Wednesday, 29 January 2014

An EU association agreement with Cuba

The President of the European Commission (EC), José Manuel Barroso, has confirmed that Europe is presently in the process of debating a significant change in its policy towards Cuba.

Speaking recently to journalists in Madrid, Mr. Barroso, who is a former Portuguese Prime Minister, said that the European Union (EU) is discussing the possibility of modifications to its Cuba policy, and that this will require the blessing of all of Europe’s 28 member countries. He also reaffirmed the EU’s long-standing wish for there to be change in Cuba in relation to human rights, and its desire to see its adoption of western democratic norms

Although Mr. Barroso did not elaborate, his reference was to the likely agreement when Europe’s Foreign Affairs Council meets on 10 February, to the Commission’s proposals that Europe negotiate a form of association agreement with Cuba.

A draft negotiating mandate has been under consideration for some time now between Cuba officials in the European Commission, but one final stumbling block arose before the December 11, 2013 Council meeting, which still has to be resolved.

Then, EU permanent representatives postponed consideration of a recommendation from the European Commission to the Council to authorise a negotiating mandate that would allow the EC to open negotiations for a political dialogue and a co-operation agreement with Cuba.

Agreement then or in February will have had the effect of authorising the start of negotiations but in recent months concerns have been raised by some EU member states over a technical legal issue. This relates to whether negotiations, once begun, might under some circumstances be halted. The delay meant that any decision on formal adoption by the Council of Ministers has had to wait until behind the scenes consensus could be achieved with a small number of concerned member states.

Once agreement between member states has been reached, however, negotiations are expected to proceed.

The negotiating mandate is expected to propose an arrangement in some respects similar to that signed between Europe and Central American states last year; will contain language on political, economic and development issues; will provide a framework for dialogue on issues of mutual concern; is expected to enable the provision of development assistance; and may possibly contain arrangements for asymmetric preferential trade.

Although liberalised trade has not been high on Cuba’s agenda, it is believed that this could become a component of a future association agreement as Cuban goods entering the EU have since the start of this year ceased to benefit from Europe’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), making them less competitive.

Separately, the EC is understood to have reserved sums in its development budget for future assistance.
The high level confirmation of a change in Europe policy towards Cuba follows from recent positive statements on the need to improve relations by EU states previously regarded as taking a hard line on dialogue. It also coincides with an increasing tendency by other EU member states to bypass the EU’s common position by signing bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding with Havana that facilitate broad based exchanges on issues from trade to counter-narcotics interdiction and cultural exchange.

The EC President’s remarks follow recent comments in Havana by the Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans. The Minister’s visit was the first by a Dutch Foreign Minister since the Cuban revolution. During two-days of high level exchanges he stressed the need for an improvement in the European Union’s relations with Cuba and signed a broad based bilateral agreement that allows for the Netherlands and Cuba to engage in political and other consultations.

The agreement, which is one of a small number signed recently or being negotiated by EU nations, marks a further move away from the European common position on Cuba which contains political conditionalities that until recently had all but halted exchanges between Cuba and most EU nations.

Mr. Timmermans said that the Netherlands was particularly interested in strengthening bilateral links noting the economic transformations underway in Cuba and the business opportunities this offered. A delegation of businessmen accompanied him. He also praised Cuba’s efforts to bring an end to what he described as the last violent conflict in the region, a reference to Havana’s hosting of peace talks between the Colombian government and local rebels.

The visit was particularly striking as the Netherlands is a staunch advocate of human rights and democracy and actively supports dissident organisations in Cuba.

Mr. Timmerman’s visit, like President Barroso’s remarks, coincide with changing US thinking on Cuba, although the pace at which US exchanges with Cuba on functional issues will move forward is still far from certain.

Some Europeans suggest that Europe’s interest in an association agreement with Cuba is being driven by a desire to have an agreement in place before any improvement take place in US-Cuba relations.

Whether this is true or not, a formal association agreement with Europe would enable not only a much closer relationship with Cuba but also mean that the EU would have reached agreement with the only Latin American and Caribbean country with which it has no form of broad based political and economic arrangement.

Recent developments in Europe and the US in relation to Cuba point once again to the Caribbean needing to consider carefully how it will respond to the possibility that a neighbour and friend may slowly emerge as a competitor after a long period of economic isolation.

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

Provisional and temporising solutions not the answer to Caribbean problems

The extent of the damage and human suffering on the island of St Vincent caused by unprecedented rainfall and flooding over the Christmas holiday period is much greater than originally estimated. When the full assessment is done, it appears that costs will amount to between 15 and 17 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

In any country in the world, losses totalling between 15 and 17 per cent of GDP is a grave blow, but for small islands which lack the productive capacity and resilience to bounce back, the effect is even more severe.

The seriousness of the damage and the real likelihood that such disasters will reoccur with greater frequency and intensity strongly points to the necessity of two actions. Individual Caribbean countries and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as a whole should establish Disaster Funds from which affected territories can draw for immediate rehabilitation of infrastructure and restoration of homes for the poorest, and every Caribbean country should push for the expansion of the size of resources for entities such as the Commonwealth Disaster Management Agency (CDMA) and the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) run by the World Bank.

In the case of CCRIF the latest public figures show that it has a claims-paying capacity of US$132.5 million. This is a small sum in relation to the damage on St Vincent and the Grenadines alone. When St Lucia and Dominica – two islands that were also affected by the Christmas holidays flooding – are added to the equation, the available insurance money available to affected countries becomes even smaller.

In his Budget statement to the St Vincent and the Grenadines parliament, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves provided a graphic picture of the disaster on St Vincent. He said over 11 000 persons or over 10 per cent of the population were directly affected, and by December 31 over 50 000 persons or roughly 50 per cent of the population were still adversely affected by extensive disruption of water supplies. He also explained the extensive and “huge” damage to physical infrastructure including 14 bridges destroyed; 14 bridges severely damaged; several miles of secondary roads and feeder roads ravaged; forests substantially denuded; and 662 houses damaged or destroyed. The Prime Minister put the aggregate cost at over US$120 million.

Prime Minister Gonsalves also stated that an International Donors’ Conference is being proposed to be held within the next three months to receive pledges for the rehabilitation and recovery processes in the three affected countries. Additionally, governments will apply to international agencies for loans to start rebuilding programmes. But, it will be months before loan applications can be made in conformity with the requirements of the agencies so that they can be appraised and approved for disbursement. In the meantime, the three islands are forced to cope as best they can.

In this connection, Prime Minister Gonsalves has shown creativity and imagination in mobilising between US$13.4 million and US$19.0 million in new monies, of which he told his country’s parliament he has already assembled US$11 million.

Significant in all this is that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has sophisticated Disaster Management machinery, namely a National Emergency Council of which there are 44 members chaired by the Prime Minister; a National Emergency Executive Committee with 10-sub-committees; and over 40 district disaster management committees. The country is to be congratulated for this machinery which, in part, must have contributed to ensuring that, in the aftermath of the disaster, as the Prime Minister put it “the immediate humanitarian/relief challenge did not metamorphose into a humanitarian disaster”.

But, in the final analysis, the effects of climate change are now defying prediction and preparedness. At the same time as there was exceptional rainfall and flooding in the islands of St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Dominica, there was a massive ice-storm in Canada that left 250 000 homes without electricity and heating in temperatures at minus 20 and below; Britain was battered by storms that affected over 150,000 homes; and there was snow in Cairo. It is now reasonable to assume that disasters will come suddenly and devastatingly. Therefore, preparation now calls for the unexpected.

Unlike Britain and Canada, disasters in small islands are comprehensive in their effects on people and economies. And, unlike places like Britain and Canada, small islands do not have the capacity and resources to “bounce back” – to restore infrastructure swiftly and to recover from economic losses.
That is why small countries need access to funds that are immediate. The bulk of such funds ought to be grants or loans on the softest terms. This is also why as soon as their economies are capable of it, Caribbean countries should collectively design their own disaster fund in addition to the existing Commonwealth and World Bank disaster insurance schemes.

Prime Minister Gonsalves painted in stirring terms a haunting picture of the disaster in his country and its consequences. He said: “In five hours of rainfall, floods, and landslides, hundreds of families have been reduced from vulnerability to indigence and from poverty to a “dirt poor” condition. Large numbers of people have been suffering harsh conditions as a consequence of the natural disaster, although the humanitarian response has eased some of the pain and hardship. The journey to recovery would be long and difficult. Psychological anguish or trauma is evident among the suffering and vulnerable people”.

The Prime Minister’s statements were all contained in a Budget presentation to his country’s parliament as he warned that in light of circumstances, he would introduce a further Budget in a matter of weeks as needs and resources becomes clear. In an intriguing description, he said the Budget was “interim” in nature, but this did not mean that it was “provisional or temporising” in fact or law.

Five hours are all that it took to wreak havoc on St Vincent. The Prime Minister is right to look beyond the “provisional” and “temporising” to strengthening his country’s socio-economic base for recovery and reconstruction. Others in the region should do so too.

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

Time to get a handle on WI cricket

CRICKET fans in Grenada and across the Caribbean must certainly be wondering where exactly our regional team is heading and how can the authorities arrest that as well as the state of the game as we know it.

Our cricket seems to have lost its way. The recent tours by the West Indies to India and New Zealand where we were walloped again highlight the sorry state of Caribbean cricket. The team came away from New Zealand with a draw in the 50 over version of the game, but lost the other formats in both countries at a time when it was thought there would have been a better showing.

Those concerns, in addition to the impressive performance by Australia, who prior to their series against England had lost momentum after having dominated the game for more than 15 years, tell the story of whether Caribbean cricket is coming or going. The Aussies had not been doing well and early last year were beaten comprehensively by England (in England). Somehow they regrouped and recovered and subsequently turned the tables on the English, whipping them 5-0 in the Ashes series and thereby signaling to the rest of the world that Australia’s cricket is back.

For the West Indies that must have been a bitter pill to swallow. Whereas Australia’s rebuilding had been taking place for about four to five years (if that long) in the Caribbean it had been going on since the team fell from the pinnacle of world cricket in the mid-1990s. So that while Australia has rebounded, somehow we have managed to fall from one crisis to another even though having in place a rebuilding programme.

The truth is that no one expected magic in preparing a fighting unit similar to what existed previously with the likes of Clive Lloyd, Vivian (now Sir Vivian) Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Richie Richardson, Larry Gomes, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall among the greats of that era. Fans recognised that it would take time to replace those players and were prepared to wait it out.

New measures were put in place in the rebuilding exercise. The programme included having new and younger players, and a broadening of domestic competitions to get our players fully equipped to take on the world. The set up included having under-19 and A team tours to other cricketing nations, inviting teams from other countries to participate in our annual four-day competition and T20 competitions. Changes were also made at the top of the administration of West Indies cricket, coaches were appointed, and there is better remuneration for players (including contracts).

Now it is up to the West Indies Cricket Board to take stock of the situation and deal with the real issues that are affecting both the team and the overall game. The Board has to be aware of what cricket means to West Indians. It is one of the few institutions that has brought Caribbean people here and in the diaspora together. While fans agitate about who should play or should not, at the end of the day they rally behind the team giving the players full support.

They accept as well that we cannot win all. But we have not been winning anything except for the recent World T/20 competition. It is up to the Board to get a handle on things.


By Linda Straker

Acting Comptroller of the Inland Revenue Division (IRD), Dr. Raphael Stephen, said that there is a thriving black market economy, which is depriving Government of much-needed revenue and his department will be stepping up efforts to crack down on the practice.

Stephen, who was appointed to the position effective June 19, 2013, said that a common trend among those black market traders is not issuing receipts, which is a violation of the tax law.

“Two things in particular that traders should know is that a receipt must be issued whenever there is a transaction and businesses need to reg-ister with the tax office. When businesses failed to register, they are cheating the Government of revenue,” he said.

Speaking on a weekly television programme, Dr. Stephen said there are fixed penalties that officers at the IRD can issue whenever a trader is found violating the law.

“I must tell you that recently we identified a number of traders who were violating and these businesses were charged between $500 and $5 000,” he said.

Dr. Stephen, who is qualified in Public Finance as a Fiscal Scientist and has been in the Government service for 31 years, said that these businesses did not challenge the tax officers as they are fully aware about the violation as written within the law.

“They don’t challenge it; in one instance where a trader was charged $5 000  he paid immediately,” he said, while pointing out that tax officers also issued warnings to several other businesses for failure to comply with the tax laws.

Public Relations Officer of the division, Chinnelle Andrews, said that issuing of receipts is a major problem and called on customers to demand their receipts and/or contact the IRD when traders failed to provide them with a record of the transaction.

“We want the public to call in and let us know when traders violate the law, because the law provides and makes it mandatory for receipts to be issued by all companies who are registered,” she said.

A recent review of the Value Added Tax system, which came into effect in February 2010, called for enforcing clauses relating to garnishing and seizures for those who failed to comply with the VAT law, and establishing a policy of management reporting on compliance performance.

Conducted by the Audit Department in the Ministry of Finance, one recommendation is that a comprehensive education process be undertaken to provide officers who originally were not part of the VAT process with knowledge of the requirements of the VAT legislation and the existing policies and procedures.

Date set for Parliamentarians to declare assets

By Linda Straker

Parliamentarians in both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament are set to declare their assets to the Office of the Integrity Commission on March 4 and 5, 2014.

Office Facilitator, Eunice Sandy-David, said that members of the Lower House will be presenting on March 4, while March 5 will be for the members of the Upper House. If he plans to fulfil the promise made while presenting the 2014 Budget, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell is expected to be the first to present his declaration forms to the Office of the Integrity Commission, which is located at Archibald Avenue.

“At present, I am awaiting a call from the Commission to make my declaration. As promised, I will be the first to do so,” he said back on December 10, 2013.

Though Grenada approved its Public Life Act back in 2007 and a Commission was appointed, a new legislation was approved in 2012 to correct deficiencies in the previous law, which was identified by members of the old Commission, which was headed by former Chairman, retired Judge Lyle St. Paul.

Following the passage of the new legislation, a new commission was appointed as of November 15, 2013 and it is chaired by retired Judge Monica Joseph. According to Part Three of the legislation, which focuses on Financial Disclosure where a person in public life fails to file a declaration, the Commission shall publish such fact in the Gazette and in at least one weekly newspaper circulation in the island followed by an application to the Court for an order directing the public to comply with the provision of the law. In addition, the Court has the power to impose “conditions as it thinks fit”.

According to the Public Life Act, the Governor General shall appoint an auditor to examine and verify the contents and accuracy of the declarations.

“The auditor shall examine every declaration filed pursuant to this section in order to ensure that such a declaration complies with the requirements of this Act,” the legislation recommends.

All information relating and pertaining to declarations, according to the law, shall be treated as secret and confidential and any unauthorised person who violates this section of the law commits an offence. The penalty for this offence on summary conviction is a fine not exceeding EC$20 000 or one year imprisonment.

However, if a matter is before the Court that requires the Integrity Commission to release declaration information, then the judge can order that the information be released to the Court.

Alcohol Alliance supports Education Ministry’s calls – to not sell alcohol at school events

Ruel Edwards, Interim Chairman of the Grenada Beverage Alcohol Alliance, said that the membership respects the Ministry of Education’s school policy on the promotion, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages at school-based events.

“We don’t submit to selling alcoholic beverage to minors. It’s against the law and it goes contrary to the code of ethics of the Alliance,” said Edwards.

The Alliance is a collective grouping of alcohol beverage producers, distributors and marketers whose mission is to reduce alcohol-related harm through combating the misuse and abuse of alcohol products. The core objective is to promote the responsible distribution, sale and consumption of beverage alcohol products.

The Ministry of Education recently issued a warning to vendors informing them that the National Schools’ Policy on Drugs makes it a violation for alcohol to be sold on the compound of school events, such as track and field and other sports meets.

The policy prohibits the sale, distribution and use of alcoholic beverages at school functions and the penalty for violators convicted under that Act is a fine of three thousand dollars and imprisonment for three months for the first offence and for the second or any subsequent offence, to a fine of five thousand dollars and imprisonment for six months.

Calling for adults to understand the wider benefit of effectively enforcing the policy and the law as it relates to minors and the sale and distribution of alcohol, Edwards said that though it may be a sensitive issue, peo-ple should respect the policy as its aim is in the best interest of the young people.

“Our membership I know will abide with the policy. You see we have members who are involved in both the non-alcohol and alcohol beverage and I am certain that you will not see alcoholic beverage promotions at school-based events,” he said.

Viral workshop for journalists gets under way

Dr. Robert Gallo

Dr. Robert Gallo, one of the doctors who co-discovered HIV, is one of the expert virologists who are speaking at a three-day viral workshop for journalists, which opened at St. George’s University (SGU) yesterday.

The participants, who are mainly health reporters, are from various US and Caribbean media outlets and they will be provided with an opportunity to learn firsthand about the nature of viruses, their spread, and virus treatments and vaccinations.

“The workshop aims to take what can be a complex subject – the science and epidemiology of viruses – and break it down to a comprehen-sible level that can be utilised when reporters need to communicate to the masses about important news relating to viruses,” said a release from SGU.

Besides Dr. Gallo, who is widely known for his co-discovery of HIV and his development of the blood test, other expert virologists scheduled to speak at the workshop are Dr. Ellen Ratner and Dr. James Hamblin.

Dr. Gallo discovered the first known human retroviruses (HTLV-1 and HTLV-2), which are endemic to regions in the Caribbean, including Grenada.

The workshop is organised by the Windward Islands Research and Education Foundation (WINDREF) in partnership with the Global Virus Network.  (LS)

Region moving to harmonise literacy data

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will be implementing a programme designed to harmonise the measurement of literacy data.

This programme will advance the production of reliable information for better decision making in this area, revealed the CARICOM Fourth Technical Workshop on a Common Framework for a Literacy Survey under an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Regional Public Goods Project, held in Barbados last week with education officials, statisticians and other experts.

The project, which is being conducted in phases, saw workshops in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados respectively to familiarise participants with the theoretical and practical aspects of literary assessments, and the critical importance of literacy measurement in policy formation.

Those workshops had also streamlined the key deliverables of the common literary framework for the region and an Action Plan to ensure its implementation.

The meeting in Barbados expanded on the work done so far, focusing on recommendations for the improvement and finalisation of the regional survey instruments as well as other features including methodology, training guides and an interviewer’s manual which is expected to guarantee the harmonisation of literacy data collected in the future.

Efforts are ongoing to assist Member States with implementation through the development of National Implementation Plans for the conduct of at least two literacy surveys, expected to produce sound and comparable literacy statistics across the Caribbean Community. (TL)

Community involvement critical in disaster management

THERE are a number of lessons to be derived from the extreme weather event which impacted sister islands last month.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, Ronald Jackson, while delivering the featured address at the 10th annual general meeting of the St. James Central DEO, says the responsibility was spread across the purview of many actors from Government to private sector to the community, which ranged from issues of physical, social and economic development, to issues of risk communication.

CDEMA Executive Director, Ronald Jackson.
Elaborating on the latter, he noted that this matter received tremendous attention as it relates to warning for the impending event.

“There are those who claimed that the Met Office failed to warn them and others who blamed the national disaster offices, both of whom are key actors in the warning process and who, in any accountability framework, should be among those scrutinised in a forensic look at the issues surrounding warning.

“However key stakeholders absent from this forensic media assessment have been the communities themselves. Generally the findings so far point to the fact that the MET Offices did indicate that there was a trough. In this case they would have lived up to their commitment and provided public notification of the event.

“Some persons would have heard it and not react to it because traditionally a trough meant having some rain but nothing to ‘write home about’. Others would have heard and ignored it because it’s Christmas Eve and they wanted nothing to dampen preparation for the festivities, whilst others would have missed the notification because the disaster offices would not have further amplified this notification given that the existing warning protocols does not address low stationary troughs,” he explained.

He stated that there are a number of questions to be posed to community groups in this analysis including: How did or how should the community respond to this notification? What would have changed if there was a greater awareness of the risk of a trough given the time of year and the current culture of our people? As citizens living in a very hazard prone part of the world we are learning that traditional weather events are resulting in untraditional outcomes. Are we prepared to adjust our traditional responses to effectively deal with the new risk realities we are facing?

“In any event what we are finding out is that the type and level of our community development often times determine the level of risk the community faces and the culture and level of resilience will determine how badly impacted they will be, how quickly they will respond and how fast they will recover,” he stated. (JH)

Volunteerism vital in emergency crises

THE Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) considers the support provided by local DEOs to the Department of Emergency Management to be vital to the effective preparation for and response to emergency events in Barbados.

So says Executive Director Ronald Jackson, as he lauded the work carried out by the St. James Central DEO, which is currently celebrating its tenth year.

“The same is true of other district level emergency organisations throughout the region and the support that they provide to the national disaster offices throughout the region.

“This support is critical as, in the Caribbean region, we are vulnerable to a broad range of hazards. Tropical storms, hurricanes, flooding, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis, as well as various types of man-made hazards like fires and spills. A number of events caused by these hazards have occurred in Barbados in very recent times.

“Historically, Hurricane Janet may have been the most impactful. Others, though we have not experienced them, have impacted upon our close Caribbean neighbours, such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake. So, we can no longer have a false sense of security that they cannot occur here. These hazards have the potential to significantly impact upon and even reverse the development gains that we have achieved individually and collectively at the community and national level.”

Jackson explained that one of the central tenets of the Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) approach which CDEMA promotes is that reducing the vulnerabilities of communities to hazards and lending support to fellow community members in the event that a disaster does occur, is the responsibility of all sectors and people in a society.

“In this regard, we highly value and strongly encourage volunteerism.

“Volunteer-based groups, such as the St. James Central DEO, play key roles in all phases of the disaster management cycle: preparedness, disaster response and post-disaster rehabilitation.

“As you are aware, DEOs were organised to support the National Disaster Office in undertaking disaster education and awareness building at the community level; providing initial emergency response until first responders arrive; and assisting in the conduct of damage assessment, needs analysis and relief distribution. This group is able to be highly effective because of their knowledge of the community and relationships with community members,” he stated. (JH)

CALYPSO KING OF NY – Val Adams wins 2014 Independence Calypso title

Val Adams

Grenadians and other Caribbean nationals filled the Tropical Paradise Ballroom last Sunday night as they came out and supported their favourite Grenadian calypsonian as 12 of them competed for the 2014 New York Grenada Independence Calypso title.

Presenting the island’s history from the time it was discovered by Christopher Columbus to current affairs issues since it became an independent state in 1974, the calypsonians painted a picture of “achievement through conflict” as the younger generations learned about the historical low and high points of the island throughout the past 40 years.

In the end, it was Val Adams who was crowned the Calypso King with his rendition entitled “We still have another one”, beating last year’s winner Quako to second position – which he had to share with  Jermaine “Super Star” Simon. The other participants in the competition were Gansta Sammy; Samora; Natifa St. Louis; Quarshie; Zingo; Randy Isaacs; Paul “Hercules” Williams; Johnson Henry (Jay one) and The Iceman (Whistler).

The competition, which had a winning prize of US$3 000 plus a challenge trophy, is one of many activities organised by GRENCAP in observance of Grenada’s 40th Independence Anniversary in New York. The activities will conclude on February 8, with a gala in which the guest of honour will be Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Besides New York, Grenada’s 40th Independence Anniver-sary is also being celebrated and commemorated in various cities around the world where Grenadians reside. These include but are not limited to Toronto, Montreal, London, Miami, New Jersey and Houston. (LS)

CDB, IFC join forces to support infrastructure PPPs in the C’bean

THE Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to support Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that are crucial to building better infrastructure in the Caribbean.

Well-structured public-private partnerships – agreements between governments and firms to provide infrastructure and public services – leverage the expertise and capital of the private sector to enhance the quality and efficiency of the public sector.
(L-R) Mr. Mark Mostovac, Counsellor (Development) and
Deputy Director of Operations for DFATD’s Caribbean
Programme; Dr. Carla Barnett, Vice-President (Operations),
CDB; Mr. Richard Cabello, Manager, Infrastructure Advisory,
Latin America, IFC; and Mr. Kirk Ifill, IFC Resident
Representative for the Southern Caribbean.

The Memorandum of Understanding between IFC and CDB establishes close co-operation between these two institutions to advise Caribbean governments at the national and sub-national levels in the development of new infrastructure projects with private participation.

“In the face of fiscal challenges, public-private partnerships have become an important tool to help governments work with the private sector to meet the needs of their communities,” said Mr. Kirk Ifill, IFC Resident Representative for the Southern Caribbean.

“This collaboration between IFC and CDB opens up exciting opportunities and allows IFC to share its considerable international experience.”

Under the memorandum, CDB and IFC would collaborate in a variety of areas, including helping to conduct due diligence, identify suitable private sector partners and structure projects with government authorities to ensure a transparent and competitive bidding process. Renewable energy, education, transportation, and water and sanitation projects are the focus of co-operation, though the memorandum does not exclude other potential sectors.

Dr. Warren Smith, President of CDB, said: “CDB is pleased to collaborate with IFC on this initiative. By encouraging and supporting co-operative ventures between the public and private sectors, we are also promoting a strategic response to economic growth and job creation – two major development concerns for this region.”

This initiative is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), which has been an important partner in providing financial support for IFC’s work in the Caribbean. The intent is to leverage DFATD funding, alongside other donor funding mobilised by CDB and IFC, to promote public-private partnerships in the Caribbean.

“There is tremendous potential in the Caribbean. By working with IFC and CDB, we can help support efforts to unleash economic growth,” said Mr. Mark Mostovac, Counsellor (Development) and Deputy Director of Operations for DFATD’s Caribbean Programme.

“The goal is to leverage the private sector to help foster development by providing infrastructure, improving efficiency and lowering the cost of service delivery in the Caribbean.”

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Emmanuel to replace Sammy in Windwards squad

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – Defending champions Windward Islands will be without captain and allrounder Darren Sammy for the upcoming NAGICO Super50 Tournament.

Sammy, the West Indies Test and T20 captain, was named to lead the Windwards, but had to withdraw with an injury.

He will be replaced by fellow allrounder Craig Emmanuel, while Liam Sebastien will assume the role as captain. Andre Fletcher is the new vice captain.

Sebastien was at the helm when the Windwards won the tournament in 2013.

Sammy sustained a hamstring injury during the recent tour of New Zealand and has not fully recovered. He will travel to Antigua this week to continue his rehabilitation with Hector Martinez Charles, the West Indies Team’s Strength and Conditioning Co-ordinator.

“I suffered a Grade 2 injury in New Zealand and it is still not fully healed. I still require some more time to get back ‘on the park’. I want to make sure I’m at peak fitness when I make my return. I’m looking to make a return when we [West Indies] play against Ireland in Jamaica in second half of February,” Sammy told WICB Media.

“We [Windwards] did really well last year under the captaincy of Liam and won the tournament in style... so I’m backing my team to do it again this year. Craig is a good, experienced cricketer who is very capable of performing at this level.”

The NAGICO Super50 tournament will run from January 30 to February 15 and will be broadcast live on ESPN for the television audience and on Caribbean Super Station radio. Matches will be played at Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain and Shaw Park, Tobago.

Windward Islands Squad: Liam Sebastien (captain), Andre Fletcher (vice captain), Johnson Charles (wicket-keeper), Tyron Theophille, Mervin Matthew, Craig Emmanuel, Garey Mathurin, Keddy Lesporis, Devon Smith, Dalton Polius, Delorn Johnson, Kenroy Peters, Romel Currency, Alston Bobb.

CELAC offers new strategic possibilities

In little over a week’s time the second summit of CELAC, The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños) will take place in Havana. Although it would be easy to dismiss this as just another regional event at which politicians and diplomats continue their existential dance, it is of unusual strategic importance as its subject matter and timing juxtaposes key political developments in the Americas about which the Caribbean has, so far, not sought to draw together.

Put another way, the meeting, while specific in its short-term intent, references issues that will shape politically the future of Americas.

By way of background CELAC was established in 2010 out of the Rio Group, and reflects a desire to reduce the overwhelming influence of the United States on the politics and economics of Latin America and to lessen the influence of institutions such as the Organisation of American States, (OAS) that became constructs of the cold war.

Unlike the OAS, which includes the US and Canada but in which Cuba does not participate; CELAC consists of all 33 nations in the Americas other than Canada, the US and the territories of European nations.

Although the new grouping has been championed by left leaning Latin nations, it represents a broader desire to establish a political framework based on the similarities in thinking between member nations and a desire to authentically represent the views of the southern two thirds of the hemisphere to a world in which the location of power has changed significantly over the last decade.

This meeting in Havana – Cuba presently holds the chair, which will pass to Costa Rica – takes place from January 25 to 29 against a background of developments that taken together will affect directly all of the nations of the Caribbean.

On December 17 in Caracas members of ALBA, to which a number of Caribbean nations belong, and members of PetroCaribe, which includes many Latin nations and all of the Caribbean other than Trinidad, agreed at a summit to a declaration that involves the creation of a new complementary economic zone between the countries of the two alliances with a view to tackling poverty.

The signatories, including Caribbean Heads, declared that it was their intention to link this complementary zone with other regional organisations such as Mercosur and CARICOM, and that Jamaica, Dominica, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Venezuela would oversee the process of its establishment. It was suggested that this development along with planned new financial and social initiatives could lead to a deeper integration process between the Caribbean and Latin America.

It followed other potentially important strategic announcements and developments.

In November 2013 the US Secretary of State declared the Monroe Doctrine dead. Speaking at the OAS in Washington he said that the United States will no longer seek to intervene in the affairs of other American states. The US was moving on and was making a different choice ... “It’s about all of our countries viewing one another as equals, sharing responsibilities, co-operating on security issues, and adhering not to doctrine, but to the decisions that we make as partners to advance the values and the interests that we share,” he said.

At the same time he and President Obama made clear in this context that the time for new thinking on Cuba had arrived.

Since then a more respectful dialogue between Havana and Washington has begun on functional co-operation and the pace and breadth of such exchanges is slowly accelerating; so much so that if with the Vatican’s intervention a way of resolving the linked issues of imprisoned Cuban intelligence officers in the US and an American citizen found guilty of allegedly subversive activity in Cuba, US Cuba relations may perhaps slowly normalise.

It is also far from certain whether the OAS will in future have long-term significance unless the US and Cuba can find a basis that will enable it to again take its seat. This would probably mean the US lifting its designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and some form of new hemispheric balance emerging that the US accepts within the context of its new thinking on the Americas and the alternate political construct of CELAC.

All this is happening when other significant changes are occurring.

The US, under the leadership of Vice President Biden, is working on a Caribbean Basin approach that is likely to go beyond security and energy and is intended to refocus thinking in Washington on the Caribbean in a practical way that supports a return to prosperity.

The UK, Canada, the European Union and the US are exploring how they might co-operate better, and find ways in which newer partners in the region including China and Brazil might be drawn into this process.

And there is a growing awareness beyond the region that in future, economic power and influence in the Caribbean Basin may begin to relocate, based less on politics and more on economic growth, offshore oil and gas, minerals and economic dynamism.

While the impact of these developments are over the horizon, taken together they imply a very different hemisphere two decades from now.

They suggest the possibility of an Americas as a region without significant conflict, new and complementary economic relationships, an accommodation with Cuba that quite literally redraws the mental and physical boundaries within which the hemisphere operates, and opportunities for a new pragmatic relationship between the Caribbean and Latin America.

These are developments that potentially offer the Caribbean opportunity to think fresh thoughts, enabling it to escape from arid post colonial responses, and to forge relations with non-traditional partners through CARICOM or bilaterally.

Although it is easy to dismiss the CELAC summit as a stage on which some will expound an alternative social view of the way the Americas might be better organised, this would be to miss the central strategic significance of the long term trends the event speaks to.

The CELAC summit offers the opportunity to politically reposition the region, and consider in Latin America and the Caribbean’s own terms how it wishes to respond to the long-term changes in relationships that are now occurring.

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

The harsh effects of being less well-off

Throughout the Caribbean, people feel less well off. The only people who may be exceptions to this general sentiment are those in Guyana whose per capita income (now US$3 410.00) has increased in recent years. But even in Guyana, the per capita income level is so low – higher only than Haiti (US$760.00) in the Caribbean Community – that any perception among the majority of doing better is marginal.

Unemployment has risen in several countries affecting families across the board. They either have less collective income or those fortunate enough to be employed have to contribute to the survival of those without jobs.

Disposable incomes for all have declined as higher costs for utilities and higher income and value added taxes devour increasingly larger portions of wages and salaries.

Again with the exception of a small number of countries, the decline in real family incomes has adversely affected the construction industry with a decelerating effect on economies. The construction of individual homes or housing schemes is a provider of jobs and has a multiplier effect on economies stimulating economic growth.

Because of tight constraints to make ends meet, families are less willing to take on mortgages that they might be unable to repay. In any event, Banks and other financial institutions are themselves reluctant to lend for anything but projects that have the most secure collateral. Many of them are already holding mortgages and loans that are in default of payment by their customers. They are finding difficulty to recover their money even if they repossess properties.

Businesses, faced with contracting domestic markets in several Caribbean countries, have also been wary of investing in expanding existing businesses or creating new ones. Hence, they too are making no contribution to industries such as construction, and they are treading lightly in incurring additional debt and in taking on more employees.

A serious consequence of all this is a shrinking middle-class in many Caribbean countries and an enlarging poor and near-poor. A grave consequence is the increase in violent crime by some who are most deprived – probably linked to drug trafficking and addiction. In the past, Caribbean countries have been most concerned about the negative impact of such violent crime on foreign investors, but the problem has escalated to distress local communities. A big growth industry in the Caribbean is security services and it will grow even more in the adversity of the present economic circumstances.

Yet while Caribbean countries individually are in this grip of economic and social hardship to one extent or another, collectively the region is rich in real terms both in natural and human resources. If the resources of the Caribbean community were harnessed for the benefit of the region as a whole, a halt could be brought to the current decline and a process of steady improvement could begin. There is, however, a reluctance to do so. Instead there is a resolute insistence by governments to deal with the problems in a national context only – a major component in most cases is beseeching and borrowing.

Well-mind advocates for “national solutions” even suggest that to look at regional options is “time wasting” and “distracting”. But, those who advance this argument have not explained how the majority of small Caribbean economies would overcome their physical smallness; the smallness of their domestic economies; the severe restraints on raising money on the international capital market to build much needed infrastructure; and their individual lack of capacity to bargain in the international community for better terms of trade, credit, and investment. Even Guyana, Belize, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago with their bigger size and greater natural resources cannot by themselves overcome these obstacles.

To overcome them, resources need to be combined for a common good; production needs to be integrated to make best use of resources – human and natural; sovereignty needs to be pooled both to bargain more effectively and to become attractive to investors and to international lenders.

It seems that many governments of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are not ready to collaborate to make themselves more competitive in production; more attractive for investment; and more worthy for credit. Therefore, perhaps the time has come for a smaller coalition of willing countries to embark on such a course separate and apart from the rest of CARICOM countries. In doing so, none of them would be required to give up their nationhood or national control of their borders; their culture; their legislatures; their taxes or their local environment.

Not all decisional areas raise issues of the same political prominence in every country. It is possible to separate out some on which action might move ahead by countries that are willing to participate. In other words, a coalition of the willing could establish a more customised approach, based on interests and capacities. Such an initiative, while bringing benefits to the participating states would help to re-build confidence among the Caribbean people through the demonstration that regional integration makes good sense.

Among the collaborative enterprises that the “willing” could consider are specific areas of investment in one or more country to which the participating states could stand as joint borrower, joint owner and joint beneficiary. These could focus on energy, value-added manufacturing, food production and tourism.

Individual Caribbean countries may not be considered acceptable risks for loans and investment, particularly in today’s market, but a combination of them would be an attractive proposition. Not many areas of the world offer the backing of a wide range of commodities and services that the Caribbean has: bauxite, manganese, asphalt, oil, gas, sugar, rice, nutmeg, coffee, cocoa, a variety of fruits, flowers, animal, poultry, fish, forestry, gold, diamonds, tourism, financial services, and the potential for geo-thermal and solar energy.

Each country has resources, but by themselves, except for oil, gas and gold, they are not sufficient to attract major investment or to provide access to capital on the international market. And even in oil, gas and gold, capital investments are less attractive when the risk is being taken in one country alone and where only one government is the borrower or acts as guarantor.

Of course, governments must devise national solutions to all their problems, not only the economic ones. This calls for innovative ideas; for practical plans and creative management; and for implementation capacity. But, Caribbean governments are fortunate in having a further string to their bow – regional collaboration. Both paths should be pursued simultaneously.

There is nothing to lose, and there would be a good shot at curing some of the ills that now befall each country without exception.

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

Invest in cyber security

THE 2014 production of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) recently held in Las Vegas, Nevada was a smorgasbord of delights for the tech lover. The different gadgets and machines on display were a testament to the imagination, ingenuity and innovation of the human mind. However, we were particularly intrigued after learning about some of the latest developments in biometric technology as showcased at the CES.

Two innovations in this field caught our attention – the Myris and the Pulse Wallet. As its name so cleverly suggests, Myris (my iris) scans the user’s eye to ascertain identity and gain access to one’s gadget/data. The small, portable device connects via a USB port, making it the essence of convenience. Meanwhile, the Pulse Wallet appears to nearly erase the line between man and machine. The palm scanner links the vein layout of the user’s hand to their credit card, allowing them to make payments with the swipe of a hand, rather than a card.

The two gadgets appear to make life that much more secure and convenient – providing an individualised method of protecting one’s sensitive data and finances, without having to remember endless lists of passwords and/or PIN numbers; or worry about the card being lost or stolen. However, while technophiles everywhere may be marvelling, technophobes are probably cringing in horror. In fact, one does not have to be anti-technology to be a bit uneasy about such capabilities becoming commonplace. The average person might interact with basic biometrics – fingerprint scanners and voice recognition on smart phones, for example – but the fact remains that many do not understand how it all works. And that means they cannot fully appreciate the doors that it may open – some of which may not all lead to a safe place.

As quickly as software developers can come up with a new system or gadget, there are those who make it their mission to ‘crack’ them. Some do it simply for the challenge; others for more nefarious reasons. Identity theft has become big business as the world has become more digitised and companies which utilise online facilities – in other words, nearly all of them – must do what they can to stay one step ahead of the hackers and other persons who would seek to compromise their security. In fact, this is how biometrics has gained popularity, as it purports to be the ultimate in security since, by rights, it should eliminate the ability for anyone to duplicate another’s identity.

However, if we appreciate that the hackers always find a back door or a way around the system, then shouldn’t we be concerned about fusing the essence of ourselves so intimately with our technology?

Though we appreciate the need for thorough checks, the process to regaining control and receiving compensation after one has been the victim of identity theft can be a tedious and stressful one. Some persons are forced to go to great lengths and expense to prove that they are indeed who they say they are; all while the identity thief is living the high life. How much harder would it become to prove that you are a victim when faced with an ‘impossible’ breach of biometric-based security?

Add to this the fact that cyber security is still an underdeveloped field in developing countries such as ours, and one can see the potential for chaos if we do not adequately prepare ourselves before embracing new technologies. Just as we encourage the use of technology throughout the region to increase efficiencies and boost productivity, we also suggest that a greater investment be made in cyber security.

ICT IN NEED OF PROPER MANAGEMENT – can have positive impact on the region

By Linda Straker

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell says that once managed, exploited and maximised properly, the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector could bring the Region and the people to a place which affords opportunities to develop new services, industries and markets that create jobs, return profits and drive growth.

“Put simply, all our CARICOM Member States are at a crossroad with respect to the development of our economies, and providing a climate for the prosperity of our citizens. We are plagued by issues of high debt, high unemployment, health-care problems, growing crime rates (some more than others), and overall low growth. I am, therefore, clear in my position that the only way to get out of this downward spiral is to do things differently. We need to transform the way we live, the way we work, and the way we form partnerships,” he told participants at the 48th Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) held in Grenada last week.

Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. Keith Mitchell, addressing the
opening ceremony of the 48th Special Meeting of the Council
for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on
Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs).
Addressing the opening ceremony, Dr. Mitchell, who is CARICOM lead Minister on ICT, said that the application of ICT provides the promise of enabling transformation in all areas of human endeavours.

“We see it every day, in the use of the Internet, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Skype, to name a few.

The rewards are compelling, and we only have to observe the economic prosperity of many middle income countries who were early adopters of ICT,” he said, while explaining that Science, Technology and Innovation have now been adopted as critical enablers for economic development in most emerging and developed countries.

Cross section of participants at COTED meeting.

Pointing out that working environment for ICT includes laboratories in which Biotechnology and nanotechnology are revolutionising the areas of health, quality of life, and new infrastructure, he said that there are opportunities within those fields that can impact positively on the region.

“What does this mean for the Caribbean – a region of small island states in which growth of our economies have eluded the best amongst us; where crime and security have become a plague to our societies; and the lives of our citizens are under constant threat of global climate change? It means we need to change the way we did things in the past. We need to find a way of leveraging the use of ICT, to change our current paradigm as a region, and to optimise our development,” he said.

“ICT must be able to help bring our island states closer together. It must contribute to fuelling the integration process, and support functional co-operation amongst our public institutions and our citizens across the region,” he told the participants.

Gov’t not in support of GRENLEC’s non-fuel rate increase

Public Utilities Minister, Gregory Bowen.

Public Utilities Minister, Gregory Bowen, says that Government does not support the recent announcement from GRENLEC that it will increase its non-fuel rate as of February 1, 2014, but at the same time there isn’t much that can be done to stop the action.

“Government cannot stop it, we could only say we oppose it,” Bowen said on Tuesday, during the weekly post-Cabinet briefing as he explained that at present, Grenada does not have an effective Public Utilities Commission to approve or object to public utilities increasing fees.

According to Bowen, in 1994, the then National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration sold GRENLEC majority shares to WR Enterprises Ltd. and as part of the agreement, there was also a modification to the Public Utilities Commission legislation making it become ineffective.

“On this pending non-fuel increase, all GRENLEC simply had to do was write a letter advising on the increase based on the inflation rate as published in the Gazette. All the Commission had to do was to verify the calculations in 120 days,” he said.

GRENLEC announced that the rate will increase by 0.77 per cent, which represents an adjustment in the net rate increase of 1.22 per cent that was applicable for 2013 and a decrease of 0.45 per cent that is due for 2014 based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), as gazetted for 2012.

Bowen said that the previous NDC administration, led by Tillman Thomas, had asked the company to “hold back” the increase and the same request was made by the ruling New National Party administration. “But there is only so much that can be asked of the company … there is no Public Utilities Commission in place and so Government cannot stop it, but we can oppose it,” he said.

Bowen is of the opinion that GRENLEC is disregarding the request from Government for corporate and individuals to make sacrifices that can result in the economic development and transformation of the country.

“Why GRENLEC does not want to participate in the sacrifice for a solution?” he questioned.

“It will not hinder the profit of the company, but this can have negative impact on others,” he said, while explaining that companies may take a decision to send home staff because of the increased cost to their utility bills.

In its release about the pending rate adjustment, GRENLEC said that understanding the economic conditions that prevail, it regrets the increase. “However, we believe that it is more practical to implement small rate increases than to delay, thus risking the possibility of a higher rate increase at a later stage,” said the release.

“Our Company has always been cognisant of the impact of rate increases on our customers and in 2008, 2010 and 2013, GRENLEC sacrificed revenue by deferring increases in order to ease the burden on our customers. However, we cannot always absorb all the increased expenses and still maintain the quality service that our valuable customers have come to expect,” the release further explained.

GRENLEC does not and cannot adjust rates at will. In 1994, a Price Cap Formulae (RPI -2 per cent) was introduced to regulate the adjustment of non-fuel rates. This price cap regime governs how rate adjustments are calculated and prevents GRENLEC from increasing rates to make profit. It also prevents GRENLEC from passing on costs resulting from inefficiencies to their customers. (LS)

NIS begins implementing final phase of 8th Actuarial Review

By Linda Straker

While weekly workers could have already experienced paying increased contributions to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) as of January 1, 2014, monthly workers will begin paying increased contributions as of the end of the month.

The National Insurance laws make provision for an Actuarial Review of the NIS operations to be
conducted every three years. This is done by an Actuary, who primarily assesses the financial and actuarial soundness of the Fund and makes recommendations as to the adequacy of contributions payable and the relevance of benefits paid to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Fund.

Following the eighth review, the National Insurance (Collection of Contribution) Regulation was amended on October 29, 2010 (SRO 23 of 2010), resulting in increases in the ceiling on which National Insurance contributions are payable effective November 1, 2010, January 1, 2012 and January 1, 2014.

“What this mean is that effective January 1, 2014, the ceiling on which NIS contributions are payable has increased from $4 250  to $5 000 for monthly paid employees and from $990 to $1 160 for weekly paid employees,” said Mrs. Camille Gibbs-Douglas, Public Relations Officer at the NIS.

On November 1, 2010, the ceiling became $3 500; on January 1, 2012, it moved to $4 250 and the last increase as of $5 000 from January 1, 2014.

Mrs. Gibbs-Douglas explains that the contribution rate remains at 9 per cent of total insurable earnings, with employees between the ages of 16 and 60 paying 4 per cent and employers 5 per cent and under the new structure, it means that an employee who earns $5 000 monthly as of January 1, 2014 will now have to contribute $200 and the employer $250, making the total National Insurance contribution payable $450.

Employees under the age of 16 and over the age of 60 do not pay contributions, but employers have to pay a 1 per cent contribution for employment injury. “Each working person must be reg-istered and be covered for employment injury,” Gibbs-Douglas said.

Since the commencement of its operations in 1983, nine Actuarial Reviews have been conducted, resulting in a number of significant changes to the NIS reg-ulations. The Ninth Actuarial Review, which was conducted in 2011, recommended an increase in the pension from 60 to 65 over a 20-year period.

The tenth review is scheduled to take place during 2014.

OECS Economic Review for 2013 to be presented next Tuesday

Governor of the Eastern Caribbean
Central Bank (ECCB), Sir K. Dwight Venner.

Grenadians and other nationals of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) will on Tuesday, January 28, be presented with initiatives that were taken by both the public and private sectors to spur and sustain growth in the sub-region.

Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), the Honourable Sir K. Dwight Venner, will report and host a discussion on the performance of the economy of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) in 2013 and the initiatives that are being taken to spur and sustain growth in the ECCU, when he presents the 2013 ECCU Economic Review on Tuesday.

The presentation, which will be broadcast simultaneously via both radio and television stations in the member states, will focus on activities in every sector and industry, in particular the productive sectors such as construction, manufacturing, tourism, agriculture and the services sectors.

The Governor’s presentation will focus on economic developments in 2013, the main challenges and accomplishments of the currency union over the year and the top priorities for the ECCU over the next three years.

The objectives of the ECCU Economic Review, which was first presented in January 2005, are to: inform the citizens of the ECCU about the performance and prospects for the ECCU economy; stimulate public discussion of economic issues that are relevant to the region; and empower the people of the ECCU to participate in the socio-economic development of their respective countries and the currency union as a whole. (LS)

NDC member resigns days before convention

William Joseph

By Linda Straker

An influential member in the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who served as the first Chief-of-Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister during the Tillman Thomas administration and was critical for scripting its election manifestos, has resigned from the Party.

William Joseph’s resignation from the NDC comes days before the party holds its first convention on February 2, 2014 following the crushing defeat in the February 19, 2013 general elections in which no
candidate was elected to represent a constituency in the Lower House of Parliament.

Joseph, who is also Grenada’s immediate former Ambassador to Caricom and the OECS, tendered his resignation letter to General Secretary Bernard Isaac over the weekend.

In his letter of resignation, Joseph was highly critical of deputy political leader Nazim Burke, who he is accusing of “serious misconduct”. He also contends that Burke is not fit to be the Party’s new leader.

Tillman Thomas recently announced that he will not contest the leadership of the National Democratic Congress in the upcoming convention, which is being held at a yet-to-be-disclosed venue. The election of a new executive is the main outcome at the convention.

Party officials says that Burke, who is presently the deputy political leader, is seen by some as the
natural new head, but a significant number of senior and executive members are not in favour of that choice. That issue is believed to be responsible for a growing division within the party’s membership.

At its 2012 convention, growing discord within the NDC resulted in the expelling of a number of
executive and senior members, including former ministers Peter David, Karl Hood, Arley Gill and Glynis Roberts.

In the aftermath of the devastating defeat at the 2013 polls, Thomas admitted that the infighting and the expulsion in “some ways” contributed to the outcome of the election.

Region to benefit from Digital Development Strategy

THE development of a CARICOM Single Information Communication and Technologies (ICT) space will bring real benefits for consumers and businesses in our Community.

CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, has told the 48th Special Meeting for the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) that a Regional Digital Development Strategy will fully establish modern regional regulatory, while opening telecommunications infrastructures with affordable networks using converged technologies, to provide affordable and universal access.

According to him, this would lead to a positive effect on such issues as roaming rates and provide for a single area code as well as address copyright, spectrum and broadband matters.

He pointed out that the strategy would also look at areas such as capacity-building; regional policy direction, leadership and governance; innovation and efficiency; all of which lead to a CARICOM Information and Knowledge Society.

Touching specifically on the development of a human resource capacity in the sector, he outlined that a step in this direction would be the Caribbean Research and Education Network (C@ribNET).

The initiative was launched last February and is operated and managed by the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency.

“A successful digital economy hinges on our ability to harness Research, Innovation and Education, and C@ribNET, if utilised fully, can facilitate advancement in these areas and other sectors such as health. Mechanisms must be put in place to take advantage at the national level of the possibilities offered via C@ribNET. Thus, C@ribNET should be celebrated as a regional ‘win’ and a public good,” he added.

LaRocque also noted that there was a role for all the relevant regional institutions and the private sector, relating to implementing the strategy.

“Some of these institutions such as the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, CARICAD, and CXC along with the regional universities are already engaged in initiatives which, with proper coordination, would greatly assist the achievement of the objectives of the strategy,” he stated. (JMB)

CXC, Macmillan Publishers enter agreement

THE Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and Macmillan Publishers Limited have signed a publishing contract for the publication and distribution of learning support material for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).

Under the terms and conditions of the agreement, CXC has granted Macmillan exclusive publishing rights, in respect of syllabuses and past examination question papers for all CAPE and CSEC subjects.

Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC),
Dr. Didacus Jules, signing the publishing contract between
CXC and Macmillan Publishers Limited. Looking on is
Anderson Marshall, Director of Corporate Services, and Director
of Regional Sales Macmillan Publishers, Daniel Wilson.
The agreement also grants non-exclusive rights in respect of subject reports, related specimen papers and mark schemes for CAPE and CSEC subjects.

During the signing at Alexandra Court, Britton’s Cross Road, Director of Corporate Services at CXC, Anderson Marshall, acknowledged that since the start of CXC in 1972, it has contributed significantly to education in the region.

However, he stated that CXC is not satisfied with the level of attainment, and will continue to advance strategies for improving performance.

“Among these are Notesmaster, which is a web base for teachers and students to assist in the preparing of exams. We also do teacher training and we have also developed study guides for the use of students.

“In addition, we are publishing past examination papers, and that is what the Macmillan contract is about,” he highlighted.

Marshall disclosed that Macmillan was selected for the publishing of the past papers as a result of a tender process, opened to both Caribbean and British publishers.

“The publication of the past papers booklets and schools reports by Macmillan increases student and teacher access to these important resource materials. We expect that if these resources are used appropriately, they will go a long way to improving the performance of students,” Marshall noted.

He added that one of the important dimensions in the distribution of this new series of past papers is the facility to access copies online through the introduction of the CXC store.

Director of Regional Sales at Macmillan Publishers, Daniel Wilson, said that his company is delighted to enter into this exciting partnership with CXC.

“Having formerly printed and distributed CXC past papers, Macmillan is very aware of the value of these resources to students and teachers throughout the Caribbean as they prepare for exams,” Wilson stated.

He further indicated that the collaboration will increase access to essential examination resources – print and digital – for students, parents, teachers and schools across the region.

“This is an opportunity to work with CXC to develop, in addition to the printed past papers, an e-mail channel for these resources, which is particularly exciting for us.

“Digital offers a flexibility that print cannot, and Macmillan, with this partnership, will deliver an outstanding digital platform to house CXC’s resources,” Wilson assured. (TL)Ą

Producing critical thinkers vital

Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), Dr. Didacus Jules, is appealing to the Ministries of Education across the region to pay particular attention to the learning support materials being produced, particularly by private sources.

“What we see happening in the region today is a proliferation of products that are all focused on ‘drill for examination approaches’, and that I want to emphasise runs totally counter to what we are trying to do in CXC,” he stated during the signing of an agreement, which will see CXC granting Macmillan exclusive publishing rights in respect of syllabuses and past examination question papers for all CAPE and CSEC subjects.

Dr. Didacus Jules, Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
Dr. Jules disclosed that CXC has been told by some governments and the private sector that they need to ensure that the certification they offer not only speaks to thorough knowledge of the discipline or the subject area, but also addresses issues of critical thinking and problem solving.

“We cannot produce problem solvers and critical thinkers by drill methodology, and many of those sites that are being offered commercially, where people have to pay $30, $40 US a month, puts students through an unending drill process with a hope that they can get it right in exams,” he pointed out.

“Firstly, I want to warn those persons that CXC’s copyright has to be absolutely respected because we are vigorously going to pursue copyright infringement.

“Secondly, you cannot produce critical thinkers by drill. We need to spend less time on testing and more time on teaching and on learning. The understanding of the concepts in our syllabus is what will bring ultimately the results that we are seeking,” Dr. Jules stressed. (TL)

CPDC: More international assistance necessary

THE Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) is calling for greater international attention and support to be given to the vulnerability of the region to natural disasters, given the implications for already fragile economies and social cohesion.

This comes in wake of the recent weather events in the Windward Islands which threaten to undermine the hard-fought development gains of these countries, and in light of predictions that climate change and environmental degradation will exacerbate the vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

According to the CPDC Executive Co-ordinator, Shantal Munro-Knight, the events which occurred have deeper, longer term implications which the region must address frontally. “When people think of natural disasters, they think of typhoons and the impact of major hurricanes and earthquakes. While this is understandable given the visibility of these events, for us in the region the reality is even starker, small events can over time pose major setbacks for economies and societies already struggling with sluggish economic growth and social fragility. The long-term impact on our economies will reverberate for years to come. We must get the international community to recognise that this is our constant reality.”

While some progress has been made as a result of international commitments, much more is required. The CPDC believes that as the global community moves ahead with developing a new agreed development framework to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), very specific
attention should be given to recognising the vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Moreover, the CPDC recommends that the region use the upcoming 3rd International Conference on SIDS scheduled for Apia, Samoa this year, to press the call for greater rec-ognition of SIDS vulnerability in international processes, differentiated treatment in respect of obligations and greater resources to help the region implement adaptation measures. Importantly, the region must also draw attention to the growing negative impact that climate change will continue to play on the sustainable human development across the region.

“The issue of climate change and natural disasters must be treated as issues of major national concern. They must become part of the overarching conceptual framework, within which we frame our growth and development strategies.”

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Four West Indies players retained by IPL teams

Dwayne Bravo is the lone foreign player to be retained by Chennai Super Kings for the 2014 edition of the highly popular Indian Premiere League.

Bravo joins Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Suresh Raina as the players retained by CSK for this season.

Kieron Pollard has been retained by the defending champions and winners of the Champions League T20 last year, Mumbai Indians. Mumbai Indians have retained a full five players including Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga and Ambati Rayudu, who all played a key role in their double success in the previous edition.

According to an official release from the franchise, Mumbai Indians’ owner Nita Ambani said, “The formidable combination of these five players - Rohit, Pollard, Malinga, Bhajji and Rayudu – forms the nucleus of Mumbai Indians. They have exemplified the spirit of Mumbai Indians and are match-winners in their own right. With the retention of the core players, Mumbai Indians look forward to build a stronger, well-knit team and share the joy of an enthralling and entertaining performance with its ever-growing fans in the coming season.”

Kolkata Knight Riders have retained mystery spinner Sunil Narine and captain Gautam Gambhir for the 2014 season.

The three join Chris Gayle as the only other West Indian players to have been retained by their teams. Gayle has been retained by Royal Challengers Bangalore. (PG)

More action needed on cybersecurity

Two years ago I suggested in this column that few Caribbean Governments or companies were taking seriously the threat posed by cyber attack and cyber crime. This was despite evidence to suggest that the region was increasingly subject to damage by those who use the internet to breach national security, undertake criminal activity or behave maliciously.

At the time I noted that the future economic development of the region required not just a modern communications infrastructure and high speed networks, but also their regulation, appropriate legislation, and its enforcement and policing. Without this, I commented, it was hard to see how any Caribbean nation can argue that the region is a sensible location for investment.

Since then the issue has taken on all sorts of different dimensions.

At one end of the spectrum there have been the disclosure by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, that the US, and by extension most other developed nations, were mining data on an industrial scale, principally in an attempt to secure all countries against terrorism. At the other, and far more intrusively, big search engines, internet providers and companies combine data from all individual’s web searches, supermarket purchases, hotels and hundreds of other sources, and then sell on the specific interests of individuals in order to target products or services at them online or in other ways.

More specifically, in the Caribbean, there have been sporadic but alarming reports about security breaches by hackers at banks and companies as a result of which credit card details have been stolen, denial of service attacks have taken place on telecommunications providers and companies, government files have been electronically removed, and the suggestion has been made that offshore centres could be used remotely to facilitate such activities.

Only relatively recently has the issue been taken more seriously as the region has slowly come to understand that its fragile infrastructure makes it particularly vulnerable. Despite this, many Governments, security agencies and companies in the region have only recently begun to consider in any depth, their national financial, economic or political vulnerability, or undertaken any detailed planning on how to respond to a serious attack.

Caribbean peculiarities

Recent commentaries in the excellent, informative and thought-provoking Caribbean web blog, ICT Pulse,, which discusses topical ICT issues from a Caribbean perspective, quotes Bevil Wooding, who heads the volunteer Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), as saying that people mistakenly believe that emerging markets like the Caribbean, with relatively small economies, are less likely to be a target of attacks. “In reality, it is quite the opposite. Regions like the Caribbean, precisely because of their underdeveloped legal frameworks and limited capacity to detect or investigate, are now very attractive locations for hackers and cybercriminals to focus their activities”, he is quoted as saying.

This and other remarks by industry experts and international bodies such as the Organisations of American States suggest that there is an urgent need for action in a number of areas.

Firstly in relation to the law: most Caribbean nations do not yet have any modern legislation against electronic crimes. While legal redress may be talked about, all Caribbean jurisdictions need the necessary legislation, regulations or infrastructure to address cybercrimes making it punishable to violate a network. It is also far from clear whether regional law enforcement agencies have the legal cover to co-operate with external government agencies in this area, given that most cyber crimes are extraterritorial.

Secondly there needs to be a rapid growth in trusted Caribbean companies of the kind that are emerging in Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica with outreach to international expertise able to undertake vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, compliance and security awareness training.

Thirdly, it requires levels of public sector- private sector co-operation of a kind not normal in much of the Caribbean, to develop systems, secure forms of information exchange and regular consensus based dialogue as these are issues that touch on the viability of nations as well as individual enterprises and research.

Fourthly there should be programmes specifically aimed at the banking, finance and tourism sectors which are particularly vulnerable both reputationally and from a the perspective that damage caused can have an adverse reputation and economic effect for years to come on a brand or a product.

Fifthly, it requires some of the important initiatives being considered or developed by some regional governments to become the subject of inter-regional and hemispheric co-operation as, by definition, the threat crosses all boundaries.

And sixthly, it is vital that home-grown companies able to support IT security are encouraged, as it is clear that these are issues as much about national sovereignty and national interest that it is more appropriate that trusted local bodies, with capability and that understand the operating environment in the Caribbean, are engaged.


The Caribbean is one of the world’s fastest growing regions for internet usage, having become over the last five to ten years reliant on maintaining digital communications for services for everything from the support required for financial services centres, to commerce and day to day communications. It is also the location of some internationally important communications hubs.

It has, according to Internet World Stats, very high internet penetration with some 28.7 per cent of the Caribbean population using the internet or some 11.9m users out of a total Caribbean population of 41.4m people; figures are exceeded by the number of cell phones in use, which some statistics suggest are now owned by 70 per cent of the population with a parallel growth in apps, some of which may eventually be linked to banking and commercial translations.

What is clear is that the level and intensity of cyber attacks is increasing and that cyber crime is not just an issue for developed countries. Experts suggest that future attacks will increasingly be directed to softer targets in locations like the Caribbean not least because they are regions through which huge sums of money flow electronically for tax efficiency or advantage and because of its infrastructure links to the United States and Europe.

It is time for more attention to be paid to cyber security.

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

Why no Commonwealth response?

In the face of the disaster that hit Dominica, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines over the Christmas holidays, a respected and popular British news commentator, Jon Snow, has taken up cudgels on their behalf in his blog on Britain’s Channel 4 television.

Snow was holidaying on a nearby island – where, coincidentally, one of the Ministers in Britain’s Department for International Development, Alan Duncan, was also on vacation. The two agreed to travel to St Vincent to see the damage that, judging from the underlying distress in his writing, affected Snow deeply.

Apart from graphically describing the wretched conditions he saw on St Vincent, Snow made two statements of particular interest. Speaking primarily to a UK audience, he said: “Not many of us any longer know or care much about the Commonwealth, until a conference or scandal hits the news. But the latest devastating storm in the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent poses a question – what is this ‘family’ of former British colonies doing to help?”.

Recognising terrible conditions and the urgency to give relief to suffering people and to resume the Island’s commercial life, Snow also said: “What is really needed here are immediate technicians – forestry experts, bridge builders, people who understand water courses, so that a fast evaluation can be made as to what is needed and how far St Vincent can be protected against another such deluge. Norway, Germany, Canada, all have such experts, as do we. The Prime Minister (Dr Ralph Gonsalves) tells me 50 of them would make a massive immediate difference to sorting out this crisis”.

What is remarkable about Snow’s two observations is that two years before the disaster in St Vincent, St Lucia and Dominica, an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of which I was a member, fearing the sort of disaster that has damaged these islands, recommended to the Heads of Government at their Meeting in Australia that the Commonwealth should set up a “rapid response team” to give assistance including “logistics, public health, food security, transportation, emergency medical care, engineering and design immediately after a national disaster”.

This particular idea of a “rapid response team” came from the Canadian member of the EPG, Senator Hugh Segal, as part of the Group’s study of the effects of Climate Change particularly on Commonwealth Small Island States. In our report to Commonwealth leaders entitled, A commonwealth of the People: Time for Urgent Reform, we devoted a large section to “Climate Change and Existential Threats” calling them “immediate Commonwealth concerns”.

Regrettably, this is one of the recommendations that received scant attention at the 2011 Commonwealth Summit and by subsequent meetings of Foreign Ministers and officials. Had the recommendation been implemented, St Vincent, St Lucia and Dominica would have had experts on the ground within a week helping to restore the country to a semblance of normalcy.

In their defence, none of the Prime Ministers of the three affected islands attended the Commonwealth Summit in Australia in 2011 (although St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines did have official representation) and they carry no personal responsibility for the non-implementation of the recommendation. Heads of Government and Ministers of other Caribbean countries, with the exception of Jamaica, were at the Australia meeting but did not raise their voices in support of the recommendation.

The relevant sub-section of the EPG report that we headlined, “Build a Commonwealth disaster management capacity”, reads as follows:

“Natural disasters now plague the world and no country is immune from them. In recent years the member states of the Commonwealth – both large and small – have had a share of natural disasters resulting in great loss of life and damage to their economies. Whereas developed Commonwealth countries normally have the means to recover and rebuild relatively quickly after such disasters, smaller and poorer Commonwealth countries have far less resilience than richer countries. Consequently, disasters set back their sustainable development, hitting the poorest communities hardest.

Technical assistance

“We recognise that there are now many mechanisms in place for assisting countries that suffer natural disasters. The Commonwealth should not attempt to replicate these in any way. However, we feel that there is now such a large body of skills and experience in Commonwealth countries for dealing with natural disasters that modest machinery could be established beneficially for a rapid Commonwealth response to requests for assistance from member states. Such assistance could include logistics, public health, food security, transportation, emergency medical care, engineering and design immediately after a national disaster.

“Commonwealth Finance Ministers in the past have given their encouragement to natural disaster insurance. There may also be a role for the Commonwealth in disaster preparation and mitigation. For example, Australia has developed a National Partnership Agreement on Natural Disaster Resilience. It may be possible, drawing upon this initiative, to provide guidance to other countries on best practices, particularly in areas of animal husbandry, water and forest management, so as to mitigate the effects of possible disasters.

“The Commonwealth Secretariat should establish a working relationship with organisations concerned with disasters throughout the Commonwealth in order to develop clarity on the specific areas where the Commonwealth can add coherence as well as value. This should include maintaining a roster of professionals upon whom it could call to provide: (i) a rapid response to a member state that requests the help of experienced personnel after a disaster; and (ii) training and guidance in disaster preparation and mitigation”.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Caribbean Development Bank have programmes in place to give loans to countries where disasters occur. The problem is that except for small sums, approval and disbursement of any substantial funds take longer than six months during which time suffering continues and disruption reigns, worsening an already bad situation. Rapid response does come from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency but its resources are not large enough to cope with issues in three countries simultaneously.

The hope in the midst of all this bad news is that the EPG recommendation, which is still before the Commonwealth, will now be taken up with vigour by small countries for swift implementation. Disasters will surely occur again.

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