Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Managing reputational damage

All Caribbean nations have well developed contingency plans in the event of a natural disaster. However, few have established procedures to address the issue of the damage caused to a nation’s image and reputation.

Yet that is just what is required if the Caribbean is not to experience long-term economic and political damage from the type of campaign that is underway against the Bahamas over the alleged mistreatment of detainees.

What follows is not to seek to minimise the ill treatment of anyone; or to question the importance of freedom to comment; or to avoid suggesting that nations in the region need to get their houses in order and observe international norms. Rather it is to make clear that the need for reputational management has changed absolutely and governments need to consider how politically, and better, they should react.

News and comment are now instant and global, and social media, twenty four hour rolling news channels, and the Internet, have enabled cross-border citizen activism.

For the most part Caribbean governments seem transfixed by this, unable to respond in real time, or to recognise that opinions and news items on You Tube or Twitter can go viral in hours, and that their traditional and often pedestrian response, let alone an entrenched desire to brush aside bad news, is no longer adequate.

Neither do those in the region who seek to manipulate situations for domestic political advantage appear to recognise that in some cases what may appear usefully self-serving in relation to sensitive domestic issues such as the probity of the police service or matters relating to migrants, also have an external dimension that may have wider political and economic consequences.

The case of the Bahamas is informative. In March of this year, protests began in Miami about the need for better treatment of a group of Cuban women being held in a detention centre previously the subject of concern and investigation by Amnesty International. Later, in June, the protests escalated after a video circulated in Miami showed, it was alleged, Cuban detainees being beaten by guards at the same detention centre.

In response a group of anti-Cuban, Cuban-American activists, the Democracy Movement, began to organise demonstrations outside the Bahamas consulate in Miami and began to take other actions to obtain publicity. Their cause was supported by Cuban-American politicians, who not only have significant influence in the US Congress, but include in their number a future US Presidential candidate. More recently their protests have escalated to include representations to the cruise ship companies and demonstrations in front of departing cruise ship passengers.

Throughout, the issue has not been helped by the response of the Bahamas government which went from denial, to seeming misinformation, to anger, to announcing a public enquiry, to returning the detainees who might have given evidence, to unfortunately voiced exasperation on the part of government about what to do next: all against a background of representations from the US Government, the deepening involvement of human rights NGOs, and opposition criticism then support.

While hopefully an enquiry commissioned by the Bahamas Government will be thorough and honest, the allegations, as Amnesty’s International’s involvements indicates, are serious and, irrespective of the political complexities surrounding the nationality of those involved, should be answered sooner rather than later.

What stands out as a lesson to other governments is how reaction, if not thought through, can actually exacerbate a situation and far from closing down an issue, can add fuel to the fire, turning it into a matter unlikely to be forgotten and which in this case, may, in time, come to affect Bahamas-US relations.

In its own way the event is a tip of an iceberg of potential damage that the Caribbean has the capacity to self-inflict, unaware that the world is watching or that, whether the region likes it or not, tourism and the tourism industry is its Achilles heel; one that will become subject to constant external attack if the region fails in meeting international norms in everything from human rights to health and safety.

At the heart of the issue is a failure to understand what tourism, brand creation and reputation now mean in a world in which perhaps unfortunately, perception has come to matter more than reality.

Tourist boards, governments and the industry across the world spend millions of dollars to create a positive picture of ‘The Caribbean Experience’: a sense that all is well in a country and that a destination and a vacation will be a happy and memorable experience.

But recently, damaging coverage about the unfortunate reality of crime, sexual assault, and the behaviour of some police and immigration officers has led pressure groups and the media in key feeder markets to begin to question safety, disseminating messages that cannot be controlled and, if inaccurate, are hard to refute.

Incidents apart, one element of the problem lies in the fact that increasing numbers of visitors are coming to expect the politics, the judicial system, personal safety, and the rule of law to be equivalent to where they reside, and for their government or embassy to afford them the same protection and treatment as they might receive at home.

This is particularly the case when it comes to North American and European travellers who in a sometimes over simplistic manner travel the world expecting the same behaviour, basic rights, responses, norms and safety to match what they have in the wealthy developed nations from which they have come.

But beyond this, and more alarmingly for a tourism-dependent region, has been the appearance of the first social media campaigns mounted by NGOs that actively aim to turn visitors against specific countries. For example, in the case of the Maldives , there is a global campaign which has near to 2m supporters including Sir Richard Branson, proposing a tourism boycott, and raising funds to develop an advertising campaign which, it says, will aim to ‘threaten the islands' reputation’.

The point here is not to suggest that governments should hide or find ways to exonerate themselves from the consequence of their responsibilities; it is to indicate that apart from ensuring that abuses do not occur, that only a well considered, fair, rapid, appropriate and measured response will avoid such situations become becoming potent and damaging.

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

High time indeed to review marijuana policies

ON September 17, the Bureau of the Heads of Government of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) discussed the decriminalisation of marijuana and its production for medicinal purposes.

The discussion was prompted by the Prime Minister of the Caribbean state, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves who, prior to the meeting, is reported to have said “it is high time” that the matter is addressed “in a sensible focus, not hysterical manner”.

As it turned out, the Chairman of the meeting, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, told reporters that the CARICOM Secretariat has been given the task “to do research on the medical issues as well as the legislation issues” and a report will be presented to a Heads of Government Conference in February next year.

The discussion was never going to be easy. Apart from the fact that the Bureau could not take decisions on such a sensitive issue for all 15 governments, there would be considerable misgivings on at least four counts. First would be the reaction of the United States government; second would be fear that decriminalisation of marijuana possession and use, however small, may lead to consumption of harder narcotics such as cocaine; third would be whether Caribbean governments have the resources to regulate and enforce secure production of marijuana for medicinal purposes; and fourth would be the response of Church groups that are instinctively opposed to decriminalisation.

These are the reasons why any further discussion of the issue by CARICOM leaders should be informed by a careful and well researched study. The study should address not only the four concerns identified in the previous paragraph, but also the savings to government of amending their present policies on marijuana and the revenues that could be earned from the production of cannabis for the global medical market.

But, the CARICOM Secretariat is already strapped for cash and finding it difficult to deliver on the many mandates it has been given by governments. It is doubtful, therefore, that it has the resources to conduct the intense and meticulous study that is required. It is also unlikely that the Bureau has authorised a fresh contribution from all governments to fund the study. Further, this is one issue about which there is no point in seeking assistance from donor countries such as the European Union (EU), the US or Canada. The Secretariat would do better to get authority from governments to try to raise funds from private sources such as philanthropist George Soros. Failure to secure adequate funding would result in an unsatisfactory study on which informed decisions could not be made.

Yet, there is considerable merit in the discussion in which Gonsalves wishes CARICOM government to engage.

Writing three years ago in October 2010, I argued that “the Caribbean should legalise the growing of marijuana for medicinal purposes and should end laws that criminalise the use of small quantities for recreational and religious purposes”.

I made the point then that there are thousands of people who are criminals because they are, in one way or another, involved in illegally growing, picking, packing and distributing marijuana. Many of these are farmers or people who worked on farms and who have lost markets for their products such as bananas or citrus because CARICOM countries were deprived of preferential access to the European Union market resulting from challenges by Latin American countries and the United states encouraged by US corporations that dominated the banana market. They have turned to working the marijuana business as without it they will not survive. So, they are criminals.

Then in June 2011, I drew attention to the report of The Global Commission on drugs which declared that “the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world”. The Commission emphasised that “vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption”.

It is indeed high time that the Caribbean’s policies on marijuana production, use, and decriminalisation be carefully studied and appropriate action taken to amend these policies appropriately in the region’s interest and not as a response to pressure from the United States and elsewhere. This is especially important because, as Ethan Nadelmann the Executive Director of the US Drug Policy Alliance has pointed out, “20 states in the US have legally regulated marijuana and are reaping the benefits from it”.

Two recent studies – one in the United States and the other in Britain – again highlight the need for radical change in policies related to marijuana.

A study by the Institute of Social and Economic Research in Britain says that “legalising cannabis could help the government cut the deficit by up to £1.25 billion (US$2 billion) a year”. It also argues that “the dangers of cannabis as a 'gateway' drug, which leads users to try harder drugs, is greatly exaggerated in public discussion”.

In the United States, Jeffrey Miron, a senior lecturer at Harvard University who studied the likely impact of drug legalisation, found $20 billion a year could be available to the coffers of the US at State and Federal levels through saving on law enforcement and the generation of taxes on marijuana.

In the Caribbean, Jamaican chemist and cancer researcher Dr. Henry Lowe says that Jamaica could be earning “billions of dollars from the wide range of cosmeceutical, neutraceutical and pharmaceutical products being developed across the world”. The same observation holds true for other Caribbean countries.

No one Caribbean government could realistically attempt to change its laws and its stance on marijuana without being subjected to enormous pressure including the withdrawal of official development assistance from the US, and Canada. These days such assistance is linked to coast guards and drug-interdiction agencies of the Region. This is why the governments will have to act together – no doubt a reality of which Prime Minister Gonsalves is acutely aware. That is why he wisely urged a CARICOM-wide approach.

Any study to be presented to Caribbean leaders next February has to be well funded so that it can be painstakingly researched and thorough. If not, no informed decision can be made and no convincing argument put forward one way or the other. Getting the study right is the first and necessary hurdle to be jumped.

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

Solutions must match our needs

MANY will agree with the President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Warren Smith, that economic growth across the Caribbean must be built on several pillars.

No longer can growth strategies be undertaken in isolation but rather through a coherent set of interrelated policies. They are necessary if the island nations of this region are to make a rebound from what has been the under performance by these economies for the most part over the last five to six years.  

Currently this region, with the exception of a few countries – Guyana, Suriname, and Haiti – is having severe economic challenges which cannot be solved by either tinkering here and there, or just by hoping that our major trading partners recover enough from their difficulties that there is the trickle-down effect to our benefit.

In his address to a High Level Caribbean Forum in the Bahamas recently, the CDB President suggested that macro-economic stability, a prudent public investment strategy, adequate debt management, more openness, and shared benefits once growth materialises, must be the core principles for growth going forward.

In particular, the point he made about dealing with the debt strategy, given the significance of where debt levels have reached in this region, is very significant. This is because there are many commentators who believe that just as the debt crisis of the decade of the 1980s had hovered around the necks of Latin America, the Caribbean might not be too far off from being so categorised.

 As head of the region’s leading financial institution and whose operations include interfacing with its Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs), the President is fully aware of the issues which this region has to address. The Bank, which is based in Barbados, keeps regular tabs on all the economies in the Caribbean; it knows their strengths and weaknesses; it is fully aware of economic policies pursued, and where they are likely to lead.

Therefore this gives him the authority to suggest appropriate options that would at least bring some measure of relief to our struggling economies.

The events of the last five years have shown that our countries are not coping with their recovery efforts. While some have opted to call on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance, others are relying on home-grown programmes to bring them out of the crisis.

The world economy has been undergoing changes since the decade of the 1990s. Liberalisation and more market-friendly policies were the signals coming from the international economy. While it was not expected that Caribbean island economies should have embraced all the components of these policies and follow blindly what was emerging from the metropolitan countries, it was time to take stock of where we wanted to go.

The region continued to hold on to trade preferences although it was clear with the coming into being of the World Trade Organisation that the props which kept our economies afloat for most of the immediate post independence period, were coming to an end. It could have been seen that the writing was on the wall for such commodities as bananas, sugar, rice and other tropical produce because reciprocity was now the watchword for the future.

It would therefore be good if governments can somehow find enough time to embrace the proposals outlined by the CDB President.


Grenada’s lone power company, which is owned by a US company based in Florida, has served notification to Government that it plans to sell the majority of shares and is giving Government the first opportunity to purchase the shares.

The Government said it received notification from GRENLEC’s majority shareholders WRB Enterprises through its locally registered company, Grenada Private Power Limited, confirming its intention to divest.

The original sale agreement makes it mandatory for the majority shareholder to give Government first preference to reclaim control of the company, which was privatised by the Nicholas Brathwaite National Democratic Congress administration in the early 1990s.

According to the term, if Government decides not to make a purchase offer for the shares within the 30-day period, then the Florida-based company will be notified. Government has 30 days to respond and if Government refuses the offer, WRB can then proceed to seek another buyer.

A news release from the Government Information Service said that Prime Minister Mitchell was in a
jubilant mood on receiving the letter. However, he was quick to clarify that Government’s aim is not to own or manage GRENLEC.

“Dr. Mitchell said his administration’s role is to facilitate the process in which the company can be managed by a buyer, who understands the needs of the population, and which can ensure that electricity is offered at the most affordable costs to the people of our nation,” said the release.

“The company’s decision to sell GRENLEC shares is probably the best news so far of this Government. The electricity company was the birthright of our nation, and as Prime Minister, I believe the previous administration had given away our birthright for almost nothing,” Dr. Mitchell said last Friday.

“I am less concerned with who owns GRENLEC. My major concern is to ensure that whatever third-party buyer the Government attracts, understands the needs of the nation, and ensures that electricity is at a cost that everyone can afford,” he said.

The notification to repurchase the shares coincided with a second request to Government in recent months for GRENLEC to raise electricity rates. However, the Government has repeatedly indicated that it is not willing to entertain the request for a hike in electricity rates.

In January 2013, the then Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress, which lost the February 19 General Elections, confirmed that GRENLEC had made a similar offer. The administration said it was not in a position to purchase controlling shares in the electricity company, but was negotiating a possible reacquisition of a portion of the company within a year.

“We cannot buy the shares. We do not have the money to buy them,” said former Energy and Finance Minister, Nazim Burke.

WRB Enterprises, which owns 61.4 per cent of the Grenada Electricity Company (GRENLEC), was requesting EC$100 million for Government to retake control of the company. Back then, Burke said that the Barbados-based Light & Power Holdings (LPH), which is a subsidiary of the Canadian firm Emera Inc., had “reached an understanding” with WRB and was close to completing a purchase agreement for the controlling shares in GRENLEC.

Ownership of the utility company is distributed among Grenada Private Power, Belize-based Eastern Caribbean Holdings (ECH), the National Insurance Scheme, the Government of Grenada and the general public.

The majority of WRB’s stake is held in subsidiary Grenada Private Power, which owns 50 per cent of GRENLEC.

UN Women willing to help set up crisis centre

A SENIOR official of UN Women has given the assurance to Social Development Minister, Delma Thomas, that her organisation will like to assist in setting up a crisis centre for battered women.

Thomas, in a sideline meeting last weekend with Assistant Secretary General for UN Women, Lakshi Puri, made a plea for the assistance. She told Ambassador Puri that the Grenada Government is grateful for the past and continuous assistance that her organisation has provided to the country in matters relating to gender equality.

Minister of Social Development, Delma Thomas (left),
in discussion with UN officials.
She said that while Grenada has made progress in addressing the issue of violence against women, it is moving forward with a comprehensive policy that will guarantee their further empowerment.

Key to that policy, Thomas said, is the need to develop a one-stop crisis centre where battered women can get the legal, health and counselling aid they will need, as well as have a shelter that can house their families in a time of crisis.

In response, Puri said that it is an area which the UN Department will like to assist.

“We think that is a brilliant idea, and we believe that we can mobilise the support that can establish such a centre. We will be more than delighted to work with you,” Ambassador Puri said.

Thomas promised to aggressively follow up on the discussions and to ensure that there is a firm arrangement once she returns to Grenada. Puri welcomed Thomas and Ambassador Denis Antoine to her office, saying that she has been made aware of her work for women, children and disadvantaged people.

“We have learnt that you are regarded as the people’s minister, and that you have been a strong advocate, especially for women and children,” Ambassador Puri said in congratulating the Minister.

Thomas, who was in New York attending the High Level meeting at the United Nations on disability, requested special discussions on the sidelines with the UN Department that deals with global women’s issues.

Grenada to ratify Convention for Persons with Disabilities

Minister of Social Development, Delma Thomas.

By Linda Straker

SOCIAL Development Minister, Delma Thomas, has given the assurance that Grenada will be among member states of the United Nations that will ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the coming weeks.

The National Democratic Congress administration of Tillman Thomas signed the Convention in 2010, but failed to ratify the document whose purpose is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal
enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities.

“Our ratification of the treaty’s obligation will set the concrete policy framework for our adoption of policies that will ensure the full inclusion of persons with disabilities into our development process,” Thomas told the High Level Meeting on the Realisation of the Millennium Development Goals for Persons with Disabilities, which was held at the United Nations headquarters on Monday.

“Our Government is committed to increasing training and job opportunities for people with disability, as a key step towards empowerment,” she added, while informing the leaders at the meeting that the IMANI youth training and internship programme, which was launched earlier this year, includes a
number of people with disabilities. The Small Business Development Fund also has the particular mandate for special consideration for members of that community.

“Indeed it is the philosophical outlook of our Government that we will be unable to tap into our full potential unless we incorporate all of our citizens. Our work plan for the coming period also includes engaging the private sector to encourage them to adopt attitudes and approaches that will facilitate our compatriots with disabilities,” she said.

Minister Thomas said that the Government of Grenada is committed to continue funding the Grenada National Council for the Disabled, a largely non-governmental organisation that acts as the central point of co-ordination for development activities among disabled citizens of Grenada. The purpose of the organisation is to give the disabled community a voice in the decisions that affect their lives by empowering them to accept responsibility and to take action for their well-being.

Thomas said that her Government, which returned to office on February 19, 2013, is conscious of the urgent need as well, to facilitate easy access to all public facilities for all individuals with disabilities.

“The absolute commitment of the Government is there, in keeping with the Treaty’s obligation. It is an area in which we lag behind, and given the current economic challenge at home, for which we will seek international assistance through various agencies in the UN system,” she said.

According to Thomas, Grenada fully endorses the document put forward at the meeting entitled “The Way Forward: A Disability Inclusive Development Agenda towards 2015 and beyond”.

CCG hosting second debt relief workshop

By Linda Straker

“WHAT options for solving the debt problem does the Grenadian civil society support?”, “What are the options for Grenada?” and “What are the options for reaching a sustainable debt level?” will be among discussion topics for the second workshop on debt relief organised by the Conference of Churches Grenada (CCG).

Scheduled for October 1 and 2, 2013 at the Grenada National Stadium, the goal of the workshop is to determine a sustainable debt level for Grenada and to raise awareness of the implications of any debt workout for its people. This workshop is the follow-up for the one held in May and will include the input of international experts on the subject and support from the United Nations Development Programme.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has indicated that during the month of October, Grenada will be signing an agreement with the IMF with regards to measures to be undertaken for sustaining the island’s debt level. A team from the IMF and other donors concluded a ten-day visit to the island last week Friday, but no official announcement was made with regards to recommendations.

Dr. Mitchell, who is also the Minister for Finance, told the media on Tuesday he will be addressing the nation in the coming days because it is Government’s responsibility to inform nationals about the recommendations and how the agreement will impact the economy before the implementation.

“Clearly, Grenada will have to make some sacrifices,” he told reporters, when pressed for in-depth information about the pending agreement.

Dr. Mitchell returned to power following the February 19 General Elections with a mandate to sort out the island’s economic situation. Within days of appointing his new Cabinet, he said that the global financial crisis has taken a heavy toll on the country.

“This has aggravated the severe debt overhang that continues to weigh down our economy,” said the PM, when he announced the appointment of White Oak Advisory as an adviser to assist with solutions for reducing the debt to sustainable levels.

Dr. Mitchell said then: “It is now time for Grenada to confront the fact that it cannot continue to pay its debts on current terms, and that the restoration of growth requires the debt overhang to be resolved. We need a fresh start, and it is therefore imperative that we approach our creditors promptly to discuss an
orderly restructuring of our liabilities.”

Recession affecting ability to meet MDGs

THE economic recession has had a significant impact on the success of countries reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Saying that it was not likely that there would be an extension of the 2015 target, new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Stephen O’Malley, noted that the focus would be more on building on successes.

“Many countries in the region had already made significant strides towards the Millennium Development Goals. The challenge is to sustain this level of development and to continue to increase it,” he said.

Speaking to the media last week Thursday, O’Malley continued, “The decision made by many countries of the world is that we have set a target to do what we can by 2015 and so I don’t think that there will be an extension of that target in a sense. What that debate is about is how can we build on the very real successes for a number of countries since the MDGs were adopted. How do we now build on this after 2015, and what follows the MDGs and this discussion will start this week as the General Assembly meets in New York. What does the post-2015 agenda look like. So it’s less about let’s move the targets or lengthen the targets of the MDGs, but more about what comes now.”

He claimed that the crucial commitment resonating with all countries was that no state could be left behind during this next period and that, according to him, was the “link to ending extreme poverty but also to reducing the levels of inequality and exclusion around the world”.

“So I think we are starting to see the shape to come and I think that we will be seeing that more clearly over the next few weeks from the discussion in New York to start to lay out the foundation of what the world after the MDGs will look like,” he argued. (JMB)

CARIFORUM concerned about new EU aid policies

THE methods employed by the European Union to “graduate” countries within the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Block is causing some knocking of heads between the two trading partners.

Speaking in Guyana last week at the opening ceremony of the 11th European Development Fund Programming Seminar, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States (CARIFORUM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, pointed to the principles of differentiation and graduation from access to grant resources as a bone of contention in an otherwise “meaningful and mature relationship with the EU”.

The EU has maintained that any application of the differentiation to ACP-EU co-operation provided would go hand in hand with a consultative approach, in keeping with the spirit of the Cotonou Agreement.

In a policy proposal entitled “Agenda for Change”, which was endorsed by EU Members of Development Corporation back in May 2012, the need to strengthen differentiation – not a new concept in the ACP-EU relationship – was highlighted. That proposal cited the need for using a varying mix of policies and instruments across the countries and regions; differentiating the level of assistance provided
according to country needs, capacity, country commitments and performance and potential impact; and also differentiating a country or region’s eligibility to accessing that assistance. The EU has acknowledged that Differentiation will “unmistakably affect ACP-EU development co-operation more so going forward than it has done in the past”, according to a White Paper published by the European Centre for Development Policy Management.

Ambassador LaRocque contended last week that certain criteria which the EU was proposing to use in order to determine a country’s level of development did not always paint a true picture of what was taking place on the ground.

“The use of per capita income to determine a country’s level of development and its need for grant and concessional financing, does not provide the true picture. Per capita income is, at best, an arithmetic ratio that does not address levels of poverty, distribution of income, levels of indebtedness, vulnerability
and the capacity to self-generate sustainable economic and social development,” the Ambassador pointed out.

He signalled the Caribbean’s continued willingness to discuss the policies in question with the EU and added that we hoped to be able to do so particularly within the context of SIDS and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

LaRocque lauds EU

SECRETARY GENERAL of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, has expressed deep appreciation to the European Union for its continuous support to the region, particularly during a time when some of its own members have been financially and economically challenged.

Making his remarks last week Thursday during the opening ceremony of the 11th European Development Fund Programming Seminar, LaRoque suggested that such a continuing helping hand was clear evidence of the strength and durability of the region’s relationship with the EU.

“The CARIFORUM Region and the European Union share a long political and economic history. Our relationship is not stagnant. While it evolves, grows, changes and reacts to developing circumstances, it nevertheless is underpinned by certain constants such as a commitment to global peace, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights,” the Secretary-general had said.

Noting that CARI-FORUM received the largest amount of grant funding from the EU under several agreements reached through political and policy dialogue, he acknowledged how the resources provided had contributed immensely to national and regional development.

Of those agreements he highlighted were the ACP/EU Cotonou Agreement, the CARIFORUM-EU Joint Strategy and the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Areas targeted for development under those agreements, as was mentioned by LaRoque during his remarks, were Effective EPA Implementation, Development of enterprise through private sector development, Energy and Food Security.

Sagicor recapitalises BAICO policies with original terms

By Linda Straker

MORE than 15 000 former BAICO policyholders in the Eastern Caribbean will have their policy recapitalised with original terms as not all have lapsed during the past four years since the company was placed under Judicial Management in September 2009.

Reuben John, Judicial Manager for British American Insurance Company, wants Life Policyholders to contact their respective BAICO offices in the Eastern Caribbean so that they will know the true status of their policy because not all policies have lapsed during the past four years.

“Many policyholders may not be aware if their policy is current because they could have ceased paying premium sometime ago, but the automatic loan feature of their policy may have been triggered, meaning essentially that the accumulated value of their policy was used to pay their premium,” said John.

“What policyholders need to do is contact their respective BAICO branch with the number of their policy and they will be provided with an accurate status of the policy,” said John, who explained that the court decision was critical to finalising the list of valid policyholders provided to Sagicor.

“With regards to those policies which lapsed, it will be the Court again to decide what should happen to these policies,” he said, while explaining that once the system conversion and file transaction to Sagicor is complete, policyholders will then be required to direct any queries to the Sagicor office.

Following the receipt of approvals from all nine Insurance Regulators and Courts within the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) and The Bahamas where BAICO is incorporated, the transfer of BAICO’s traditional insurance business in the Eastern Caribbean to Sagicor was finalised on March 15, 2013.

As a result of the transaction, over 15 700 former BAICO policyholders have had their policies recapitalised and are once again able to rely upon their original policy terms and access their insurance benefits.

As part of the terms of the sale, Sagicor will also make payments to approximately 1 700 persons in the ECCU, who are owed historical claim amounts, surrender payments, maturity payment and bonuses by BAICO.

“The ECCU governments have provided funding for their amounts to be paid,” said a paid advertisement, which appeared in September 20, 2013 edition of local newspapers and the Government gazette.

Among the many benefits of the transfer is the extinguishing of approximately EC$120 million of liabilities from the BAICO estate, which is manifestly insolvent. The transfer has resulted in the removal of over half of the number of BAICO’s remaining policyholders in the Eastern Caribbean.

Region prime for renewable energy

THIS region is wide open to explore renewable energy opportunities, says United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Stephen O’Malley.

Lauding the thousands of Barbadians who have installed solar water heaters on their homes, he said more can be done to make better use of renewable energy in Barbados and across the Caribbean.

“There is the question of wind power. On other islands you have the possibility of hydroelectric power or geothermal, for example. So there I think the whole area of renewable energy has some real possibilities for the region to take full advantage of, which could also have significant economic benefits as well,” he asserted.

He noted that the UNDP had already put in place a small grants programme, which allows community-level organisations to look at what could be done relating to renewable energy.

“We have also assisted with a number of feasibility studies and to help the governments of the region to do these. We have a very wide network of experts on renewable energy that we also bring to bear and what we are trying to do is make available to the countries of the region, the best available expertise so that they could design the right programmes for themselves. We have also undertaken efforts to promote and expand the knowledge of renewable energy so that citizens can become involved. It is not just an area for governments to set up policies, although that is very important.

“So these are things where concretely we have been engaged in and supporting government’s policy,” he said. (JMB)

Robust regional growth must be built on several key pillars

President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Warren Smith, believes that there are some key pillars upon which a robust regional growth agenda can be built.

Addressing the 2013 High Level Caribbean Forum “Building Growth Into The Caribbean Sustainability”, last week Thursday in The Bahamas, he outlined that the first of these pillars is macro-economic stability, undergirded by sound fiscal policy; transparent and enforceable fiscal rules; and a monetary policy which is consistent with low inflation and a competitive exchange rate.

He said that the second pillar is a prudent public investment strategy, targeting projects which provide an acceptable economic and social rate of return.

“This strategy should be aligned with the goal of providing infrastructure which lowers the transaction cost of doing business, produces an appropriately skilled labour force, and optimises the use of domestic savings.

“Furthermore, in support of an appropriate public investment strategy should be an effective public debt management strategy and capacity. The emphasis here is on appropriately balancing the mix and tenor of local and foreign borrowings whilst maintaining a keen eye on the critical drivers of favourable debt dynamics and prudential debt limits,” Smith indicated.

The CDB President went on to suggest that highly-indebted Caribbean Small Island Developing States, whose debt has reached unsustainable levels, must commit to and set out on the reform path outlined above, whilst vigorously and persistently making the case for access to Donor-assisted debt relief.

“The evidence from other parts of the world is indisputable that, without this, and in spite of herculean efforts, they will face extreme difficulty reversing the high debt/low growth spiral. The credibility of this case can only be built around the now widely accepted fact of the Caribbean’s peculiarly vulnerable circumstances and evidence of a demonstrated willingness to fully embrace appropriate fiscal and structural reforms.”

He further stated that the region must take lessons from the evidence that a common factor among fast growing economies is greater openness, and integration into the global economy.

“Autarchic policies will militate against rapid economic growth. Greater global integration will necessitate a judicious and progressive removal of barriers to trade, whilst encouraging investment and creating the conditions for increased productivity.

“Finally, for growth to be sustainable it must be inclusive and the benefits widely shared. Appropriate mechanisms must be in place to protect as well as empower the most vulner-able groups. And policymakers must commit to pursuing credible policies, and to engaging stakeholders early in the dialogue to solicit their support,” he added. (TL)

UN ready to help

UNDP Resident Representative, Stephen O’Malley,
is ready to work on the issues affecting the region.

SEVERAL challenges continue to confront Grenada and the wider region, and the United Nations remains committed to helping us tackle these issues.

This was the assurance given by new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Stephen O’Malley, who held a press briefing last week Thursday.

On the matter of disaster preparedness, he has already hit the ground running, having already met with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

“(On Wednesday) we were involved with meetings that we had organised with CDEMA and the International Telecommunications Union, where what we are doing is bringing together professionals from across the region and outside to look particularly at how we can use information communications technologies to better prepare for and respond to disasters. How we can use for example SMS to let people know that there is a heightened risk due to a hurricane,” he outlined.

Touching on the topic of climate change, he emphasised that the UN would continue to work with governments of small island developing states to help mitigate its impact.

“What we would like to do is as much as possible support the governments, the people of ... the region to be as prepared as possible for the effects of climate change, to mitigate those effects where possible, to reduce the risks related to natural disasters and other phenomena. So we have a number of programmes that are already ongoing to bolster the capacity of national governments and regional entities to do that,” he told the media gathered at the United Nations House.

O’Malley has replaced Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, who ended her five-year tenure earlier this year. (JMB)

UNDP helping to address inequality in the Caribbean

As the region continues to struggle to pull itself out of the current economic recession, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has given its assurances that it will give aid however it can to help cushion the blows.

Addressing his first media briefing since taking up his post of UNDP Resident Representative, Stephen O’Malley, pointed out that the crisis has taken the world by surprise due to its severity and longevity.

While highlighting many of the efforts being made by governments to cope with the downturn, he noted that the UN was mainly assisting in social areas, including youth, and poverty.

He explained, “For the United Nations, really where governments have really come to us I would have to say, has been with assistance in areas where we look at the social impacts of some of these things. So we have had a number of discussions with government and I’m talking here in the region and in other parts of the world on issues for example related to what will we do to encourage more inclusive growth.

“If you look at the data globally for this last period, one of the things that we have also seen is a rise in inequality. So even where the recovery has been strengthening in some places, the inequality has been increasing and you’ve seen a bigger gap between the people who are doing well and the people who are doing less well,” O’Malley continued.

He therefore outlined that the UNDP was going to try to address this by promoting more equitable growth. (JMB)

Allow youth to contribute

IT is critical to get the region’s youth involved in productive efforts.

This is the view of new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Stephen O’Malley.

Explaining that young people brought a lot of dynamism to endeavours, in creating innovations and thinking of solutions to problems, he outlined that the commitment of young people to their countries should be harnessed.

“In making sure that the youth have the opportunities to contribute to the economy and civil life of their communities is important to the UN and an important part of a strong and prosperous future for the island. Our ‘Youth In’ project looked at bolstering youth innovation in a number of different ways and that is something that we are looking at continuing. Also we are looking at issues around Youth entrepreneurship as well and focusing on a range of issues that are challenging,” he told the media recently.

Noting that many countries had several programmes in place for the youth, O’Malley stressed that the UNDP would be looking at more policies to better include young people in civil society, the full participation in governance and in economic life.

He said it would be necessary to consider what things could be introduced to make employment more accessible for the youth, whether through encouraging entrepreneurship or working on educational systems or working on pathways into formal employment.

“So that for us is a very strong interest for the countries in the region. You want your young people to be really moving into productive economic life, into productive engagement with society and that is something that we would like to assist with,” he continued. (JMB)

Caribbean closer to fostering entrepreneurial spirit among youth

THE Caribbean is even closer to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit among the region’s young people through CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank’s renewal of its partnership with a regional youth entrepreneurship organisation.

CIBC FirstCaribbean and the Caribbean Centre of Excellence of Youth Entrepreneurship (CEYE) recently entered into a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to continue their successful strategic partnership. The MOU solidifies the bank’s commitment to work with the CEYE on entrepreneurial development to inspire creativity and innovation, build independence, create jobs and generate wealth. The project targets young males and females and ultimately seeks to improve their livelihoods and the future for Caribbean youth.
STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP: CIBC FirstCaribbean and the Caribbean
Centre of Excellence of Youth Entrepreneurship (CEYE) have entered
into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to continue their successful
strategic partnership. From left are David Clarke, Chairman, Barbados
Youth Business Trust; Marcia Brandon, Managing Director, CEYE;
Rik Parkhill, Chief Executive Officer, CIBC FirstCaribbean; and
Debra King, Director Corporate Communications.
CIBC FirstCaribbean is making available grant funding of US$200 000 over the two years of the partnership. In addition, Youth Business Trusts/Youth Entrepreneurship Organisations will receive US$120 000.

The funds will be used to help start-up new youth entrepreneurship organisations (YEO) in the Bahamas and St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as, for the first time, support an already existing YEO in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The funding will also be used to continue ongoing development of the youth entrepreneurship programmes in Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. Additionally, the CEYE will also use part of the funds for capacity development, quality control, and monitoring and evaluation.

The CEYE evolved out of increasing requests from CARICOM countries for help from the Barbados Youth Business Trust. Managing Director, Marcia Brandon, in thanking the bank said, “We are extremely grateful to CIBC FirstCaribbean for their vision and commitment to regional sustainable development, which is what continuing this well-needed partnership contributes to. The bank’s partnership is not only long term, but very high impact.”

She added, “CIBC FirstCaribbean recognises that a strategic approach to corporate social responsibility brings sustainability, but sustainability does not happen overnight, hence their willingness to stay in for the long haul.”

In terms of outcomes, Ms. Brandon said that over the past six years the CEYE and its partners in youth entrepreneurship had been able to expose over 3 000 youth to entrepreneurship, start-up approximately 75 young males and females in a range of businesses, and expose 35 young entrepreneurs to access to markets and trade missions.

Chief Executive Officer of CIBC FirstCaribbean, Rik Parkhill, said the bank’s renewal of its partnership with the CEYE was testament to its keen interest in the entrepreneurial development of the region’s young people. “We continue to be deeply committed to sustainable social and economic development initiatives which have the potential to transform the lives of the region’s youth.”

He added that the importance of entrepreneurship to the continued development of the Caribbean economy and recovery from a recession could not be overemphasised.

The MOU is the third between CIBC FirstCaribbean and the CEYE.

Brandon: Entrepreneurship still a viable option

AS the world continues to feel the effects of the subprime mortgage collapse and subsequent financial meltdown which started exactly five years ago, there is the view that it is still an opportune time for persons to start their own business.

So says Managing Director Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Youth Entrepreneurship, Marcia Brandon, who told the Grenada Advocate as she assessed the climate for entrepreneurs after the post-Lehman Brothers collapse.

According to Brandon: “Of course starting a business in this time is not for the faint of heart or simply for someone who is looking to make some money overnight. Starting a business in this recession is for someone with the entrepreneurial bug who is creative, smart, alert, determined, and has done his/her homework to the best of their abilities and is able to take one of the many problems that appears during a recession and present an innovation to solve that problem.”

She suggested that the rapid increase in layoffs, the availability of newly unemployed workers, and a dearth of employment alternatives may have combined to create higher numbers of entrepreneurs in the Caribbean today then than in pre-recession years.

“Research shows that 16 out of the 30 corporations that make up the current Dow Jones Industrial Average started during a recession. Walt Disney Corporation began during the recession in 1923-24.Hewlett-Packard Corporation began in 1938 during the Great Depression. Microsoft Corporation began during the 1975 recession.”

“The USA Today also notes that in the recession of the early 90s, 25 per cent of downsized executives over 40 started their own companies. Caribbean people should look at the recession as a natural way to clean house and restart the economy anew, even though it is a very challenging way,” she explained.

With regards to banks and other lending institutions creating an environment that facilitates entrepreneurship, she remarked that banks in the Caribbean have always been risk averse and this will not change overnight.

“This has always been our modus operandi in the Caribbean. To be fair, we are a people with employee mindsets and not typically employer minded and employees within the banks in the Caribbean are no different, neither in the credit unions. But all that is changing. We really are living in exciting times and now more than ever people in the region want to start their own businesses.”

“More and more banks and credit unions are becoming more and more aware of the benefits and opportunities which are tied to helping entrepreneurial people to start businesses. The environment in the Caribbean has become a lot more entrepreneurial over the past 15 years.”

Brandon highlighted CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank which, she says, is very interested in sustainable development of the region and recognises that this is a long-term strategy.

“So in partnership with the Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Youth Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development (CEYESD) they have embarked on helping those persons in the region who have the potential to become entrepreneurs and employers. In doing this, CIBC FCIB is honing whole new breed of future customers.”

To this end, she encouraged all lending institutions, especially those with a regional focus, to partner with the CEYESD to cultivate this type of entrepreneurial mindset in the region. (JH)

Cross-border partnerships critical

CROSS-border partnerships are becoming a trend for local and regional entrepreneurs.

So says Managing Director Caribbean Centre of Excellence for Youth Entrepreneurship, Marcia Brandon, who told the Grenada Advocate on Sunday that many organisations are working to build this type of regionalism and the Caribbean Association of Banks are a part of this group.

“Cohesiveness in the region is building, the increased recognition that together we can go very far is a trend. People in the region want to work together and share resources. The young people we work with are eager to meet each other and explore synergies and ideas and build and start businesses. They want to act.”

She further explained that banks and credit unions are becoming more entrepreneurship-friendly and persons are exploring non-traditional ways of funding start-ups, companies are becoming more entrepreneurial; for example, Automotive Arts business plan competition and people are becoming social entrepreneurs and companies are becoming more philanthropic, helping organisations like the CEYESD to help them to implement social and economic projects to benefit communities, which will in the long term benefit them.

Brandon, who is largely recognised for her work with the Barbados Youth Business Trust and other Trusts across the region, gave her take on other trends which she sees emerging in Barbados and the region.

“There is now a very entrenched philosophy among youth and adults, but moreso youth, of wanting to start one’s own business. This is now a norm among young persons ages 15-20 years in the region. The CEYESD did a survey among 150 persons in this age group in Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Bahamas.

“Over 80 per cent of these young males and females said they wanted to start their own businesses but over 75 per cent of them did not know how and had no one in their families who they think could help them to do so.”

Another trend identified by the managing director is the evolving entrepreneurial ecosystem that has been developing over the years in the Barbados and the region. “In almost every country there are organisations in place to help people to start businesses, and while we can criticise many of them for many reasons, the fact remains that they exist and many of them persist in helping their target groups in the very best possible ways they know how.”

“These types of organisations help to develop strong entrepreneurial ecosystems in the region. There is also an awareness among governments and policy makers in the region that entrepreneurship certainly has some value to sustainable development and even though a lot more work needs to be done, it has started and it is progressing.”

Brandon says that there is still more scope for more research and implementation in the region. (JH)

Wastewater policy and challenges to be addressed

IN JUST over a week, regional Ministers of Government representing Water, Wastewater and Solid Waste will be in Barbados, to participate in High Level Ministerial talks.

The officials will be attending a two-day session which takes place within the 22nd Annual Conference and Exhibition of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association to be held at the Hilton Barbados October 6-11.

Chairman of the High Level Sessions, Stephen Lindo, explained that the 9th high level ministerial forum in Barbados comes on the heels of the previous meeting held in the Bahamas last year. The theme is “Water and Sanitation in the post- 2015 Development Agenda: Addressing Wastewater Policy and Financial Challenges in the Caribbean.”

It was explained that 85 per cent of wastewater entering the Caribbean Sea remains untreated, which negatively impacts human health, tourism and livelihoods. The conference is intended to draw greater attention to the social, environmental and economic costs, recognising that wastewater management receives little attention and continues to be neglected.

According to Lindo, “The main purpose will be to achieve greater harmonisation of water governance within the region, thereby leading to the development and implementation of regional approaches and policies for the wastewater sector management in the Caribbean.”

He said that the sessions will be hosted by Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Water Resource Management Dr. David Estwick, and Water Ministers from 13 Caribbean countries including Haiti and the Minister of Water from Suriname as expected to attend.

“We will be looking at varying issues such as methods of financing wastewater development and wastewater infrastructure within the Caribbean region and we are also looking to see whether we can use the human resources within the Caribbean rather than having one country with an abundance of resources and not sharing those intellectual resources with other countries.”

Also on the agenda, will be disaster management, waste water development whereby the Caribbean region can benefit from shared knowledge.

“We are expecting that this session will be fruitful and we will be able to take some of our issues within the region to the Council for Trade and Economic Development within the Caribbean and we have got to be able to find ways of funding development projects in water and wastewater throughout the Caribbean.”

CARPHA fighting childhood obesity

The newly established Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) along with member states have set the strategic goal of reducing avoidable deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 25% by 2025.

This was disclosed by Dr. C. James Hospedales, Executive Director of CARPHA, in his message for Caribbean Wellness Day, which was celebrated on Saturday, September 14.

“We will also seek to reduce and reverse the levels of childhood obesity. At CARPHA, we see that the need to act is paramount to safeguard the health of our children. And we promise to act – together with member states and our partners in health, civil society and the private sector. We will advocate for social and policy changes that reduce and reverse the epidemic of obesity in our children,” he said.

Dr. Hospedales highlighted that Caribbean countries have some of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world.

According to him, 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 of the region’s adolescents are either overweight or obese.

“This is mainly due to poor dietary intake and low levels of physical activity,” he acknowledged.

“Particularly worrying are the low levels of consumption of fruits and vegetables and high levels of consumption of carbonated beverages in our schools.

“This is not only a matter of individual choice, but a matter of environments that promote obesity, for example the easy availability of high fats, salt and sugar in food; the heavy advertising of junk food to children; and a high level of screen time, watching television and video games.”

In keeping with the role at CARPHA, to prevent disease, promote and protect health, Dr. Hospedales also revealed that they will be implementing a multi-level programme to promote healthy weight and prevent and control childhood obesity.

“This comprehensive programme was successful in changing the lifestyles of children in France and in reducing the problem of obesity. At CARPHA, a scientific expert group has identified this as a unique best practice globally.

“However, there will need to be significant support and investment from the public and private sectors and I remain confident that this will occur given the need to protect the health
of our children,” he assured. (TL)


THE IMPACT of climate change, inadequate tariffs for sustainable provision of water services and ageing infrastructure.

These are some of the major challenges that must seriously be addressed in the region, a reality President of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA), O’Reilly Lewis, says will be discussed during the upcoming 22nd Annual Conference and Exhibition of his organisation, which is being hosted by the Barbados Water Authority next month.

President of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association,
O'Reilly Lewis (left), along with Chairman of the High Level
Session and Barbados Water Authority’s Senior Engineer,
Stephen Lindo, outlined some of the challenges to
be addressed during the upcoming conference.
He told the media recently that this conference falls in a year when water-related issues in the Caribbean have been prevalent in the regional news, from irregular rainfall patterns affecting water supply in many of our islands, to deaths linked to consumption of contaminated water.

Lewis also pointed to limited waste water management systems leading to contamination of the natural environment and inadequate institutional arrangements for water resources management.

As it relates to climate change, he said there is overwhelming evidence that the risks to water resources associated with the impact of climate change are significant, especially for small island developing states.

“For example, it is now expected that climate change will lead to longer dry spells in the upcoming years. This is likely to not only decrease the availability of freshwater resources, but also increase the
demand for their use. Similarly, rising sea levels will impact negatively on the availability of groundwater resources.

“This makes it even more urgent for the practitioners in the water sector to work towards securing future water supply and to be more efficient in providing water services to the Caribbean people. The practitioners in the sector must constantly be examining and exploring new avenues for improvement. We have to be proactive in bringing our issues and concerns to the policymakers in such a way that will precipitate positive change for the sector.”

He says this is the aim of the CWWA – facilitating dialogue on the issues and challenges facing the water sector in the Caribbean –  the dialogue amongst water sector professionals and the dialogue with the policymakers.

Lewis, along with Chairman of the High Level Session, Stephen Lindo, and co-chair Andrea Gill, outlined some of the sessions that will be featured during the conference, which takes place at the Hilton Barbados October 6-11. These include workshops, technical sessions and seminars. There will also be exhibitors and vendor showcases featuring companies in the sectors from across the world, as well as series of regional leadership conclaves and roundtable sessions. (JH)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Encouraging investor corporate social responsibility

Caricom governments are struggling to maintain the levels of social and other spending that electorates have come to expect.

From health care to roads and education, few nations in the region now have the capital or the ability to raise new revenue to grow the social sector, finance infrastructure or create employment. Instead, IMF programmes, austerity and the economic climate since the 2007/8 global recession have meant that almost everywhere in the Caribbean state spending has been decreasing, leaving a negative legacy for future generations.

The unfortunate response of much of the region has been to turn inward; try to sit out what most still see as the effect of a slowly ending global recession, rather than something partly self-made; and to pursue instead, national self interest while undertaking a policy of fiscal consolidation in ways that seem likely to frustrate short term growth.

While wishing the world was in some way different appeals to broad strands of national and regional sentiment, it is unlikely to be the way in which small islands or nations will achieve significant economic growth once global recovery takes hold.

Having failed to integrate the regional economy; lacking in contiguous borders and consequent economies of scale; finding absent even the minimum requirements in the way of low cost sea or air transport; suffering from an excess of governance; and unable to reduce its cost base, there now seems little likelihood that most of the Caribbean, in its own right, will be able to trade its way out of relative decline.

Faced with this unspoken reality, governments of the region, still committed to wanting to transform the lives of their people, now see almost the only option left to encourage growth, is to welcome in foreign investment on a significant scale.

This involves actively encouraging countries and companies to invest in major projects making use of the changing value of the region’s physical location; recognising a probable future for some, based on oil and gas recovery; changing legislation to create development zones; accepting that the Caribbean has the brand and environment to attract much more in the way of tourism related investment; and even embarking on the large scale sale of shared investments for citizenship.

The consequence is that ever bigger projects are being considered. These include a proposed Chinese US$1.5 billion container and transhipment port off Jamaica’s south coast which may employ tens of thousands of Chinese and hopefully just as many Jamaicans; encouraging the interest of major global oil companies in exploring for oil and gas in locations like the three Guiana’s, Belize, the Bahamas, Cuba and possibly other locations; hotel investments, like the $1.3 billion, 4 690-room Chinese built and financed Bahamar project in the Bahamas; a vast US$2 billion Brazilian-financed port, manufacturing and real estate development at Mariel in Cuba; and other proposed developments in locations from the Grenadines to the Dominican Republic involving a wide array of other investors.


However, the reaction against foreign investment still remains strong in many Caribbean nations.

The criticisms are various. They include concerns about the failure of governments to ensure there is benefit to downstream local industries and individuals; a belief that the repatriation of profits to other nations does little to encourage the common wealth; and anger that the incentives and exemptions from tax that are offered to overseas investors are not available to domestic or regional investors. It encompasses a belief that large scale foreign investment, particularly in the tourism sector, damages smaller local enterprises; a view that many of the largest projects now envisaged will have a negative environmental impact; and a growing resentment of imported labour.

There are also other more philosophical doubts. Variously expressed, these focus on whether the ceding of local ownership or land results in a loss of sovereignty, the effect it has on a nation’s ability to determine its own future, the possibility that huge investments threatens national identity, and whether the region is entering into some new form of colonial or dependent relationship.

Although all of this is understandable, and many of these issues are important and require national debate, they also reflect a lingering hangover from the politics of the 1960s which left the region decidedly schizophrenic about the role to be played by those from outside who want to profit from and in the region.

Irrespective, the world has moved on, capital flows freely, nations from Burma to Brazil and Mauritius vie to offer attractive terms, and even socially focussed hemispheric nations like Cuba have established rigorous but increasingly flexible development zone criteria relating to large scale foreign investment.

There should, therefore, be no reason why, once government and opposition agree that a large scale investment is in the national interest, and the benefits are made clear, that both explain how they will ensure that the companies concerned demonstrate social commitment.

The reality is that any high quality investor wants to do this. If they are corporately socially responsible, they will want work in a genuine way to be supportive, create local jobs, recognise environmental and local concerns, understand issues that touch local communities, and be prepared from the outset to engage in dialogue if they are seriously committed to a country.

In this respect, a particularly welcome recent initiative is that being undertaken by the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies and the Caribbean Export Development Agency. This aims to create investor role models through a new Regional Investor of the Year Award that will recognise the contribution made by both local and foreign investors to the creation of new jobs, high standards of corporate social responsibility, capital spending, and fiscal support to economies through the payment of corporate taxes.

Caribbean Governments should be more prescriptive. If China, Brazil, the US or other interests want to invest in huge infrastructural projects, they should be told that they must adopt the same high standards as the global companies that consistently win prizes for corporate social responsibility.

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

What about the Syrian people? Do they count?

The last month’s chessboard politics about Syria and the use of chemical weapons have done nothing to stop the large-scale suffering of the mass of Syrian people, but they have underscored the inadequacy of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Throughout the last two years of the civil war in Syria the veto-privileged members of the UNSC continue to show that they each place higher priority on their own narrowly-defined national interests than on the welfare of people in affected countries.

The Syrian statistics speak for themselves: over 2 million people have fled from the country and many of them are refugees in bordering states; over 6 million people have been displaced from their homes; and over 100 000 people have been killed, including children. These figures are not disputed but in their cold statistics – huge though they are – they fail to portray the full scale of suffering being endured by the Syrian people.

A UNSC concerned with global peace and the welfare of people, would have joined together at the outset of the Syrian conflict to avoid its escalation and to promote and enforce a solution.   Instead, the five veto powers on the UNSC – in particular the Russian government – did everything possible to advance their own interests. In the result, the civil war escalated, fuelled in part by two regional neighbours, Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are fighting a proxy war in Syria of Sunni against Shia Muslims.

There have been many instances in the past that starkly revealed the absolute necessity to reform the UNSC, especially to remove the wholly undemocratic veto powers of each of the five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russian and the United States of America – that have consistently paralyzed the body. Once again, the utter failure of the UNSC to act together in Syria has emphasised how poorly it serves the people of the world in its present form.

It is unlikely that the veto-nations on the UNSC will act with any greater sense of global responsibility as events over Syria unfold in the coming weeks. The potential proposal to avoid a military strike by the US is extremely difficult to implement. It should be recalled that it is Russia that responded to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s suggestion that a US military strike could be avoided, if Syrian President Bashar Assad gave up his chemical weapons under international supervision. Assad has seemingly agreed to do so after years of denying that his government had any chemical weapons at all.

It is also important to remember that both the Russian government and he jumped on this potential solution only in light of US President Barack Obama’s threat of a military strike.

Full co-operation

The process of identifying the location of stockpiled chemical weapons requires the fullest co-operation of the Syrian authorities, including those elements of the military that would be strongly opposed to it. Additionally, quarantining the stockpiles and guarding them necessitates the use of external forces authorised by the UNSC – this calls for close and meaningful collaboration by the veto-five nations. In the best of circumstances, this would be a feat difficult to accomplish; in a country beset by a civil war where movement is a major challenge, it is almost impossible. Add to this already poisonous brew the mistrust that exists on all sides and the difficulty of the situation assumes enormous proportions.

And while these manoeuvres take place, the war in Syria and its terrible consequences for the Syrian people continue. The only good thing that might have come from them is that they should deter the further use of chemical weapons. The cruelty and prolonged agony chemicals inflict on victims cannot be hidden. Any further use might arouse enough anger in a world community – that has so far been content to be spectators to the conflict in Syria – to demand action by their governments. But, of course, ending slaughter by chemical weapons does not end carnage by other means.

Public opinion on whether their countries should intervene in Syria has been influenced by two things. The first is the deceit by governments – in particular the US and British governments under George W Bush and Tony Blair – about weapons of mass destruction held by Saddam Hussein to justify the invasion of Iraq; and the second is the widespread view held in many parts of the world that Muslims are terrorists. Therefore, even though no government or political party dares to say it publicly, they are keenly aware that the overwhelming sentiment in their constituencies is that the Muslims in Syria should be left to get on with their war against each other.

Many governments around the world have concluded that military intervention in Syria by any country or group of countries would be illegal in the absence of authorisation by the UNSC. This position is, of course, legally correct. In stating their position, these governments have also rightly condemned the use of chemical weapons. They have called for a diplomatic and political solution to the civil war in Syria. But, while a diplomatic and political solution might have been possible at a very early stage of the internal Syrian conflict, history of other civil wars instruct that in the midst of current intense conflict, such a solution cannot be achieved especially as governments of major countries within and outside the Middle East have a stake in who wins.

Therefore, the death count that is already over 100 000, the displacement of millions of people from their homes and the millions of refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries and even across the globe will continue relentlessly until one of the many groups in Syria bludgeons the others into submission.

Much Syrian blood will be spilled and many innocent Syrians, including children, will die while the world watches on. This would be a terrible stain on the conscience of all mankind. As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon recently observed: “Our collective failure to prevent atrocity crimes in Syria over the past two and a half years will remain a heavy burden on the standing of the United Nations and its Member States”.

As the UN General Assembly is set to convene, at the very least the governments of the world should call on the five-veto nations of the UNSC to act responsibly and together in Syria, and that should not exclude a credible joint UN military intervention to end further slaughter.

(The writer is a Consultant, Senior Research Fellow at London University and former Caribbean Diplomat. Responses and previous commentaries:

Work towards holistic health

Most countries in the Western Hemisphere, including Grenada, continue to confront a rising incidence of non-communicable diseases. The studies have been done and the conclusions are well-known – our increasingly sedentary lifestyle and nutrition that is further and further removed from the source, is damaging our health. We need to eat food of a better quality and in smaller portions; and we need to move more.

While the statistics continue to cause alarm for medical professionals and health authorities, we would venture to say that casual observation indicates that some of the messages are slowly taking root in the minds of the Caribbean populace. In the last decade, the number of persons engaging in regular physical activity in public spaces has increased. This has perhaps been supported by a conscious effort by the authorities to provide more locations conducive to being active. Meanwhile, others continue to use the familiar exercise spots such as highways and beaches to keep fit. Another encouraging trend is the surge in corporate entities’ endorsing and supporting physical activity. Indeed, hardly a month goes by without a walking or running event, usually under the auspices of a business house. Additionally, most public gatherings are not complete unless they include some form of group physical activity on the line-up of entertainment for attendees. The message that we must keep active is clearly getting through.

However, the other part of the healthy lifestyles equation – nutrition – still has a long way to go. We have really seen a more concerted effort by health authorities to give guidelines on proper nutrition, reducing the use of salt and other ingredients that may make our diets unnecessarily unhealthy. However, while this information is making its way into people’s consciousness, many find that the hectic pace of today’s world does not make for a very supportive environment. The cry is often that it is either too expensive or just easier to eat unhealthy meals, which are more readily available and less time-consuming to prepare then healthy ones.

That said, we do not discount the fact there needs to be an individual desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle. All the recreational spaces and fresh food menus in the world cannot tempt someone who is determined to remain sedentary and to eat ‘junk food’. Indeed, we would suggest that a large part of the process is influenced by an individual’s outlook and priorities. It has been said that it is easier to maintain one’s health than to retain it, but many do not think of this until they are faced with a diagnosis of a chronic non-communicable disease (NCD) and the attendant worries such as the cost of medication and medical treatment, as well as actual enjoyment of life.

Perhaps, therefore, a third component of the equation is missing – emotional health. For many, lifestyle choices that lead to NCDs are a result of trying to ‘enjoy life’ – drinking alcohol, eating rich foods to excess, sedentary recreational activities such as video games, television and Internet surfing… These are activities that speak to a desire to socialise with others and/or dull the senses for at least a brief period of time to escape from life’s worries. Might we suggest, then, that in the promotion of healthy lifestyles, greater emphasis be placed on learning to better manage our mental health – and in a way that does not harm our bodies? Human beings are more than just flesh and bones; we are thoughts and emotions as well. Any lifestyle that does not address the entire package will fall short.


By Linda Straker

Though it received the approval of both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament, the Electronic Crimes Bill has not yet been assented to by the Governor General nor has a date of effect been assigned for its commencement.

The Electronic Crimes Bill is among a number of Electronic Bills which required the approval of Parliament to ensure the legality of electronic trans-actions and services as Grenada puts structures in place to make more use of technology as a means of reforming some services offered by the public and private sectors. The other E-bills are: The Electronic Filing Bill; the Electronic Transactions Bill; the Electronic Transfer of Funds Crimes Bill and the Electronic Evidence Bill.

“In the absence of these bills, people who conducted electronic transactions were taking a big risk with their services and finances,” said Senator Christopher DeAllie, who represents the Business community in the Senate. “In particular the financial sector, they need those Bills even though they were offering electronic services,” he added.

However, it is the Electronic Crimes Bill which, among other things, makes it an offence to send offensive electronic messages publicly, especially via social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which received criticism and concerns from mainly political supporters and media organisations.

The law says that a person shall not knowingly or without lawful excuse or justification send by means of an electronic system or an electronic device: (a) information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; (b) information which he or she knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will persistently by making use of such electronic system or an electronic device; or (c) electronic mail or an electronic message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience, or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.

The Electronic Crimes Bill also makes it an offence for anyone to engage in electronic identity theft; conduct and participate in the distribution of child pornography; engage in prank calls to law enforcement; participate in electronic stalking; involved or be responsible for spoof and spam e-mails and other electronic formats; engage in electronic fraud and forgery; participate in electronic terrorism; and to violate another person’s privacy.

DeAllie said that although the private sector had concerns about the language of the Bill, they do understand the importance of including the section about sending offensive messages. “There are persons who are bent on doing mischief and even if one may have redress in the civil court, decriminalising such an act is not to attack a group of persons or organisation, but providing protection for all,” he said.

“One of our main concerns is the speed at which these electronic messages, good or bad, can affect and at the same time endanger others. During our discussion, we learnt of a foreign businessman here who had to spend time and money to clear a situation about his name, which started in Grenada and affected his business overseas. Those who did it had political motive, knowing that what was done was untrue. This just cannot be right,” said DeAllie, who feels that criminalising the act deters and reduces the amount of persons who will engage in such acts.

“We all understand the power of the Internet and when something wrong goes viral, the damage is done and it’s not easy to repair one’s image when it’s damaged and that applies to both individual and corporate bodies,” he said.

Leader of Government Business in the Upper House, Senator Kenny Lalsingh, said that once the Bill is gazetted, the Minister responsible, in agreement with the Cabinet, will approve a date of effect.

“Until that is done, the Bill will be described as sleeping and cannot be used for legal argument in the court,” he said.

Review of labour force under way

A five-week Labour Force Survey which, among other things, will provide updated estimates of employment and unemployment, is scheduled to begin in Grenada today, September 20, 2013.

The Central Statistical Office of the Ministry of Finance and Energy, in collaboration with the OECS Secretariat and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Decent Work Team and Office for the Caribbean, will be conducting the survey, which is scheduled to conclude by the end of October.

A news release from the Ministry of Finance said that the main objectives of a Labour Force Survey (LFS) are: (1) to divide the working-age population into three mutually exclusive classifications – employed, unemployed, and not in the labour force; and (2) to provide descriptive and explanatory data on each of these classifications.

According to the Ministry, LFS data are used to produce the well-known unemployment rate as well as other standard labour market indicators, such as the employment rate and the participation rate.

“The LFS also provides employment estimates by industry, occupation, public and private sector, hours worked and much more. These are all cross-classifiable by a variety of demographic characteristics,” the release said.

The Labour Force Survey is a Household Survey. The data collection will be based on a sample of 1 050 households that will represent the entire island and draws from the Listing of Households collected in the Population and Housing Census.

The Ministry said that the data will be collected through face-to-face interviews with members (or a member) of the sampled households. The information provided by these respondents will be used to produce a picture of the activities of the entire population.

The success of the Labour Force Survey in accurately capturing persons’ employment status depends on the full co-operation of the public. Persons are informed that the work of the statistical department is conducted under the authority of the Statistics Act, No. 30 of 1960 and No. 21 of 1961. The public is therefore assured that information provided to the Central Statistical Office is strictly confidential and would only be disseminated at the aggregate level. The Oath of Secrecy, which will be administered to each interviewer before commencement of duties, also guarantees to the public that information given would not be revealed. Anyone violating this oath can be prosecuted.

According to the Ministry, the information collected is highly critical to the Government as it is key in providing urgent information to address the unemployment situation, which is a concern for all.

“The availability of information on the labour market will put Grenada in a better position to source and access funding for projects related to job creation and also will aid in the sustainable development process,” said the release, which explained that the employment indicators which will be captured are critical in analysing economic and social progress.

“Without these, no meaningful assessment of development performance is complete. Therefore, it is critical to have timely information for effective planning, implementation and monitoring,” said the release. (LS)

UNDP supporting youth entrepreneurship

THE United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Barbados Sub-regional Office is working with Caribbean states to train young people to become entrepreneurs through the implementation of the Youth Innovation (Youth-IN) – A Caribbean Network for Youth Development project. This UNDP support will assist Caribbean states and citizens reduce current unemployment figures, especially among youth.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan, acknowledged that a lack of employment opportunities to enter the labour force is a major concern because it can affect the prospects and opportunities that a person has in the future.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator,
Rebeca Grynspan, and UN Resident Co-ordinator and UNDP
Resident Representative for Barbados and the Eastern
Caribbean, Stephen O’Malley, engaging regional journalists.
Ms. Grynspan also shared with regional journalists during a recent media briefing at UN House that through the Youth-IN project being implemented by the Barbados and the OECS Country Office, youth are benefiting from entrepreneurship training as an alternative to traditional employment.

She noted that technology is key to sustainable development, as renewable energy and the blue economy hold the potential to generate new employment options and sources of income.

“We do not want to allow short-term hardship to become a long-term problem,” she said.

With respect to future SIDS development, the Under-Secretary-General reiterated her call for international financial agencies to move beyond gross domestic product (GDP) indicators to measure growth and development progress.

She stressed that measuring and assessing the status of middle-income countries by GDP alone limits their access to development funds.

“To be a high income per capita SIDS doesn’t mean anything when you are faced with these external shocks, and so, I would really like to see much more flexibility and much more understanding of the vulnerability of the SIDS.”

She reminded the media that this call went out from the Rio+20 and she said it will be championed by the UNDP at the post-2015 Development Agenda because while there has been more awareness and understanding of the issue, this has not translated into new rules and regulations from the international financial agencies.

She concluded that collective action is needed to resolve these issues and she cautioned it will not be easy but is possible, particularly if the regional and international groupings strengthen co-operation to support the special needs of SIDS.

Tourism Authority Bill to be approved soon

By Linda Straker

Recently appointed Interim Director of the Grenada Board of Tourism, Steve Horsford, is expected to conclude his tenure in December as one of the pieces of legislation expected to get the approval of the Parliament in the early days of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament is the Grenada Tourism Authority Bill.

The Parliament is presently on recess and is expected to re-open during the month of October. The Tourism Authority Bill was first presented to the Parliament in 2011 by the former National Democratic Congress administration, but they had withdrawn it for the Order paper.

Many stakeholders within the sector believe that as tourism becomes more and more the number one sector, there is need to create a structure that will provide those involved in marketing the destination more leverage and establishing an Authority is the best solution.

Other countries in the region, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica, have already adopted the Authority structure for promoting and marketing the destination.

“My role is to oversee the Board during the transition, as Government takes another important step in the marketing and promoting Grenada as a top tourism destination in the Caribbean,” he said.

Former Barbados Tourism Minister, Noel Lynch, who is the consultant to spearhead the process, said that the Authority structure will have one major difference.

“The new law will be giving the operation to be more of a private entity than that of a public entity. The new law is basically commercialising the Grenada Board of Tourism and giving it certain powers,” he told reporters during a news conference.

The Board of Tourism, which was created by an act of Parliament in the mid-1980s, provides for the Board to be the sole body for marketing, promoting and developing the island’s tourism products. It receives millions in subventions from Government. Its early workers were seconded from the Public Sector.

It is anticipated that once the legislation is approved, the new entity will be enforced as of December 2013.

Government has already begun placing vacancy advertisements for chief executive officers and other senior positions for the Authority. It was recently disclosed that all existing staff with the Grenada Board of Tourism will receive termination packages for their years of service. They will have to re-apply to the Authority if they are interested in any of the va-cancies under the Authority structure.