For instance, in the year 2012 alone, China enjoyed a balance of trade surplus with the 15 CARICOM countries of US$3 billion. CARICOM countries’ exports to China were worth US$366 million while China’s exports to CARICOM countries were valued at US$3.4 billion. There is not a single independent CARICOM country with which China does not have a favourable balance of trade surplus. Among the CARICOM countries with the biggest balance of trade deficits with China in 2012 were: Jamaica, US$755.4 million; The Bahamas US$475.2 million; Guyana, US$ 173.4 million; and Trinidad and Tobago, US$172.5 million. (Source: China’s reports on Imports and Exports).

Given that, in 2012 alone, China had a balance of trade surplus with the 15 CARICOM countries of US$3 billion, China’s pledge last June to provide US$3 billion to the entire Caribbean was equivalent to its last year’s trade surplus alone, and China will earn that sum annually if the current trade pattern continues. Additionally, since the pledged sum of US$3 billion represents loans (albeit on concessional terms) that have to be repaid, China will also get that money back plus interest – altogether very good business for China.

In this context, while the Caribbean market may be small in relation to China’s global economic activity, it would appear that Caribbean countries do have some significance and bargaining power if they act together.

It is also noteworthy that CARICOM countries’ exports to China represent a small portion of their total exports. Therefore, as a market for their goods, China is not significant for CARICOM countries; the region’s exports to the US, the European Union and Canada are much more beneficial. Further, China will remain insignificant as an export market until CARICOM producers and manufacturers begin
collectively to explore seriously ways of jointly producing for and penetrating the market. But, at the same time, imports from China by CARICOM countries will grow and so will China’s balance of trade surplus.

In this connection, Caribbean countries must tackle their relations with China as a distinct sub-region and not as part of a Latin America and Caribbean collective. Caribbean countries’ relations with China ought not to be subsumed in the wider China-Latin America and Caribbean relationship with an emphasis on Asia-Pacific.

China’s lending to “Latin American” countries on the one hand and to “Caribbean” countries on the other tells its own story. Over the seven-year period 2005 to 2012, China made concessionary loans of over US$87 billion to Latin American and Caribbean countries.  But, Latin American countries received the lion’s share of the money – US$83.4 billion of which Venezuela, US$44.5 billion; Brazil, US$12.1 billion; and Argentina, US$11.8 billion were the principal beneficiaries. The Caribbean shared only US$4 billion of which The Bahamas received more than half at US$2.8 billion while Jamaica got US$662 million and Guyana US$130 million (source: Inter-American Dialogue).  The sums for other Caribbean countries were smaller.

There is no doubt that Caribbean countries need to penetrate the Chinese market to offset the huge balance of payments surplus in China’s favour.  The private sector acting collectively throughout the region has to get its act together. But, at the same time, governments have to engage the Chinese government to convert a significant portion of China’s huge balance of trade surplus with the region into official development assistance – aid for trade – and a large portion of that should be allocated to tooling the Caribbean’s private sector to sell goods and services in China, and to facilitating investment by Chinese companies in large scale projects in tourism, renewable energy, maritime transportation, agriculture and fisheries.

There are influences in China that favour dealing with the special circumstances of the Caribbean. It is up to the governments of the region to engage the Chinese government with well thought-out and bankable proposals.

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

Legalising ganja


Two weeks ago, after a fierce debate, the lower house of the Uruguay Parliament took the first step towards legalising the production and possession of ganja/marijuana for domestic personal use. If, as expected, the decision is endorsed by the country’s Senate in October, Uruguay will be the first nation in the world to have decriminalised the narcotic.

Uruguay’s objective is to create a regulated market in ganja, end local user’s dependence on the illegal production, and halt associated domestic criminality. It intends doing so by having the state control a legal local industry in ways that its President, Jose Mujica, says will recognise that marijuana is widely consumed in Uruguay – reportedly 200 tonnes per annum – while seeking to tackle what he describes as a mafia monopoly making huge profits enforced through murder and extortion.

Under the new law, Uruguay’s government would license growers, sellers and consumers and maintain a confidential registry to stop people from buying more than 40g a month at pharmacies. Groups of growers of up to 45 members would be encouraged, while licensed consumers could grow up to six plants at home all overseen by an Institute for Regulation and Control of Cannabis. The growing of the crop for export would remain illegal and all unlicensed activities could bring prison terms. The aim is also to fix the potency, price and purity, generate a new tax income and remove the value of the industry from criminal gangs.

The approach to the use of ganja – the detrimental or beneficial effects of which physicians and
scientists remain divided over – reflects a growing sense across Latin America that new approaches to decriminalisation are required. Although the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Presidents of Guatemala and Colombia are also supportive and have praised the initiative ahead of the house vote, unsurprisingly it has split opinion elsewhere.

The US administration has taken a low key approach, perhaps recognising that the legislation reflects what has already happened in the states of Washington and Colorado. In contrast, during his recent visit to Brazil, Pope Francis spoke out against the liberalisation of drugs, and the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board has said that Uruguay’s approach violates the country’s
international treaty obligations which require cannabis to be exclusively used for medical and scientific purposes.

For the Caribbean, Uruguay’s new policy presents a number of challenges.

Although not much spoken about, the relationship between ganja production, consumption, export and economic and political stability has become something of a paradox in some of the more fragile economies of the Caribbean. There are two main reasons for this:

Firstly, ganja remains a cash crop in demand in the region and beyond. It acquires a high value because it is illegal and its cultivation theoretically clandestine. Because of this, if grown and traded, some of the income derived directly stimulates economic growth, especially within less diversified or small economies.

However, the same crop is also associated with violent crime syndicates who operate in other ways and whose actions threaten to subvert states and introduce individuals who believe they can be, and sometimes are, above the law. It together with other narcotics shipped through the region has fostered an enormous international security industry, dedicated to tracking down the traffickers and maintaining its own existence, which also puts money into local economies.

What this means is that if the industry ceased to be illegal, government would see a rapid withdrawal of cash from the economy and the slowing of economic growth, to say nothing of the instability it would create if those who control the industry are displaced to other areas of criminal endeavour.

Secondly, marijuana cultivation for export in the region looks likely to increase, become more
sophisticated and a growing challenge as greater interest is taken in its development by global crime networks.

As Daurius Figueira, an academic and author in the criminology unit at UWI’s St. Augustine campus, pointed out in a recent paper, as the Caribbean ganja industry diversifies and attempts to establish a pan regional integrated production involving high quality hybrids and high potency organics selling at between US$3 000 to US$5 000 per pound in the US, the region will become an offshore platform for a highly valuable illegal commodity.

The narcotic is, he observes, now being produced in ways that make Guyana, with its large areas of available land and the opportunity to scale up production, increasingly attractive as a location. He notes, too, the links between Haiti and Jamaica and how the product is exchanged for a range of commodities including guns which are then trafficked into the US, and how Jamaican interests, because of their early start in the ganja industry, are thriving. He makes the point as well that the price at which new hybrids and organic product sells is causing the industry to thrive and breeding ‘graphic gun violence’.

What this demonstrates is an industry in the Caribbean that is not quite what it seems: one that some argue is benign and that is related to domestic consumption, and another that will enforce by any means the growth of  an export crop central to the international narcotics trade and the interests of organised crime.
There is of course a legitimate debate in the region and internationally involving those who view the decriminalisation of ganja for personal use as the way forward and who regard President Mujica’s approach as commendable.

However, if the region becomes as Mr Figueira suggests a significant producer of new cannabis products, past experience shows that these will not only be used to finance other forms of crime, slavery and even terrorism, but will come to corrupt, control and destabilise society.

Buntly put, Uruguay’s experiment, though interesting, should therefore not be seen as relevant to the Caribbean.

(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)

The world needs more ...


Designated by the United Nations as World Humanitarian Day, August 19 provided a moment of reflection as the international organisation and its humanitarian partners asked persons to finish the following sentence: ‘The World Needs More’.

Undoubtedly, there are many different ways in which that sentence could be completed. Despite the closer ties between countries around the world, resulting in internationally accepted measures of human rights and standards of living, depending on which part of the world you are from, your sentence might end with words such as ‘food’, ‘freedom’, and ‘peace’ or perhaps ‘equality’, ‘diversity’ and ‘integrity’. After all, while reality is often considered to be concrete – something either exists or it doesn’t – it is much more fluid when internalised. In other words, while the facts or circumstances may be finite, the way in which they are interpreted by individuals is determined by their culture, social norms, geographic location, gender and life experiences, such that there can be several ‘realities’ for persons in the same society, far less the entire world.

As we reflected on the UN’s question, we thought about the changes that have taken place in Grenadian society and the juncture at which we find ourselves today; and what we settled on is
that in the local context, the world needs more tolerance.

Though there is a risk in making generalisations about a national character, Grenadians have long had a reputation for being conservative and traditional. Those who do not fit into the mould of an ‘average’ Grenadian often remained on the fringes, keeping their differences to themselves and occupying a world that was seldom noticed by the mainstream. However, it seems that the concepts of mainstream and marginal are slowly being replaced by greater expressions of individuality and diversity – and Grenada is no different. The evolution of technology has made it possible for previously marginalised groups to break away from needing recognition from the mainstream, instead placing the power to tell their own story in their own hands. Furthermore, the dissemination of views is not limited to national boundaries – they can be shared around the world with minimal delay. Therefore, while they may still constitute a minority in their own society, they can find support from a global community of like-minded persons, helping to strengthen their belief that they have as much right as anyone else to ‘be’.

For many in the mainstream, this represents a threat to what they have come to know as their way of life. However, if they embrace and practise tolerance, they can find a way to co-exist with these emerging divergent views. Civilisations never remain static – they change as collective views do and for many this can be a threatening concept, especially when their point of view is the one losing popularity. It must be noted though that being tolerant does not mean that every change must be adopted with open arms. People are free to accept or reject new ideas and in a democracy, the majority still rules. It does however mean that we should respect others’ right to approach the world differently to how we would and to afford them this courtesy as a fellow human being.

Change is inevitable, but how we face it can make all the difference in whether the society is strengthened or pulled apart. Tolerance plays a big part in greeting change in a positive way.

REVENUE GROWTH


By Linda Straker

THE Board of the Spicemas Corporation was able to collect almost EC$2 million in revenue, but it still continues to be indebted to service providers and plans are in the making to undertake fund-raising initiatives that will not only clear its outstanding debt, but put it in a better financial position as it prepares to co-ordinate Carnival 2014.

Alister Bain, Deputy Chairman of the SMC, said that among the heavy outstanding debts is more than EC$140 000 to Ian “Judah” St. Bernard – one of the major service providers who was owed more than EC$200 000 when the new board was appointed in May 2013.
Alister Bain, Deputy Chairman of the Spicemas Corporation (SMC).

“When we took over, the outstanding debt was around EC$400 000, but we were able negotiate and work out a plan that now see us owing him 70 per cent of his claims for 2013 season,” said Bain, who heads the Finance Committee of the Corporation.

Bain noted that the Corporation is still auditing its books, but he anticipates that the final figure will at the end further reduce the debt. “We will not be able to erode it, but we will be able erode it,” he said, while explaining that the new eticketing system realised more than EC$500 000.

“Through that system, we collected EC$520 000 from ticket sales and this we believe is the most amount ever collected through gates receipts,” he said.

The Soca Monarch competition, which is the “cash cow” of all the Carnival events, realised approximately EC$100 000 than 2012.

Other major contributions were the early payment of Government’s subvention of EC$700 000; and sponsorship and partnership contributions of EC$700 000 from companies such as LIME and the National Lotteries Authority.


Last Saturday, the Corporation for the first time in five years presented prize payments totalling EC$881 875 to winners and participants in Carnival activities, which cover from the Traditional Mas competition held in Victoria on July 27 to the Parade of Bands on the streets of St. George’s on August 13.

Chairman of the SMC, Arthur Hosten, in his remarks, warned that 2014 will not be business as usual, while in supporting his statement, Culture Minister, Alexandra Otway-Noel, said that there will be some shaking up to get things going better.

Major titles were The Band of the Year – “Reef”, a presentation by Andre Garvey and Associates; the Calypso Monarch was Ketura George; the Soca Monarch was Boyzie; and the Groovy Monarch was Blaka Dan.

New Ambassadors to assume duties on September 1


Karl Hood
Almost six months after the New National Party won the February 19 General Elections, new ambassadors who were named within weeks of the new administration taking office have begun taking up their posts and presenting their credentials to the relevant Heads of State.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Nicholas Steele, informed the House of Representatives at the end of the July session that by the end of August all new ambassadors will be deployed.

“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the governments of the various countries have accepted our nominees for the post of ambassadors,” he said.

Dr. Angus Friday
The new ambassadors are: Karl Hood, who will be in China; Dr. Angus Friday, who will be based in Washington and will also be the representative to the OAS; Claris Charles, who will be in Cuba; Joslyn Whiteman, who will be the High Commissioner in London; and Mr. Hassan Hadeed, who is the Ambassador to Venezuela. Dr. Denis Antoine will be the new ambassador to the United Nations.


Dr. Denis Antoine
Claris Charles
For the first time since Independence, Grenada will not be having a Consul General at the New York Mission but instead a Honorary Consul General. This position which is almost equivalent to that of Honorary Consulate as the person appointed – Derek James will not be able to perform the task of Consul General. All official duties of the Consul General will be handled by Washington.

Minister Steele said on Saturday that with regards to the Brussels Embassy there will no longer be a Grenada Embassy there as the entire OECS will be moving to open one embassy and appoint one ambassador.

“The OECS will appoint an ambassador to represent the sub-region, but each island will have its own space within that office,” said Steele as he explains that this format of operation is already taking place in Canada.

The ambassadors are expected to work along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to improve diplomatic and bilateral relations. (LS)


ECCO adopts new educational approach


General Manager of the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for Music Rights says that the organisation has adopted a new focus with regards to the education and sensitisation of music users and more attention will be done in the area of licence issuing.

“We have been engaging in education and awareness of the issue to the general public through workshops, seminars and other group sessions since we launched in 2009 and that seems not to be working. So we have adopted the new approach of one-on-one discussions and negotiations with music users as part of our efforts to get them to comply with the law,” said Steve Etienne, who was on a two-day visit to Grenada.

The General Manager said that through this new approach, it is anticipated that more music users will see and understand the reason why they need to get a licence for the various activities in which they are using music.

“The law in Grenada is clear with regard to using music for public display and performance and based on the tariff guidelines, there are events that will require the promoter to get single licence while some will get general blanket annual licence,” he said.


Etienne explained that whether the event is free or paid for entry, the promoter of the event will have to obtain clearance from the Organisation’s agent in the island. “The tariff will be different, but what is clear is that all users’ music be licensed,” he said.

Music users on Tuesday had the opportunity to speak directly with the General Manager and some music owners during a meeting at the UWI Centre.

Grenada’s Copyright Legislation provides for the owners to provide copyright organisations the right to work on their behalf once the work becomes part of the protected repertoire. ECCO, through its direct membership and reciprocal agreement with affiliates such as COTT, BMI and ASCAP, is presently the only collective management society in the sub-region.

Besides the meeting, Mr. Etienne also met with a number of Government ministers and officials including High Command of the Royal Grenada Police Force and the registrar of the Corporate Office of Intellectual Property Affairs. (LS)

Gill: Pregnancy testing increases after Carnival


By Linda Straker

Executive Director of the Grenada Planned Parenthood Association, Jeanine Gill, recently disclosed that there is often an increase in the number of pregnancy tests done in the association’s clinic during the first two weeks after the staging of Carnival and the other festivals observed during the month of August.

“What this is showing is that sexually active persons would have engaged in risky behaviour and unprotected sex and thus they own concern about becoming pregnant with an unwanted child,” said Gill, who explained that proper use of a condom during sex not only protects against pregnancies, but other unwanted things such as sexual diseases and infections.

Though not providing comparative data for year or month, Gill made the disclosure while deliv-ering remarks at the launch of a documentary produced by PSI, which focuses on the activities of its 2013 brand ambassadors. The ambassadors had the opportunity to experience Grenada’s 2013 Carnival and as part of the prize trip, they had to use the opportunity to engage artistes and young persons in
discussions that focus on the impact of music on the behaviour of young people.

Interviewing a cross-section of popular artistes such as Tallpree, Juice and others, the entertainers during various interviews with the brand ambassadors were of the belief that the lyrics in some of the songs can affect the behaviour of party-goers and those who attend fetes, not just during Carnival season but year-round.

Recommending that condoms be used properly and safely, Tallpree was one of the entertainers whose message was to “use a condom every time and play it safe”. The documentary, which is almost 110 minutes, is expected to be shown on local television stations as part of PSI’s wider goal to encourage the use of condoms among sexually active persons.

Fewer Canadians head to the Caribbean first quarter of 2013


VISITOR arrivals to the Caribbean from Canada have grown consistently over the past five years.

This was disclosed by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Secretary-General, Hugh Riley, in his recent remarks to the Caribbean Media Marketplace and Caribbean Week Canada.

“Canadian visitors to the Caribbean are now just over three million of the 25 million total visitors who came to our shores in 2012. In 2012, we saw a 6.8 per cent increase in visitors from the Canadian market.”

However, he pointed out that 2013 continues not in the same vein.

According to Riley, the region started the first quarter with a challenge. In fact, he noted that a number of Caribbean countries have shown a decline.

“We recognise the fact that even though Canada has grown consistently for the last five years, even though there was a healthy 6.8 increase at the end of last year, we are seeing a little bit of a challenge so far this year.

“Is it a cause for panic? No. But it is a cause for concern.

“But it tells us that there are some things we really have to be paying attention to,” he stressed.

The Secretary-General also revealed that the CTO is focusing on better visitor satisfaction and testing a new visitor survey in six markets, with an eye to expanding the programme across the board.

“The Caribbean is not taking visitor satisfaction lightly,” Riley expressed.

“This programme will do two very important things: It will show visitors we are paying a great deal of attention to their needs, and it will also show us where we need to improve.”

He further stated that ultimately the Caribbean wants to position itself as the most desirable, year-round, warm weather destination by 2017.

“It’s a tall order, but the CTO is focused and determined.” (TL)

OAS official warns Caribbean countries


IF countries in the region fail to address the issue of food security, they may one day have to confront the question of food dependency.

The warning has come from Ambassador Albert Ramdin, Assistant Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS). Speaking at a recently held national seminar held to discuss food and nutrition security in Barbados, he said the time is ripe for countries in the region to re-invest in institutions and re-build their agricultural tradition on our own terms. He made the point as he noted that a reactive rather than a proactive attitude is likely to be at the root of why many countries have not actively pursued the prospects of food security, as it relates to economic diversification.

“While many of our economies are largely based on services, tourism, exports and energy for the fortunate few, food production and food security has not consumed our attention, to the degree it should. Ladies and gentlemen, the bridge is in front of us, and we must cross it, now… I hesitate sometimes and wonder whether the stigma of our colonial past has affected our reasoning and judgement about safeguarding future, with the promotion of agricultural entrepreneurship,” he warned.

The Ambassador added that while food security has become one of the most “actionable items of this era”, with the issue being raised at almost every high profile meeting and conference over the past few years, including the OAS General Assembly in Bolivia in 2012, and the Summit of the Americas four years ago in Trinidad & Tobago, one has to question what progress has been made in helping countries to become more food secure.

“There have been small and sporadic pockets of success in individual countries. Many governments of the region have moved to incentivise the agricultural sector and encouraged local consumption drives. Right here in Barbados we have seen private sector interventions, like the donation of land to the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus by Eddie Edghill, for training and research in agriculture to attract a younger generation of producers, and that is commendable and should be encouraged, not only here but in the rest of the region as well. However, in the face of worrying trends in the region over the past decades, I believe that individually and collectively, we can and we must do more,” he contended.

Ramdin’s comments came as he noted that the contribution of agriculture to GDP in the Caribbean dropped significantly from the 1970’s to the early 2000’s; and he noted that at the same time, there has been an exorbitant increase in our food import bill, which is now hovering around US$4 billion. The OAS official said this is worrisome, as it is an indication that the region does not have direct control over a significant percentage of its food supply.

“At the OAS we have witnessed the direct link between food security, development, poverty and even stability in many countries. It is easy for us to sometimes feel removed and far away from the reality of people living in hunger. Yet, the FAO says there are approximately 53 million people in Latin America and right here in the Caribbean who go hungry every day. Many believe there is no morally justifiable reason for the persistence of hunger in a hemisphere like ours. But these numbers are painful evidence that the issue of food security has not been adequately addressed in our region. We are not as far removed from this issue as we would like to think,” he maintained. (JRT)

Two men sentenced to six strokes, fined for robbery of SGU student


TWO men who were arrested and charged for the crime of robbery with violence to a student of St George’s University (SGU) appeared before Magistrate Karen Noel at the St. George’s No. 2 Court on Monday, August 19, 2013.

The defendants pleaded guilty to the charge and they were sentenced to six strokes and fined $2 500. If the men fail to pay the court, they will serve four years at Her Majesty’s Prisons. They were also ordered to pay compensation in the sum of EC$1 000 to the complainant, in default, an additional four years’ imprisonment.

Jason Buchanan, 25 years unemployed of Mt. Annan, St. Andrew and Troy Edgar, 25-year-old labourer of Woodlands St. George, were arrested and charged on Sunday, August 18, 2013 for the crime of robbery with violence to a St. George’s University student, which occurred on the True Blue main road on Friday, August 16, 2013.

The university student, who resides in True Blue, was beaten and robbed of his cell phone and in excess of EC$1 000.

In other police news, September 26 is the date set for the first appearance in court of a St. David man charged with rape. Police investigators have arrested and formally charged Troy Daniel for raping a
26-year-old female from St. David. The complaint was made against him on July 30, 2013. Police said that Daniel has been granted bail in the sum of $20 000 with two sureties.

Also facing a sexually-related charge is Rawle Searles, a 45-year-old Mechanic who resides at Grand Mal. He was charged on three separate counts of sexual intercourse with a female, after it was alleged that he was involved sexually with an 11-year-old student of St. Mark.

Bail has been fixed in the sum of $15 000 with two sureties on each count and he is due to appear in Court at a later date. (LS)

C’bean should embrace technology


THE yields from some of the vegetable crops grown in the Caribbean region are much lower than what has been achieved in other countries around the world, such as Brazil and Mexico.

According to Professor Chandra Madramootoo, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the McGill University, Quebec, Canada, the countries of the Caribbean should look to embrace technology to improve these yields.

He explained that the lack of research and development and by extension the inadequate use of technology is counted among the vulnerabilities of the Caribbean region in its quest to achieve food security.

With that in mind, he said embracing new initiatives would help to cut down on the region’s food imports, which have been rapidly rising above the exports. He made the remarks while in Barbados recently to speak at a seminar on the topic of “Global Food Security Implications for the Caribbean”.

“We are not keeping up with the technology investments and new germplasms, improved practices, cropping practices, fertiliser practices – there is a big accomplishment that can be made just by dealing with technology,” he said.

Turning his attention to exports from the Caribbean, he noted that there is only a narrow band of the crops exported from the region, adding that the Caribbean mirrors what is seen globally in terms of the percentage contribution of agriculture to the gross domestic product (GDP).

“Every single country in the region has witnessed a decline, and in some countries a sharp decline, of the contribution of agriculture to GDP… We need to keep reiterating this message and I am pleased that the Minister of Agriculture recognises that we need to reinvest in production, R&D [and] training to bring those contributions of agriculture to GDP higher if we want to address that food import bill that we have seen,” the professor said.

Referring to some of the products being imported, the Canada-based educator said that the Caribbean region is in “very bad shape” in terms of the commodities being brought in and consumed. He noted that in almost every case there has been an increase in the consumption of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils, while there has been a decrease in the consumption of fruits and vegetables. He said that this has been responsible for the rising trends of obesity among females  as compared to males. (JRT)