Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Grenada Football Association satisfied with Government’s efforts


Newly re-elected President of the Grenada Football Association Cheney Joseph has praised the Minister for Sports, the Hon. Emmalin Pierre, on efforts to strengthen the relationship between the government and the various sporting associations in Grenada.

Joseph was speaking following a meeting between Minister Pierre and the island’s various sporting organizations recently, which has paved the way for improved facilities, additional equipment and a better relationship for all parties involved.

Minister Pierre during the meeting stressed the need for more collaborative efforts among the various sporting associations to have sports in Grenada on par with other Regional and international countries.
She said whereas it is important for the government to support the sporting groups, the onus is on the Associations to find innovative ways of maintaining their sporting disciplines.

President of the Grenada Football Association (GFA), Cheney Joseph has described the relationship between the Grenada Football Association and the Minister as an excellent one.

Joseph said for the past year, Minister Pierre through her government has assisted the Grenada Football Association with lease agreements, concessions and financial aid; which has heightened the level of football activities on the island.

He is hopeful that the relationship between the association and the government will continue.

St. David’s Track Blazers did it again!


THE St. David’s Track Blazers sports club proved that it is a force to be reckoned with over the weekend at the 2014 National Championship games.

The 2013 winners reclaimed the championship trophy for another year at the National Stadium recently.

With athletes like Kennisha Pascal topping the individual rankings with 40 points, Nerena Aberdeen and Anderson Peters on 30 points, Theresa Lewis and Dona Lisa Bubb both on 23 points; overall, the team scored 609.50 points.

The Track Blazers were followed by the Tanteen Bullets on 535.50 points. St. Andrew’s Anglican Secondary School placed third on 305 points, with St. Joseph’s Convent Grenville occupying the fourth position on 258.50 points.

Others teams that participated in the weekend games were: SpeedZone, Mac Donald College, Westerhall Secondary, Beacon Southern Pros, Grenville Secondary School, ACE, St. Joseph’s Convent St. George, Grenada Christian Academy, Boca Secondary School, Presentation Brother’s College, Terminal Velocity Track Club, X-Cel Track Club, X-Ceed Track Club, J.W Fletcher Catholic Secondary School, Happy Hill Secondary School, Thomas Saunders Secondary School, Hillsborough Secondary School.

Coordinator of Sports Conrad Francis is pleased with the level of participation and showcase of talent during the event.

He announced that the selection process of the Grenada team for the 2014 CARIFTA games will soon commence.

The Grenada delegation for the CARIFTA games will be chosen based on performance during the National Champs and INTERCOL games in April.

The Minister of Youth, Sport and Religious Affairs congratulates the Grenada Athletic Association and all participants in the National Championships 2014 and looks forward with God guidance to 2015.

APD and taking the long view


It is not often that one can point to a clear victory for the Caribbean; however, that is the message contained in the decision by Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, to return Britain’s Air Passenger Duty (APD) to a two band system.

Using words that all but accepted everything the Caribbean had been saying about the illogicality and unfairness of the APD system, he told the House of Commons on March 19: “We will also reform Air Passenger Duty to end the crazy system where you pay less tax travelling to Hawaii than you do travelling to China or India. It hits exports, puts off tourists and creates a great sense of injustice among our Caribbean and South Asian communities here in Britain. From next year, all long haul flights will carry the same, lower, band B tax rate that you now pay to fly to the United States.”

The changes, which will benefit all destinations presently in Band C (which includes the Caribbean) and Band D, will be introduced from April 2015 on as this is the length of time required by the airlines to alter their fare structures.

Since 2009 Caribbean Governments have been lobbying the British Government over the issue. In a campaign co-ordinated through the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), it has involved Caribbean Prime Ministers and Ministers, High Commissioners and Ambassadors, the region’s Diaspora in the United Kingdom, and the Caribbean’s many friends in the UK Parliament, plus companies and individuals, in an unique undertaking.

Not only did this disparate group make clear their view on a tax that unfairly favoured travel to the US over the Caribbean, but they demonstrated by staying on message that the Caribbean was capable of mounting a sustained and co-ordinated lobby overseas if it wished to.

What has been little understood, however, is how the overall decision by Britain to change its APD structure was driven by the Caribbean’s evidence-based position and the lead it took in multilateralising the issue, particularly within the Commonwealth.

Unlike most regions of the world, the Caribbean and its tourism ministers recognised that here was a strategic issue that struck at the heart of one of the few areas where the Caribbean had competitive advantage and could generate future growth: tourism. It was also an issue on which the Caribbean had an army in the field, its Diaspora, living in many UK marginal constituencies who were hard hit in their pockets by the annual inflationary increase in APD.

As such it was recognised early on that here was an issue on which the Caribbean could play political hardball with London. As a consequence it became a running sore in the side of the UK-Caribbean relationship with the issue affecting almost every significant bilateral meeting in recent years.

Despite this and irrespective of an understanding in London that it was seriously damaging relations, British Treasury Ministers were not prepared to consider any alternative that was not revenue neutral, and made clear in private exchanges they could find no technical way in which to re-band the Caribbean alone. With this in mind the Caribbean produced in 2010 a detailed proposal on how a return to a two band system could be revenue neutral. Regrettably, this was not taken up at the time.

However, the turning point came late last year at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka where Caribbean ministers and London-based High Commissioners made clear their intention with other nations whose support they had obtained, to include language critical of the UK in respect of APD in the final communiqué.


There a tense meeting took place, and eventually a political deal was struck between the Caribbean and London, and in the margins the three most senior UK political figures present at CHOGM, privately agreed the issue would be addressed.

What, however, was uncertain until the Chancellor spoke, was how this was going to be achieved as it was clear that any decision that benefited the Caribbean alone would be unfair to other nations. In the end, the Chancellor took a broad based political decision of significant value not just to the Caribbean but also to the Commonwealth and China. In doing so he took the surprising step of accepting a loss to the British Treasury at a time of austerity of up to US$437m per annum (£265m) by 2018.

The decision has been warmly welcomed in the Caribbean. The CTO Chairman, Beverly Nicholson-Doty, said: “This is a complete victory for the Caribbean, which, led by the CTO, has been lobbying against the unfair system.... We are delighted that the Chancellor has finally accepted the Caribbean’s proposal made in November 2010 to return to the simpler and fairer two band system.” The Caribbean Hotels and Tourism Association said that the Caribbean region had finally achieved one of its goals and would now be fairly taxed in comparison to a flight to the United States. “Today we achieved a major victory as the playing field has been levelled," its President, Richard Doumeng, said.

The decision also marks a significant turning point in relations with the UK as it demonstrates the largely unseen efforts of those in Whitehall who value the Caribbean relationship and place an importance on Britain’s continuing commitment to the region’s prosperity and security.

In a rapidly changing and less secure world, in which in recent years the Caribbean has felt marginalised from UK thinking, the UK’s positive decision on APD ought to encourage consideration of the long view of relations with traditional partners that share the same values.

In the region it is not often understood that the Caribbean retains a special place in UK thinking or that Britain continues to exercise significant beneficial influence, in ways that often go unrecognised, with the member states of the European Union, as well as in Washington and Ottawa.

In the coming years it is likely that a continuing UK presence in the region will again come to be seen to have value as well as moral and cultural resonance in ways that newer friends cannot match.

The positive decision on APD and the forthcoming UK-Caribbean Forum offer a moment for reflection on where the Caribbean and the UK’s views might in future coincide, and suggest value in looking ahead, and identifying areas where shared values and interests coincide.

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

Caribbean Tourism: The battle is far from over


There is much euphoria in the tourism establishment over the Air Passenger Duty (APD) that on 19 March the British government announced would be reduced on flights to and from the Caribbean from April of next year. Since the APD’s introduction, Caribbean tourism officials reckon that the increased cost per ticket has reduced the number of tourists from Britain to the region. The truth is that APD cost is still high and it still a greater cost for tourists to fly to the Caribbean than more distant places such as Hawaii in the United States and Vancouver in Canada.

The money, energy and intellect that Caribbean governments and tourism organisations poured into lobbying the British government on the unfairness of the APD emphasise the enormous importance of tourism to the economies of most Caribbean countries. In this context a book entitled “Caribbean Tourism” by Dr Jean Holder, launched just two days before the British announcement, assumes a greater relevance than it already had.

Dr. Holder is uniquely placed to write on Caribbean tourism. He served for 15 years as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Tourism and Research Development Centre and a further 15 years as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation. “Caribbean Tourism” should be a required text for several disciplines of study at our regional universities for while the book’s central focus is tourism, it is more than that. It examines tourism in the context of the Caribbean’s history in slavery; its colonial division and rivalry; its efforts and failures to create an economic integrated area; and its international relations.

Holder makes a compelling case that tourism is now intertwined inexorably with almost every aspect of life of all Caribbean countries – some more than others for sure, but certainly all who regard tourism as a contributor to their economic development. The life-long journey that Holder has undertaken in tourism is reflected in every page. And that is what distinguishes it from any other book that has been produced about Caribbean Tourism. It is as scholarly as any other – if not more so. Its research is meticulous and well documented. Its argument is cogent, and well supported. But, its knowledge and authority, born of living every day of decades of Caribbean Tourism, is what gives it its towering authenticity.

Jean Holder’s is no voice crying from the margins of the tourism industry; his calls are no expressions of self-interest; he has written with the strength of one who has done decades of unselfish battle in tourism’s arena – to promote it, to develop it, to persuade doubting Caribbean leaders of the weakness of their misgivings, to argue even in the face of insults, and to take on challenges from competitors much stronger and considerably more powerful than our Caribbean states.

In exploring the evolution of tourism as a crucial industry for many Caribbean economies, Holder has lifted the lid on the lingering resentment to the industry that originates in slavery and its pernicious order that compelled black people to life-long servitude to white owners. It is an important discussion to open. Not to cause festering wounds to erupt, but to heal them so that, as a civilisation, Caribbean people can move on. Tourism is about service, not servitude. There is dignity, honour and respect in service respectfully given, in a context of hospitality and welcome, for fair recompense. It is the very antithesis of the humiliation, dehumanisation, and coercion that were the hallmarks of servitude.

As Holder says in his book: “Caribbean people have been able to overcome the adverse social conditions they inherited and, in modern times, to develop a competitive industry which has permitted them to enjoy a standard of living which remains the envy of large developing countries”.

Of course that envy has led to realisation in large developed countries that they should turn jealousy to opportunity. By doing so, these large developed countries – particularly the United States and the United Kingdom – are developing their own tourism markets more aggressively, posing real and pressing dangers to Caribbean tourism. Holder details these dangers. Among them is the APD that the British Government applies to air fares out of the United Kingdom – still at an unfair level in relation to the Caribbean despite the reduction announced on 19 March. Jean links the APD to the present British government’s strong determination to maximise earnings from tourism and he concludes that: “The controversial British APD was being viewed by many observers as part of a strategy to support domestic tourism which its Prime Minister had expressed a desire to see grow by 50 per cent at the expense of outward bound tourism”. There is, therefore, much work to be done if the Caribbean is to maintain and expand a beneficial share of global tourism.

Drawing on his formidable experience, Holder makes a telling point that: “In tourism, unlike in the case of the export of sugar and bananas, the region’s horizons are not circumscribed by old connections with former colonial powers that, in any case, no longer carry the burden of guilt caused by colonial exploitation. The tourism world is indeed the Caribbean’s oyster”.

But exploiting tourism to its fullest will not happen without investment, marketing and intellect of all the participants in the industry collectively, including governments. In this regard, recalling the enlightened leadership of the Caribbean in the 1960s and 1970s and the support given by the intellectual muscle of brilliant technicians that earned the region international respect and significant integration achievements, Holder says: “Perhaps the time has come for Caribbean leaders to convene a second conference on the present and future of Caribbean tourism as was first done in 1975”. And, he provides a detailed agenda that such a Summit should tackle.

It will be interesting to see if Caribbean leaders pick up the gauntlet, Holder has thrown on to their council table. For, as he says, “for the foreseeable future at any rate, tourism and related services will remain the best prospect for the economic development of the Caribbean region”, and the region’s leaders should “accept finally that Caribbean collaboration offers the best hope for success”.

“Caribbean Tourism” by Jean S Holder ISBN 978-976-653-015-0 is published by Canoe Press, Kingston, Jamaica.

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

Bringing a strong case


Tourism officials across the Caribbean, and the UK allies, are to be congratulated for winning what seemed to be an impossible battle.

While delivering the 2014 Budget in the British House of Commons last week, Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that changes will be made to the Air Passenger Duty (APD), which has been pilloried by the Caribbean tourism sector as being unduly onerous. Effective April 1, 2015, the APD will revert to a two-band system; Band A for short-haul flights of less than 2 000 miles from London and Band B for all long-haul flights over 2 000 miles from London.

The APD was structured in a four-band system that imposed a tax on flights from the UK based on the distance to the capital of the destination. This gave some US destinations a competitive advantage, such as Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, since it would attract a lower APD than a flight to Barbados in the Atlantic Ocean, given the location of the US capital of Washington D.C.

When the four-band APD was still at the proposal stage, this newspaper expressed concern over the impact it might have on travel to the Caribbean, and regional tourism officials were of a similar view. Accordingly, they submitted a proposal to the UK government shortly after the system was implemented in 2010, calling for a return to the two-band system. In the years that have followed, tourism officials and their allies in the international travel industry mounted a significant lobby against what they deemed an unfair tax that jeopardised the viability of the tourism sector, the lifeblood of many of the small island economies of the region.

Despite them being competing tourism destinations, the countries of the Caribbean know when banding together makes good sense. In addition, a favourable set of circumstances came together to help the Caribbean lobbyists’ in their quest. They found influential allies from within the UK itself – businesses such as UK airlines, travel agents and tour operators, members of the Caribbean Diaspora and even the British people themselves who would have grown attached to visiting the region and would have been most displeased with the steep charges added onto the cost of their usual holiday travel. Indeed, in citing the motivation for the APD restructuring, the Chancellor pointed out that the reform would make it more affordable for UK families to travel abroad.

The next big case the Caribbean seems bent on presenting to the UK is that of reparations for slavery. While this is more of a legal battle than a political one, public opinion will likely still play a role. In this instance, however, Caribbean officials are unlikely to find as many allies as they did on the APD issue. Indeed, recent Letters to the Editor of the London Times that were drawn to our attention show the average reader to be firmly against this route. The consensus was that it was unreasonable for modern Britons to pay compensation for their ancestors’ actions, with some letter writers at pains to point out that their predecessors were not of the planter class.

The Caribbean will certainly have a major fight on its hands, especially since some of its own are not entirely convinced of the strength of the case. Would it be too much to hope that fortune might again smile on countries in the region? That may just be wishful thinking for the proponents of reparations. However, the APD outcome may have given them some encouragement as to what can be achieved if they develop the right strategy.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY – Entrepreneurs urged to use technology to grow business


Local entrepreneurs have been encouraged to utilise the avenues available through cutting-edge technology to develop the products that will not only be accepted on the local market, but products that will meet international standards.

That was the message from Junior Mc Intyre, CARCIP Project Co-ordinator for the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), when he addressed the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop on Technology and Innovation on Monday.
From left: Gregory Bowen, Minister for Communications,
Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities, ICT and
Community Development, addressing the opening session,
while Junior Mc Intyre, Caribbean Regional Communications
Infrastructure Programme Project Co-ordinator, Caribbean
Telecommunications Union (CTU); and Jacinta Joseph, Permanent
Secretary in the Ministry, look on. (PHOTO: GERARD BEST)

Taking place at the Radisson Convention Centre on March 24 and 25, the workshop was part of a broader World Bank-funded initiative called CARCIP, the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastruc-ture Programme, co-ordinated by the CTU.

“The underlying philosophy of the CTU’s ongoing regional workshop series is that the very same conditions that present severe challenges for Grenada and other Caribbean islands, are also creating unique opportunities for the region,” said Mc Intyre, delivering welcome remarks at the opening ceremony.

“The job of Caribbean innovators is to look past the challenges and discern the opportunities,” he said.

Lead facilitator for the CTU CARCIP Workshop, Bevil Wooding, underscored that reality. “The survival of the region’s economies depends on our ability to leverage modern technology to produce, compete and excel in the global environment,” said Wooding, who is an Internet Strategist with US-based non-profit Packet Clearing House.


Gregory Bowen, Minister for Communications, Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities, ICT and Community Development, described the workshop as an opportunity to deepen the Government’s ongoing thrust to develop the country’s ICT sector, in order to improve quality of life and create jobs in the local economy.

“Ultimately, the investment being made by the Government of Grenada is not just in the upgrade of the physical equipment, but in the improvement of the quality of the lives of our citizens. Our goal is to ensure that all of our people in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique benefit from the development of ICT infrastructure,” Bowen said.

In March, a historic ICT Bridge connecting Grenada’s sister isles Carriacou and Petite Martinique to the global Internet, was formally launched at the Resource Centre in Hillsborough.

Jacinta Joseph, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, echoed Bowen’s emphasis on the dynamic link between infrastructure development to human development.

“Through CARCIP, we are aiming to advance the development of an ICT-enabled services industry in the Caribbean region by increasing access to regional broadband networks,” Joseph said.

Grenada is not alone in recognising the significance of ICT to national and regional development. At the 25th Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on March 10-11, Caribbean governments reaffirmed that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) plays a crucial role in advancing all regional development initiatives. CARICOM plans to focus over the next two years on developing a Single ICT Space as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Launched in June 2013, CARCIP aims to improve the efficiency of regional telecommunications infrastructure development in the Eastern Caribbean and ultimately, throughout the wider Caribbean. Through the World Bank’s International Development Association, the project was allocated
a total disbursement of US$25 million, including loans to the three countries and a grant to the CTU.

The Grenada workshop was the third in the CTU’s ongoing series. The two-day event brought together local professionals in the field of telecommunications and regional experts in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), entrepreneurship, leadership development and innovation.

Among the workshop presenters were Dr. Farid Youssef, an expert in neuroscience based in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine; Norman Gibson, an expert in rural development and environmental management in the Caribbean region; Eric Nurse, ICT Director for the Government of Grenada; Glenda Joseph-Dennis, an independent Business Development Consultant specialising in leadership and organisational development; and Joseph I. Gill, the software developer and entrepreneur behind mobile technology start-up TopItUp.TV. (LS)

Police Force to continue hiring during fiscal adjustment programme


By Linda Straker

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has indicated the Police Force will not apply the plan of hiring only 30 persons to every hundred retired during the three years of the Structural Adjustment Programme, which is scheduled to conclude in December 2016.

Dr. Mitchell, who is also Minister of National Security, made the announcement during an open forum with the Western Division of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) last week Thursday at the Victoria Hotel in St. Mark’s.

He assured officers attending the meeting that the policy to hire will remain in effect during the three-year period of Debt Restructuring to revive the economy.

“We cannot speak about the role of the police and not take steps to ensure that we make our contribution in helping them to perform effectively,” he said.

Prime Minister Mitchell praised the RGPF for the many steps taken recently to improve its image, citing that much of that is owed to the “sound, professional, caring, firm and compassionate leadership” of the RGPF.

Government says that 70 cents on every dollar goes towards the payment of the monthly salary of the public service and reducing that amount will be among the priorities during the period of the International Monetary Fund-endorsed Home-Grown Programme, which commenced as of January 1, 2014.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine, said that Government will not be retrenching workers, but instead apply natural attrition and only hire 30 new persons of every 100 who retires from the service.

Dr. Mitchell has also announced that two Government departments – the Government Information Service and the Government Printery – will be converted to statutory or executive agencies, which will give them their own autonomy thereby removing them from the responsibility of the public purse.

Close to 4 000 Capital Bank account holders to be reimbursed


By Linda Straker

Government has announced that reimbursement cheques for persons who had under EC$500 deposited in Capital Bank International when the institution was put into a court order receivership in February 2008 are ready, but there is a delay in the distribution.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine, says that cheques amounting to five hundred thousand dollars are ready to be handed out, but there is a delay because of the logistics for distributing the payment.

“All the cheques are ready, there are close to 4 000 cheques. We have to work out the logistics of distribution,” said Antoine during Tuesday’s post-Cabinet news briefing.

Antoine says the cheques, which are to be distributed over a seven-day period, were delayed while officials sought to finalise the logistics. “We don’t want to do it at the end of the month, competing with public assistance and pensioners and so on; we have to work out [an appropriate] time,” the Permanent Secretary said.

“The truth is, we were hoping to do it last week, but we were a little behind schedule in planning the logistics with the receivers, so the plan is to do it around the middle of the month when we are not clashing.

“Frankly, our thinking is to try and [distribute the cheques] in the middle of the month rather than at the end of the month because we do have issues. We are hoping to use the District Revenue Offices or the SEED Offices in the various parishes.”

The payment to Capital Bank’s small account holders is a pre-election promise of the one-year-old Keith Mitchell administration. In February 2008, all 12 branches of the bank throughout the State of Grenada were taken over by the Financial Intelligence Unit after the Court ordered that the Bank be put into receivership. Hundreds of customers had continuously complained that they were unable to withdraw their deposits from the Bank, which was owned and operated by Finton DeBourg.

Since the receivership, the matter has gone through several stages in the court and a written judgement is yet to be handed down. Capital Bank received a licence from the Government of Grenada, but was not regulated by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.

Error made in original CBI legislation


By Linda Straker

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has said that it was an error on the part of Government to initially include a section in the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) legislation which provides for the names, addresses and nationalities of persons who applied for Grenada citizenship to be made public.

“I think it was an error on our part. No other country has it in their legislation and that could be a hindrance to us. There is no need to expose every single name who applied,” Dr. Mitchell said in last Tuesday’s post-Cabinet briefing.

International Business and Foreign Affairs Minister, Nickolas Steele, presented the amended legislation to Parliament on March 7. He said that the section in the law was identified after it was approved by both Houses of Parliament, and that removing it from the legislation is a matter of protecting the applicants’ privacy.

When he presented the amendment, Minister Steele told Parliament that the amendment is an adjustment Government finds necessary. He further explained that not exposing the names does not mean that applicants will not undergo the due diligence process following the application. “Every applicant will have to undergo due diligence,” he said.

The House of Representatives – which currently does not have an elected Opposition – amended the Citizenship by Investment legislation to delete the section of the Act which required that the names, addresses and nationalities of persons who have applied for Grenada citizenship be included in the bi-annual report of the programme to be presented to Parliament no later than September of every year.

According to the legislation, the Citizenship by Investment Committee shall be responsible for processing any application for any licence under the Act, and any application for Citizenship
by Investment or Permanent Residence by Investment. Section 7 of the legislation states the Committee may engage the services of one or more persons or bodies which are independent, professional, and qualified, to conduct due diligence checks in respect of every applicant, and every dependent over 11 years of age. The applicant may be required to attend an interview in Grenada or at an Embassy or High Commission of Grenada, before any decision is made in relation to his or her application. An application for Citizenship by Investment or for Permanent Residence by Investment shall only be submitted by an agent who is the holder of a Local Agent’s licence. A number of lawyers were recently appointed as local agents, according to the February 6 Gazette.

2 computers taken from GNCRC office


By Linda Straker

TWO computers with confidential and sensitive information pertaining to children in vulnerable situations were stolen from the office of the Grenada National Coalition on the Rights of the Child (GNCRC) during the weekend.

The office, which is located on Lucas Street, was broken into and what can safely be described as the assets of the organisation were stolen. Chairman of the Coalition, Ann Greaves, said that it is hurtful
and shocking because the small organisation survives on Government subvention and losing its main computers is just painful.

“The two systems have a lot of confidential information and even though there are passwords, you know there are people who can hack systems or simple clean them out,” she said.

The police were called to the scene on Monday and the office was dusted for fingerprints. They were also provided with other information and special markings about the systems, which can aid in easily identifying them.

“We have to start all over. We have no idea where the new system will be coming from and if there is anyone or an organisation out there who can sponsor us a new system; that will be so grateful. We have to continue our work and a computer is very important,” she said, while pointing out the thieves did not take a brand new scanner that was attached to the system.

This is the first time the office has been broken into since its more than 20 years of functioning.

Greaves said that the stolen systems have put a damper on its plans to observe April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.

The Coalition is a collection of both Government and non-governmental organisations, which lobby and advocate for the rights of children using the Convention on the Rights of the Child as its guiding tool.

In recent times, its membership has called for a policy that will provide for establishing a sex offenders registry for all persons who are charged and convicted of an sexual offence.

Agreement reached


THE Caribbean Community countries have reiterated the conclusion of an agreement with Canada that has development as one of its core.

This is one of the points the leaders agreed on at their recent Inter-sessional meeting in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

CARICOM and Canada have been negotiating a Trade and Economic Development Agreement for more than three years.

“Heads of Government reiterated the Region’s objective of negotiating a pro-development agreement, which takes account of the differences in the levels of development between CARICOM and Canada and which would support sustainable economic and social development of the peoples of the Region,” the leaders said in the communique issued following the meeting in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

It said that the Heads of Government received a report on the status of negotiations for a CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Agreement.

The agreement is expected to conclude no later than June 2014. They noted the state of play of negotiations arising from the fifth and sixth round of negotiations, and expressed expectations of further progress being achieved in the continuation of the Sixth Round at the end of March.

Leaders must invest in financial education


Governments and policymakers must encourage financial literacy among small businesses, remove uncertainty in regulation and encourage the publication of more information to enable entrepreneurs to more easily gain access to new and different forms of funding, according to the Global Forum for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) – a discussion forum developed by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

For its latest policy paper, “Innovations in access to finance for SMEs”, the Global Forum for SMEs reviewed a broad range of innovations aimed at directing more finance to SMEs – from Alipay in China and Peer to Peer lenders in the UK, to Kabbage in the US, M-Shwari in Kenya or Cadenas Productivas in Mexico.

The Forum’s aim was to find out more about what factors give rise to financing innovations, what measures could help them reach more businesses, and what obstacles are holding them back from their potential.

The research looked at the major trends driving innovation. It found that businesses and investors have lost faith in banks, while new capital and liquidity regulations are forcing banks away from traditional lending to small businesses. Meanwhile, ultra-low interest rates have sent investors in some parts of the world looking for better returns on their money, prompting them to explore new asset classes such as SME credit, trade credit and early stage equity. In addition, there has been a rise in e-commerce platforms and payment systems which are creating their own financial information; an increase in the use of real-time information by alternative finance providers; and online financial intermediation is
becoming increasingly acceptable to businesses and investors. International co-ordination, by the G20 leaders and the World Bank Group among others, has highlighted examples of financial innovation in many parts of the world, drawn attention to common barriers to SME finance and helped spread best practices.

The Forum also identified three types of obstacles to innovation in SME funding. First, there is a lack of financial education among SME owners. ACCA has urged policymakers to reconsider their approach to financial literacy, focusing on a “business plan first” strategy where qualified finance professionals deliver “just-in-time” training and mentoring based on the business’ needs.

Second, there is a lack of appropriate financial infrastructure – from credit databases and payment systems to asset registries and credit default data – in much of the world. Making this information public has the potential to transform intermediation. Third, there are substantial uncertainties in legislation, regulation and in accounting rules which need to be resolved. The most substantial issues highlighted by the Forum relate to the protection of minority shareholder rights; the classification of receivables under accounting rules in multi-lender platforms or supply chain finance (SCF) programmes; the status of factored receivables in bankruptcy; the regulatory risk weightings applied to Bank Payment Obligations, and the regulatory status of new alternative funding providers.

Rosanna Choi, chair of ACCA’s Global Forum for SMEs, said: “Our research suggests a worrying lack of financial awareness among the world’s entrepreneurs. As the SME sector’s most trusted financial advisers, finance professionals have proven they can lead the drive for financial education, and we call on policymakers to engage the profession more fully in their efforts.”

She added: “On the whole, the Forum does not view regulation as an enemy of financial innovation. Of course the banks’ ability to finance businesses has been hit by regulation; in some cases, this has been vague or ill- thought-out.

“Other providers are certainly taking advantage of the banks’ regulatory weaknesses.

“But it is clear to us that smart regulation can positively spur innovation by building much-needed financial infrastructure and offering greater certainty to finance providers and users.”

Brenda Lee Tang, head of ACCA Caribbean said: “Finance professionals have the knowledge to help innovative businesses connect the dots.”

Professor Beckles: Ten-Point Plan makes a case for reparatory justice


Victims of crimes against humanity and their descendants have a legal right to call for reparatory justice. As such, the CARICOM Reparatory Justice Committee has come up with a ten-point plan of action, which outlines the path to reconciliation and justice for such persons.

According to Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, who serves as Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC), the CRC sees the persistent racial victimisation of the descendants of slavery and genocide as the root cause of their suffering today. What’s more, he suggested, the CRC recognises that the persistent harm and suffering experienced today by these victims as the primary cause of development failure in the Caribbean.
Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC),
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal
of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus,
as he spoke at the press briefing.

During a press conference convened in the new administration building of the Cave Hill Campus earlier last week, Professor Beckles noted that the Heads of Government of the region met in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on March 10, this year, to discuss amongst other things the first report of the CARICOM Reparations Commission. As part of its recommendations, the report contains a procedural path to be taken for reparatory justice, in the form of a document entitled “Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme: A Ten-Point Plan of Action”.

“The Commission has focused on the continuing harm and suffering of people in the Caribbean as a result of the 300 years of slave trading and slavery, in addition to the 100 years of racial apartheid that followed emancipation. Our focus has been on three specific aspects of the crime against humanity – the transatlantic slave trade, the chattel enslavement of African peoples and the hundred years of racial apartheid, which was put in place by European governments in the Caribbean after emancipation legislation,” Sir Hilary commented.

The recommendation is that European governments have the responsibility to put to an end this continuous harm and suffering, as they were the legal bodies that instituted the framework for developing and sustaining these crimes. They also served as custodians of criminally accumulated wealth.

The CRC asserts that European governments have refused to acknowledge such crimes or to compensate victims and their descendants. As such, the ten-point plan calls for: (1) A Full Formal Apology from these governments as opposed to “statements of regrets” issued by some; (2) Repatriation, since over 10 million Africans were stolen from their homes and forcefully transported to the Caribbean as the enslaved chattel and property of Europeans, and as such, the descendants of these stolen people have a legal right to return to their homeland; (3) An Indigenous Peoples Development Programme to rehabilitate survivors; (4) Cultural Institutions through which the stories of victims and their descendants can be told; (5) Attention to be paid to the “Public Health Crisis” in the Caribbean, which sees the region having the highest incidence of chronic diseases, which stems from the nutritional experience, emotional brutality and overall stress profiles associated with slavery, genocide and apartheid.

The other points include calls for (6) Illiteracy eradication as the British in particular left the Black and Indigenous communities in a general state of illiteracy; (7) An African Knowledge Programme to teach people of African descent about their roots; (8) Psychological Rehabilitation for healing and repair of African descendant pop-ulations; (9) Technology Transfer for greater access to the world’s science and technology culture; and (10) Debt Cancellation to address the “fiscal entrapment” that faces Caribbean governments that emerged from slavery and colonialism. (RSM)

Public health crisis has links to slavery


THE African-descended population in the Caribbean has the highest incidence in the world of chronic diseases, in the forms of hypertension and type two diabetes. This pandemic is the direct result of the nutritional experience, physical and emotional brutality and overall stress profile associated with slavery, genocide and apartheid.

This is the information contained in a document entitled the “Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme: A Ten-Point Plan of Action”, which was outlined by Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, as he spoke at a press briefing convened earlier this week, to give an update on the work of the Commission.

Making reference to Point 5 of the Action Plan, Professor Beckles remarked that “there is at the moment an epidemic of chronic diseases that is sweeping through the Black population of the Caribbean”.

“Using the criterion of chronic diseases hypertension and type two diabetes, the Black population of the Caribbean is the unhealthiest population on this planet,” Beckles asserted.

“We do have the information suggesting that over 60% of all the Black people in the Caribbean over the age of 60 have either hypertension, diabetes or both, and this explosion in chronic diseases is as a result of the stress profile and the nutritional profile associated with slavery, genocide and colonisation,” he said.

“The Governments of the region cannot contain this epidemic. Only a highly organised programme of research, scientific intervention, can assist in turning this epidemic around. This is the result of the legacies of slavery,” he continued.

“It is true that slavery, colonisation and apartheid are over, but the African population now continues the jet stream of this history,” Beckles suggested. (RSM)

Visitors want to embrace their destination’s culture


Although the Caribbean is known for its incredible landscape and beaches, visitors also want to be a part of their destination’s culture.

This is according to Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Beverly Nicolson-Doty, who recently noted that more and more visitors are celebrating the history, the culture, and the authentic attributes of their individual destinations.

“People want to come to a destination and feel like they have been a part [of the community] – they [want to] experience the food [and] experience the music; they [want to] experience the culture. Those are the things that I think we are seeing more of in the tourism industry. We are putting those elements out as a part of our overall marketing strategy where we may have relied heavily on our beaches and certainly our beauty. We are also now really looking at our people, our culture and our history and integrating that into the marketing strategy,” she explained.

Responding to what are the benefits of promoting the region as one destination and why, she stated: “First of all, I think when you look at the competitive landscape, I think the ‘why’ is, we cannot afford not to.

“When you look at other regions of the world and what they have done with their tourism product, I think that places that never would have been considered competition for the region, because we have such natural God-given beauty, are now in our competitive set,” the CTO Chairman pointed out.

Nicolson-Doty further stressed that the region has to come together. “None of our individual countries have the resources to go up against some of the big tourism destinations that we have seen emerge, so it is important for our survival, for us to have a collective brand that is the Caribbean,” she said.

“We know that we have the product but it is getting it out to market that is important, and so... by working together we can increase our interest and bookings to the region and we feel like we have more than 30 reasons for people to keep coming back to the Caribbean over and over again.” (TL)

Caribbean owes Dr. Jean S. Holder for ‘priceless work’


The Caribbean is indebted to Author Dr. the Hon. Jean Holder for his writings in “Caribbean Tourism” and to the Caribbean Development Bank for funding the venture.

Such sentiments were expressed by Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Former Senior Caribbean Ambassador, Sir. Ronald Sanders.

Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth
Studies, University of London and Former Senior
Caribbean Ambassador,  Sir Ronald Sanders (left),
alongside Dr. the Hon. Jean Holder.
At the launch of the book, “Caribbean Tourism”, recently at the Caribbean Development Bank, he said, “The Caribbean owes Jean Holder a huge debt of gratitude for writing it and bequeathing it to us... Dr. Jean Holder has given to the Caribbean a priceless work on the history of tourism in the region and its inter-connections to our past, our present and what could be our future.”

He added, “The Caribbean Development Bank also deserves the greatest credit for publishing the book.” He said that by their actions they demonstrate their corporate responsibility.

In his remarks he stated, “By doing so, [the bank recognises] that a real part of its role in the development of our region is to expand the knowledge of the Caribbean’s people and contribute to the debate about critical aspects of our social and economic life.”

With regard to the use of the text throughout the region, like the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Sanders too advocates for the inclusion of Holder’s newest publication to be used in Caribbean schools.

He said, “I dare say that this book, ‘Caribbean Tourism’ should be a required text for several disciplines of study at our regional universities... Students of international relations, development, Caribbean economies and Caribbean integration, and Caribbean history will all find Jean Holder’s book a vital reference for their research and for the theses they might produce on the Caribbean’s future in all these fields.”

He posited, “While the book’s central focus is tourism, its development, its contribution to the economies of the region and to the well-being of the majority of its peoples, it is more than that.”

Sanders proposed that even Caribbean leaders should read the insightful, informative and inspiring book. He advised, “…Caribbean leaders, busy with the day-to-day affairs of state as they are, would also find it beneficial to find a few minutes to leaf through the book.”

Additionally, Master of Ceremonies, Information Assistant, Colin Cunningham, said that he looks forward to the day when Caribbean students can say “I remember going to school when they studied ‘Caribbean Tourism’,” as he once said, “I studied ‘The People who came’.” (KG)

Tourism's impact must be understood


The impact of the tourism industry on the Caribbean must be understood and researched to chart a sustainable path forward in this competitive global market.

This assertion came from the President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Warren Smith, as he lauded Dr. Jean Holder for penning the text “Caribbean Tourism” which seeks to bring about “a better and more comprehensive understanding of this vital industry”.

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon.
Ralph Gonsalves (right), and President of the Caribbean Development
Bank (CDB), Dr. Warren Smith, having a discussion.
Smith stated, “The industry has certainly assumed a dominant role in a number of Caribbean countries. Therefore, it is vitally important that we have a comprehensive understanding of the impact that tourism has on all aspects of our societies. Like all other products, which evolve and become the best, research and development are key.”

Delivering the welcome remarks at the book launch on Monday at the CDB, Smith said, “Caribbean Tourism is also about this region’s future and the role that tourism can play in that future.”

Furthermore, he said that the author, Jean, “has very cleverly used the opportunity to outline the unfinished work that we must take on as a region, in order to realise the full potential of an industry that has so much to offer”.

Having read the text first-hand, Smith highlighted two points offered by Holder in his proposed strategy within the text. He said, “First, he [Holder] argues that tourism and related services will remain the best prospect for the economic development of the Caribbean. A point he has made consistently in other publications. Secondly, Dr. Holder makes a strong and compelling case for tourism education to begin at the primary schools and for expanding the tourism research output at the tertiary level.”

To this, the President added, “Both points offer a crucial lesson for us.

“In an increasingly globalised world, we must also place high priority on safeguarding industry competitiveness by placing a unique stamp on a product that does not only rely simply on ‘sea, sand and sun’, but is a function of everything that has been brought to bear to make us who we are,” he insisted.

During the launch ceremony, copies of the book were presented to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, accepted by Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves; Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Former Senior Caribbean Ambassador, Sir. Ronald Sanders; the Cave Hill Campus Main Library; and the CDB Information Services Centre.

Speaking to the Grenada Advocate, Prime Minister Gonsalves assured that the book will find its way into the schools.

He stated, “First of all in the secondary schools, we have to get the teachers to do summaries of this. [It is] very important for us to be studying this and of course, in the universities.” (KG)

REGIONAL THREAT – Major earthquake could set region back ten years


Director of the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre says that a major earthquake or other seismic activity could set the region’s development back by ten years.

She is calling on countries not to take its threat lightly, but to ensure that they “get it right the first time” when implementing precautionary measures, such as sound building codes which guarantee minimal if not no infrastructural damage.

Dr. Joan Lachman, Research Siesmologist and Director of
the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre.
Some of those in attendance at the lecture.
Dr. Joan Lachman, presenting on “Earthquakes and Tsunamis in Barbados” during a lunch-time lecture at the Grand Salle of the Central Bank of Barbados recently, noted that the region had been making significant investments into its development and that its people had become accustomed to a certain standard of living.

“The investments we are making into our development are major and we are not rich countries, we are poor, small island countries,” she said, citing landslides, infrastructural damage, liquefaction, fires and tsunamis as some of the major events and occurrences which resulted from earthquakes. She said it would be catastrophic for our people to have to recover from any extreme event.

Lachman, during her presentation, provided practical guidelines for persons to follow, before, during, and after the event of an earthquake.

Before an earthquake, she said that persons ought to make sure that heavy furniture, water tanks, water heaters, gas cylinders and storage units were secured to a wall or floor, and that the largest and heaviest items were placed on the lower shelves which would help to stabilise the structure.

She also noted that safety spots should be identified within homes, schools, places of work and she encouraged that drills be conducted so that what was needed to be done, became entrenched in the minds of people.

For those who suffered with serious illnesses, the Research Seismologist advised that they should have within their homes at all times, at least two months’ supply of their medication.

During an earthquake, Dr. Lachman’s advice was to “remain calm; do not panic; be alert”.

She warned against running outside of buildings, using elevators or stairs during shaking. Instead persons were to practise the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” procedure. After the shaking, persons in multi-storey buildings were advised to exercise caution when using the stairs as the quake may have damaged the integrity of that structure.

She said that if one was already outside, one should stay away from glass buildings and electricity poles. If driving, one should not dead stop in the road, but pull over to the side and stay in the car until the shaking ceases.

After the earthquake, Dr. Lachman told persons to check for broken gas lines and fires, and to listen for instructions from authorities. (RS)

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Grenada sailors win big at 2014 South Grenada Regatta!


THE 6th Edition of the South Grenada Regatta (SGR) was a weekend filled with fun, excitement, big parties and great entertainment. Grenadians and visitors of all ages took part in the regatta’s wide range of water and shore activities, and the great live music and after-race parties had the house rocking and dance floor hopping all weekend long.

Kicking off the regatta on 5th March was a fantastic ‘floating’ Dinghy Concert in the middle of Clarkes Court Bay, featuring the Rocky Pontoons party band from Switzerland. Their lively tunes and special Grenada songs made for a wonderful kickoff. Some guests came in their own dinghies, but a much larger crowd started the party early by hopping on the Rhum Runner at Le Phare Bleu for a fun-filled journey to and from the concert.
Robbie Yearwood on Island Water World’s Die Hard
won the North South Wines Veuve Clicquot Cup.

This year’s regatta was blessed with superb weather and great racing conditions along Grenada’s south coast. The fleet racing program featured four cup races, plus the esteemed cup for overall winner. 14 boats participated in the fleet races, and the mix of Caribbean and international boats and crew provided an interesting blend of racing talent. Participating boats ranged from a Diam F18 to a Swan 53.

Competition was tight in the Cruising Class, but it was Grenada’s own sailors who took the majority of the fleet racing awards. Friday’s first race was for the ‘North South Wines Veuve Clicquot Cup’, and Robbie Yearwood on Island Water World’s Die Hard placed 1st and was trophy winner, with Peter Champy Evans on Quay 3 in 2nd place, and Jason Fletcher on Apero in 3rd. The ‘Netherlands Insurance Cup’ was the second race on Friday, and IWW Die Hard again placed 1st and was trophy winner, followed by Apero and Quay 3.

The action was close on the high seas.
After a lay day on Saturday, the fleet racing continued on Sunday and first up was the ‘Westerhall Rum Cup’. Yet again, IWW Die Hard placed 1st and was trophy winner, followed by Quay 3 in 2nd, and Piccolo in 3rd. The final race on Sunday was for the ‘Island Water World Cup’, and Mike Bingley on Piccolo pulled out all stops to place 1st, thereby becoming trophy winner and preventing Robbie from taking the grand slam of trophies. Quay 3 placed 2nd, and IWW Die Hard took 3rd.

In the Fun Class, UK’s Tom Batty on Madonna took 1st place in all four fleet races, while Rene Froehlich on Dione and Rodney Hall on Caradow jostled for 2nd and 3rd place. In the Multi-Hull Class, Richard Szyjan on Category 6, the only entry in this class, took 1st place in all four races.
Once all other fleet race awards were presented, excitement grew as next up was the ‘Le Phare Bleu Cup’ for Overall Winner of the 2014 South Grenada Regatta. The crowd cheered loudly as Robbie Yearwood on IWW Die Hard was awarded this much-deserved distinction, knocking last year’s overall winner, Jason Fletcher on Apero, off the podium.

At the end of the awards ceremonies, Grenada’s Senator the Hon. Brenda Hood addressed the audience on behalf of the Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, Hon. Alexandra Otway-Noel, who was unable to attend due to the ITB Travel Trade show in Berlin.

“The South Grenada Regatta is a platform which promotes sailing to everyone and is not just for sailors”, said Senator Hood. “We wish to thank the Organising Committee for hosting this successful annual event which supports junior sailing and promotes tourism”, she continued, “and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone back here again in 2015!”

The Junior Sailing Regatta also took place at Le Phare Bleu on Saturday, and these energetic juniors had a great day of racing. Ranging in age from 9-16 years, a total of 15 young sailors competed in Mosquito sailing dinghies; six racers from the Grenada Yacht Club, and nine from Gouyave. Winners of the ‘Under 13 Class’ were: 1st Jamel Charles (GYC), 2nd Avin McPhie & Sharevin Joseph (Gouyave), and 3rd Javon Noel (Gouyave). Winners of the ‘Over 13 Class’ were: 1st Krzim James (Gouyave), 2nd Shaqille Derick (GYC), and 3rd Trevell James & Sharkim Robertson (Gouyave).

SGR’s racing program was wrapped up on Sunday afternoon with fast and fun 15 Horsepower Dinghy Time Trials. 16 competitors tried their luck at being the fastest dinghy driver, but it was Mike Bingley who placed 1st, followed by Adam Rose, and Kenny Modeste.

“Our Organising Committee is overall extremely pleased with this year’s regatta,” said Jana Caniga, SGR Chairman. “We had a good selection of boats, the racers and other participants had a great time, and we had record attendance at all of our nightly parties!”

“We’ve already received many compliments about this year’s regatta from participants and guests,” added Caniga. “There are always things that can be improved upon when organizing an event such as this, but we’re very encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve received to date.”

The SGR took place at Le Phare Bleu Marina & Boutique Hotel from 6-9 March 2014.

The Caribbean could be a global hub


Until relatively recently, almost all Caribbean economic thinking has been focused on the encouragement of investment onshore, with the emphasis on commodities, manufacturing, tourism, financial services and artisanal industries such as fisheries.

This has been, with some notable exceptions such as financial services, where immediate opportunity lay.

However, now that technology is changing rapidly, preference in trade is all but over, economic globalisation is a reality, and international trade is again growing after the setback of the 2007/8 global financial crisis, there is a pressing need to explore in a much broader way leveraging the importance of the Caribbean’s physical location. So much so that the promotion of future opportunity in the Caribbean may lie not in advertising what is onshore but, in the broadest sense, creating international awareness of the external market opportunities that arise from its strategic location.

It is an approach that recognises the limitations of the Caribbean’s size, resource and geography, does not look back, accepts globalisation, and understands that there are practical limits to Caribbean notions of sovereignty. It pragmatically accepts that the Caribbean’s future role is as a facilitator for others, whether they be tourists, overseas investors or, for example, those who see the islands as a location for a business related to another part of the world, rather than foremost as a national opportunity in a domestic economy.

This is a message that much of the region’s private sector and particularly small island governments have yet to embrace. It is not necessarily attractive. It implies that the Caribbean economy of the future has to be more strategic in its global thinking, less protectionist and defensive, and become skills and knowledge based. It also requires governments to focus relentlessly on education at tertiary and higher levels, and to build skills for tomorrow that will enhance the region’s location at the maritime crossroads of the Americas.

It requires too a reversal in the way that most of us think about the Caribbean. It suggests looking outwards and a turn to face the sea. It argues for recognition that the largely unrealised potential that most Caribbean nations have to resolve their alarming economic problems lies in placing much greater emphasis on encouraging others into their physical location, or the seas that surround in order to stimulate externally led future growth.

As is now well understood, the Caribbean commands access to the widened Panama Canal and is at a north-south, east-west intersection for international shipping. This offers the region multiple opportunities for the creation of transshipment ports linked to development zones for manufacturing, the assembly of finished items and other services for nations like China and Brazil, which are seeking new tariff-free ways to access markets in the Americas and the Europe.

It is the Caribbean sea too that offers the potential to develop new ports and industries linked to the road and rail routes that may open up areas within Brazil and the Amazon Basin or help facilitate links across the Central American Isthmus to the Pacific; and which is the space that enables not just the regional and international movement of goods and services – legal and illegal – but also provides the access that brings the largest number of visitors to the region, the cruise ships.

It is also the seas that surround the island Caribbean that provides the sought after environment that encourages and enables tourism, tourism investment and tourism led growth.

There is also, as this column has pointed out before, opportunity beneath the Caribbean Sea for others with advanced technologies to exploit.

Rapid progress in undersea technologies is facilitating a growing interest in moving gas and electricity between islands through pipelines and cabling in ways that may reduce energy costs for manufacturers and consumers in order to make the Caribbean more competitive in what it produces.

The technology to drill and recover oil and gas from huge depths now exists and potentially on or beneath the sea’s bed there lies great wealth in the form of minerals and possibly rare earths.

All of which is to say nothing of fisheries which for the most part remain a small scale artisan occupation, or the realm of nations that sometimes illegally operate within Caribbean nation’s economic zones.

Despite this, there has been no holistic accounting or mapping of the economic and physical resource that exists within the Caribbean Basin’s economic zones or that may exist in the seas beyond.

Accepting that the Caribbean is at a global crossroads is not something the region is well prepared for as it carries with it new responsibilities and costs. Encouraging greater use of the Caribbean Sea will require national, regional and international consideration as it touches issues that include physical security, policing, the environment, food and energy security, sovereignty, defence, sea level change and issues from maritime security to the environmental interdependence of Caribbean eco- systems. It also encompasses changing inter-regional and geopolitical relationships if recovery of offshore oil or gas were to occur in the three Guianas, the Bahamas or Cuba.

As the Caribbean struggles to find new ways to generate growth and greater consideration is given to making use of the seas, there is strong case for reorienting  thinking to recognise that it is the region’s location that represents the Caribbean’s future.

A few days ago in Barbados, in a form of recognition of the growing importance of the Caribbean Sea, a conference took place on maritime security.

Understandably, much of the focus was on the actions required to stem the flow of narcotics and guns through the region and the implications of the rapidly changing economic significance of the Caribbean as a transit point for goods and as a location for sources of energy.

However, reading some of the remarks made by those who spoke it is clear that their enemies, the narcotics traffickers, have been the quickest to fully appreciate and exploit the strategic and economic potential of the Caribbean region’s location. It begs the question why it has taken so long for some Caribbean  governments to do the same.

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

Guyana’s political parties leading on regional integration


In a rare show of unity, the governing and opposition parties in the Guyana legislature have demonstrated an outstanding and continuing commitment to the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Despite their differences over domestic matters, the parties in the legislature unanimously agreed to an amendment to the Caribbean Community Free Entry of Skilled Nationals Act to allow for the spouse of a skilled national to work.

This provision is ground-breaking within the CARICOM grouping. No other member-country has taken the step to allow spouses of skilled nationals to work. The effect of this neglect has been that families have been separated or skilled spouses have been deprived of productive times in their lives. Additionally, receiving CARICOM countries have denied themselves further skills that could contribute to their national development.

The Bahamas and Montserrat – while members of the Caribbean Community – have opted not to be part of the Single Market where movement of skilled nationals is relevant. Of the other countries that have agreed to participate in a Single Market (for the time being Haiti is participating in goods only) 12 of them have operationalised the legal requirements for free movement of only five of the ten agreed categories of skilled workers.

The majority of them have not granted free movement to the remaining five.

The Guyana amendment to allow spouses to work and move freely was adopted by its legislature on February 27 and President Donald Ramotar is expected to sign it into law before the end of March. Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, explained that no restrictions would be placed on the spouse and dependants of the principal beneficiary. Effectively, this means that a spouse will not require a work permit once the certificate of the skills bearer is verified.

By the amendment, the Guyana legislature also provided for a CARICOM skilled national to apply directly to the Minister for certificate verification. Once the certificate is verified, the holder can apply to the Chief Immigration Officer to remain in Guyana “for a period of indefinite duration”.

In a telling statement to the legislature, the Guyana Foreign Minister declared: “Notwithstanding the challenges we encounter from time to time, the Government of Guyana remains committed to the ideals of regionalism and its fundamental principles”.

Indeed, by making the amendment to the law, Guyana has done no more than fulfil its obligation under the Revised CARICOM Treaty. What is significant is that an identical obligation exists for all CARICOM member-states, but none of the others have yet implemented it.

By the action of its legislature, Guyana will reap the benefit of two-for-one with every bearer of a skills certificate and their spouse. The country will be infused with a greater number and variety of skills to bolster its trained working population.

Pointing to the fact that Guyana is opening up its vast interior for large scale mining of gold and diamonds in addition to its traditional production of bauxite and manganese, Foreign Minister Rodrigues-Birkett told parliament: “We welcome our brothers and sisters from the Caribbean with open arms. Today we are putting some additional legal mechanisms in place to ensure that their stay in Guyana will be worthwhile and enjoyable”. She might well have added that Guyana will benefit from the influx of skills.

In this sense, the purposes of Articles 45 and 46 of the Revised CARICOM Treaty, which set out the goal of free movement of people within the regional group of countries, are being met in letter and spirit by the actions of the Guyana legislature – skilled workers with spouses are no longer restricted within their national borders. They can now add the vast space of Guyana as an opportunity for employment for themselves and their spouses.

The opportunities in Guyana are not limited only to the mining sector, which itself will expand enormously once the present explorations of the known and proven deposits of oil and gas produce results, but also to mega-agricultural farms. At the recently-held 25th CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines, President Ramotar repeated that Guyana has 3.5 million hectares of available agricultural land, some of which he offered to CARICOM
governments and entrepreneurs for growing food for consumption within the region and globally.

The President had good grounds on which to make his offer to CARICOM countries. Presently, CARICOM countries import more than US$3 billion in food from outside the region. He rightly regards that as US$3 billion worth of business opportunities that would create hundreds of jobs and generate millions in income. The opening in Guyana has already been seized by the Simpson Family (owners of the Sol Group) from Barbados who are cultivating rice, soya, corn, fruits and vegetables on almost 30,000 acres of land at Santa Fe in Guyana’s Rupununi district.

Some of the production is being sold to nearby Brazil.  

Clearly, Guyana recognises the benefits of production integration for the CARICOM region – matching capital and business know-how from one country with the natural resources of another to advance the interests of all. It is noteworthy that the Commission on the Economy, established last September by
CARICOM Heads of Government to advise on solutions that would lead to growth and development, has said that “sustainable development can only be achieved through the free movement of people and goods”. The Heads of Government have collectively stated that the Commission will prepare “an implementation timetable” to be presented at the July 2014 CARICOM Summit.

It would be encouraging to skilled CARICOM nationals – and for CARICOM integration – if, by then, all governments took the practical and measurably beneficial action of operationalizing free movement of the remaining five categories of skilled nationals as agreed four years ago, as well as giving their spouses the right to work. Guyana’s political parties have together shown the way.

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

Culture clash


Developing countries seeking to find their feet in the world’s family of nations must constantly grapple with defending their national sovereignty, held sacrosanct in international relations, and facing up to the realities of our modern world. In theory, the voice of every country carries equal weight. However, in practice, it is clear that those with superior economic – and usually also military – might are the ones who really call the shots. In other words, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

We were reminded of this adage as it relates to the ongoing international debate about same-sex marriage and rights based on sexual orientation. This continues to be a hot-button issue, not just between East and West, but also even within more liberal countries. Indeed, though from the outside one would largely classify Europe and North America as having a pro-gay climate, when one examines the legal rights and reality on the ground in many such countries, it remains quite varied. Nonetheless, there can be no denying that there is a greater acceptance of various sexual orientations and family structures in those parts of the world than in others such as Africa and the Caribbean.

Having recently implemented more stringent anti-gay legislation, the African country of Uganda this week defended its stance by rejecting sexual orientation as a fundamental human right as defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This, despite the fact that this treaty is normally accepted as the standard for all member states of the United Nations.

Since Uganda passed the laws last month, several international donors have suspended aid funding to that country, a move the Ugandan president labelled as “bullying”. It brings to mind the comments made not too long ago by UK Prime Minister Cameron and US President Obama, which indicated that their governments would likely review its aid commitments to those countries which discriminated against persons based on sexual orientation. They too sparked accusations of trying to force their belief system down the throats of other countries with different cultures and values.

Face off

So where does national sovereignty stand in all this? Certainly, it must raise a country’s metaphorical hackles to have another appear to be wielding a big stick to ensure conformity, especially in a world where developing countries can find that whenever they appear to be catching up, the goal post is moved yet again. Indeed, as it relates to human rights, many of the laws that these countries are now being criticised for were inherited from a former coloniser, who having changed its outlook, seems to expect all others to fall in line forthwith.

But again, he who pays the piper calls the tune. Therefore, if developing countries are reliant on aid from more advanced countries, it cannot be altogether surprising when the latter group use this leverage to bring others over to their way of thinking.

We can only hope that the big stick approach does not have the negative effect of driving countries away from international fora which may be dominated by Western culture, resulting in a further splintering of the globe along hard and fast ideological lines. In this year 2014, A.D., conflict remains a feature of human civilisation, both within and without national boundaries. The current system is far from perfect, but it has come a long way. We hope to see it continue to evolve in a positive direction.

CONCESSIONS CUT


By Linda Straker

Together, statutory bodies and returning nationals received EC$8 million in concessions in 2013, but
as part of the three-year Home Grown/IMF programme, they will receive reduced concessions as Government puts structures in place to increase its revenue.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said on Tuesday that the decision to reduce concessions for institutions, organisations and individuals is part of his plea for all Grenadians to sacrifice as Government embarks on initiatives aimed at improving the economic outlook.

“We cannot ask one set of people to make sacrifice,” he said, while reinforcing the point that concessions is just one of the areas where Government has lost a significant amount of revenue over the years.

According to information from the Ministry of Finance, returning nationals received EC$3.3 million while statutory bodies received EC$4.7 million in concessions for 2013.

Explaining the measure further, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine, said that the aim is not to eliminate, but to reduce the amount of concessions that are provided.

“The general idea is to tighten up on concession and not eliminate it,” he said, while disclosing that total Customs exemptions in 2013 were $131 million. He indicated that reduction may be around 50 per cent.

Though not yet signed, Grenada began the process of a three-year structural adjustment and fiscal reform programme as of January 1, 2014. Last Friday, the International Monetary Fund announced that it has reached a staff-level agreement with Grenada. The economic programme will be supported by a three-year, $21.9 million Extended Credit Facility, according to the IMF.


“The main objectives of the programme are to restore fiscal and debt sustainability, boost long-term growth through structural reforms, and safeguard the resilience of the financial sector,” said a statement from the IMF. The agreement is still subject to approval by the IMF’s executive board.

“The cornerstone of the programme is a strong fiscal adjustment focused on curbing current spending and widening the revenue base, while maintaining space for infrastructure spending and social safety nets. The fiscal adjustment will be complemented by a comprehensive debt restructuring, which will aim to secure meaningful debt reduction, address financing shortfalls, and put Grenada’s public debt firmly on a downward path towards the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) regional target of 60 per cent of GDP by 2020,” the statement said.

The Prime Minister said the deal will pave the way for the country to access “at least $100 million in grants and soft loans from donors and friendly countries such as the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank”.

The statement said the programme’s success would “require an extraordinary effort on the part of the authorities, other segments of the society, as well as broad international support”.

“While the initial implementation period will be challenging, Grenada will emerge stronger and more dynamic from the programme, and it will be better poised to generate growth and job creation going forward,” the statement said.

GRENLEC undertakes Petite Martinique Solar Project

GRENLEC’s interim Chief Executive Officer, Clive Hosten
and Chairman of GRENLEC’s Board, Robert Blanchard Jr.

“THIS launch in Petite Martinique is a significant step in GRENLEC’s aggressive drive to diversify our energy portfolio,” was the assurance from the company’s interim Chief Executive Officer, Clive Hosten, when he addressed the commissioning ceremony of the Petite Martinique Solar Project.

The solar system panels on display in Petite Martinique.
Explaining that GRENLEC has set a target to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy penetration over the next few years for Petite Martinique, which has a population of less than 1 000, Hosten said that renewable energy offers the advantage of reducing the price volatility associated with fuel importation, and it is for this very reason GRENLEC will be striving to implement projects and initiatives aimed at achieving such goals.

“This impact will be magnified as we add more renewable energy to our grid. Consequently, over the long-term, we can stabilise electricity prices. Renewable energy technology is also better for our environment. It allows GRENLEC to reduce our carbon footprint by reducing our emissions and noise from our generation plants, and it also increases our energy security where we do not have to depend on imported fuel,” he said.

Last Friday’s commissioning was not only for the Petite Martinique facility, but it also meant the launching of rooftop solar systems at its headquarters in Grand Anse.
A view of the grid underneath the solar system panels.

The Petite Martinique project, which is located at Citern, will be able to provide 31.59 kW or 20 per cent of the island’s peak electricity demand and the rooftop solar systems on the three main buildings at its headquarters produce 148.48 kW.

“Both systems are photovoltaic, meaning that they generate electricity directly from the sunlight. As our exploratory work has indicated, the installation of these systems has been performing extremely well and consistent with solar technology. We have also seen that the requirement for maintenance is low,” Hosten told media and others attending the commissioning ceremony.
Fr. Carol Haynes blessing the panels.


Chairman of GRENLEC’s Board, Robert Blanchard Jr., said that his company has been a pioneer in the region for renewable energy and is aware of the great hardship facing customers as a result of high fuel costs. He quickly pointed out that there is no silver bullet to solving the high energy cost.

A delegation, comprising persons from Government, the non-governmental sector and the tourism sector which have expressed great concern about the impact of high fuel costs on national sustainable development, attended the launch of the solar system in Petite Martinique. (LS)

Grenada hosting third CARCIP innovation workshop


Grenada will be the venue for the third in a series of workshops rolling out across the Caribbean aimed at harnessing the power of Caribbean innovation as an engine of technology enabled development and enterprise.

Part of a broader World Bank-funded initiative called CARCIP, the Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme, which is co-ordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), the workshops will take place in Grenada on March 24 and 25.

A release from the organiser said that building on the foundation of upgraded critical Internet and telecommunications infrastructure, CARCIP aims to clear the path for local innovators and entrepreneurs to develop world-class, locally driven, technology enabled services that address the needs of Grenada and the wider Caribbean.

“The thrust by CTU to accelerate Caribbean entrepreneurship through technology-driven innovation builds on the work of their Caribbean ICT Roadshow, which has been held 21 times in 18 Caribbean countries,” said the release.

“The CTU has been the regional pioneer for initiatives designed to build awareness of ICTs and to promote innovative, beneficial use of the technologies in Caribbean countries for fostering national and Caribbean development,” said Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU.

The underlying philosophy of the CTU’s engagement with the region through CARCIP, Lewis said, is that the very same conditions that present severe challenges for the region are also creating unique opportunities.

In the case of Grenada, the CARCIP workshop is an opportunity to deepen the Government’s ongoing thrust to develop the country’s ICT sector. “We are extremely proud to be the next host of the CTU’s CARCIP Innovation Workshops, and we look forward to discovering new ways to apply technology to everyday challenges,” said Jacinta Joseph, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communication, Works, Public Utilities, Physical Development and ICT, Grenada.

CARCIP is a partnership between the World Bank and the Governments of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Grenada, alongside regional organisations such as the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) and the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN), all under the co-ordination of the CTU.

The Grenada workshop is the third in the ongoing series. Among the workshop presenters are Dr. Farid Youssef, Faculty of Medical Sciences, the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine; and Norman Gibson, expert in rural development and environmental management in the Caribbean.

Ministry invokes Clause 132 of Education Act


By Linda Straker

THE Ministry of Education said that there is a zero tolerance policy for matters involving the misconduct of those within the profession and in light of the recent matter in which a vice principal was arrested and charged for sexual abuse, it has invoked Clause 132 of the Education Act.

That section speaks about reporting of misconduct by those in the profession and the role of the Chief Education Officer. According to the legislation, the Chief Education Officer must keep a record of all reports of misconduct made against teachers by principals, boards of management or members of the public.

It also explained that the Chief Education Officer must, in writing, inform a teacher of any report of misconduct against the teacher and warn him or her of the possible consequences of a further report of misconduct; on a second or subsequent report of misconduct against a teacher, the Chief Education Officer must report the matter to the Public Service Commission on a complaint with a view to
disciplinary action.

The requirement for a warning does not apply to misconduct of the kind described in section 130(k) and such misconduct must be reported to the Public Service Commission on its first occurrence. That section says that if a teacher is convicted of any criminal offence involving dishonesty, fraud or moral turpitude or is convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine, is guilty of misconduct.

The Ministry said in a statement that the care of the nation’s children is its uppermost priority and in wake of recent reports from the Grand Anse R.C. School, the Ministry has embarked upon a series of external and internal administrative and pastoral actions.

“Collaborative efforts with the Royal Grenada Police, the Child Protection Authority, the Ministry of Social Development and the Catholic Education Board of Management will continue to ensure the security and safety of the students and teachers of Grand Anse R.C. and all other schools,” said the statement.

Government’s audited statements to be released before year-end


THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has agreed to meet monthly as a means to complete the examination of Government’s Audited Statements of Accounts for the years 2008 to 2012.

Audited Statements of Accounts for 2008, 2009 and 2010 are already with the Office of the Houses of Parliament but must be examined by the PAC before they are made public, while the statements for 2011 and 2012 were promised to be presented before the end of 2014.

Under normal circumstances, the PAC is chaired by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Represen-tatives, but because there isn’t an elected opposition in the Lower House, the standing orders had to be amended to provide for a senator appointed by the Governor General in the Upper House to be the Chairman of the PAC.

Members of the Public Accounts Committee are Senator Dr. George Vincent as Chair, while the other members are the three elected Members of Parliament who were not appointed as ministers of Government. They are the Hon. Yolande Bain-Horsford, the Hon. Tobias Clement and the Hon. Clifton Paul. Also in attendance at the meeting were the Acting Director of Audit, Mrs. Isha Abraham and Mr. Samuel Louis Obike, Accountant General.

A release from the Houses of Parliament explained that Public Accounts Committees are central to the effective performance of Parliaments of the Westminster Parliamentary Democratic type and are elected at the start of each Parliamentary session.

“The PAC is mandated to hold the Government accountable for the proper management and administration of public funds. It performs this function by examining the audited accounts of Government Ministries and Departments and Statutory Bodies,” said the release.

“The PAC has the authority to summon senior Public Servants and Managers of State Corporations to appear at Committee meetings. The public at large and the media houses may attend and report on the public hearings held by the Committee,” the release said.

Before 2008, the PAC was allowed to examine statements which were unaudited, but this changed when the Tillman Thomas National Democratic Congress administration was elected into office. The former Finance Minister, Nazim Burke, was of the opinion that only audited statements should be examined by the PAC. Without audited statements to be examined, the last meeting of the PAC was held in March 2011 when current Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was the then Leader of the Opposition. (LS)