Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Can the private sector generate regional growth?

When CARICOM Heads of Government met in Antigua earlier this month they had held a ‘frank and enthusiastic’ exchange with selected leaders of industry and commerce.

Who was present, whether this included the organisations that represent the region’s leading economic sectors, or how those present were selected, was not reported; but the objective, CARICOM suggested, was to encourage their involvement in stimulating growth and buttress the desire of Heads for greater private sector investment, public-private partnerships and an improved business environment.

Much of the discussion revolved around the vexed issue of what is known as the enabling environment – the ease of doing business free from regulatory and other constraints - with the business representatives arguing that without Governments improving this, it would be hard to unleash entrepreneurial energy, seek out new opportunity and encourage greater pan-Caribbean economic activity.

According to the communiqué, Heads, ‘remained committed’ to creating such an environment and encouraged the business leaders to invest in agriculture and energy, as well as to give serious consideration to establishing a Caribbean Private Sector Investment Fund.

How realistic or deliverable any of this is, let alone whether those present truly believe in the commercial viability of such solutions, or are in any position to deliver given the extraordinary constraints of operating in the CARICOM business environment, is far from certain.

Unfortunately, without dramatic Government reforms and an end to economic nationalism and protection, the probability is that most Caribbean Governments are unlikely to ever create the open enabling environment for Caribbean entrepreneurs that might turn countries into future equivalents of Ireland, Iceland Singapore or even Mauritius.

Most of the region is still not at the starting point for dramatic private sector led growth. The tiny 5.5m English speaking market remains at different levels of development; the private sector largely consists of micro-enterprises; without contiguous borders and poor transport links there are better opportunities for productive investment outside the region; infrastructure, extractive industries and tourism depend on external investors; poor educational standards and a lack of global competitiveness hold the region back from developing newer service oriented industries; and there continues to be a disinclination to focus on, defend and support in every way possible those sectors where the region could have a future comparative advantage such as tourism, rum and the creative industries.

For these reasons and the region’s failure to create an executive mechanism that might bring into being a genuine single market and economy, the parts of the Caribbean private sector that might be in a position to help engineer regional growth have largely moved on. They have become bottom line and shareholder centric, and as with modern business everywhere, largely deaf to the rhetoric of government.

They have also recognised that future opportunity lies wherever it may be: think Sir Kiffyn Simpson’s investment in up to 40 000 acres of Guyana’s Upper Essequibo region to produce rice, corn, soya, cow beans, guar and bamboo for export, or GraceKennedy’s US$26m recent acquisition of La Fe Foods Inc in the US, or Vicini’s investment in steel production in Trinidad through Metaldom. These companies and others have already embraced the fact that globalisation, private equity or deals that leverage tax advantage, represent the future.

Despite this, the theme of the Caribbean private sector delivering change has become of such significance that almost every single academic paper of note on the regional economy acknowledges its central future role.

In his stimulating paper on convergence published by UWI in 2013, and interestingly soon to be published in China, Winston Dookeran, Trinidad’s Foreign Minister notes that future development in the region requires not just partnership across what he describes as the whole Caribbean sea space but also between the public and private sectors. He believes that this requires inclusiveness and co-operation emphasising equality and equity. Central to this regional space, he suggests, is aligning the logic of politics (inclusiveness, co-operation) with logic of economics (production integration, competitiveness and distribution).

In a similar way in his recent book ‘Globalisation, Trade, and Economic Development’, Ambassador Richard Bernal makes clear that any new private sector led approach will take place against the background of a dramatically changed global environment. ‘The extreme globalisation of the world economy’ he writes, 'means there is really only one market and that is global ...and national economies regardless of size and level of development are subject to the dominance of capital accumulation’.

Countries, he argues, must therefore engineer a business environment that can extract the maximum benefits from the global economy while minimising effects harmful to the national economy.

And in a report for the European Commission not in the public domain an author makes clear that the lack of impact of the Cariforum EPA is because it does not seek to address government’s core domestic regulatory space affecting the cost of doing business private sector growth (financing, energy, utilities, transport and logistics) suggesting there will always be a limit to what nay FTSA can achieve.

What all this suggests is that business and government in the Caribbean are now operating in different environments. The biggest players that can move economies, invest internationally, or seek opportunity in new ways or in new areas; while the smaller often micro-enterprises that cannot escape their immediate economic environment suffer stifling constraints, wait on government to change the enabling environment.

The real question is therefore whether the large Caribbean private sector is any longer interested in leading regional economic growth or whether the new generations of businessmen and women running such enterprises, who are increasingly trained in some of the world’s best business schools, have ceased to think in the same way as their regional predecessors, who felt they still had a stake in change and governance.

What seems to have happened is that as governments have failed for all sorts of reasons to deliver public sector reform, deregulation, fast response times and flexibility, so that large corporations have had to look beyond the Caribbean’s borders or at borderless modes of activity while small enterprises have atrophied within small economies.

Put another way the logic of politics and power in the Caribbean now so at odds with the logic of economics that the chances of regionally led private sector growth may have become a pipe dream.

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

China will cast a huge shadow as Japan meets CARICOM

The word will not be spoken in any formal speeches and it won’t be mentioned in final statements and declarations, but it will be talked about in the corridors and it will be at the back of everyone’s mind as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits five Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) nations from July 25 to August 2. The word is “China”.

Animosity between China and Japan has been steadily increasing over the last few years and relations are now tense at best and hostile at worst. From the Chinese side, according to Professor Zhou Yong-Sheng at the China Foreign Affairs University, “Japan can develop as a military superpower and boss around the region again.” He adds, “China is no longer the country it is was 120 years ago and, therefore, Japan should not commit the folly of starting a war with its western neighbour.” Those are fighting words and there have been skirmishes in both the sea and air over claims to sovereignty of five small islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. This had led to a military build-up in Japan that has been criticised by China on almost a daily basis. The heat generated over this was fanned into a flame by the Prime Minister’s insistence on visiting the Yasukuni shrine that venerates Japan’s war dead who China regards as invaders and from the World War 11 occupation of Chinese territory.

The Japanese leader is visiting the five LAC nations in the wake of a very successful visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in which he signed agreements that exceed US$10 billion with Argentina, US$5 billion with Venezuela, and US$1.8 billion with Cuba. Additionally, Xi offered to extend a line of credit of up to US$10 billion to members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states (CELAC) and to create a US$20 billion fund to finance infrastructure projects in LAC countries. China is also LAC’s second largest trading partner after the United States of America. In 2013, trade reached US$261 billion of which China enjoys a surplus. Nonetheless, Chinese investment, particularly in infrastructure, has helped to boost economies in LAC countries, including the nine Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that have diplomatic relations with China.

The Japanese Prime Minister is very keen to boost trade with Latin America and the Caribbean which, while it nearly doubled over the past decade, still accounts for just 5 per cent of Japan’s foreign trade. He will also want to expand Japan’s stock of foreign investment in LAC which is now lagging behind China at US$60 billion.

The name of the game is two-fold. The first is economic and includes access to LAC resources, such as oil, gas and minerals, as well as investment in large infrastructural projects that would give Japan a sizeable return. In this regard, Chile, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico are the main targets. The second part of the game is political influence particularly in Japan’s quest for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for which elections will be held in October 2016. In both cases, Japan comes up against China.

While China is one of the five permanent members of the UNSC, it has been openly campaigning against Japan’s candidacy for the single UNSC seat that will be available to Asia. Japan is contending with Bangladesh whose candidature China avidly promotes in order to block Japan.

It is because of the vote for the UNSC that Japan is particularly interested in meeting the 14 independent CARICOM nations in Trinidad and Tobago on July 28. If they all vote for Japan, Prime Minister Abe would be delighted.

And that is where the challenge and the opportunity arise for the 14 independent CARICOM states. For the five that do not have diplomatic relations with China (they are tied to Taiwan), supporting Japan poses no challenge at all, but the others do have to be mindful of the consequences of supporting Japan for the UNSC. Dealing with this issue will call for skilful diplomacy.

The opportunity for the 14 independent CARICOM nations is the face-to-face meeting with Prime Minister Abe. It presents an opportunity to bargain in the region’s interest just as the Japanese leader will be seeking benefits for Japan.

On the economic front, like China, Japan has been pledging large regional aid and investment packages to Africa and Southeast Asia, the value of which are US$43 billion and US $20 billion, respectively. It is unlikely that transactions of such sizes will be extended to all of the LAC countries. The LAC nations are a low priority for the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) which provided only US$450 million to the entire region in 2012. This means that the CARICOM countries got only a fraction of that total.

It would be worth drawing that reality to Prime Minister Abe’s attention even as CARICOM leaders describe the plight of their economies and the restricted space in which they operate because of rules made by institutions in which Japan has a powerful voice. The face-to-face meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister offers a golden opportunity to remind him that his country has enjoyed a sizeable trade surplus with CARICOM countries for many years – a trade surplus that is greater than the amount of official development assistance Japan provides.

The value of the trade surplus may not be huge in Japanese terms, but it is large for CARICOM states.
Additionally, the meeting with Mr Abe also provides a chance to lever support from Japan in critical areas such as: providing help to address debt (many of the CARICOM countries now have a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 60 per cent); active support in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Financial Action Task Force for compensation for the high costs that result from compliance with their rules; financing for Climate Change adaptation; advocacy in the IMF and World Bank to make CARICOM states eligible for concessionary loans; and more Japanese investment in renewable energy and infrastructure.

Over all these discussions, of course, China casts a long shadow.

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

Donors urged to do the right thing

There is a popular saying, ‘A promise is a comfort to a fool’, which warns against trusting in the assurances of others. For many, mankind is too fallible and trust should therefore be placed in God alone. Still, what kind of world would we live in if a man’s word could not be trusted? In the final analysis, you are a sum of your thoughts and actions. A man is who he says and shows he is.

In light of this, it is disheartening to hear that four-and-a-half years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, only half of the money pledged to aid in the relief, recovery and repair efforts has been handed over. This revelation was made by that country’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who implored those in the international community to honour their commitments and deliver the nearly five billion dollars outstanding.

The PM took great pains to explain that the funds collected so far have already been used constructively to rebuild entire neighbourhoods and house some of the 1.5 million people who were without housing after the earthquake. He added that Haiti, with its meager resources, even constructed 3 000 homes and rebuilt another 4 000. However, at present 125 000 people still live in tents, and have been doing so for approximately 54 months.

It is true that countries all over the world are experiencing real economic hardships as a result of a global recession. For many, the state of their economies may be altered and it may not seem possible to deliver on sums promised. It is difficult to be charitable when you or your own may be suffering and need help yourselves. Yet, it is crucial that states keep to their word or, where possible, assist in any other way relevant; for instance extended periods for disbursement of funds, or a waiver of payment for services given would also be useful.

Haiti needs the international community to step up to the plate and do the right thing. When considering economic hardships, none could be greater than those faced by that country over the years, being burdened with a debt of 150 million gold francs by France (later reduced to 90 million) for the audacity of fighting for and gaining their independence. Haiti kept to this commitment and repaid France for 122 years until their debt was cleared in 1947, so why wont other states do the same and keep their commitments? Surely their situations are not as dire as Haiti’s?

After the earthquake, there was an outpouring of goodwill. These gestures demonstrated the wonderful spirit that characterises humanity. At that time religious, political and ethnic differences were put aside and the love for humankind shone through in displays of kindness, charity and unity. In a world where economic hardship is prevalent and environmental disasters frequent, it was heartening to see that generosity existed. Let us prove that it still exists today. Though a few strides have been made in Haiti’s rebuilding, it is certainly not sufficient. It is time for those who pledged to put their money where their mouths are.


By Linda Straker

Grenada is one of six Caribbean countries that are in arrears with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an autonomous international organisation which administers mineral resources in the seabed.

The countries are among a list of 43 members of the ISA that are in arrears of two years or more with dues, effective April 2014. They are Barbados, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The annual report of the Secretary-General, Nii Allotey Odunton, was the focus of a two-day debate in the Assembly. The report did not give the dollar amount of that which is owed, but said that up to April 30, 2014, only 29.7 per cent of the Authority’s 166 members had paid. The money collected represents 68.7 per cent of the value of the member contributions to the 2014 budget.

The approved budget for the 2013/2014 biennium stood at just over US$14.3 million.

“Notices are sent on a regular basis to member states, reminding them of the arrears,” the document said.

“The administrative expenses of the Authority shall be met by assessed contributions of its members until the Authority has sufficient funds from other sources to meet those expenses,” it explained.

The scale of those assessments shall be based on the scale used for the regular budget of the United Nations, adjusted for differences in membership, according to the report. In accordance with article 184 of the Convention and rule 80 of the rules of procedure of the Assembly, members in arrears for two years or more shall not have voting privileges.

Meanwhile, as the inter-governmental body wound up its session last week Thursday, a day earlier than originally scheduled, its Council signalled it wanted formulation of procedures and criteria for applications for extension of exploration contracts as well as exploitation regulations to be given top priority.

The Council, by a decision adopted on July 23, requested the Authority’s expert body, the Legal and Technical Commission, to, “as a matter of urgency and as its priority”, formulate the draft texts and submit them to the Council at its 2015 session. The draft instruments would be applied in a uniform and non-discriminatory manner and made available in advance of the Council’s next session in 2015. The Commission is scheduled to meet in Kingston in February 2015.

The Authority’s Assembly, at its final meeting on Thursday, July 24, decided to convene the 21st session of the Authority from July 13 to 24, 2015 in Kingston.

During debate on the proposals in the Council, many delegations expressed support for formulation of the draft texts. A proposal by the Netherlands for the incorporation of environmental management planning in the regulatory framework for mineral exploitation in the Area was welcomed by delegations.

A communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting said that the exploration contracts awarded to the pioneer investors in 2001 and 2002 will come to an end in 2016 and 2017. Some of the contractors involved are likely to proceed to exploitation while others might apply for extension of their contracts. There is now a significant increase in the level of interest in deep seabed mining.

The report, submitted under article 166 paragraph 4 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, provided information on the work of the Authority from July 2013 to June 2014.

Presenting the report to the Assembly on July 23, Mr. Odunton highlighted the challenge of managing the increasing workload of the Authority as it moved towards elaborating exploitation regulations and the need for standardised data on the living resources of the seabed Area. The report observed that the Authority had achieved significant milestones since 2000.

It is not clear who represented Grenada at the Assembly and whether or not the outstanding fees were settled by the time of writing this report. E-mails and calls to a number of relevant persons went unanswered or not acknowledged.

2 women among National Calypso finalists

Janice Augustine

LAST Sunday night, she was one of three women to perform in the semi-final round of the National Calypso competition and on Carnival Sunday night, she will be one of two who will be competing to win the prestigious title of National Calypso Monarch for Carnival 2014.

Promising that she would put out her best as her objective was to win enough points from the judges that would take her to the final level, Janice Augustine, who is a member of the Kingdom Calypso Tent, was among the few who portrayed her song during the performance.

At the end of the show, her efforts were not in vain as her ability to deliver “No Political Commentary” and “Don’t Deliver” earned her the right to boast as one of the ten calypsonians who will be hoping to dethrone the 2013 winner – Keturah George.

The other woman calypsonian who made it to the big stage is Jermaine “Superstar” Simon, while the others are Ajamu and Scholar, who have both won the National Monarch title seven times; Sour Serpent; Wizard; Mr X; Sheldon Douglas; Randy Issac; Jason “Big J” Joseph; while Rootsman Kelly is the standby.

A win for either Scholar or Ajamu will bring an end to the equal number of times either one of them has won the National Calypso Monarch title and thus, many Carnival observers believe that it will be an “all-out calypso battle” between the two, who are experienced and veteran performers.

Following Sunday night’s result, there were some who openly expressed their concern about the finalists, while some debated the naming of Rootsman Kelly as a standby instead of among the final competitors. Cultural Ambassador, Francis Urias Peters, called for the scrutinising of the score sheet. He said that though the judges’ decision is final, he felt that there is a need to expose and explain the entire process of judging a calypso performance and how the scores were awarded for each performance.

Limited use of props for competitions

By Linda Straker

There is the real possibility that the best props will not be on display for the different musical shows that will be held at the National Stadium for Carnival 2014 as the terms and conditions for using the facility do not provide for vehicles to be on the field.

The Groovy and Soca Monarch competitions are set to take place on August 8 while August 10 is the date for the National Calypso Finals. Though main activities over the years have taken place at the National Cricket Stadium, this year the Spicemas Corporation (SMC) is challenged for an appropriate venue because of cricket games scheduled for the same venue eight days after.

Venues for cricket games are generally under the control of the WICB months or weeks before a game and thus that venue is restricted for hosting certain events. The National Cricket Stadium is scheduled to host two One-Day International games on August 20 and 22 as well as a practice match on August 17 at the Progress Park in Grenville on August 17.

Alistair Bain, Chairman of the Spicemas Corporation, said that one of the conditions for getting limited use of the field is not having vehicles driven unto the field. He said that the Corporation is fully aware that such a decision will put some limitation on the performance of some artistes in the various competitions, but he is hopeful that with them knowing about the terms and conditions early, the necessary adjustments will be made to the props for the various nights.

At the media launch of the Spicemas 2014, it was announced that Carnival will be held at the Roy St. John Playing Field in Tanteen, but eventually a decision was made to host it at the National Stadium with a certain amount of limitation. The cost of preparing the Tanteen playing field was seen as too costly.

Bain said that Kiddies Carnival, which is scheduled for August 2, will not be held at the Stadium and instead will be held at the Tanteen Netball Court. The Panorama competition, which will be held on August 9, will also be held at Tanteen. The National Stadium will be the venue for the National Queen Show on August 7; National Groovy and Soca Monarch competitions on Friday, August 8; and the DiMarche Gras, which will be held on Sunday, August 10.

The SMC will be collaborating with promoters of “Preeday” and that show will be held on Wednesday, August 6 at the National Stadium.

Budget retreat for senior Government staff and ministers

Government last week Wednesday began the process of preparing the 2015 Budget with a retreat for senior ministry officials who will scrutinise the 2014 Budget as they engage in grading and achievement exercise.

“This is where all Ministries meet with Finance to discuss the Budget for the upcoming year. It is a closed session, but we are opening up the opening session, where the Finance Minister usually sets the tone of the discussions,” said one Finance Minister official.

Senior ministry representatives include ministers of Government and the Cabinet; permanent secretaries; and planning and administrative staff.

“We did that about two or so years ago when it was held at the Stadium. Essentially, only the Minister of Finance speaks in the opening session and the rest of the time is spent updating on the performance of the current Budget,” it was further explained.

The venue for the retreat is the Grenada Trade Centre. The 2015 Budget is expected to be presented
during the month of December 2014. Following the retreat with the top ministry officials, it is expected that there will be more monitoring and evaluation sessions as well as a National Consultation with all the stakeholders.

Before a budget is presented in the Lower House of Parliament, it must get the approval of the Finance Committee – a committee which includes both the opposition Members of Parliament led by the Leader of the Opposition and Member of Parliament for the ruling administration.

Though Grenada doesn’t have a formal Opposition, all elected MPs continue to meet as a Finance Committee because three of the elected MPs are not Government Ministers.

Help for people affected by gender-based violence, HIV

By Linda Straker

A network has been launched in Carriacou and Petite Martinique that will make it easier for persons who are affected by gender-based violence (GBV), HIV as well as other social scourges to receive moral support and guidance.

Called “Friends of the Community against GBV and HIV”, the network, which was launched on Monday, comprises persons who are already employed as professionals in the field, but are willing to voluntarily assist in creating an avenue that will reach out to those who are affected.

GNOW making a presentation to some
members of Friends of the Community.
The launch of the network is a result of persons from the Grenada National Organisation of Women meeting with various social and community professionals as they seek to develop a new approach to reduce GBV and HIV as well as to highlight the direct link between the two.

Funded by PEPFAR, this project is designed to mobilise community action against gender-based violence and the spread of HIV in the 12-18 and 19-65 age group in Grenada over a two-year period. The design includes working in collaboration with co-share partners HOPEPALS and Legal Aide and Counselling Clinic to coordinate a management response approach to HIV and GBV.

Additional support will come from the Grenada Chapter of HIV/AIDS Partnership (GRENCHAP), Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance (CHAA), Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health’s National Infectious Disease Control Unit (NIDCU), and National HIV/AIDS Committee. Project activities will be implemented in nine communities across six parishes.

The communities selected are: Chantimelle; Victoria; River Road/D’Beau; Laborie; Gouyave; Telescope; Carriacou; and Petite Martinique. Committees were selected by overlaying the resident location of GBV victims provided by LACC and GNOW with the resident location of HIV victims provided by HOPEPALS.

One of the initiatives of the Carriacou network will be the launch of a 24-hour hotline where persons can call and talk about social matters affecting their lives, with a view to finding solutions through counselling and other appropriate redress.

Sealy: CPA conference being held at a critical time

Acting Prime Minister of Barbados, Richard Sealy, is contending that this year’s Annual Conference of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), in his opinion, is more important than any of the previous 38 that have been held.

Speaking on Monday morning during the opening of the conference at the Hilton Hotel, Sealy suggested that its importance rests in the fact that it gives delegates a chance to review pressing new economic needs of the member states and new opportunities that are being presented.

A group shot of the participants in the
conference on Monday at the Hilton.
“Also because it allows us to review the persistent political and social challenges and contradictions that have to be resolved if we are to pull ourselves out of this devastating recession, and face the future with confidence and a willingness to reach consensus peaceably,” he added.

His comments were in keeping with those made by Speaker of the House of Assembly of Barbados, His Honour Michael Carrington, who urged the delegates attending the conference to use the opportunity afforded by the gathering to discuss some of the more pertinent issues facing the region at this time.

Referring to the theme of the conference – “Forging Ahead in a Hostile Global Environment” – he said it was apt given the tough economic times the region is enduring. As such, the conference created an avenue through which they could share experiences, highlight pitfalls and share ideas as they seek new solutions to old problems. His comments came as he expressed his certainty that their deliberations throughout the conference will be approached with candour and critical, but constructive self-examination which will redound to the benefit of the region.

Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Senator Kerryann Ifill, reiterated that given the challenges facing countries in this region, the conference is the perfect opportunity for the delegates, given their role in upholding good governance of the territories, to examine the issues and learn from each other.

“We are facing economic challenges which stretch all of our resources. The question of violence is one which is plaguing us to a degree of great concern. Environmentally, we are coping with the realities of economic change… It is a time for us to reflect and to learn from each other, to collaborate and exchange ideas to redound to the benefit of all of our people,” she added. (JRT)

Equitable relations between EU and Caribbean possible

A more balanced and equitable relationship. This is what Executive Secretary of ECLAC Alicia Bárcena wants to see happen between the European Union and the Caribbean.

According to her, an opportunity for the two to find more complementarities to overcome old historic, social and trade-related asymmetries would be provided through the renewal of bonds.

She was one of the main speakers at the meeting “New EU development co-operation strategies in Latin America and the Caribbean,” organised by the EU-LAC Foundation and the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, with the support of the European Union programme EUROsociAL.

Since the economic crisis that began in 2008, the problems that the Euro zone has had to face have led to stagnation in the relationship between the two regions, according to Bárcena. Nevertheless, the European Union continues to be the main collaborator, the main direct investor and the second-biggest trade partner of Latin America and the Caribbean, she indicated.

“For that reason, it is necessary to foster renewed ties between the governments, companies and social actors of both regions,” ECLAC’s Executive Secretary insisted.

According to Bárcena, a deeper partnership between Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union would allow for accelerated economic growth in the region, progress on the structural change towards more knowledge-intensive sectors, poverty reduction, and greater social inclusion and environmental protection.

In her presentation, Bárcena emphasised that despite recent progress, Latin America and the Caribbean continues to be the region with the worst income distribution in the world, which is compounded by multiple gaps that reinforce each other, including gaps in human resource development, in insertion in the world of work and in access to social protection systems, as well as gaps related to territory, gender, ethnic group and generations, and in access to power.

EU committed to regional support

The European Union remains committed to supporting regional integration and development in the Caribbean.

So says Ambassador Mikael Barfod, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. His comments came as he explained that such commitment will be manifested when they roll out the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) assistance to the member countries of CARIFORUM.

He said while this initiative is still in the programming stages, it is expected to provide funding to the tune of 350 million Euros, of which 110 million Euros has been earmarked for regional integration and the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

The Ambassador made the remarks while addressing those attending a press conference to speak to the awarding of grants through the Direct Assistance Grant Scheme (DAGS), which is one of the aspects of the 10th EDF.

Turning his attention to the EPA, the EU ambassador said his office was very pleased that the Government of Barbados was seeking to pass the EPA Bill, and while the debate had to be postponed, he is hopeful the matter will be concluded in short order. He made the point as he explained that the EPA is of tremendous benefit to those who want to do business with the member states of the EU, but he lamented that many members of the private sector seem unaware of the opportunities available under the EPA.

“From time to time, we still hear comments from the private sector that not enough benefits are accruing from the EPA and that the EPA has not been resonating enough. We at the EU cannot make the EPA work for you, it is you to find ways to make the EPA beneficial; we can set the frame but you have to do most of the work. This surprising lack of knowledge of the opportunities available through the EPA was confirmed in the recent report of the study which reviewed the implementation and impact of EPA during the first five years after its signature, commonly called the five-year review,” Barfod said.

The Ambassador added, “[But] The mere fact that the Caribbean companies can benefit from this Direct Assistance Grant Scheme is proof that funding is available for companies that need assistance in various aspects of trade… it is also proof that despite the tough economic times that we still live in, that the EU is prepared to assist developing countries in their quest for ways out of the crisis.”

With that in mind, he is calling on private sector stakeholders to capitalise on the opportunities presented in the agreement and make use of the provision which have been made available.

Meanwhile, Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss referring to the EPA Bill on which debate was started in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, said that the debate will resume next week, but contended that the discussion on the EPA must not only take place in Parliament, but also the wider society as well.

“We as a society have an opportunity now to refocus our energy and our mind to the Economic Partnership Agreement – what it really ought to have meant for us in the region; why is it that we have not taken hold of the opportunities presented and what more can be done in the time allocated to do better. One of the things we can start by doing is not complaining, but grabbing hold of the opportunities, preparing ourselves to penetrate the European market,” he said.

Inniss said he is certain there has been no malintent on the part of the EU in terms of the EPA, suggesting that the EU provided the countries of the region with an excellent opportunity to get into their market in a reasonable timeframe. However, he warned time is running out and if the private sector does not grasp the opportunities, they will be like “sitting ducks”. (JRT)

Fluctuating inflows of foreign direct investment expected

Fluctuating inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) is something Caribbean countries should keep an eye on.

So said Professor Compton Bourne, Executive Director of the Caribbean Centre for Money and Finance (CCMF).

This as he reports that a number of regional countries recorded increases in FDI last year.

“FDI inflows are quite substantial relative to the economic size of CARICOM countries,” said Bourne, who was reflecting on the publication of the World Investment Report 2014 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

FDI increases were recorded for St. Kitts-Nevis, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti in 2013.

Professor Bourne who is a former President of the Caribbean Development Bank said it provided “a welcome opportunity to examine the recent experience of CARICOM countries with foreign direct investment”.

“Between 2008 and 2013, the regional group of countries received foreign direct investment totalling US$25.7 billion. The annual average was US$4.3 billion.”

“Major recipients of FDI inflows are Trinidad and Tobago with US$6.65 billion, that is, 25.5 per cent of the cumulative total, The Bahamas with US$6.25 billion or 24.3 per cent, Jamaica with US$3.48 billion (13.5 per cent), and Barbados with US$2.62 billion (10.2 per cent).”

“The other ten countries together received US$6.85 billion (26.5 per cent) of the cumulative total, with Guyana accounting for 4.7 per cent and nine others having no more than three per cent each.”

Unstable inflows

Bourne said these annual inflows “have tended not to be stable”, and that “While 2008 was a good year for all except Haiti, inflows were considerably smaller in 2009, except for The Bahamas and Haiti where there were sizeable increases.

“Reductions in FDI inflows persisted in 2010 and 2011 in Jamaica, Belize, Dominica, Grenada St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in 2012 in Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia. Guyana attracted larger inflows in 2010, 2011 and 2012; Trinidad and Tobago did so in 2011 and 2012; The Bahamas in 2010 and 2011 but not in 2012; and Haiti in 2010 and 2012,” he said.

“FDI inflows increased in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti in 2013 but decreased in Guyana, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Dominica.”

Bourne said a major part of the reason such investment was vial was because it was “quite substantial relative to the economic size of CARICOM countries”.

“FDI inflows for 2012 expressed as percentages of gross domestic product in the same year were between 12.2 per cent and 16.4 per cent in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, and The Bahamas, and between 6.7 per cent and 11.7 per cent in St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and St. Kitts and Nevis. The smallest percentages were in Suriname (1.2 per cent), Haiti (two per cent), Jamaica (3.3 per cent) and Grenada (4.2 per cent),” he added.

Embrace women, youth

Regional countries are being told that increased involvement of women and the youth in their development will help to strengthen their capacity to face the future.

The observation was made by Acting Prime Minister of Barbados, Richard Sealy, as he delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony of the 39th Annual Conference of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association at the Hilton Hotel on Monday morning.

The flag-raising ceremony at the start of the conference on Monday.
Speaking specifically to the involvement of women in politics, the Acting Prime Minister noted that women have moral, human, constitutional and demographic rights to electoral office. He made the point as he noted that the issue of the under-representation of women in regional parliaments is expected to be addressed during the 7th Regional Conference of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, which forms part of the conference.

“Indeed, one of the noble objectives of the Commonwealth is the fuller participation of women in parliamentary procedure and involvement in the po-litical life of our nations. Even though Caribbean women are world-renowned for having been the backbone of our societies for several centuries, there are still several challenges facing their selection as candidates and their election as Parliamentary representatives,” he noted.

To that end, he has challenged the women in the region to “dig deeper” into this matter during the conference, and where possible to look at the support systems necessary to enable women to exercise political careers, and come up with some fresh ideas that can solve this recurrent topic.

Turning his attention to the youth, he noted that in 2012 Barbados completed its National Youth Policy, in keeping with the pledge made in 1995 at the Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago, to formulate and/or review their National Youth Policies in anticipation of technological changes that would transform economies and societies of the region. His comments came as he noted that one of the recommended implemen-tation mechanisms of the National Youth Policy was the establishment of the National Youth Parliament of Barbados, which was recently created. He added that its members have been challenged to come up with solutions to the pressing issues, economic and otherwise, that are facing young Barbadians.

Speaking further to the policy, the Acting PM indicated that it found that in the wake of the recession, the primary concern of young people was the high levels of unemployment and under-employment.

“Naturally all the stakeholders in youth development saw enterprise, and in particular the spread of the entrepreneurship to all categories of citizens, as the only means of diversifying and growing our economy. Young people, by virtue of their numbers, their energy, their education, their creativity were expected to drive this entrepreneurial movement. But first they had to change the mindset that had propelled them to use education as a means of finding employment to one of using their intelligence to create their own employment and develop wealth,” he added.

With that in mind, he contended that all the countries of the region have an obligation to provide the youth with the technical and management skills to develop businesses and help diversify our economies. He said that even though it is unrealistic to expect everyone to become a business entrepreneur, research has shown that an enterprising employee is also an asset to his or her employer. (JRT)

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The BRICS and the Caribbean

As this is being written a series of summits have been taking place in Brazil which may have a lasting effect on the way in which the Caribbean and other small indebted nations come to address their future.

The first and perhaps most significant of these meetings took place between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (the BRICS) on July 16 in La Fortaleza. The atmosphere surrounding the meeting, which brought together the Presidents of the five countries concerned, suggested that much of what was discussed and announced was intended to confirm the gradual emergence of a new world economic and possibly political order.

The message was that here were five relatively new world economic powers – there are, of course, others – that are beginning to put in place institutions that might determine an alternative economic order. That is to say, one that does not necessarily embrace the way in which Washington, Europe and more generally the other members of the OECD see the world and its future.

For the Caribbean this has obvious attractions, not least because one of the new powers, China, has become a significant regional development partner, the major investor in infrastructure, and the funder of Chinese private sector led ventures across the region.

Of particular interest in Brazil was the announcement that the BRICS will establish a new development bank based in Shanghai to rival the IMF and the World Bank.

The objective of the group in setting this up is to establish a counterweight to Western-dominated financial institutions in the form of a new development body able to fund infrastructure projects, and a reserve fund to support economies facing currency and balance of payments crises.

The New Development Bank, as it will be known, will have capital of US$50 billion with each country contributing US$10 billion, while the reserve fund will have US$100 billion at its disposal. Once established, it is likely to become a mini-IMF with China being the biggest overall contributor. The effect will be, though a form of geo-political competition, to gradually bring to an end the post Cold War consensus on what constitutes economic orthodoxy and the present dominant approach taken by the US, Europe and Japan in existing international financial institutions.

As such the establishment of the new bank and the thinking that goes with it attempts to reconstruct the post Second World War global financial infrastructure and rebalance world power in a way that offers different assumptions about development, and a break with the type of conditionalities on economic development that have prevailed since the Bretton Woods agreement was signed in 1944.

In this context China took the unusual step before President Xi arrived in Brazil of releasing a document setting out its global development policy.

This China State Council policy paper makes clear that China’s approach will be South-South in nature and that China will not impose any political conditions or interfere in the internal affairs of the recipient countries, respecting, it says, “their right to independently choose their own path and model of development”.

Unusually, the policy paper includes specific language on the Caribbean that makes clear that it has been actively implementing the assistance measures agreed at the 2011 Third China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum.

By the end of 2012, the document notes, China within this framework provided the Caribbean with concessional loans totalling 3 billion Yuan (approximately US$1.5bn) mainly for the construction of infrastructure projects. It also observes that it has trained over 500 officials and technical staff for the Caribbean and held courses on earthquake and tsunami early warning and monitoring systems. China said it had also built schools in Antigua and Dominica, sent medical teams to Dominica, trained local medical staff, and carried out technical cooperation in agriculture and fisheries with Dominica, Grenada and Cuba.

As to China’s overall objectives, the document indicates that its longer term development goal is to endeavour to build moderately prosperous societies in “an all-round way” and that it remains on a global basis “committed to realising the Chinese dream of national prosperity and renewal, and happiness of the people.”

Just as tellingly, given that the Chinese leadership only ever says what it means, President Xi made clear last week in an address to the Brazilian Senate that China intends through CELAC (the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños) promoting a “strategic alliance” with the Latin America and Caribbean region. “Our objective is to strengthen and take a leap forward in China’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

This is language that goes far beyond what China has said previously and paradoxically seems to place it in a BRICS-Caribbean context, as a first among equals.

These are all developments that were scarcely conceivable a decade ago.

However, away from the media excitement surrounding the emergence of the BRICS as a new global power bloc, less certain in practical terms is whether its members, and specifically China, will be prepared to make the compromises necessary for an effective multilateral approach, and whether the BRICS will be able to bury their political and military differences and jealousies.

While the developments in Brazil last week do not as yet do much more than herald the potential of a new world order, it does raise difficult questions for the OECD and the prescriptive economic approach its members have developed unchallenged since the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

For the Caribbean it is yet another challenge in relation to future positioning. Governments will have to consider how and where to insert themselves into not just the expanding and overlapping relationships implied by the various meetings in Brazil, but also decide how to balance this with traditional relationships, the political potential of CELAC, the bilateral economic significance of China, the growing importance of more proximate neighbours in Latin America, and the smallness of much of the Anglophone part of the region.

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

The New Development Bank: What’s in it for small economies?

It is news that should awaken the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from their complacent attitude toward developing countries. It is also news that should confirm to the G20 that what used to be the G7 – a group of the seven industrialised nations – no longer controls the world’s financial affairs.

On July 16, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) established the New Development Bank and alongside it a Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA). The two institutions will serve the needs of the five countries for financing infrastructure and industrialisation, and to provide support in the event of a balance of payments crisis.

The New Bank will be headquartered in Shanghai, with India as its President for the first term of six years. It will be capitalised initially with US$50 billion. Each BRICS member state will subscribe an equal share. The CRA will be funded with US$100 billion. China is contributing the largest share of about US$41 billion while Russia, Brazil and India will put in US$18 billion each and South Africa US$5 billion.

The creation of the New Bank and the CRA is motivated by frustration with the pace of reform of the IMF and the World Bank to give a greater voice to the BRICS. In the Fortaleza Declaration after their meeting in Brazil, the five BRICS leaders – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, China’s President Xi Jinping and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma – stated that international governance under its current structure and power configuration show increasing signs of losing legitimacy and effectiveness.  They said: “The BRICS are an important force for incremental change and reform of current institutions toward more representative and equitable governance capable of generating more inclusive global growth”.

The BRICS are also concerned that the new vision for global economic governance, articulated by the G20 in 2009, has not materialized. And, while Brazil’s President Rousseff was careful to say that the world should not see the Bank and the CRA as a desire by the BRICS to dominate, she made it clear: “We want justice and equal rights. The IMF should urgently revise distribution of voting rights to reflect the importance of emerging economies globally”.

Whether the New Bank and the CRA remain open only to the BRICS or they widen their lending to all other developing countries, their establishment signals that it cannot be business as usual for the World Bank and the IMF, and that decision-making in the G20 will have to change.

BRICS represent 42 per cent of the world’s population and roughly 20 per cent of the world’s economy based on GDP. Total trade between them is US$6.14 trillion, or nearly 17 per cent of the world’s total. Importantly, together they are the world’s largest market and their combined GDP grew by more than 300 per cent in the last 10 years. Those are not figures to be scoffed at, and the BRICS have now shown that they are serious about demanding change.

Other developing countries, including those in CARICOM, should applaud the BRICS for creating their two new institutions. They have all endured the harsh terms, rigid conditionalities and unyielding dictates of the IMF and the World Bank. They would welcome any move that rattles the Washington-based institutions, which are controlled by the US and Europe, and encourages them to reform and to be more flexible in the treatment of developing countries that are confronted with crises.

At the same time, the BRICS would make a serious error if they kept the Bank and the CRA as a closed shop for their subscribing members only, or for other large developing countries such as Mexico and Indonesia that might be encouraged to join. For the two new institutions to command support from the wider community of developing countries, they should not repeat the mistakes of the IMF and World Bank.

The New Bank could be a much needed source of financing to developing countries for infrastructure, industrialization and productive development that many nations, such as those in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), are now denied. Except for Haiti, CARICOM countries (13 of them) have been ‘graduated’ from access to concessional financing by the World Bank. The CRA could also allow developing economies to draw on pooled reserves in the event of balance of payments crises on terms that are more appropriate and more sympathetic than those now applied by the IMF.

Risk management, a high-quality loan portfolio that improves development but keeps default to a minimum, surveillance and profits are all crucial to any bank’s successes, and they will be vital to the New Bank’s survival – so standards will have to be high. But within those important parameters the BRICS should devise ways in which they could allow other developing countries, particularly small and medium-sized ones, to buy into the New Bank and the CRA on terms they can afford.

Arrangements should also be made for borrowings by developing countries on less onerous and more sympathetic conditions than the requirements of the IMF and World Bank.

In other words, the BRICS institutions should create competitive conditions for lending that would cause the Washington-based financial institutions to soften their criteria for lending and their terms and conditions, thus giving developing countries particularly small and vulnerable economies, more acceptable access to financing and a better chance to survive and prosper.

While the IMF and the World Bank may be aroused by the BRICS creation of the New Bank and the CRA, they will continue to be influential players in the wider world economy. It is significant that the BRICS remain members of the IMF and World Bank where, undoubtedly, they will use the alternative of their new institutions to try to leverage larger voting shares for themselves.

Small economies, in particular, should not be left as mere spectators to the competition between the Washington-based financial institutions and the newly created BRICS Bank and CRA.

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

Security concerns continue

Despite the amazing advances in technology and engineering, global air travel has been most impacted by a very basic and ancient human behaviour – aggression. Sad to say, but there is nothing that has changed the way we travel more so than acts of terrorism.

For the vast majority, the air travel experience has now become tedious and stressful, due in no small part to the increasingly restrictive security measures implemented at the points of entry and departure. Comfort and expediency are now key watchwords for passengers as they have to hustle to meet strictly enforced boarding times for flights; in easily removable items of clothing.

Nonetheless, we certainly understand the need for precautions. When one is about to be suspended thousands of feet in the air, the more that can be done to enhance feelings of safety, the better. However, the most recent tragedy involving Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has given onlookers around the world a new shock as it raises new, perhaps seldom considered questions related to air travel and safety.

First, there is the question of the routes that are used by airliners to transport their passengers. It is assumed by the travelling public that these would have been sanctioned by some authority that is tasked with monitoring the situation and providing appropriate updates to airline authorities. However, the MH17 incident has revealed that there are instances where commercial airlines may still be operating in controversial airspace; indeed, it was in response to the Malaysian Airlines crash that other commercial carriers announced their decision to change routes. Prior to this incident, however, making the call to re-route planes must have been a difficult one for airliners. They would need to balance the probability of being caught in crossfire with the effect that re-routing would no doubt have on scheduling and fuel costs. Of course, now that civilians have indeed been killed, the decision is quite easy.

This also leads one to question whether passengers should be given information about the intended route for their flight, so that they might decide for themselves whether they are willing to take the risk of travelling through a potentially dangerous area. However, releasing this type of information might only serve to introduce another security threat, as it might make the task of would-be terrorists and hijackers that much easier.

Another security issue that the MH17 crash has highlighted is related to the passengers themselves. It has been reported that the AIDS research community is currently reeling from this incident, since over 100 researchers and advocates in this field were on that plane en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. It is already common practice for world leaders to travel separately to summits and similar events, but what about top technocrats and experts? As seen in this tragic example, they are often valuable repositories of knowledge and losing them can be just as serious a blow to the world as the loss of a political leader. This may well need to be an important consideration going forward for any organisation sending a delegation to an event anywhere in the world.

We all long for the day when we can fly with fewer restrictions, but until that time, all we can do in the face of such tragedies is to mourn for those lost, regroup and put strategies in place to minimise or eliminate such senseless loss from recurring.

TIME TO UPGRADE OUR METHODS – PM believes nanotechnology can transform C’bean region

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has suggested that CARICOM Members produce a regional Nanoscience and Nanotechnology policy paper, in consultation with all stakeholders, with a view of pursuing research in this area.

Delivering a lecture last week Tuesday evening at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine Campus, on Science and Technology and their utility in transforming regional economies and sustaining the region, he said that the end result for such an undertaking should be to develop and commercialise new products and services.

“The interest and impact of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology have risen exponentially over the years. In 2009, some 40 countries were investing in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology; five years later, just about every country is doing so. It is today a multimillion-dollar industry with applications in such diverse areas as solar energy, cancer medicine, robotics and oil and gas exploration,” he said.

The Prime Minister, in his capacity as Head for Science and Technology in CARICOM, said that over the last three decades, there has been spectacular advances in science and their associated technologies – computer science and associated Information and Communication Technology (ICT); Biological Sciences and the associated Biotechnology; and Nanoscience and the associated Nanotechnology.

Dr. Mitchell believes that Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) have a major role to play as
effective tools, not only in food production and energy, but also in critical areas such as education, health and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

He said that the cost, for example, of poultry in the region is high mainly because of the price of feedstock. “Can we not use the available track of land in Guyana, Suriname or Belize to develop a feedstock industry that is independent of extra-regional inputs? This, my friends, is a challenge for our scientists and entrepreneurs,” he suggested.

“We must, as a region, take a closer look at our food bill and use innovative approaches and STI to substantially reduce this bill. As a self-respecting people, we must as far as is possible, try to feed ourselves,” he added.

He said that if the region is going to fully utilise STI to meet some of the major challenges it faces, then regional decision-makers need to look at building capacity where there is need to build capacity, and strengthen research culture.

“Accordingly, I have requested that the CARICOM Science, Technology and Innovation Committee, which we launched in Grenada earlier this year, organise a major High Level Conference, which we will host in Grenada in March 2015, to explore ways in which we can further develop STI, so that it can play a more effective role in the social and economic development of our Caribbean people,” he said.

Think ‘Caribbean’

Companies across the region are being told that the time is ripe to increase exports of their products, not independently, but jointly under a Caribbean Brand label.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, is certain the Caribbean Brand can work but, she explained during an interview with The Grenada Advocate, it would require all the players in the various sectors to embrace it and come on board.

“It has its own recognition. Whenever we call the word Caribbean, people immediately have a picture in their heads, just like if you call the word Hawaii… So how do we capture and market that? How do we capture and market that in our agro products? How do we capture and market in our sports? How do we capture and market in our overall service sectors; having that common brand and allowing that to drive our agenda?”

Executive Director of the Caribbean Export
Development Agency, Pamela Coke-Hamilton.
She added, “If we are going to do it, it needs to be now, because basically we are wide open and if we do manage to get a Canadian agreement … that would also be another huge market that we need to look at and exploit.”

The executive director’s comments came as she noted that the Caribbean Brand concept is already being utilised by Caribbean Export, but they want to take it to the next level. According to Coke-Hamilton, in the execution of study tours and export promotion exercises, her organisation brings as many representatives as possible from across the region and places them under a Caribbean Brand umbrella.

Using the examples of the Caribbean Essence Fashion Showcase, a Caribbean Export project, as well as Caribbean Kitchen which was present at Anuga, the largest food and beverage fair in the world, Coke-Hamilton explained that both have shown that high quality products do come from this region and can stand on their own in the international arena. She noted that of the five fashion designers who went to Berlin, Germany for a showing through the Caribbean Essence initiative, three were able to
secure orders; while in the case of Anuga, three Caribbean companies were named in the top 50.  

“How does that happen? Because we are excellent, we do have that level of excellence. So it is now a question of seeing how we can expand the pie so that more of us are able to take advantage of that,” she noted.

With that in mind, Coke-Hamilton was at pains to point out that not everyone needs to go to market, explaining that rather than trying to create a sustainable product, some persons may do better business-wise if they become part of the value chain.

“You can be the pepper guy; you don’t have to make the sauce. I can be the water, you can be the cranberry; you can be the bottle stopper; you can be the paper brander. Everybody has their role to play in the value chain and what we need to understand is to play to your strengths; be part of that value chain that would eventually get us to market.”

To that end, she explained that Caribbean Export’s vision for a Caribbean Brand Label would ensure, for example, that all the pepper sauces from all across the region have a single brand which has a stamp of approval which indicates it has met international standards such as ISO and HACCP. Such a move, she noted, would also ensure that manufacturers are able to meet the demand for products and earn much needed foreign exchange for the region.

“Most of us cannot meet market demand for many of our products individually, but we could meet it jointly. If we are able to come together and produce certain products jointly under a common brand, just imagine what the outcome would be in terms of sustainability [and] consistency of supply, which is one of the big issues.

“If we had 15-member states producing under one brand, could you imagine the ability to guarantee that we would be able to provide this cocoa, this coconut, this pepper sauce, under one brand to all the markets across Europe? It would be phenomenal! We did it with sugar years ago, didn’t we? We did it with bananas, so why can’t we do that for other products?”

SMC not endorsing major shows

By Linda Straker

Alister Bain, Chairman of the Spicemas Corporation (SMC), has confirmed that the Board of Directors of the Corporation has not endorsed major shows that are scheduled to be held during the final week of Spicemas 2014.

“We have not endorsed the ‘White in the Moonlight’ show scheduled for Progress Park and ‘Outrageous Pure White’ scheduled for Moonlight City, both of which are scheduled to take place on Carnival Saturday – the same night as Panorama. In the case of the ‘Made in Grenada’, we actually recommended that the show take place on the Tuesday night, if we are to endorse it, but from all indications the promoters have decided to cancel the event, which was scheduled to take place on Carnival Thursday night, which is night of the Queen show,” he said.

Bain said that when a show receives an endorsement from the Corporation, it is placed on the official calendar of events and the promoter or promoters get the right to use the Spicemas logo and other Spicemas associated words in advertisements and promotional activities.

“We have trademarked a number of slangs and names that go with Spicemas and Grenada Carnival. It, therefore, means that those events which have not received endorsement, cannot use those trademark signs or wording in their promotional activities,” he explained.

Grenada’s Trademark Act provides for the legal registration of words or symbols to represent a company or product. In October 2013, SMC not only trademarked its logo, but it has also trademarked a number of events, slogans and names of activities associated with Spicemas. The information was published as required in the Government gazette for a couple weeks and there were no objections received from the public.

Some of the events and words are: Spicemas, Children’s Carnival Frolic, Bacchanal Friday, Pantastic Saturday, Monday Nite Mas, Majestic Thursday, Vieux Corp, Spice Island Bacchanal, Spice Island Carnival, 473 Carnival, Wata Soca, Jab Jab and Short Knee. They are all registered under Class 41 of the World Intellectual Property Nice Classification of goods and service, which covers entertainment, sporting and cultural activities.

It, therefore, means that anyone who uses those words in any form of promotion without permission, commits an intellectual property infringement under the Trademark law and is liable to fines and imprisonment once found guilty by the court.

Overwhelming response to 2014 Harmony dance camp

MORE than 50 young dancers from various schools and/or communities are participating in the second Harmony Dance Summer Camp, which began on July 7 and will conclude on July 31, with a performance at the Spice Basket.

Taking place at the JW Fletcher Secondary School, the Harmony Dance Summer Camp was founded in 2012 by Vanessa Aird – a second generation Grenadian American who has been dancing for over 25 years and received the majority of her training from Ms. Janet’s Dance Studio in Brooklyn, NY.

With an extensive dance performance background and a Masters in Education from Drexel University, Vanessa’s love for dance and working with children runs deep. Serving as a classroom teacher for the last decade and as a dance teacher/choreographer for over 15 years. She said that it has always been her dream for years to create a summer dance programme that is diverse, educational and exciting.
Some of the young dancers who are taking part
in the Harmony Dance Summer Camp.

The camp, which runs from Mondays to Thursdays, offers dance classes in Hip Hop, Jazz, Folk, Afro-Caribbean, Ballet, Modern and more. Each week, the participants focus on two (or more) different styles of dance as they prepare for the grand performance at the end. Besides the dancing, the participants are also engaging in sessions which focus on self-esteem, health and wellness, team building and social awareness.

The children are always learning about historic figures who have become agents for change, not only within their own community, but by extension the world. Among the figures they are learning of
are Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou, who both have died but are recognised worldwide as agents of change.

They are also learning about Steve McQueen – the second generation British Grenadian movie producer; and Run DMC, whose members are well known for changing the face of Hip Hop music.

The camp was first held in 2013 with less than 20 students. (LS)

UN aiming to get more women elected

THE Caribbean has one of the lowest rates of women political participation in the world; lower than the Arab region for most countries.

Representative of the UN Women Multi-Country Office – Caribbean, Christine Arab, made this observation during the recently held culmination of the “Breakfast Club”, of the Barbados Council for the Disabled in collaboration with the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Barbados.

She shared that leadership is but one of the areas UN Women focuses on, through working with political parties to get more women elected.

“We work with men and women politicians about trying to make sure that the policies they put forward are gender responsive, and more inclusive.”

The recently launched Women in Politics Map 2014 by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women showed that Grenada’s jump from two to five women (33.3 per cent) Members of Parliament in the Lower House after the 2013 General Elections, saw that country move past the minimum target of 30 per cent of seats being held by women.

Guyana was identified as the only other country in the English-speaking Caribbean that has attained the above 30 per cent ratio and the only country in the Caribbean to have adopted a temporary special measure to increase women’s political participation.

The two Caribbean countries are grouped in the Americas region which has seen the second highest rate of increase in women in parliament during 1995-2013 with 12.5 percentage points. It also maintains its top spot on the regional average tables with 25.2 per cent.

“Every election is a critical opportunity to make progress towards the increased participation of women as voters and as candidates,” says UN Women Deputy Executive Director, John Hendra.

“This map shows the value of having data, of being able to measure and track women’s political participation over time. It’s a great tool for benchmarking progress and for ensuring accountability.” (TL)

Recalled tattoo products found in Grenville parlours

By Linda Straker

Inspectors from the Grenada Bureau of Standards have con-fiscated a number of products at tattoo parlours, mainly in the Grenville area, which were recalled in the USA market because the manufacturer says they are contaminated and can result in illness.

Since last week Thursday, inspectors began visiting tattoo shops and parlours to ensure that a shipment of tattoo inks and needles, which the manufacturer says is contaminated, is not in the local market.

Head of Laboratory Services Division at the Bureau, Mr. Leonard St. Bernard, said that the inspection is due to a recall in the USA market by White and Blue Lion Inc., in the City of Industry, CA.

“We did not found any in St. George’s, but we did found some of these recalled products in parlours in Grenville,” he said, while explaining that tracing the products in Grenada is a very difficult task because there is no official distributor.

“We are aware that these products are imported into the market, not through an official distributor, but through direct purchase from Internet trading sites like eBay and Amazon,” said St. Bernard.

Besides visiting the tattoo shops and parlours, the inspectors will also be reviewing information collected by the Grenada Postal Corporation for importers who could have used the Post Office to
import the product.

“We are not certain about the type of record-keeping these facilities keep, so the intention is to ensure that all forms of good tracing is done to rid of any such product on the market because the potential medical implication can have far-reaching effects,” he said.

A statement from the Bureau said that the recall was due to pathogenic bacterial contamination. “Based on the manufacturer, these products may cause bacterial infection and can lead to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection,” said the statement.

The recall includes all tattoo needles and tattoo kits distributed by White and Blue Lion, including those with the multicoloured Chinese Dragon Image with black and white lettering and best if used by date as 16/12/2016 as well as pre-made tattoo needles sterilised by E.O. Gas with an expiration date of June 2018.

Sepsis is a potentially fatal whole-body inflammation caused by severe infection and can continue even after the infection that caused it has gone. Sepsis is caused by the immune system’s response to a serious infection, most commonly bacteria, but also fungi, viruses, and parasites in the blood, urinary tract, lungs, skin, or other tissues.

Common symptoms of sepsis include those related to a specific infection, but is usually accompanied by high fevers, hot, flushed skin, elevated heart rate, hyperventilation, altered mental status, swelling, and low blood pressure.

St. Bernard advised that persons who received a tattoo recently and are encountering medical problems, such as an infection, should check with a doctor to confirm that ailment was not due to the use of the contaminated products.

Bad development costing region millions, says CDEMA head

Bad infrastructural development in all Caribbean states is costing this region millions of dollars in damages every year.

Responding to questions from the media last week Thursday at the Hilton Barbados, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Executive Director, Ronald Jackson, noted that a lack of building codes and proper land use planning were resulting in heavy losses during disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes.
Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency
(CDEMA) Executive Director Ronald Jackson.

“We do not practice land use planning and exercise development control and enforce policies to proper development, then we are going to continue to see the kind of devastation that we have seen in our countries. So building codes – we have to establish them and we have to enforce these codes, so that the structures that are going up are resilient against the hazards against the day-to-day, year-to-year things we will face,” he stressed.

Pointing out that the region was very hazard prone, Jackson stated that in order to ensure that it did not slip in terms of economic targets, these issues related to development have to be addressed.

“There is bad development, and bad development is what is leading to the year by year losses we have been seeing. We will not be able to prevent everything, but we can certainly reduce the level of impact. We can get back to our growth projections much quicker than we have in the past,” he stated.

In addition, he noted that this was a general situation across the island states.

“It is a situation within Caribbean development planning that needs to be addressed generally. We depend on coastal resources, but it doesn’t mean that we have to be right on top of the coast. We are destroying our coral reefs, which are natural buffers from which we gain our livelihoods, whether it be from tourism, fishing; and which also protects us from these hazardous situations,” Jackson said. (JMB)

Barfod: Focus on getting results

Progress and stability in the region will be strengthened through enhancing the prevention, preparation, mitigation, response and recovery capacity in relation to disasters.

This was the opinion shared by Head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Barbados, Ambassador Mikael Barfod, as he delivered remarks at the opening of the Caribbean Disaster Management Consultation last week Thursday at the Hilton Barbados.

Pointing to the new Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy, he outlined that this would offer a unique opportunity for the region to shift the paradigm of its approach in dealing with today’s increasingly complex and fragile world.

He, therefore, told those gathered that focus must be results-based through the setting up of action-oriented targets and measurable deeds to reduce disaster risks, including through implementing risk assessments and early warning systems and identifying gaps and measures to fill them.

“Caribbean citizens will judge us by what has been done for them to improve their lives, not by how beautiful the concepts or implementations plans are. This is also very important for us development partners as we will only be able to justify further funding in support to DRM for the Caribbean if we can demonstrate that results have been achieved,” Barfod highlighted.

In addition, he pointed out that there was an opportunity to make disaster risk reduction (DRR) contribute to sustainable and smart growth.

“The potential for productive investments in DRR that contribute to growth, jobs and competitiveness is enormous. Infrastructure need to be risk sensitive and climate disaster resilient; we need to engage the business community and in particular the insurance/reinsurance industry; and encourage the use of innovative technologies and instruments to support disaster management,” he insisted. (JMB)

CTO: Coastal and Marine activities important to Caribbean tourism

Even as Caribbean countries diversify their economic bases, tourism can still play an instrumental role in economic revitalisation through its linkages with a host of other industries – agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, services, education, culture and transportation, says Sustainable Tourism Product Specialist at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Gail Henry.

“However, in planning, developing and managing tourism with a view towards its sustainability, not only should we focus on the economic impact of tourism but also on the inter-connected planned and unplanned social and environmental impacts.”

Henry was at the time addressing the opening ceremony of the 3rd Symposium for Innovators in Coastal Tourism held in Grenada, last week.

She acknowledged that with approx-imately 70% of Caribbean populations living on or near the coast, coastal areas as well as coastal and marine activities such as fishing, yachting tourism are extremely important to the Caribbean.

“While the Caribbean tourism product is diversified, top of mind for many visitors is our spectacular coastlines, beaches and marine activities from scuba diving to sailing. However, as with most industries that rely on the use of scarce natural resources, the environmental impact of tourism on our coastal zones and inland can be substantial if not heeded and managed well.”

According to the Sustainable Tourism Product Specialist, sustainable tourism is about balancing competing needs and interests as well as participatory and integrated planning and management.

“A rough blueprint for addressing the challenges and embracing opportunities for enhancing Caribbean coastal and marine tourism based on collaborative regional and national level actions are the expected outcomes.

“Some of the world’s most successful tourist destinations today made many mistakes along the way. But it’s not just about avoiding the pitfalls, but about getting it right and striving to make sure that the various stakeholders understand that they have an important role to play in sustainable tourism development and management, so that everybody wins.”

With over 40 million cruise and stay-over visitors to the Caribbean annually, Henry told the tourism officials that they have over 40 million opportunities to demonstrate that they can address the region’s environmental challenges and to engender mutual respect for the natural resources on which tourism is hinged.

“Failure to protect the fragile coral reefs, terrestrial and marine biodiversity, beaches and coastal zones, mangroves and the livelihoods of traditional fishing and coastal communities is not an option. With the added impacts of climate change, it has become even more imperative that countries adopt an integrated planning and more sustainable approach to managing our coastal and marine assets,” she stressed. (TL)

Regional academy required for high level officers

There may be need for the establishment of a regional training academy, specifically catering to leadership and management training for police officers.

Major (Retired) Horace Kirton, Deputy Executive Director of the Regional Security System (RSS), made the observation recently, as he delivered the feature address at the closing ceremony for the RSS Training Institute’s Executive Development Seminar at the Paragon base in Barbados. Fifteen participants from across the region, inclusive of four from Barbados, successfully undertook the seminar targeted at senior police officers.

Front Row: Acting Commissioner of Police, Tyrone Griffith;
Major (Retired) Horace Kirton, Deputy Executive Director of
the Regional Security System (RSS); and Assistant Commissioner,
Yvonne Alexander, Director of Training at the RSS, pose
with successful participants of the RSS Training
Institute’s Executive Development Seminar. 
While delivering his address, Major Kirton pointed out that as the RSS Training Institute reviewed its training strategy within the context of the working environment and culture of Member States’ Police Forces, officials there recognised a flaw that may undermine the goal of effective human resource development strategies in Member States’ Police Forces.

“Our strategic review indicated that a more holistic outlook on the structure of capacity-building in leadership and management among our law enforcement personnel, may warrant the establishment of a regional training academy catered to leadership and management training for police officers, similar to that which is provided for our colleagues in military organisations,” Kirton stated.

“Perhaps, as we continue to adopt and implement ex-ante control policy to our strategic plans, we may yet see the RSS Training Institute burgeon into a regional training academy for police officers,” he then announced.

Turning his attention to the RSS Training Institute’s Executive Development Seminar, Major Kirton noted that the seminar is but a part of a larger strategic training plan, aimed at building leadership capacity throughout the RSS Member Forces.

“This strategic plan targets three organisational levels within the Member Forces, that is, supervisory, middle management and the executive. This helps to ensure that the training offered for Corporals, Sergeants and Station Sergeants will not only help to prepare them to function at the supervisory level, but also serve as a building block for middle management leadership training,” he revealed.

Training for personnel at the senior and supervisory level, he maintained, ensures that cohorts remain up to date with organisational leadership and management practices and continue to utilise relevant tools to shape and continuously develop the organisation, given the dynamic nature of the security environment.

Over the four days, officers were exposed to concepts such as emotional intelligence, change and performance management, as well as strategic planning and management, and Major Kirton expressed his sincere thanks to the government of Canada, through its High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, for making possible the seminar, which came at a cost of US$21 000.

O’Malley stresses need for systematic review

Seven months after the Christmas floods devastated St. Vincent and St. Lucia, there is still yet to be a systematic review of the disaster management response to that event.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Disaster Management Consultation last week Thursday at the Hilton Barbados, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Stephen O’Malley, stressed that it was critical to reflect on the actions taken during past disasters.

“I do believe that one area that deserves more priority is the reflection on past events and the lessons learnt. The Christmas trough event was traumatic and in some cases fatal for the communities in the affected countries. A number of issues emerged which we have discussed in smaller groups but on which we have not yet systematically had the opportunity to reflect and therefore, I hope we will not go too much further into the current season, without undertaking that reflection. The danger of not doing that is that we could repeat mistakes that could have been made and avoided. It also gives the opportunity to build on the excellent practices employed by some agencies in responding to that crisis,” he added.

Meanwhile, Head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Barbados, Ambassador Mikael Barfod, echoed O’Malley’s stance.

He noted that the region needed to achieve a higher level of transparency and better governance in the disaster risk management sector and as such, improved collection and the sharing of globally comparable data on disaster losses and hazards were vital.

“We must adopt non-binding standards for advancing the implementation of the new strategy and we need periodic peer reviews – to learn from each other and help every country to strive for best practice. On this point, we also need to learn from past experience. As such, the EU regrets that seven months after the floods that impacted St. Lucia and St. Vincent, after-action reviews have yet to be conducted,” Barfod lamented. (JMB)

Regional FSC suggested to improve CARICOM

A senior Barbadian politician is suggesting that it would serve CARICOM well to establish a regional body that would regulate the insurance and financial sectors, especially given the cross border capital flows that are commonplace within those sectors.

Leader of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party, attorney-at-law Mia Mottley, made the call while delivering the feature address at the 41st annual awards presentation and banquet of the Barbados Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (BARIFA) recently at The Crane Resort, which if adopted could see the closure of the existing national financial services commissions across the region.

Mottley is adamant that it makes no sense for each member state of CARICOM to have its own financial services commission (FSC), and not be able to attract the best staff and provide timely regulations to the insurance and financial entities which they are charged to supervise.

“Governments have a responsibility particularly after the bitter pill of CLICO and British American, where there are still families who continue to await what will be their outcome five years later; families some of whom have lost these major investors to death and yet there is no certainty as to how and when they would receive back their investment. It is a trying circumstance, but what it has taught us is that the individual pursuit of regulation cannot be in the best interest of the Caribbean, especially since we are signatory to a CARICOM Single Market and Economy,” she said.

Mottley, a former Attorney General of Barbados, is suggesting that a regional financial services commission can operate much like the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), such that it would have national and regional jurisdictions. She said the FSC could sit as a regional entity with an overview of the companies that move across the region, as this was one of the weaknesses in the regulation of the CLICO and British American.

“But equally that regional financial services commission can sit as the financial services commission of Barbados, or Trinidad and Tobago, or Jamaica, or the OECS and that is what we did when we created the Caribbean Court of Justice. We created a single entity, with the same judges and depending on what is before them, they sit either as a Caribbean Court of Justice which is the interpretative body for the regional treaty, the Treaty of Chaguaramas or they sit as the final court of appeal of Guyana, the final court of appeal of Barbados, the final court of appeal of Belize or the final court of appeal soon to be of Dominica,” Mottley said.

She continued, “Same people, same building, same support staff – economies of scale. CLICO and British American showed us that our very weakness was in the management of cross border flows.”

The attorney-at-law reflecting on the situation which saw the collapse of the two insurance companies, said that efforts were not made to sufficiently ring fence the assets to leave them within the jurisdictions to back the liabilities which the companies had encouraged through the products they had sold such. As such, she said that there were deficits in the statutory fund which should have been a liquid scheme and not a scheme that was “riddled” with illiquid assets that could not meet the demands of their clients when they were needed. (JRT)