Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Waggy T football climaxes this weekend



Hundreds are expected to crowd the National Stadium on Saturday for the final of the Waggy T Super Knockout Football Tournament. The past two months have seen keen and exciting football; and the level should be at its highest at the teams reach for the major Prize. The ladies start the action at six in the evening with final between SGU Ladies Knights and FUTGOFF. Both scored semi-finals wins last week, to set-up an interesting play-off.

SGU Ladies Knights showed a lot of composure, coming from behind to beat St Patrick 2-1 on Saturday in a fairly even contest. Claris Alexander gave St Patrick the lead in the 10th minute; but SGU Ladies equalised in the 53rd minute through April Esquivel. Jennifer Spinozzi showed a lot of skills and brilliance running from the half-way mark, eluding three defenders in the process to win the game for her team, in a truly well-organised display.

Hard Rock celebrate after win.
Hurricanes celebrate after win.
FUTGOFF, meanwhile, produced an awesome display thrashing Petro Caribe Queens Park Rangers 7-1. Goals by national players Cherise Hood in the 5th, 10th, 30th and 54th minutes and Roneisha Frank in the 15th, 43rd and 56th minutes sunk the opposition. Meanwhile, an exciting contest is in the making when, Clarkes Court Hard Rock and Diamond Concrete Works Hurricanes meet in the Men’s Final, from around 8:15 in the evening.

They scored battling semi-finals wins last weekend, to set up what is expected to be a fascinating contest. Hard Rock beat Grenville Co-operative Credit Union Boca Juniors 5-4 on penalty kicks, after they had played to a fast, furious and gripping one-all draw during regulation time. Marcus Julien gave Hard Rock the lead in the 19th minute from the penalty sport after the ball was handled inside the box. But Hard Rock drew level in similar circumstances, when Kimmon Redhead hit the target from the spot, after the ball was also handled.

In the penalty shootout that followed, Kade Wellington, Lisdon Jules, Tyrone John and Kimmon Redhead were bang on target for Hard Rock. But Marcus Julien and Daniel Toussaint missed for Boca Juniors after Chad Mark, Kareem Jack and Josh Charles had hit the target. It also took a second penalty shootout, as Hurricanes advanced with a 5-3 triumph over the 2012 Champions LIME Paradise Sunday, after they had battled to an exciting one-all stalemate during regulation time.

National player Clive Murray put Paradise ahead in the 22nd minute; but Leon St John scored probably the goal of the tournament- a sensational 40-metre strike, which stunned the 2 000 fans at the National Stadium. Paradise could only score two of the five penalties; while Rickel Augustine, Rohan George, Cassim Langaigne and Moran Phillip, netted to give Hurricanes the advantage.

The winners collected EC$2 000 for their victories and are in line for an attractive jackpot in the final this weekend, with the winner guaranteed EC$35 000. The losing finalist earns EC$15 000. The two-month tournament climaxes in style with a big concert featuring Reggae/Soca Sensation Skinny Banton out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Reggae Sensation Charlie Black from Jamaica and local boy Tallpree. The Live and Direct Dancers are also in the swing.

A new US policy for the Americas


Last week the United States’ Secretary of State, John Kerry, spelt out a new US policy for the Americas. In a major address in Washington, he confirmed the approach that took hold during President Obama’s first term, formally drew a line under the Cold War, and set aside, hopefully forever, the interventionist thinking that has underwritten US policy towards the hemisphere since 1823.

His remarks also gave prominence to US-Cuba thinking, making clear that the new policy also applied to relations with Havana.

Speaking at an event co-sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Organisation of American States on November 18, the Secretary of State declared that the era of the Monroe Doctrine was over and that the United States will no longer seek to intervene in the affairs of other American states.

The US was moving on, he said, and was making a different choice.

For those who may not know, the Monroe Doctrine emerged from US President James Monroe’s annual message to Congress in 1823 which in part warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere. The approach which came to mean that only the US had the right to intervene was invoked symbolically in 1962 when the world stood on the edge of nuclear Armageddon after the Soviet Union began to build missile-launching sites in Cuba.

In a wholly different response, Mr Kerry said: “The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states. It’s about all of our countries viewing one another as equals, sharing responsibilities, cooperating on security issues, and adhering not to doctrine, but to the decisions that we make as partners to advance the values and the interests that we share”.

In his address, Mr Kerry spelt out in detail an alternative vision for the Americas.

Power of diplomacy

Declaring that you don’t need force to have fuerza (strength), Mr Kerry suggested that the alternative in future will be to promote and protect democracy, security, and peace; advance prosperity and education in order to drive the hemisphere’s economies; and that it will be necessary to promote unity in ways that address critical issues such as climate change.

In a message that has as much relevance for the Caribbean as Latin America, and citing President Kennedy’s hope for the nations of Latin America ‘existing side-by-side, confident, strong, and independent and free’, he spoke about the need for successful democracies depending on all citizens having a voice and of respecting those voices.

He spoke too about the need as a part of this to ensure security at home, combating organised crime, protecting women from violence, prosecuting human rights violations and on upholding the rule of law.
 
In his address Mr Kerry also placed emphasis on ensuring that elections are free and fair;  independent institutions being able to hold the powerful to account; and the enforcement of laws that guarantee freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion. He stressed the importance of economic interdependence, shared economic prosperity and the central role that education plays in providing this.

Unfortunately, space does not allow for more detail on what was a seminal speech that went to the heart of changing US policy towards the region and which will have fu-ture importance for the Caribbean, as well as Latin America.

Relations with Cuba

In this context, perhaps the most interesting part of the US Secretary of State’s speech were the five paragraphs on Cuba in which he confirmed that President Obama is engaged in seeking a relationship with Cuba in a ways, it appears, that will broaden functional co-operation.

In language without political pre-conditions and softer in tone than at any time since it became clear in the 1950s that Cuba’s revolution was socialist in nature, Mr Kerry said that the US looked forward
to the day when Cuba would... embrace a broader political reform agenda.

While noting that Cuba was the exception to the democratic norm in Latin America as far as the US was concerned, Mr Kerry emphasised President Obama’s informal but widely reported remarks at a private fund-raiser in South Florida on November 8 that the search was now on for a new updated Cuba policy.

Referring to these remarks at the home of Jorge Mas Santos, the Chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, Mr Kerry noted: “as (President Obama) said just last week, when it comes to our relationship with Cuba, we have to be creative, we have to be thoughtful, and we have to continue to update our policies”.

In what, in an historical context, marks a significant, even dramatic, change in high level US policy, the Secretary of State acknowledged that the US and Cuban governments “are finding some cooperation on common interests at this point in time”. He also made it clear that the US accepted that the reforms being undertaken were genuine. “We also welcome some of the changes that are taking place in Cuba which allow more Cubans to be able to travel freely and work for themselves,” he said.

His remarks were carefully balanced and calibrated. “We look forward to the day – and we hope it will come soon – when the Cuban Government embraces a broader political reform agenda that will enable its people to freely determine their own future. The entire hemisphere – all of us – share an interest in ensuring that Cubans enjoy the rights protected by our Inter-American Demo-cratic Charter, and we
expect to stand united in this aspiration”.

Mr Kerry also noted that each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans visit Havana, and hundreds of millions of dollars in trade and remittances flow from the United States to Cuba. “We are committed to this human interchange, and in the United States we believe that our people are actually our best ambassadors. They are ambassadors of our ideals, of our values, of our beliefs.”

In next week’s column the implications for the Caribbean Basin of Washington’s changed thinking and the US Vice President’s interest in the Caribbean will be addressed.

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

Regional governments must act


Seemingly concerned about offending the principles of “non-interference in the internal affairs of States” and the “sovereignty” of States, the ten Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that are members of the 53-nation Commonwealth have not spoken out in condemnation of the government of Sri Lanka which the UN Secretary-General’s Expert Panel said is guilty of war crimes, particularly the systematic killing of as many as 40 000 Tamil civilians including women and children in 2009.

Similarly, these CARICOM States sent representatives to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in the Sri Lankan Capital from November 15–17, despite evidence of continuing violations of human rights including the “disappearance” of over 1 500 persons and sexual abuse of women and girls by the Sri Lankan army. By saying nothing, CARICOM governments could be adjudged to be bolstering a regime in Sri Lanka that the UN Commissioner for Human Rights says “is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction”.

This situation should not be repeated at home – inside the Caribbean. The failure of the Bureau of the Heads of Government of CARICOM to meet as scheduled on November 19 to discuss a ruling by the Dominican Republic’s Constitutional Court that divested more than 210 000 native-born Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship is deeply troubling. Failure by CARICOM leaders to speak out and to indicate strong objections to the government of the Dominican Republic will result not only in the institutionalisation of a wrong, inhumane and racist programme against native-born Dominicans of Haitian descent, it will also encourage the expulsion of these people from the country of their birth.

The government of the Dominican Republic will do little or nothing to end this abuse of human and civil rights unless there is robust regional and international action. That is why CARICOM governments must act to show their strong objection.

Arguments about “non-interference in the internal affairs of States” and “sovereignty of States” cannot hold with Caribbean governments while such inhumane and racist policies are pursued within the Caribbean region. Reginald Dumas, who served as Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on Haiti in 2004, has already pointed out that sovereignty in this context is “a fig leaf behind which miscreants attempt unsuccessfully to hide: Vorster and Botha in apartheid South Africa, for instance, and, conspicuously in today’s world, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, busy following – by different means – in the footsteps of his late father, the murderous Hafez”.

On the question of “non-interference in the internal affairs of States”, this issue is far too inter-twined with the history of the Caribbean’s peoples, with their dignity and identity and with their own human rights for any government not to be vigorous in response. A government can take or allow a step too far in hiding behind “non-interference in internal affairs”. That step has been taken in the Dominican Republic.

Free from any blame for silence and lack of action, and meriting the greatest credit, is Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines. He has been strident in proposing actions that should be taken to persuade the Dominican Republic government to stop this programme directed at divesting mostly black people of their rights. Dr Gonalves has twice written the President of the Dominican Republic deeming the decision to be “morally repugnant” and in breach of the State’s international human rights obligations. On November 12, he told the CARICOM Secretary-General: “Thus far, CARICOM’s response has been tepid. We ought to take a very robust stance and act accordingly”.

And so CARICOM should.

Take a stand

As a militarily feeble and economically weak organisation of 15 territories (including Haiti), CARICOM has only two strengths – the depth of the intellectual capacity of its people, and moral suasion that it should exercise by example. In the international community, the States of CARICOM should be seen to stand-up for the values of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. There should be no silence or encouragement when other States violate these rights or CARICOM countries individually and collectively will lose the respect and suasion that they have enjoyed in the past.

Lest we forget, the people of Haiti are integral to the freedom of the peoples of the Caribbean.  No Caribbean person can rightly proclaim rights and dignity that are not directly traceable to the rising of Haitians to establish not only the first black republic of the modern world, but also what has been described as “the first free nation of free men to arise within, and in resistance to, the emerging constellation of Western European Empire”.

In this connection, it is not only the voices of the governments of CARICOM that should be raised loudly on this issue, but also the voices of the governments of Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela and – yes – of the United States of America. And, CARICOM governments that share a geographical, historical, cultural and organisational space with Haiti should be in the forefront of the choir.

That is why Prime Minister Gonsalves was right to call on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to re-consider providing oil benefits to the Dominican Republic under its Petro-Caribe scheme. That is also why the Prime Minister is right in saying that the participation of the Dominican Republic in CARIFORUM – a structure for CARICOM countries and the Dominican Republic to deal with aid, trade and investment with the European Union (EU) – should be reviewed toward likely suspension.

In the wider international context, the EU so often the champion of human rights as conditions of its development assistance, should already have spoken out on this issue.

Racist policies that deny human and civil rights to native-born Dominicans of Haitian descent should not be tolerated in the Dominican Republic any more than the denial of birth rights should be accepted in any State of an enlightened and progressive Caribbean where the productivity of every person counts.  

The government of the Dominican Republic should be made to understand that an economic and trade relationship with the rest of the region cannot be devoid of respect for racial and ethnic groups – all of whom make-up our one Caribbean.

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

Pressure mounting


THE heat is being turned up on the government of the Dominican Republic (DR), as a September 23 ruling of that country’s Constitutional Court continues to send waves of concern across the Caribbean Sea. The ruling effectively renders stateless thousands of persons, mostly of Haitian descent.

At the forefront of the protests against the decision has been Prime Minister of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. He wasted no time in recording his dismay, sending not one, but two letters to the President of the DR. In addition, he extended his campaign beyond the realm of moral suasion by moving to have the Spanish-speaking territory suspended from participation in CARIFORUM, as well as the PetroCaribe initiative. In further evidence of the Vincentian leader’s keen attention to the matter, it was the mission from St. Vincent and the Grenadines that brought the issue to the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

CARICOM, CARIFORUM, OAS, PetroCaribe, Dr. Gonsalves is leaving no avenue unexplored in his quest to sway the Dominican Republic. His has been the most strident voice on this issue, but he is by no means the only one. Former diplomat and regional commentator, Sir Ronald Sanders, in his most recent press column, called on CARICOM governments to act. He submitted that with its lack of military might or economic power, CARICOM’s only strengths are “the depth of the intellectual capacity of its people, and moral suasion that it should exercise by example”.

“In the international community, the States of CARICOM should be seen to stand up for the values of human rights, the rule of law and democracy,” Sir Ronald insisted.

CARICOM’s initial position was tentative, expressing “deep concern” and calling on the DR “to adopt measures to protect the human rights and interests of those made vulnerable by this ruling and its grievous effects”. The Secretary General had initially indicated that it would attempt to treat the matter with quiet diplomacy, but now, a Special Meeting of the Bureau of the Conference of Heads of Government met on Tuesday in Port of Spain to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States has already made its position known. In a statement issued at the close of the 58th Meeting of the OECS Authority last Friday, the members of the OECS joined Dr. Gonsalves in calling for assertive action with regard to dealings with the Dominican Republic in CARICOM, CARIFORUM and PetroCaribe.

The CARICOM Bureau meeting concluded on Tuesday, so will we see quiet diplomacy give way to strong-arm tactics? It would certainly be a departure from the usual.

But more importantly, will anything change for the thousands affected by the ruling?

Legal adviser to the Executive of the Dominican Republic, Ramón Pina Toribio, told the OAS Permanent Council in October that in his country, the Constitutional Court’s judgments are “irrevocable and final. They constitute binding precedents for the government and all organs of the State”. Last week, deputy foreign affairs minister, César Dargam, was quoted in the DR daily newspaper Diario Libre that CARICOM had no authority to sanction the DR, describing much of the protests taking place in the international arena as “noise and smokescreens”. Meanwhile, on Friday, the DR government announced that it has developed a plan to resolve the legal status of these dispossessed people, but the details are yet to be revealed.

We continue to watch these developments with interest.

MEMORY LAPSE – Former PM unable to remember reason for imposing visa restrictions on West African States


By Linda Straker

Former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, who also served as the last Foreign Affairs Minister during the National Democratic Congress administration, cannot recall why a decision was made to impose visa restrictions on a number of West African nations as of December 2012.

“I cannot recall why we did this, but something must have happened or come to our attention, as there got to have been a reason for this,” Thomas said when asked what was responsible for imposing the requirement on West African states, such as Nigeria and Ghana.

The visa at the time cost US$100 and took a maximum of six days to process, but there was no gazette published explaining the new regulations. The only evidence found is a four-page PDF document on the Grenada’s US Embassy website, which contains the names of all the countries whose nationals need a visa to enter Grenada.

Information at the Immigration Department revealed that upon taking over the administration of the country following the February 19 General Election, the New National Party, which is led by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, had a cabinet conclusion to repeal the requirement because of the questionable format in which it was instituted.

“First of all, there was no Parliamentary approval for the regulation,” said a Foreign Affairs official, who explained that although the law provides for the Minister responsible to pass regulations for the smooth and effective running of any legislation, there was not even a gazette publication with the date and time of the new regulation.

While confirming that as of March 2013 the requirement was no longer in effect, Head of the Immigration Department, Jessmon Prince, said that at present there is no need for Nigerians and those of other West African nations affected to have a visa prior to arrival, even if it is still seen on the embassy website.

“They are members of the Commonwealth and we respect that right for them to travel to another Commonwealth nation, unless or until visa requirement is imposed as a requirement prior to arrival,” he said.

A revised list is expected to be published as Grenada continues to build its relationship with sovereign states.

Though Grenada’s Nigerian and other West African population is small, the impact could have been felt most by persons from these states who are selecting St. George’s University to pursue university education.

Aiming for stability – Bourne addresses IADB-funded project


IT is important that financial regulators and supervisors are at the top of their game.

So says Professor Compton Bourne, Executive Director of the Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance. He made the comments while addressing the participants of the Second Conference of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB)-Funded Project – ‘Financial Risk Assessment in an Integrating Region: The Caribbean’, which was held under the theme, ‘Assessing Macro-Prudential Vulnerabilities and Policy Frameworks in a Regional Context’, at the Hilton Hotel in Barbados.

Professor Compton Bourne, Executive Director of
the Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance.
“We all know from the experience of 2008 and onward that this hasn’t always been the case and has not particularly been the case in recent times, globally and within the region. But fortunately, stimulated by what has happened in the world and in the region, there is now a determination among regulators and supervisors to get to the top of their game and to stay there,” he said.

He made the point as he explained that such determination is the focus of the IADB-funded project, where they are seeking to enhance the understanding of issues which may potentially affect the stability of the financial sector, as well as enhancing the institutional capacity of regulatory and supervisory systems. Professor Bourne added that the aim of the project is also to help improve techniques and methods for risk forecasting, risk measurement and risk management within institutions, national jurisdictions and across borders and harmonise and establish best practices.

“We are trying to achieve these things in partnership with these entities through several modalities. One being research and analysis and the writing of reports; the second being the production of templates which would guide how data is collected and analysed. Thirdly, through conferences – this being the second of two conferences so far; and through training workshops, one of which has already been held and the other is scheduled to be held in January next year in Guyana,” he stated.

With that in mind, he noted that over the two days of the conference, focus would be placed on a range of topics within the theme, including such areas as Early Warning Systems for Financial Stress Events and the Construction of Indices for Financial Stress; Developing Supervisory Systems for Regionally Important Institutions; Measuring Financial Contagion Risks; Measuring Risks and Stress Testing
in the Non-Banking Financial Sector and the Development of a Regional Crisis Management Plan.

“I am quite confident that we will have a very productive two days and at the end of it, we would have understood a lot of these things better and we would have prepared ourselves more suitably for ensuring that the Caribbean financial sector remains sound and stable,” he maintained. (JRT)

Sylvester is new PSC chairman

Attorney-at-law, Derrick Sylvester.

Derrick Sylvester is the new Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

He received his instrument of appointment on Friday, November 22, 2013. The other members of the five-member commission are: Hudson McPhail, Prescot Swan, Madonna Harford and DeLano Viechweg.

Section 83 of the Constitution says that there shall be a Public Service Commission for Grenada, which shall consist of a Chairman and four other members. Sylvester replaces Gloria Payne, whose appointment came to an end recently.

The PSC contributes to an impartial Public Service with a high standard of competence, efficiency and integrity by giving advice and making binding recommendations to the Prime Minister on:

• The making of appointments to public offices (or posts in the Public Service);

• The removal of persons from such office;

• The exercise of disciplinary control over public officers.

The PSC provides assurance that all actions concerning recruitment, promotions and appointments within the Public Service are:

• Made in an equitable, fair and impartial manner;

• Free from favouritism, patronage and discrimination;

• Based on the principle of merit.

It is also the duty of the Commission to ensure that disciplinary action against public officers is fair, expeditious and effective. (LS)

Church elder denies sexual immorality march was targeting homosexuals


THE chant was: “Man to man is so unjust… woman to woman is even worse,” but Raeburn Nelson, elder of the Marantha Seventh-Day Adventist Church, said that the march was not one targeting homosexuals, but against men’s immorality.

With police escort and a drum corps, members of the Adventist faith, who worship at the Church which is based within distance of the tourism belt, chanted their message and distributed brochures which the elder said was aimed at informing men about their role in the struggle against immorality.

Members of the Church marching against sexual immorality.
“This was really a call for men to turn from their immoral ways.

“There are men who are child sexual abusers, men who are doing other and lots of sinful acts, men who are not caring for their family and so on, so this was call for them to stop the sexual immorality and at the same time check on their health,” he said, while explaining that during the march there were two presentations on issues relating to men’s health.

Spreading the message

“We had a presentation on men and their mental health and the other on prostate cancer,” said Nelson, who explained that this is the fourth march to be undertaken by the church as it seeks to bring the message of health, personal and spiritual living to the wider community and not just its membership.

Though mixed with other issues, this is the first time that an organised group has publicly expressed disapproval to the homosexuality lifestyle in Grenada.

National Unity Front discussing marijuana decriminalisation


A FORMER legislator, who formed her own political party one year ago after being expelled from the political movement she was attached to, has embarked on a series of discussions aimed at getting the views of topical issues, and the first in the discussion will be decriminalising marijuana.

Glynis Roberts, who represented the constituency of St. George South in Parliament from 2003 to 2013 as a candidate for the National Democratic Congress, said that the series of discussions being undertaken by her National Unity Front (NUF) organisation, is aimed at getting the views of nationals about issues that have the potential to change lives, and at the same time, face the realities of what is happening in the world and the actions necessary to adjust or mitigate.

“We are not going with a mindset calling for the legalisation or to keep it criminalised, we really want to hear the arguments, we want people to get a better understanding, so that when a decision is made one way or the other people are well informed,” she said.

The panellists for the discussion, which will be held in the rural community of Tivoli on December 1, include Lawyer, Anselm Clouden, Head of the Drug Square in the Royal Grenada Police Force, James Rodriquez, Dave Alexander of Drug Avoidance Secretariat, and well-known trade unionist, Bert Patterson, who will be speaking in his private capacity. A representative is also expected from the Conference of Churches.

Clouden, who is a well-known criminal lawyer, has over the years called for the decriminalisation of marijuana for medicinal use. In recent times, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, has called for a regional discussion on the decriminalisation of marijuana.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, most countries have enacted laws against the cultivation, possession or transfer of cannabis. These laws have impacted adversely on the cannabis plant’s cultivation for non-recreational purposes, but there are many regions where, under certain circumstances, handling of cannabis is legal or licensed.

Cannabis, used medically, has several well-documented beneficial effects. Among these are: The amelioration of nausea and vomiting, stimulation of hunger in chemotherapy and AIDS patients, lowered intraocular eye pressure, as well as general analgesic effects (pain reliever).

Roberts said that among the topics for future discussion are legalisation of casino gambling and the use of sports as a tool for development and economic growth.

Burke admits to seeking job with multitude of institutions


FORMER Finance Minister Nazim Burke has confirmed that he has submitted applications to a multitude of institutions inside and outside of Grenada, as he takes steps to secure his economic livelihood.

Burke made the admittance by updating his Facebook page status, following a story which was published in another section of the press that he had refused to confirm or deny that he had applied to an international organisation for a job that will see him residing outside of Grenada for a period of three years if he is successful.

In his statement posted on November 22, Burke said that in the aftermath of the February 19, 2013 General Elections, in which his Party, the National Democratic Congress, was voted out of Government, he has quite naturally been taking steps to secure his economic livelihood. “This duty I owe, not only to myself, but to my family,” said that statement from the Senator, who is one of three representing the Opposition in the Upper House of Parliament.

Without providing details, Burke said that there were deliberate and spiteful interventions by certain persons on at least two occasions in an effort to deprive him of an economic opportunity and undermine his economic livelihood.

“I regard it as contrary to my best interests to publicly declare what applications and expressions of interest I have submitted and what economic opportunities I am pursuing. What I am prepared to publicly declare, and do publicly declare by this statement, is that I have no plans or intentions to take up residence outside Grenada for any period of time,” he said.

Organised crime seen as big business


Crime, and in particular organised crime, is often viewed by criminals as a business, and the whole idea of getting caught is just seen as an “occupational hazard”.

While delivering remarks at the opening of a two-day Proceeds of Crime Judicial Symposium held at the Barbados Supreme Court earlier this week, British High Commissioner, Her Excellency Victoria Dean, noted the above, while stressing the need for the enforcement of proceeds of crime legislation across the Caribbean.

“The predominant reason why people commit crime is to make a financial gain, and it is often the case that the potential financial reward far outweighs the risk of being arrested, prosecuted and punished.

“Criminals regard being caught as an occupational hazard, and are quite prepared to pay a fine or serve a term in prison, knowing full well that their assets will not be affected,” the British High Commissioner reasoned.

Noting that South America, Central America and the Caribbean suffers greatly from organised crime, mainly drug trafficking, she pointed out that this has brought with it an increase in violence, particularly involving guns.

“Crime and violence deters investment, especially when the economy is mainly reliant on tourism and it hinders development,” Dean stated.

Acknowledging that there are significant challenges that small countries face as they commit precious resources in taking the fight to criminals involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, Dean however noted that the UK Government, through the Department for International Development funded Caribbean Criminal Assets Recovery Programme (CCARP),  has made a commitment to support law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to confiscate the assets of organised criminals in Belize and Guyana and the Eastern Caribbean, and to seize £5 million worth of the proceeds of crime over the 2011-2015 period. (RSM)

Caribbean region has kept up-to-date on financial stability analysis, says CBB Governor


Caribbean nations have kept themselves at the forefront of changing international currents in economic and financial analysis, and Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Dr. Delisle Worrell, says that financial stability analysis has been no exception.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the ‘Conference on Financial Risk Assessment in an Integrating Region: The Caribbean’ at the Hilton Hotel, Barbados, Governor Worrell said the region was early in the field in this regard, and has kept abreast of analytical developments over the years.
Some of the participants attending the two-day conference.

“As a result, three of our central banks now publish financial stability reports with in-depth analysis which is comprehensive, sophisticated and is designed to address the principal areas of potential vulnerability we face. That includes some analysis of regional risks, because our national financial systems are intimately linked, and it is necessary to assess regional and international risk exposures in the search for completeness of national financial risk policy,” he said.

Furthermore, there is also a history of regional financial surveys, reflecting the fact that the financial systems within the region have been interlinked by ownership and financial transactions for generations.

“The IMF sponsored two regional workshops on financial risk analysis in the years I worked for that institution, where we were able to bring together the research that had been done in the Caribbean with leading international expertise which the Fund was able to provide.

“Out of this effort, we now have increasingly sophisticated Financial Stability Reports being published by Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. They all have a regional dimension, because the intra-Caribbean linkages are so pervasive that a meaningful assessment of financial stability must take account of risk exposures from around the region, as well as those arising locally,” he explained.

Regional structure

With that in mind, the Governor referred to the regional financial architecture, which he explained is built on that foundation of analysis, as well as the network of co-operation which financial supervisors have established within the region. He indicated that there are now regional associations for the supervision of banking, insurance, securities trading and pensions, as well as a regional group on anti-money laundering.

“The task before you is to stitch together the operational and informational arrangements for regional assessment and monitoring of financial stability on an ongoing basis. The outlines of the way forward are set down in the project document on the basis of which the IDB agreed to provide funding for this effort. It envisages that each country, or sub-region in the case of the ECCU, would have established an overarching framework for financial stability, led by the central bank. The regional architecture then becomes the mechanism which binds together the national and sub-regional financial stability functions,” Dr. Worrell added.

The country’s leading economist further pointed out that the Committee of Central Bank Governors is at the top of that regional structure, with each Governor as head of the financial stability function in the area under their jurisdiction, and he explained it is the task of the current conference to move forward with the process of putting that system in place.

He maintained that this is a high priority for the Caribbean region, and they are desirous of a speedy conclusion. (JRT)

‘LIAT needs a regional solution’


LIAT must be handled from a regional perspective. This came last week Wednesday amidst statements made by Barbados’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy.

He made it abundantly clear that the Ministry is working to restructure the airline at various levels, but he called upon the region to get involved.

The Minister admitted that it is a difficult situation, but assured, “We are very much in the process of trying our best with LIAT.”

He said that they are doing all they have to do “to make LIAT more competitive”. However, he beseeched, Barbados cannot do it alone.

To illustrate his point, with respect to taxation, Sealy said, “We are trying to restructure LIAT, in order to put it in a position that we can get demand up to the point that we can look at lower levels of aviation taxation, and that in itself is a discussion that has to be held at the regional level, because even if we [Barbados] reduce our taxes to nil, you still may have to pay taxes in other jurisdictions as well, where the flights originate or where they are heading, and so, a regional solution needs to be dealt with.”

He asserted that the Democratic Labour Party did not introduce the taxes, that the level of taxation is “nothing new”, and contended that “aviation is a heavily taxed industry, not only in Barbados, but the world over”.

Additionally, he reminded that part of the restructuring of LIAT includes the upgrading of the fleet, and to facilitate such, “It is this Government that engaged with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) a loan to just under Bds$17 million, and we are going through a re-fleeting exercise that is worth well over a $100 million.”

Again looking to the region in order to ensure completion, he added, “As we continue to get the equity contributions from the various shareholders, we will be in a position to complete the full change-out sometime during the course of next year. Apart from the CDB, the shareholders are required to make equity contributions, and that will allow us to complete the re-fleeting exercise.”

Organisational-level changes

Sealy also said that in addition to physical improvements, there must be change at the
organisational level. He said, “One of the conditions of the CDB loan, actually, is a full-scale institutional strengthening of the commercial department, and that is the sine qua non for getting the money out of CDB.”

Therefore, going forward, “Speaking of the commercial department, the Marketing and Customer Service department, is here, and the idea is to move Scheduling and Yield Management here as well. So we will have another seven staff members in addition to the 12 that are here. So, by and large, that aspect of the commercial operations will be here as we look to see what we can do to strengthen the work of LIAT,” he said. (KG)

History of PPPs being studied


The Caribbean Development Bank has launched a study into the history of Public/Private Partnerships (PPPs) in the region.

President Dr. Warren Smith pointed out that this was necessary due to the fact that there was “a dearth of Caribbean-specific research on PPP performance and operations”.

“We have recently commenced a major research project entitled, ‘Public-Private Partnerships in the Caribbean: Lessons of Experience and Leveraging for Growth’. We anticipate that the results of this study will deepen our understanding of PPPs, provide valuable information on practical applications, and guide the formulation of an appropriate reform agenda for this region,” he noted.

Making the disclosure while at the Caribbean Public/Private Partnerships for Sustainable Growth forum at Hilton Barbados, he said that the concept of PPPs was still relatively new to this Region.

“The examples of such arrangements are few, and found mainly in road transportation, energy, and in the water sector. As in the rest of the world, the experiences with PPPs have been mixed, with questionable development gains in some cases,” he stated.

Smith said that two recent initiatives have benefited from the partnership approach with the Inter-American Development Bank including the Caribbean Growth Forum and Compete Caribbean.

“Both initiatives assign a central role to the private sector stimulating economic activity and promoting balanced and sustainable development. This PPP Forum marks another phase in CDB’s ongoing collaboration with the IDB to support the emergence of a strong private sector in the Caribbean. Our willingness to work as partners on this exercise is an expression of our shared objectives for the development and sustainability of Caribbean economies,” he said.

“CDB has a lot to learn from this collaboration with the IDB. We intend to draw on their experiences, and use the knowledge gained to determine how best to leverage our own resources to facilitate the deeper involvement of the private sector in the development process across the region,” Smith added.
(JMB)

Don’t delay necessary reforms


INTER-AMERICAN Development Bank Executive Director Caribbean, Kurt Kisto, has suggested that any drive for engaging in successful Public/ Private Partnerships (PPPs) must be spurred by more than just an economic crisis.

He pointed out that with fiscal space narrowing for many regional governments, it would be tempting to embrace PPPs as a policy mechanism to divest public assets and outsource the supply of public goods and services, or as a mechanism to finance, build and operate new infrastructure works, “all in an attempt to improve the national balance sheet”.

Nevertheless, as he addressed the recent Caribbean Public/Private Partnerships for Sustainable Growth forum at Hilton Barbados, Kisto said that such a focus was not enough.

“While pragmatism dictates that PPPs can possibly fulfil some of this criterion, it should not be seen as an incentive for delaying the implementation of the necessary structural reforms in support of fiscal discipline, and for building a foundation for sustained growth and development,” he reasoned.

Kisto stated that PPP arrangements have become the new “go-to solution” for confronting the challenges of financing, constructing and managing public assets and providing public goods and services, and therefore expressed his hopes that stakeholders would be able to craft models that were Caribbean specific, building on international and regional best practices and local peculiarities.

“Within this spectrum, PPPs can however be categorised based on the extent of public and private sector involvement and the degree of risk allocation.

“As such, I do believe that a good starting point for exploring PPPs in the Caribbean would be to identify and define those key elements that constitutes a good PPP, and explore what are the implications of these elements in designing and structuring PPPs that are relevant to the needs of the Caribbean, especially in the context of Small Island States where there are challenges of capacity, scale, scope and the ingrained socio-cultural relations and dynamics between the actors,” he added. (JMB)

HIGH PRAISE FOR CIMH

Federico Gomez-Delgado, representative of the World
Meteorological Organisation (WMO), says the Caribbean Institute
for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) is one of the most
progressive Regional Training Centres of the WMO.

THE Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) is well recognised within the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) as one of the most progressive WMO Regional Training Centres, especially in the area of human resource development.

This was the information coming from Federico Gomez-Delgado, representative of the World Meteorological Organisation, as he spoke at the 53rd meet-ing of the Caribbean Meteorological Council, held recently at the Radisson Aquatica Resort in Barbados.

“The Institute provides expertise for various development projects and has initiated a range of activities that address the concerns of the region, in areas such as climate change, including the monitoring of sea level. For WMO, the CIMH stands out as a model of co-operation in capacity building,” the WMO rep-resentative remarked.

“As with similar Regional Meteorological Training Centres, WMO will continue to work closely with the Institute and the National Meteorological Services (in Barbados), in addressing their human resources development needs,” Gomez-Delgado added.

Stressing that the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation (CMO) Co-ordinating Director, Tyrone Sutherland, as a member of the WMO Executive Council, has been pushing for many years to have the CIMH designated a WMO Regional Climate Centre, Gomez-Delgado revealed that the CIMH is now in its demonstration phase, as part of the assessment process for its eventual formal designation.

Dr. David Estwick, Barbados’ Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, also had high praise for the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH).

He too noted that the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation, the regional arm of the World Meteorological Organisation, has started the process of making its training arm, the CIMH, a WMO Regional Climate Centre, which will guide the region’s activity under the Global Framework for Climate Services.

“This Institution, in conjunction with the Regional Meteorological Services, is involved in a number of projects which are enhancing the climate services provided throughout the Caribbean basin. Projects such as the Caribbean Agro-Meteorological Initiative project (CAMI Project), a project that focuses on increasing and sustaining agricultural production in the Caribbean through the use of weather and climate information; and the Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network.

“Under this project, drought and the general precipitation status is monitored on both the regional and the national scale, through the Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI), which proved to be a highly valuable tool in forecasting the drought of late 2009, early 2010, which was experienced across the Eastern Caribbean,” Minister Estwick acknowledged. (RSM)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Hurricanes looking good for semis


THE mighty force of Diamond Concrete Hurricanes from St. Mark swept into the city last weekend and blew away the pride of River Road Petro Caribe Queens Park Rangers in their backyard to reach
the semi-finals of the Waggy T Super Knockout Football Tournament at the National Stadium. Such an impressive display definitely sets Hurricanes among the hot favourites for the EC$40 000 Championship next week.

The St. Mark’s outfit strung several impressive builds-up together, especially in the first period, and even though appearing to lose some of the force in the second half, as Queens Park Rangers counterattacked, they held out for what was indeed the most impressive win of the quarter-finals – a comfortable 4-2 triumph. They were spurred on man of the match, Rickel Augustine, who struck a hat-trick in a most clinical display.
Diamond Concrete Hurricanes celebrate after their quarter-final win.

He scored in the 6th, 72nd and 78th minutes to set wild celebrations among the many fans from Sunset City, especially “the Horn Man”, who really bellowed. Ryan Alexander hit the other goal for Hurricanes in the 20th minute. Brian Andrew and Irvin Smith were the marksmen for Queens Park Rangers.

In the other game last Saturday, Boca Juniors from St. Patrick got the better of NEWIM GBSS 5-4 on penalty kicks.

They had battled to a one-all stalemate during regulation time, after Dwayne Leo gave GBSS the lead with a delightful free kick from just outside the 18-yard box in the 15th minute. But the ever dangerous striker, Marcus Julien, rose elegantly to head in the equaliser from a precise corner by Jamal Charles in the 24th minute.  Defending champions LIME Paradise meanwhile and Hard Rock advanced last Friday.

Paradise had to fight all the way for a 6-4 victory on penalty kicks in a game against J Mark Construction Sun Setters from Victoria. Shane Renee and Jake Renee scored in the 32nd and 65th minute for Paradise, but Patel Peters netted in the 35th and Shammuah Mark in the 70th to force the issue. Another of the contenders Hard Rock were extended before beating Ball Dogs 2-1. Akimo Peters gave Ball Dogs the lead in the 4th, but Shavon John Brown got a brace in the 23rd and 51st minutes to complete the Hard Rock fight-back.

Hundreds are expected to crowd the national stadium for the semi-finals on Saturday and Sunday, with both men and women in action. SGU Ladies Knights tackle St. Patrick in the first game from six o’clock on Saturday, while there is a much anticipated St. Patrick derby when GCCU Boca Junior engage Clarkes Court Hard Rock. The other games on Sunday pit Futgoff Ladies against Petro Caribe Queens Park Rangers in the opener and LIME Paradise against Diamond Concrete Hurricanes in the other.

The stakes are high as the team reach for the championship prize of EC$40 000, which sets the scene for keen and exciting football. It is the feeling of many that following Hurricanes’ destruction of Queens Park Rangers, they are the hottest favourites to win the prestigious competition, with the gale force winds of the once mighty “Hurricanes” returning. The finals are set for Saturday, November 30. Jamaican Reggae sensation Aidonia, Wuzz Waist featuring Little Natty & Thunder, and Shortpree will lower the curtains in style.

Thinking differently about diversification and investment


It is hard to imagine any discussion on the Caribbean economy taking place without, at some point, it focussing on how best to encourage diversification, enhance competitiveness or attract investment in new industries.

Whether in the past the issue has been about identifying alternative options for agriculture as preferential arrangements for bananas or sugar came to an end; more recently about how best to reduce the region’s vast and unnecessary import bill for food; and on a continuing basis the challenge provided by the region’s alleged over reliance by on the tourism and financial services, the challenge has always been to identify a sustainable economic activity from which the Caribbean might prosper.

Unfortunately, this has not been easy as in most nations, domestic markets do not offer great enough economies of scale and few have governments or an entrepreneurial class that think creatively. Moreover, labour rates remain too high and levels of productivity relatively low to enable the Anglophone part of the region to compete successfully against neighbours in Latin America, let alone globally.

Only it seems in areas where the region has an unique selling point, natural advantage, or in sectors where intellectual capital matters more than market size, has the Caribbean been able to truly succeed.

That is to say in tourism, given the region’s natural environment and geographical location; in creative industries, when individual talent can be nurtured and retained locally; in oil, gas and extractive industries in those nations lucky enough to have deposits or reserves; and in financial services, where an early start and creative approach to new offerings for companies and wealthy individuals have, until recently, kept the region ahead of international competition.

Even then, some nations have been unable to develop and sustain across successive governments a national strategy that ensures much needed new investment, or the long term growth of such industries or the evolution of existing ones.

This is especially challenging in very small islands like the region’s overseas territories which sustain their economies for the most part through tourism, financial services and associated fees. There the recently received message from European capitals is about the need for diversification and to increase the emphasis on encouraging new forms of investment.

This is because their financial services offerings may be less valuable than in the past as a result of the G8 and G20’s announced intention to use the aggressive reporting requirements of the United States FATCA to provide the momentum internationally for the establishment of multilateral agreements on tax exchange and beneficial ownership, in order to widen their global tax net.

What diversification is often assumed to mean is the need to undertake some form of economic activity that is completely new to a country.

However, as the Bahamas Minister of Financial Services, Ryan Pinder, made clear in an interesting recent speech to the Nassau Conference, this may not necessarily be the best option. Speaking specifically about financial services, he suggested that was required is closer attention being paid to positioning a jurisdiction for active business.

By this he meant finding ways to tie the financial management needs of a financial services client to encouraging them to bring a part of their business or commercial activity to the location in which they are making use of the jurisdiction’s tax benefits.

In practical terms, Mr. Pinder suggested, this could mean that the Bahamas might, for example, as a part of its approach, bring together a facility such as its free trade zone, the tax advantage the country was able to offer, and its location as a well-positioned logistics hub, to attract not only the client from a wealth management perspective, but also components of his or her business operations.

What he seemed to be suggesting is that there was now a reason to find a natural connection between the business of the client, the financial management they required and ultimately the residence of the client. This could, he suggested, enable countries to better build on what they already have.

“We have high net worth individuals who began utilising the Bahamas as a jurisdiction for banking, or for use of our products. Their involvement with the jurisdiction evolved from use of the jurisdiction, to being a part of the jurisdiction. Many high net worth individuals have decided to take up residency here in the Bahamas, and have decided to establish physical presence operations here in the Bahamas connected to their respective services businesses,” Mr Pinder said.

The suggestion is an interesting one, especially for any Caribbean nation within easy reach of the United States that can provide quality residential accommodation, local amenities that would attract international executives, security and the geographical and logistical advantage that the physical location some nations offer for certain types of business.

What is suggested may not be to everyone’s taste for political or social reasons and in some respects is not dissimilar to the growing regional trend towards selling citizenship for investment. However, the fundamental difference in the approach Mr Pinder suggests is that not only should the client be encouraged to consider residence for themselves, but also locate either the services element of their business or at best a physical part of their operations if involved in manufacturing or transhipment, in to a regional location offering geographic advantage. This could, he implied, enable countries to singly or jointly better build on what they already have.

His comments are also interesting as they challenge the direction that some governments and countries in the region are going. Rather than accept globalisation and the smallness of the region and its economies, their desire is to manage a small and protected national space in ways that encourage, and then seek to control investment, without finding ways to more broadly facilitate the investor.

These are not easy issues to resolve as they touch on history, national identity, sovereignty, and cultural independence, but increasingly, as many countries across the world are coming to realise, they offer a way to achieve economic diversification and, if well managed, an alternative way to spur a country’s development.

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

Addressing the Caribbean’s ‘grave economic crisis’


In a commentary on the statement by St. Lucia Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, that there is a grave economic crisis gnawing away at Caribbean countries and “governments are busy looking inward rather than pursuing a Caribbean solution”, I drew attention to several possible areas of practical action that governments of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) could take immediately.

One of the suggested actions is to revisit a paper entitled “Re-energising CARICOM” that leaders set aside at a special retreat in May 2011 in Guyana.

Although the retreat was called to discuss the “way forward for CARICOM” against a background in which, just three months before, leaders themselves had acknowledged “a loss of the momentum with regard to the regional integration agenda”, they decided to “pause” development of a Caribbean Single Economy.

What does the “Re-energizing CARICOM” paper say? Authored by Professor Norman Girvan, Economist Havelock Brewster and others, it covered a number of critical areas that have been repeatedly discussed by leaders but never implemented. But, it is the paper’s proposals to prioritise the benefits of economic integration that are urgent for governments to consider, and it is these that I précis below for the information of a wide Caribbean audience.

The paper proposed that revitalising efforts be focused on three sectors: a regional agricultural and food security programme, a regional maritime transport programme and a regional renewable energy programme.

On agriculture and food, the paper pointed out that in 2009, import of food products by CARICOM countries amounted to US$ 3.5 billion, having increased 350 per cent over the period 2000-2009. Yet, on a regional scale, there is no shortage of fertile land and non-saline water. Huge opportunities are available for pooling these resources with the aim of satisfying a substantial portion of regional demand, and supplying extra-regional markets.

The paper contended that action should be centred on a regional investment plan for food production that at the same time catalyses action in other necessary areas such as research and development, sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, quality standards, market information and intelligence, and transport.

On regional maritime transport, which has been the bane of moving agricultural and manufactured products around the region, the paper noted that Caribbean regional maritime transport services are both inadequate and very expensive compared with other parts of the world. And it pointed out that substantial opportunities are available for: intra-regional cargo and passenger shipments, trans-shipment services, cross-roads port and shipping services and containerization.

Acknowledging that substantial investments are required, the paper emphasised that such investments needs to be organised around a holistic approach to expanding and modernising maritime assets, creating larger scale, specialised vessels, and upgrading seaports within a regionally harmonised, regulatory, legal and policy framework.

On the huge sums of money spent on the importation of oil and gas by every CARICOM country, except Trinidad and Tobago, the paper proposed a regional renewable energy production programme.

Pointing out that imports of petroleum (oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals crude) amounted in 2008 to about US $6.0 billion, it argued that there is a huge resource base in the region that can support substantial production of renewable energy: solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, bio-fuels. Not only are there opportunities for sharing renewable energy resources and technology but also for inter-connectivity among interested Member States.

What is required to achieve these goals that would save every CARICOM country tens of millions of dollars every year is a regional investment programme. Governments would have to take joint action on fiscal incentives, harmonisation of the legal basis for the sale of excess power to the main power grids serving the region, training, standards and testing.

The big questions would be how to finance the investment programme and how to implement these three crucial initiatives? The paper provides a very practical answer: the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has an explicit mandate to promote regional integration. The CDB in collaboration with other CARICOM agencies and the private sector should be brought together in the form of a public-private partnership to devise a programme to attract local and foreign investment in these potential growth sectors.

Setting out a structure for such a partnership, the paper suggested it should be composed of the President of the CDB as Chair, appropriate Private Sector Representatives and other relevant agencies. The CDB would have responsibility for the organisation, co-ordination and execution of the investments required for the priority areas, and would work closely with the regional private sector including through a Joint Commission on Regional Development. The CDB would be expected to establish clear time-lines for the execution of the programmes and to report regularly to the relevant CARICOM organs on execution particularly to Finance Ministers and Heads of Government.

With regard to external assistance, the creation of such a Joint Commission should find favour with donor agencies and governments particularly because it will be a body comprising both the public and private sectors and would be subject to the international ‘best practices” rules that guide the CDB. An important effect of such a joint approach would be support for projects that promote new investment. Another benefit would be that the blessing of official donor agencies would encourage additional financing in loans and equity from the external commercial market.

It would be necessary for CARICOM governments to agree with the donors, such as the European Union, that contribute to Regional Co-operation and Integration programmes to co-ordinate and focus such regional programmes under the umbrella of the proposed Joint Commission. Such an agreement would not affect contributions to individual national programmes.

Those basically are the proposals contained in the “Re-energising CARICOM” paper. No CARICOM country would lose by its implementation and every CARICOM country would gain from reduced costs for food, oil and gas. They would also gain from structured, regular and reliable maritime transportation for agricultural and manufactured goods and, therefore, an increase in inter-regional trade. Additionally, both in the build-out of programmes in the crucial areas of food production, renewable energy and maritime transport, and in their eventual operations, existing businesses would expand, new businesses created, and new employment generated.

One blueprint for using regional tools to achieve national growth exists, in the “Re-energising CARICOM” paper. What is required is the political will to do it.

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

Coping with the unexpected


The current drama being played out in Toronto with its disgraced mayor, Rob Ford, is a cautionary tale for democratic countries to ensure that their systems are robust enough to withstand any eventuality.

After months of denying reports made in the media that he had used crack cocaine, had frequently been intoxicated and engaged in other unseemly (and illegal) behaviours, Ford made the stunning confession that he had indeed used cocaine while in one of his “drunken stupors”. Since that November 5 admission, Mayor Ford has been at the centre of a controversy that each day grows more and more embarrassing for both him and the people of Toronto. Despite mounting public pressure and the withdrawal of support by virtually all the members of the City Council, the mayor remains adamant that he is not going to demit office – and until he is convicted of a crime, there is nothing that can force him to do so. Last Tuesday, members of the City Council moved to circumvent his authority by voting to strip him of most of his powers, but he remains in his post.

Quite frankly, it is shocking that the mayor would want to remain in office. It suggests that he is either not cognisant of the gravity of his misdeeds and how it reflects on the position he holds; or that he is simply desperate to cling to power. Neither option is particularly encouraging.

Politics is generally viewed to be an arena where one has to get one’s hands dirty and it therefore requires its players to have a thicker skin than average. Nonetheless, Mayor Ford is exhibiting an extraordinary surplus of this trait. One would have thought that common decency would have guided him to tender his resignation in the face of all that has been revealed, but clearly he is going down fighting.

While we would never suggest that politicians now are any less saintly than those of generations past, it used to be that there was some form of self-imposed accountability when caught with a hand in the cookie jar or in the midst of some other indiscretion. We certainly hope that Mayor Ford’s brand of brashness does not catch on with leaders in other places and spheres. Some might argue that we already do observe a significant level of hubris in our own politicians, especially during election campaigns when all manner of allegations are hurled on the political platforms. However, in Ford’s case, it is more than just empty accusations based on hearsay; there was video evidence and, of course, an admission of guilt from the mayor himself.

Yet, as things stand, the choice is his to stay or go. For the system to allow such a situation to develop indicates a failing somewhere along the line. Perhaps its architects never envisioned a time when an authority figure would be so lacking in shame. Executive bodies around the world should be examining their own frameworks to see if there are similar flaws. Do they provide for a course of action if persons do not play by the unwritten rules of society? Statutes and policies are put in place to protect institutions, organisations and other groupings from suffering due to the fallibility of the individual.

Sometimes lapses in judgement or misconduct can be written off or forgiven with a slap on the wrist. And sometimes they warrant harsher penalties. The takeaway for persons everywhere is to examine whether their systems are adequately equipped to take the strongest possible action.

NO MORE LOOPHOLES – Income Tax law amended to capture Corporate Tax evaders


By Linda Straker

AN amendment to Grenada’s Income Tax law late last Friday provided for companies or corporate bodies with branches in Grenada to declare their net profit from their Grenada operations and pay corporate tax on the profit to the island’s Tax Collection Department.

Economic Affairs Minister, Oliver Joseph, said that it has become a traditional practice of companies with branches in Grenada to transfer the profits of operation to the parent company and pay very little or no corporate tax under the disguise that its local
operation is not profitable.

“This has been happening for years and some of them will establish accounts in low tax jurisdictions and pay very little, and while the location where the profits are actually made receives nothing,” Joseph said in his contribution to the Bill, which was presented to the House of Representatives by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also the Finance Minister.


The amendment came about as a result of legal action taken by the Grenada branch of an international bank operation. Though Government lost the matter and will have to pay legal costs and other fees, the judgement provided an opportunity for Government to approve the necessary legal measures to ensure that the loophole used by the banking institution and other corporate bodies is eliminated.

The matter started in 2001 and the Privy Council judgement was delivered on July 9, 2013. The London-based Privy Council, which is presently the final Appellate Court for Grenada, upheld the Court of Appeal’s ruling in favour of the Bank of Nova Scotia.

The Bank had challenged the Comptroller of Inland Revenue, who insisted that withholding tax was payable on reimbursable head-office expenses pursuant to Section 50(1) of the Income Tax Act, notwithstanding that it was accepted that these sums were not in the nature of income.

The leading judgement in the Court of Appeal was delivered by Mitchell JA where he held that:

1. A branch of a bank (in this case) had to be a separate person within the meaning of Section 50. He found that a branch could not be such a separate juridical person and the effect was that there could not be a payment by “a person” to another person.

2. The payments had to be in the nature of income. The Privy Council agreed with Mitchell JA on the first point but, while not overruling him on the second point, left the matter open. The upshot is that the entire judgement of the Court of Appeal stands.

It is to be noted that the Privy Council was clear that the practice, in this case, of a head office meeting certain group costs and being reimbursed by a branch office, did not suggest tax evasion or avoidance. It submitted that the practice is above board.

It is believed by some that this decision has far-reaching implications for multi-nationals doing business in the Caribbean, as most territories have similar legislation and the potential tax liabilities could run into the millions.

The Bank was represented by Dr. Claude Denbow, SC and James Bristol. The Bank’s Grenada solicitors are Henry, Henry & Bristol, who instructed in the Grenada proceedings.

Prime Minister Mitchell said that the amendment will not require that all companies with branches in Grenada pay the 30 per cent corporate tax on net profit. The law will have to receive the approval of the Upper House and the consent of the Governor General for it to be enforced in 2014.

Millions expected in revenue from new traffic fees


Government stands to haul in millions during the vehicle inspection season for 2014 as a result of the House of Representatives granting approval to new fees and the introduction of new services that will directly affect vehicles and their owners.

The 15-member House of Representatives of the governing New National Party last Friday approved to increase some fees beyond 100 per cent and to include two new services which, according to Gregory Bowen, Leader of Government Business, was being requested or suggested for a long time now.

The new services are personalised license plate, which will cost EC$1 000 and certificate of extract of entry in Motor Vehicle Register, which will cost EC$10. Under the new fees, Examination or Inspection fees moved from EC$30 to EC$75, while amendment to any register or change of ownership has moved from EC$10 to EC$100; Replacement of driver’s license, which was free, will cost EC$50; Driver’s examination fee, which cost EC$10, will under the new structure cost EC$30; while the registration of certificate of registration of motor vehicle, which was free, will cost EC$50.

The new regulation was presented to the House by Bowen, who is also the Minister responsible for Communications and Works. He explained that the examination fee will be applicable each time a person fails the examination.

In justifying the new fees, he said that Grenada has some of the lowest traffic fees in the region and though it’s not aimed at standardising the structure, it will bring about a level of balance within the member state of the sub-region.

“In Dominica, for example, the inspection for a motor vehicle is EC$300 and in Trinidad is TT$300, but here owners just pay EC$30. Whereas as one will say that it’s just EC$150 when we convert to the EC to TT, there is no comparison with Dominica because we all use the same currency,” he said.

The new fees will come into effect once gazetted and date of effect is approved by the Minister as they don’t require the approval of the Upper House because it’s an amendment to the regulation, which falls into the responsibility of the Minister and not an amendment to the legislation.

The inspection period for vehicles is between January and June, and it is believed that there are more than 25 000 vehicles approved to be on the road. (LS)

Strengthening regional meteorological institutions a priority


THE Caribbean Meteor-ological Organisation (CMO) is seeking to strengthen regional institutions involved in climate services, so that these institutions can improve their scientific and technical capabilities to better predict variations and possible changes in the climate that may have an impact on regional countries.

Tyrone Sutherland, Co-ordinating Director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation (CMO), noted the above as he delivered remarks at the opening of the 53rd Meeting of the Caribbean Meteorological Council, held at the Radisson Aquatica Resort on Monday.

Regional delegates gathered at the Radisson Aquatica for the
53rd Meeting of the Caribbean Meteorological Council in Barbados.
“There are ample statistics from the World Bank and other such institutions to show that over a long period, the greatest damages, economic losses and the loss of lives worldwide are attributable to hydro-meteorological hazards such as hurricanes, storm surges, flooding, extreme temperatures and drought,” Sutherland pointed out.

“However, as we make strides towards higher levels of prosperity, we must remain cognisant of the fact that everything we work so hard to achieve is also challenged by our natural environment, which can worsen as we face an increasingly varying and even a changing climate, both of which have come to the forefront around the world, over the last two decades in particular,” he further remarked.


“Therefore, variations in climate and climate-change issues are now also likely to become ‘bread and butter’ issues for our meteorological community,” the CMO co-ordinating director stressed.

Acknowledging that the Caribbean Meteorological Council, which serves as the governing body of the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation, has guided and shaped the development of meteorological services in the English-speaking Caribbean since its inception back in 1962, Sutherland revealed that the Council has been working towards ensuring that its organs, the CMO Headquarters in Port-of-Spain and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) in Barbados, are well placed to assist its member states improve their scientific and technical capabilities to predict variations and possible changes in the climate.

“This is very important because we already see that while the public focuses on the better known natural hazards caused by hurricanes and floods, there is still some confusion in the minds of the public and sometimes governments, over the possible impact of climate change,” Sutherland stated, while suggesting that there are governments that deliberately fuel the cause of the climate-change sceptics, to justify not having to spend resources to combat climate change.

To this end, Sutherland noted that he must congratulate the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and partner organisations around the world for the establishment of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS), which will ensure that small, vulnerable states such as ours in the Caribbean, can benefit tremendously from good climate forecasts, while providing governments and policy makers with this proper and more easily understood climate information. (RSM)

Motion to reduce time spent debating bills approved


By Linda Straker

WITH the exception of Budget presentations, the House of Representatives has approved a motion from the Standing Committee to reduce the amount of time that members can spend contributing to the debate of Bills.

During last Friday’s sitting of the House, Chairman of the Standing Committee, the Hon. Elvin Nimrod, presented the motion, which calls for reducing the time spent on Bills presentation to be 30 minutes and for members’ contribution to the debate on the same bill to be no more than 15 minutes.

Previously, a member presenting a bill could have spoken for an unlimited time, but members contributing to the debate had a limit of one hour. Nimrod told the House because the Budget presentation and debate is not a regular bill, the amendment will exclude budget debates.

This means that the presenter will speak indefinite and members will continue to observe the one hour appointed time to contribute to the debate. June 6, 2013 was the last time the House approved a reduction in time for members to contribute to Bills.

The Standing Committee, which also comprises Gregory Bowen and Tobias Clement, also approved for a senator to be appointed to chair the Public Accounts Committee in the absence of an elected Leader of the Opposition.

“This amendment brings Standing Order Number 40 in line with the present reality of our Parliament not having an elected Opposition in the House,” said Bowen, in presenting the motion.

Presently, Dr. George Vincent, who was appointed by Governor General, Sir Carlyle Glean, as one of the three Opposition Senators, is the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

Telecommunications providers earned EC$166 million


THE seven telecommu-nications providers in Grenada generated revenue of EC$166 million between the period March 2011 to March 2012, according to the latest report of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC).

The 2012 annual report of NTRC says that the revenue earned indicates a 7 per cent increase compared to 2011 and was driven by increase revenue from fixed services, which grew by 26 per cent. The report, which was tabled in the House of Representatives on November 15, said that mobile services generated 44 per cent of the telecommunications sector revenue, which was actually a decrease from the previous year when the mobile sector represented 56 per cent of the revenue to the sector.

“LIME commanded the majority share of the market, recording a total of 58 per cent; with Digicel recording 31 per cent; while FLOW recorded 10 per cent market share,” said the report, which pointed out that telecoms providers invested roughly EC$18 million in the sector during the period under review.

Mobile subscribers top the list of service subscribers with prepaid amounting to 119 211 and post-paid 10 703, and represents 67 per cent of all telecommunications service subscribers at the end of March 2012.

Fixed Internet continues to show dominance on the residential side, amounting to 8.35 per cent of the total market, while subscriber television rose to 9.6 per cent with an increase in residential subscriptions, amounting to 17 316 total subscriptions for the period covered in the report.

Despite earning reduced revenue, the mobile service penetration moved up 9 percentage points and was recorded at 118 per cent, while fixed line penetration remained flat at 25 per cent for a second year.

“Fixed Internet Service penetration, which has increased steadily, albeit at a slow pace, moved up from 13.3 per cent to 14.5 per cent,” said the report, which pointed out that LIME controls 97 per cent of the fixed line market. As of March 2012, there were an estimated 27 727 total fixed line subscriptions.

Ten million international call minutes originated from fixed networks and with regards to international incoming traffic, the report said that there was a decline moving from 16 per cent to 12 per cent for the period under review, while international outgoing traffic saw a slight increase from 5 to 6 per cent.

According to the report, in the past three years, local mobile call minutes grew at a compound annual growth rate of 16 per cent.

“A majority, nearly 90 per cent, of local mobile traffic was on net with Digicel commanding the majority,” said the report, which also explained that within a period of four years, Digicel has shown steady increases in net traffic, while LIME, though consistent for the past three years, showed a significant drop in 2012.

Besides LIME and Digicel, the other telecommunications providers in Grenada, according to the NTRC, are: FLOW, which offers fixed line, Internet and subscriber TV; AIsleCom, which offers only a mobile service; Southern Caribbean Fiber, which offers submarine cable; Grencomm, which offers VOIP; and Green Dot, which offers subscriber TV. (LS)

PPPs can make a positive difference


Speaking on the impact that negative economic growth will have on issues such as infrastruc-ture, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. W. Warren Smith, pointed out the positive influence of Public/Private Partnerships (PPPs).

Addressing the Caribbean Public/Private Partnerships for Sustainable Growth forum, which got under way on Tuesday at the Hilton Barbados, he noted that Caribbean states were seeking mechanisms for shifting more of the responsibility for financing growth-inducing infrastructure from the balance sheet of the government to that of private enterprise.
Some of those in attendance at the forum.

“It is because of the conundrum inherent in the need for governments to put their fiscal houses in order, whilst at the same time needing to get on with the business of investing in economic and social infrastructure, that the interest in PPPs is so great. On the face of it, the PPP instrument can represent an escape route out of the dilemma,” Smith noted.

However, he pointed out that for as many success stories, there were also visible failures, but said nevertheless that this was often due to poor design and unbalanced contractual arrangements frequently traced to inadequate capacity within the public sector itself.

“CDB intends to assist by providing upstream capacity building through the provision of technical assistance and downstream support through financing of private sector investment in PPPs,” he said, adding that in the form of the latter, “CDB would be working with other multilateral development banks as we build our own capacity in this very important area”.

“Our deliberations in this forum will demonstrate the versatility of the PPP mechanisms, enabling both public and private sector to function as true partners in development to deliver public goods and services. Through co-operation, they can better cope with threats to their economic systems, build resilience to natural hazards and create a stable environment for regional prosperity and for growth,” he continued. (JMB)

Heavier focus on promotion, sales needed


GRENADA’s Tourism Minister, Alexandra Otway-Noel, has said that the country must shift into a higher gear where the promotion and sales of its tourism product is concerned.

Commenting on the move from a tourism Board to Tourism Authority, during an interview with staff of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation at the recently concluded World Travel Market in London, Otway-Noel said that such a focus was going to be the charge of the latter Tourism Body.

“The Tourism Board has been in existence for a very long time, and [admittedly] some of the people there have been employed at the board for a very long time. But we’ve needed to up the ante as it relates to our technology and how we promote our destination,” she stated.

“The Tourism Authority is [in line with best practice], many countries are doing it and it is important that we find a strategy that works best. Our strategy needs to be on sales, marketing and promotion,” she further added.

Otway-Noel said that in the past, the tourism board has spent a significant amount of time on product development, often times becoming to occupied with “consuming, trivial details” that other agencies were suited to deal with.

“We need to sell our destination and we need to do it well, and keeping up with modern technology [will enable this]. We have a new formula and we have a wonderful team that we are going to be working with, both at home, in the UK, and around the world. We have to stop talking and start working,” the Minister remarked.

The Minister said that in the promotion of the island, it was critical that the preservation of the environment remained at the forefront. Noting that it was the island eco-landscape which made it unique, she remarked that Grenada would be choosing quality over quantity when it took on board any tourism-related project.

Otway-Noel went on to disclose that the government was currently engaging in several public-private partnerships to strengthen the island’s tourism product.

“[Truthfully,] I think in the Caribbean governments have too much responsibility in tourism, and do not always know what is the best course of action. You really need to rely on the professionals in the industry that have been doing it for 25 years and are the ones that are actually investing in the industry – let them help.”

She lauded Grenada’s private sector for the tremendous support it had shown, particularly in recent time, by coming forward to volunteer and assist wherever it could. (RA)

Caribbean must stand as one to succeed in increasingly competitive market, says Tourism Minister


A RETURN to regionally driven trade shows like the Caribbean Village.

 That’s what Grenadian Tourism Minister, Alexandra Otway-Noel, says she is pushing for, adding that with the increase of players in the tourism market, the Caribbean’s best chance is that it stands as one.

Speaking at the World Travel Market (WTM) held earlier this month in London, which provided sales and networking opportunities for travel and tourism stakeholders from around the globe, Otway-Noel said that though trade shows such as WTM were a significant financial burden, particularly in these times, regional players did not have to miss out on such critical opportunities, but could forge ahead with activities similar to those done in years gone by, which promoted integration and allowed for islands to become more familiar with the diversity of the region.

The Grenada Minister also said she was pleased with the turn out and vibrancy of this year’s WTM, adding that for Grenada, there was a particular buzz.

“[Grenada] is just on the verge of taking off. We’re in the development stages, now we are rebranding ourselves [as a tourism destination]... Our hospitality sector is very excited about what we are doing,” Otway-Noel remarked, citing some of the recent points of celebration for the country.

Among those was the addition of Sandals, which is due to officially be opened on December 15.

“We think it’s going to add a very nice component to our hotel competent... and we are pleased to say, thus far, it is the crème de la crème of the Sandals line. Mr. [Gordon ‘Butch’] Stewart loves Grenada, and he has spared no expense on this hotel, and we are going to have a product that we can be proud of,” she said excitedly.

The Minister also lauded the work of leading hotelier Sir Royston Hopkin, who is currently spending $2 million dollars to refurbish Spice Island Resorts. She credit him for being “very good at maintaining his hotel and evolving with the times,” further noting that it was his hands-on approach that ensured his hotel did so well.

In fact, Otway-Noel pointed out that many of hotels were adding to their product so they could be more competitive. She attributed this confidence shown in part to the progressive approach which the current administration had taken. She added that her ministry was not only bringing a lot of plans and clear direction to the fore, but also implementing.

The Minister said that there were several incoming hotels on the books, and interest from one particular gentleman, the details of which would soon be released.

It was reported last month in another section of the media that Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, part of the Orascom family conglomerate, was planning to build three five-star hotels on the island, and had already met with Prime Minister Keith Mitchell during a recent visit to discuss investment into the tourism and hospitality industry.

Collaboration key in the meteorological world


Collaboration is key in the meteorological world, as climate-sensitive developing countries such as Barbados seek to manage changing climatic risks and current and emerging issues of climate variability.

This was the message sent by Dr. David Estwick, Barbados’ Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, as he delivered the feature address at the opening of the 53rd Meeting of the Caribbean Meteorological Council held at the Radisson Aquatica Resort, Aquatic Gap, Bay Street, St. Michael, on Monday.

Dr. David Estwick (left), Barbados’ Minister of Agriculture,
Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, in talks
with Tyrone Sutherland, Co-ordinating Director of the Caribbean
Meteorological Organisation (CMO), during the session.
“The theme for this year’s meeting, ‘Towards a Global Framework or Climate Services’, clearly demonstrates that trade is indeed not the only issue which requires a global co-operative effort. The issue of weather and climate will also have to be dealt with in a collaborative and co-operative fashion as well, if we are to succeed and stem the tide of climate change and its attendant consequences,” Minister Estwick told local and regional delegates gathered.

“Collaboration is key in the meteorological world, for here, there are no political or territorial boundaries which preclude the free exchange of data and other information between meteorological agencies,” Dr. Estwick added.

Information emanating from the World Meteorological Organisation as recently as November 13th 2013, Estwick said, indicates that the year 2013 is currently on course to being among the top ten warmest years, since records were collected in 1850.

“A study conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the USA, suggests that both the number and intensity of tropical cyclones are likely to increase by the end of the century,” Estwick observed.

“The question may be asked, ‘Are we now in an era of superstorms?’ In 2012, there was Sandy and just recently, Typhoon Haiyan, a maximum category five storm with wind gusts of up to 235 miles per hour. Haiyan resulted in the deaths of many and left thousands homeless,” Minister Estwick announced.

“The damage and casualties it inflicted on the Philippines and other countries along its track, is indicative of the future threats that tropical cyclone prone regions such as the Caribbean are likely to face as the climate continues to warm during this century,” he lamented.

Acknowledging the work done by the Caribbean Meteorological Organisation (CMO), which is an arm of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Dr. Estwick noted that this regional body is a functional autonomous agency within the CARICOM family, which collaboratively deals with the whole question of climate variability, on a daily basis.

Current and emerging issues of climate variability also feature very strongly on the WMO agenda, Minister Estwick noted. At present he said, a Global Framework on Climate Services (GFCS) has been established, aimed at reducing the vulnerability of society to climate-related hazards, through better provision of climate services.

It is therefore important, he said, that all relevant interest groups – government experts and user organisations – feed into the Framework, as the means to strengthen existing capacities and achieve synergies and leverage in climate services.