Wednesday, 16 April 2014

How others see you


How others see us is sometimes hard to accept. Despite this, what they say when we are not present can play a significant role in creating reputation and identity. It also determines the tone of any response. In the case of nations, especially small states, it contributes to their perceived place in the world and may affect their ability to make progress.

This is not to suggest that image is more important than substance, or that the view of others is always correct, but to try to describe in what follows the much less positive light in which the Caribbean is seen than was the case a decade or more ago.

While there are of course many bright spots, speaking to many of those in both North America and Europe who make policy, the overall view when it comes to the Caribbean would be that the negative outweighs the positive.

To paraphrase multiple conversations, they begin in general by noting that many Caribbean nations have fallen further into debt, many are in IMF programmes, and almost all are heavily dependent on costly imports of energy and food. The consequence, they suggest, has been low rates of growth (there are some exceptions), a failure to complete the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, a significant decline in governments’ ability to provide the social provision that electorates expect, and the growing danger of instability.

They then go on to express the view that fundamental structural problems remain. They express concern that most nations have not yet addressed the interrelated issues of public sector reform, pensions, taxation, public expenditure, education, youth unemployment and growth. The trend towards higher taxation, they observe, is reducing competitiveness. The gap between the English- speaking economies of the region and their counterparts in Central and South America and the Hispanic Caribbean is widening. They worry that most nations cannot achieve agreement on national interest issues in ways that would enable policies to survive from one government to the next. Levels of crime,
narcotics-related activity and violence continue to increase. Apart from a few Caribbean transnational companies, much of the region’s private sector remains protectionist. The Economic Partnership Agreement with Europe is making little headway, the negotiations with Canada for a new free trade agreement may go the same way, and it is therefore unclear whether a broad- based US initiative to be announced this year will succeed.

That said, on the plus side, there is a consensus that tourism – which underwrites most Caribbean economies – is returning to growth; a small number of nations may in time join Trinidad in experiencing oil and gas-based wealth; Jamaica, against the odds, is managing its tough IMF programme well and this is winning many friends; the overseas territories of the UK are for the most part prospering despite their passing difficulties with London; the much ignored French DOM are moving out into the rest of the region with Paris’ blessing and encouragement; and the Dominican Republic – irrespective of what might be said in some parts of the Anglophone Caribbean – and Cuba are seen increasingly as worthy of a significantly upgraded bilateral relationship.

There are also important new geo-strategic developments. They observe that the possibility of a changed US-Cuba relationship could alter regional economic dynamics. The enlargement of the Panama Canal and plans for a possible second canal in Nicaragua makes the Caribbean of continuing strategic importance. The likelihood of new oil and gas finds will change the economic balance of power in the region. Russia has heightened its profile in the region and China and Venezuela have become fundamental to its economic survival.

In summation, the view is that unless the Caribbean is able to deliver greater economic dynamism, seriously stimulate private sector led growth, is more focused on implementation, and in some cases less inclined to what is regarded as mendacity, its economies will stagnate and the region will become at greater risk of instability, criminality and failure.

Many outside also observe that there appears to be little awareness that the view of the region’s principal political and economic partners – the US, EU and Canada – has moved on in response to the need to cut public expenditure and respond to changing strategic concerns. More recently, the UK, the EC, the US and Canada have recognised for this reason the need to develop new initiatives to work more closely together on issues such as prosperity, security, and energy in the region.

For its part the Caribbean will rightly speak about the importance of the diversification of political relationships; the emphasis it now places on its ties to nations like China and Venezuela; the high cost of meeting its global commitments, especially in relation to issues like energy, security, and the environment; and the pressing need to address falling educational levels and developing skills for the future; and of the need to address historic issues through reparations.

To a significant degree the thinking of traditional partners has changed.

There are multiple reasons for this.

It reflects the challenge of austerity, limited financial resources, and new strategic priorities and the draining effect this has on developing new thinking and action in relation to the  Caribbean; it speaks to the failure of a significant number of Caribbean politicians to address issues in ways that have resonance in North America and Europe; it speaks to the inability to mobilise those in the Diaspora who could play a greater role in policy formulation; and in part, it is a reflection of the departure of a generation of politicians, officials and business people who had an intimate knowledge and attachment to the Caribbean.

If this is a fair statement of a changed perspective on the Caribbean the challenge now is how best to encourage new thinking and action while ensuring that external actors remain engaged within their current financial constraints.

What this suggests is the need for reflection on how others now see the region, some thought being given to the issues that a new generation of regional leaders will have to face, and where there is space for co-operation with external parties.

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.

Sri Lanka – Straining the Commonwealth


The Commonwealth of 53 nations is facing yet another ordeal because of the government of Sri Lanka. This time the Sri Lankan government is refusing to co-operate with a UN-mandated investigation.

On March 21 the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution requesting the UN Human Rights Commissioner to undertake “a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka”. The “both parties” to which the resolution refers are the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the so-called Tamil Tigers) who fought a bloody war that finally ended in May 2009 after 26 years.

However, the Sri Lankan government has firmly stated that it does not accept the UNHRC resolution and it will not co-operate with any investigation launched by the Commissioner.

Whether or not the Sri Lankan government accepts and co-operates with the UN-mandated investigation, it will take place.  Therefore, by not co-operating, the Sri Lankan government’s side of the story will not be told to the investigators. But, the government seems to be more concerned about what the investigation might reveal about its own actions than with meeting its commitments to binding UN Human Rights Conventions.

In an intervention at the UNHRC council debate, the Sri Lankan representative expressed concern that since the resolution failed to specify a time period, the investigation might be confined to the period between 2002 and 2009 “thus completely excluding the atrocities and violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam prior to 2002”.

In the meantime, myriad Sri Lankan-Tamil organisations and many Tamils, who claim to have been victims of Sri-Lankan military atrocities, will give testimony to the international investigation that will take place outside of Sri Lanka since the government will not co-operate with it. The Tamils’ testimony will be bolstered by photographs and videos of Tamils who were killed in the final months of the conflict, allegedly by government troops. At least 40 000 Tamil civilians are reported to have been killed by Sri Lankan military shelling of areas into which Tamils had been deliberately herded.

Several human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, as well as Channel 4 News in Britain, have amassed material that identifies the Sri Lankan military as the perpetrators of the atrocities and senior representatives of the government as the authority behind them.

However, the UNHRC resolution does not call for an investigation of the Sri Lanka government alone; it was careful to say that it wanted an investigation into human rights abuses and related crimes by “both parties”. The Tamil Tigers themselves are reported to have been brutal during the war, including to Tamil civilians.

The predicament for the Commonwealth is that the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is the current Chairman-in-Office of the association, yet his government is refusing to accept and co-operate with a UN-mandated investigation. Such a refusal is not consistent with the ‘values-based’ organisation that the Commonwealth claims it is in numerous declarations that proclaim its commitment to principles, including ‘the rule of international law’. The organisation has already been heavily criticised for failing to deal with the Sri Lankan government’s unconstitutional impeachment of the Chief Justice and to investigate alleged attacks on journalists, human rights defenders, members of religious minority groups and other members of civil society, as well as on temples, mosques and churches.  The decision to allow Sri Lanka to host the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting amid all this controversy attracted widespread disapproval and led to Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, declining to attend the meeting. Indeed, only 26 of the 53 Heads of Government turned up in Sri Lanka.

If the Commonwealth does not take some form of action about this development with the Sri Lankan government, it will be further criticised as hypocritical and meaningless.

But, is any action now likely from the Commonwealth even in the face of the Sri Lankan government’s rejection of a UN-mandated investigation? Most probably not.  Nine Commonwealth countries are members of the UNHRC. Of the nine, three voted in favour of the resolution (Sierra Leone, United Kingdom and Botswana); three voted against (Kenya, Maldives and Pakistan); and three abstained (India, Namibia and South Africa). The members of the Commonwealth would therefore be divided on the matter, and since the Commonwealth would have to take a decision on this matter by consensus, the association would be stymied.

The body that could take-up the matter is the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) – a group of nine rotating foreign ministers – which is a ‘custodian of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values and principles’. By its own rules, any member of CMAG could raise the Sri Lanka issue at its meeting under ‘Other matters of interest’ or as a formal agenda item. But, so far, CMAG has shied away from dealing with the Sri Lanka matter on the basis that there has been ‘no serious or persistent violations’ of Commonwealth fundamental values – an assertion that has stunned civil society organisations and some Commonwealth governments.

In any event, one of the current members of CMAG is the Sri Lanka foreign minister, Professor G L Peiris, by virtue of his President being Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth. Peiris will certainly not tolerate any discussion of the UN resolution that he has already strongly rejected.  Other members of CMAG include Pakistan that voted against the resolution and India that abstained. The only country on CMAG that voted for the resolution is Sierra Leone which might reasonably expect support from New Zealand and Cyprus which are also members. Thus, the dissension within CMAG would paralyse any action even if some of its members – which include Guyana and Solomon Islands – might be in favour of at least a discussion.

But at the very least CMAG should encourage the Sri Lankan government to cooperate with the UN process. Equally, it should urge the UNHRC to ensure that the investigation will look at abuses by both sides from the time the conflict began.

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

Shine bright


The diversity of the student body across the campuses of the University of the West Indies (UWI) reflects that of the Caribbean population itself. Therefore, notwithstanding the growing segment of students coming from outside of the region, Caribbean students alone provide the multicultural mixture that many universities around the world try to emulate.

The reason for this desire for diversity is simple. The student body on any university campus is the heart and soul of the institution. A rich and vibrant student life is highly desirable because it should translate into students who are engaged, conscious and contemplative – all the attributes that indicate that one is developing the advanced cognitive and analytical abilities that are the aim of higher education. Aside from the student body, the university is also comprised of its faculty, to whom students and the wider society look for learned and considered opinion on the varied areas of their study and expertise. Together, the students and faculty represent a special community within the national society, made so by virtue of their academic enlightenment.

Accordingly, it is expected that when the members of the university community open up their activities to the public, that it be such that guests can be enriched by their interaction with the university community. In this regard, we can find no fault with the faculty and administration of the University. This island’s social calendar is replete with lectures, showcases and seminars hosted by the University, where faculty members engage the public on a variety of socially relevant issues. We also note that students of the performing arts have made efforts to share their work with the wider community.

We would therefore appeal to those active faculty members and students alike to encourage their more reserved colleagues to join them in their public interactions. The more diverse the sources, the more robust any public debate can be.

What we would also like to see is for more members of the student body to embrace their role as leaders within society. Certainly, they are yet in the early stages of their path to higher education, but we believe that they have a certain responsibility to show themselves to be committed to this role. Over the years, the carnival at the Cave Hill campus has showcased the talents of UWI students in song, fashion design and several other creative outlets. It is disappointing that the diverse cultural expressions did not appear to have grown apace with the ‘jump up’ aspect of the carnival, which has moved from a small  on-campus activity to an event that takes place on public streets and is seen as the centrepiece of the festivities.

Of course, revelry has become big business, and we do not deny that the costumed bands are a creative outlet as well as an opportunity for entrepreneurial efforts. However, the end result is that one of the few times that the members of the public engage with UWI students as a unified body, the image that is left in their minds is one of revelry and in many cases, debauchery.

With the introduction of tuition fees at the Cave Hill campus, many persons are questioning the value of an education at the UWI. Students, just as much as the other members of the university community, play an important role in shaping the image of the university and influencing prospective students’ decisions to join that fraternity. We would wish for a student body that revels in its Caribbean identity and, yes, knows how to have a good time. Nonetheless, we would also wish that their most publicised and patronised events be those that give reassurance that the university remains a beacon, in all spheres.

GRENADA CHOSEN – will represent Western Hemisphere in Commonwealth working group


Grenada is the only Western Hemisphere Commonwealth Nation that will be part of the high level working group selected to advance the global intergovernmental negotiations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The eight-member group was selected by the Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, H.E. President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka and also comprises the leadership of the following countries: Sri Lanka, Australia, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Tonga.

“The leaders chosen for the High Level Working Group reflect the geographical spread of the Commonwealth membership, as well as the diversity and sizes of economies and stages of development,” said President Rajapaksa.

At the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, in which Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was unable to attend, the leaders present took the decision to “engage collectively and help shape the Post-2015 Development Agenda by constituting an open-ended High Level Working Group of Heads of Government to identify, through a Common-wealth Statement on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, shared Commonwealth perspectives and recommendations”.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said that Dr. Mitchell has expressed his pleasure at being invited to be part of the eight-member Commonwealth Heads team, especially since he was absent from the most recent Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka last year.

“This is a great oppor-tunity to represent the region among Common-wealth nations, to advance such a significant agenda. This diverse team of heads will pool our talents and perspectives together, and come up with recommendations that will serve in the best interest of our shared community,” he said.

The high level working group will oversee the development of the Com-monwealth Statement
on the Post-2015 Agenda, which would reinforce the international community’s dedication to eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development.

Subsequently, the working group will convene on the eve of the UN General Assembly in September
of this year, in order to adopt the resulting Commonwealth Statement that will then be disseminated to fellow Commonwealth leaders for presentation at the General Assembly.

Regional bodies working together to fight fraud


FOUR entities in the Caribbean responsible for the non-bank financial sector have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will ensure even greater levels of due diligence are in place to thwart any illegal activity from taking root in the countries they represent.

Chairman of the Financial Services Commission (FSC), Sir Frank Alleyne, speaking just before he and officials of the securities regulators in Jamaica, Trinidad and the Eastern Caribbean signed a MOU for the exchange of information and co-operation and consultation at the FSC’s Warrens office, in Barbados, maintained that the scams that have taken place across the world have occurred because of a lack of due diligence. To that end, he contended that in this region, efforts must be made to ensure that the fallout from such scams will become a thing of the past.

CEO of the Financial Services Commission, Warrican Ward (left),
signing the MOU for the exchange of information and co-operation
and consultation between four entities in the Caribbean responsible
for the non-bank financial sector, while watched by Professor Patrick
Watson, Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Securities and
Exchange Commission (second from left); Executive Director of
FSC Jamaica, Janice Holness; and Chairman of the Financial Services
Commission (FSC), Sir Frank Alleyne, during the ceremony last week Wednesday.
“Whether countries are large or small, we have to collaborate if we are going to protect the public interest… We have to protect investors; there must be confidence; they must have a certain level of confidence when they put their resources in a particular enterprise. The commission is integral … to ensuring that the information which is made available to the investing public is accurate and is reliable,” he said.


With that in mind, he said while only four entities have signed the MOU to date, this is only the first step for the Caribbean Group of Securities Regulators and the other members will sign in due course. The group, which was set up following a meeting of the Council of the Securities Regulators of America in 2002, seeks to provide a forum to discuss and resolve regulatory issues important to the Caribbean securities market development and regulation.

Chairman of the Financial Services Commission (FSC),
Sir Frank Alleyne.
Sir Frank explained that the MOU is very specific in terms of the steps which have to be taken as it relates to requests for information.

“We are entering this agreement because we are confident from our experience that we can trust one another; that is critical. We have full confidence in Barbados, that if we contact our partners in Jamaica, in the OECS, in Trinidad in Tobago, in Guyana, that what we will receive is full support, complete due diligence and they will assist us because they know that by assisting Barbados or assisting the OECS, they are helping themselves,” the chairman added.

Meanwhile, Professor Patrick Watson, Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Securities and Exchange Commission, said that through the MOU, the commissions will be able to better scrutinise people looking to invest in the region, and they are obliged to share information about those investors.

“Not every investor is a scammer … but you have to look out for them and they do like to take advantage of our jurisdictions for things like money laundering. We are all part of a money laundering league, we have all signed into legislation in our own jurisdictions; we are committed to it. But we do want to encourage legitimate investors, who just as we are afraid of the scammers, so too are they,” Watson indicated.

Watson explained that when persons invest in an entity, they want assurance that their money is safe and will not disappear because of loose regulations in a country, and the MOU provides that assurance for them. (JRT)

NGOs holding stakeholders’ dialogue in observance of Earth Day


IN an effort to revive the spirit of Earth Day observance in Grenada, Friends of the Earth Grenada and the St. Patrick’s Environmental and Community Tourism Organisation, in collaboration with the Non-State Actors’ Panel, will host a stakeholders’ dialogue.

The first since 1992, the proposed dialogue is an attempt to create an enabling platform for all stakeholders to act in concert with an agreed collaborative approach to the challenges facing Grenada and the Caribbean in relation to Climate Change and its impact on our eco-systems and sustainable livelihoods.

“There is a need to organise and unify to build resilience to these challenges and it needs to be now, not tomorrow,” said a press release from the organisers.

The theme of the stakeholders’ dialogue will be “Grenada: Climate Change Impacts and Challenges to Livelihoods”. The stakeholders’ dialogue will take place at the Public Workers’ Union, Tanteen from
8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 22, 2014.

Objectives of the day’s activities are: To share concerns re: environment; To share best practices
re: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism; To contribute to policy for a way forward with clear environment issues that are prioritised for intervention as identified in communities represented at this activity; and To agree on activities for collaboration within a timeline.

The first Earth Day activity was held in the USA on April 22, 1970 and is seen as the day the modern environmental movement was born. In 1990, Earth Day went global, with 200 million people in over 140 nations par-ticipating, according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a non-profit organisation that co-ordinates Earth Day activities. In 2000, Earth Day focused on clean energy and involved hundreds of millions of people in 184 countries and 5 000 environmental groups, according to EDN. Activities ranged from a travelling, talking drum chain in Gabon, Africa, to a gathering of hundreds of thousands of people at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

In Grenada, Earth Day was first embraced in 1990 (the 20th observance) in response to the rising sea of global consciousness and humanity’s overdue acknowledgement of its obligations to protect, conserve and enhance Mother Earth, the only home of humans and countless other species.

The inaugural celebration staged in the parish of St. Mark’s was spearheaded by St. Mark’s Cultural Association (subsequently Grassroots Ecological Citizens’ Association – GECA) and the Agency for Rural Transformation.

Organisations benefit from CBN, NLA partnership


By Linda Straker

THE Grenada Kidney Foundation was among organisations which received financial assistance from a special partnership between the Grenada National Lotteries Authority (NLA) and the Canadian Bank Note (CBN), which had a total of EC$110 000 donated to charities.

CBN is a Canadian security printing company which prints the tickets of the National Lottery and according to Simon Wall, a director of the company, the financial assistance is just a small way of giving back to the community which it served.

The Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN) and the Grenada
National Lotteries Authority (NLA) officials with
recipients of the financial donation.
NLA and CBN representatives presenting a cheque to
officials from the Grenada Kidney Foundation.
Geoffrey Gilbert, NLA General Manager, said that the entire amount of EC$110 000 was contributed by CBN. “Of course there were some stipulated terms and conditions established by the NLA to qualify and ultimately access these funds,” he explained.

The distribution of the funds began during the Christmas season of 2013 when EC$40 000 in food hampers were distributed to a Senior Citizen Home, an orphanage and others.

The Kidney Foundation received EC$10 000; the General Hospital EC$55 000, the Scouts and Guides organisations EC$2 500 each; the Mirebeau Hospital X-ray machine project EC$5 000; the Sickle Cell Association EC$5 000; and HIV Care and Treatment and Oncology Care EC$5 000 each.

Speaking on behalf of the recipients, Ann David Antoine said that they were all very grateful and that the money will be used to assist to improve the conditions of all who seek support from the respective entities. She said that in the case of the hospital, that money will be used to assist in the shipping of donations to the hospital.

The presentations were witnessed by members of the Board of Directors of the NLA and officials from CBN.

The Canadian Bank Note Company is probably best known for being one of two private companies holding contracts with the Bank of Canada to supply it with Canada’s paper currency. The company’s other clients include private businesses, national and sub-national governments, central banks, and postal services from around the world.

In addition to bank notes, the company produces passports, driver’s licences, birth certificates, postage stamps, coupons, and many other security-conscious document-related products. It also prints and provides document reading systems for identification cards, lottery tickets, stamps, and bank notes.

Jamaica has no intention of adopting the Spice Isle tagline


By Linda Straker

A top tourism official in Jamaica says that the island has no intention of using the tagline or to rebrand the destination as “The spice island of the Caribbean”.

The claims were made during heated social media discussions as Grenadians locally and abroad expressed approval and or disapproval by the Grenada Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Authority to rebrand Grenada with a new message of “Pure Grenada”.

Janet Silvera, Senior tourism writer at the Jamaica Gleaner said she heard about the debate and began following it online.

“I then decided to contact Chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board, Dennis Morrison, who described the idea as rubbish because there are so many other taglines that can be used to promote the diversity of the destination,” she said.

“There is no reason why Jamaica would change its tagline to Island of Spice, owing to the diversity that Jamaica has to offer. This is a line one of our neighbours has used over the years, we wouldn’t want to use the same thing,” Silvera quoted Morrison as saying.

As of January 2nd, 2014, not only did the Grenada Tourism Authority take over the promotions and marketing of the island’s tourism product, but the Ministry of Tourism announced that it will be re-branding the destination.

Tourism Minister, Alexandra Otway-Noel, said the new entity was “more fresh, innovative and forward-thinking”, and that it was more able to manage itself and make decisions. She confirmed the GTA will move away from the “the Isle of Spice” slogan and instead adopt “Pure Grenada”.

“We will always be the Spice Island but that doesn’t make people want to come here,” said Otway-Noel.

The new branding will instead emphasise the island’s unique features such as eco-tourism, yachting and world-class diving. Future development on the island will focus on “quality not quantity,” she said.

Central America looking to boost ties with region


Having rich, historic family and commercial ties with the Caribbean, Central America is looking to strengthen it relationship with this region in the area of tourism.

Speaking to The Grenada Advocate recently, Anasha Campbell, a representative of the Central American Tourism Integration Secretariat, who happens to be Nicaraguan by birth and speaks English as her mother language, says that many are still unaware of the rich heritage and similarities which exist between the Caribbean and the eastern coast of Central America.

Anasha Campbell.
“The Caribbean Coast of Central America has Afro-descendant communities that speak English as their mother language. Really, the history of Central America is divided in two – the pacific side that was colonised by the Spanish, and the Caribbean side that had a historic British protectorate, back from what was British Honduras that included Belize, Honduras and the Mosquito Coast which stretches from Honduras to Nicaragua,” Campbell explained. She added that apart from family ties, there were also strong commercial ties between these countries and countries such as Jamaica, Cayman Islands and as far south as Trinidad and Tobago.

She pointed out that it was only within the last five years that there had been a greater and deliberate effort to get more persons coming to explore the western side of the Caribbean Sea, so that people could know that Central America also shared in that culture.

Campbell noted that the Central American Tourism Integration Secretariat was currently doing considerable work with the Association of Caribbean States and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, which included a joint programme and plan of action that facilitated an exchange of tourism-related experiences between the two sub regions. That entity also forms part of the recently created Sustainable Destinations Alliance for the Americas, a partnership aimed at promoting and building a more sustainable tourism product in a region considered the most dependent on tourism for its economic survival.

She also spoke on initiatives within her sub region to promote the Caribbean way of life therein, remarking: “We are also looking to broaden our collaborative efforts within the region and are exploring right now an initiative of having a Caribbean [touristic] route of Central America.

“We have other routes like Colonial Cities of Granada and Leon [our] volcanos, Patrimonio de la Huminidad... but we don’t have a Caribbean route in which you can offer tourists from different countries to visit Roatán [the largest of Honduras Bay islands], San Pedro in Belize, Corn Island in Nicaragua or Bocas del Toro in Panama... all of these are Caribbean destinations within Central America.”

Campbell pointed to shared challenges facing tourism in the two sub-regions, a major one being that of transportation. She said the high costs associated with air-transport and a lack of general connectivity continued to be a hindrance not only within Central America, but also to integrating it with the Caribbean.

“Within Central America the fares for a ticket from one country to the next are ridiculous, it’s like paying for a ticket from Central to North America or even to Europe. So you lose competitiveness,” she lamented.

She added that maritime trade had its own set of challenges and improvements needed to be made in this area to regain some of the commercial activity lost when the region moved out from under British protection. (RA)

Opposition politician arrested and charged with wounding


Terry Hillaire, the person who contested the St. Andrew’s North East seat for the National Democratic Congress for the 2013 General Elections, has been charged by Police for hurting a young man from his community.

He was charged with wounding and is presently on EC$2 000 bail.

The charge was slapped on Hillaire after a report was made to the Grenville Police station by a young man who claimed he was attacked by Hillaire following a confrontation he had with another person.

The incident is said to have happened during February but Police laid the charges at the conclusion of the investigations.

Hillaire is scheduled to return to court on April 24, 2014.

Greater confidence


Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Securities and Exchange Commission, Professor Patrick Watson, says that it is almost impossible for any regulator to say that a situation like the one surrounding insurance company CLICO will not happen again.

He made the comments recently in response to a question from the media following the signing of the Caribbean Group of Securities Regulators Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Exchange of Information and Co-operation and Consultation at the office of the Financial Service Commission. That MOU was signed by representatives of Barbados, T&T, Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean Securities Regulatory Commission, and Watson said it is intended to enhance the work of the commissions and boost the confidence of investors in the countries which are signatories.

Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Securities and
Exchange Commission, Professor Patrick Watson.
“You have to understand that a lot of these firms that we regulate, and that’s just the way the game is played, they find we are a nuisance. In all fairness, they employ some the best brains around to defeat us; that is what they do and … sometimes we have to play catch up with what is going on out there and that is why it is so important to make the brightest and best … but it is not always possible,” he pointed out.

As such, Professor Watson contended that it is important to have an arrangement as provided by the MOU, where signatories are obliged to share pertinent information as it relates to ensuring that the regulatory frameworks in their respective countries are adhered to.

“One of the duties of regulators is to register participants in the securities market. We can refuse registration, we can refuse licence to operate if a sister regulator tells us keep far away from that person,” he said.

Meanwhile, Janice Holness, Executive Director of the Financial Services Commission in Jamaica, indicated that the MOU will not only create greater confidence in the jurisdictions, but create greater ease of doing business.

“I can be in Jamaica and I can ask my colleagues here in Barbados to take a witness statement for me, or to provide information that I would have to go through the rigours of a formal application… We can collaborate among ourselves and get information that way. So before I could always call and ask for X or Y, and they could say yes or no… Now this creates the obligation for us to get it done and in a timely manner,” she said. (JRT)

Boosting region’s chemical response capacity important


The regional meeting for National Emergency Coordinators under the Assistance and Protection, Caribbean Regional Project for Creation of a Regional Chemical Response Capacity got under way at the Radisson Aquatica, in Barbados recently.

For Barbados, it is anticipated that the outcome of the two-day meeting will contribute to the attainment of the goal outlined in the National Sustainable Development Policy regarding the environmentally sound management of hazardous substances.

This is according to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Drainage, Edison Alleyne.

Addressing the opening ceremony, he also said that he hopes that the discussion will provide further information to advance the development of the National Chemical, Biological, Radioactive and Nuclear (CBRN) Plan which is being prepared by the DEM with the support of several other government departments.

“This meeting underscores the point that it is equally important to have a coordinated effort in
responding to incidents involving chemical weapons and chemicals at all levels.”

As a signatory State to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Alleyne stated that Barbados has enjoyed a very productive relationship that has resulted in its increased capacities in emergency response.

The Permanant Secretary recalled that since 2009, Barbados benefited from targeted training for local responders in emergency response protocols. He noted that to date, a total of 17 persons from various agencies across Barbados including the Barbados Fire Service, Customs and Excise Department, University of the West Indies and the EPD have received training in various aspects of chemicals management and emergency response to chemical weapons incidents.

“Despite the capacity development received from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the key national emergency response agencies, we recognise that “no man is an island” and the need for a regional approach to emergency response is paramount in that regard.”

“As we chart the way forward in the planning of a regional emergency response mechanism, it is important that we give careful consideration to issues such as: our individual capacity to address chemical emergencies; the existing mechanisms for regional response to emergencies that can be the basis for a regional chemical response mechanism; and how the mechanism would be operationalised amongst others,” Alleyne highlighted. (TL)

‘One in three women will experience violence’


It is predicted that one in three women in the Caribbean will fall victim to some form of domestic or partner based violence.

This was revealed by UN Women Representative, Christine Arab, who delivered remarks recently at the Opening Ceremony of the Expert Group Meeting on Piloting Prevalence Surveys on Gender-Based Violence in the Caribbean at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.

UN Women Representative, Christine Arab.
She said that this information can only be estimated because in spite of efforts by various groups to get statistics and the fact that this form of violence is one of the most prevalent, the evidence is mainly circumstantial with regards to the exact incidence of gender based violence, including that violence directed towards women, which unfortunately creates issues when developing preventative and other measures to tackle this issue.

“Despite notable efforts by authorities, service providers and academia to record and track the incidence of gender-based violence (GBV) in the Caribbean, lack of comprehensive, systematic, nationally-owned data remains a serious bottleneck in responding to and preventing GBV, including its most prevalent form – that of violence against women,” she said.

From the information provided by National studies from Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, British Virgin Islands, Suriname and Latin America and Caribbean Regional Strategy on Women’s Access to Justice 2011-2015, it is believed that 20 per cent or more Caribbean women will experience violence in their intimate relationships while there would also be an increase in various forms of cruelty towards women and girls.

“Available national studies suggest that between 20-69 per cent of women in intimate relationships have experienced violence. In addition to the quantitative increases in rates of violence against women and girls in the region, there has also been a higher incidence of cruelty in violence against women such as strangulation, dismemberment, a larger number of under-aged victims and high rates of kidnapping and rape.”

Furthermore, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Crime Trends Survey (CTS) estimates that 30 per cent of the recorded rape cases across the globe would take place in this region. “According to the latest available data from the UNODC’s Crime Trends Survey (CTS), three of the top ten recorded rape rates in the world occur in the Caribbean.”

Arab said that for those islands which provide comparable statistics, it is quite high and there are also those cases which no-one knows about.

“All countries in the Caribbean for which comparable data are available, experienced a rate of rape above the unweighted average of the 102 countries assessed. The high incidence of sexual violence in some Caribbean countries is of particular concern as most incidents of rape and child sexual abuse remain unreported.”

Meanwhile, the UNODC March 2007 report indicates that “48 per cent of adolescent girls reported that sexual initiation was ‘forced’ or ‘somewhat forced’ in nine Caribbean countries”.

She said that this data was gathered from media reports of serious injuries and deaths, and the Walking the Walls Facebook page, which do not even begin to capture the extent of this form of violence since many cases go unreported. (PJT)

Focus on citizen security focus


One of the ways that UN Women plans on tackling the issue of strengthening data collection with regards to gender- based violence and then finding ways to prevent and curb incidences, is to work with the CARICOM Secretariat and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to develop a more citizen-based security system as opposed to a state security system.

This is according to UN Women Representative, Christine Arab, who delivered remarks recently at the Opening Ceremony of the Expert Group Meeting on Piloting Prevalence Surveys on Gender-Based Violence in the Caribbean at the Radisson Aquatica Resort.

“In working with CARICOM, OECS, and member states, UN Women’s work on gender-based violence aims to respond to the overarching premise that ‘Caribbean countries need to focus on a model of security based on the human development approach, whereby citizen security is paramount, rather than on the traditional state security model, whereby the protection of the state is the chief aim.’”

She said that this model looks at providing equal protection for the various groups, eliminating the different aspects that make someone susceptible to crime and mechanisms for strengthening police defence.

“This model emphasises a focus on the root causes of citizen insecurity, looking at the complementarily of social inclusion with efficient and effective law enforcement and criminal justice processes to prevent crime and violence. The equal protection and empowerment of women and men, girls and boys and their communities is seen as a mechanism of eradicating insecurities and vulnerabilities to crime.”

UN Women will also look at the legal framework and advise these stakeholders on how they can enhance their efforts on combating gender based violence, said Arab.

“We would implement and monitor the existing legal frameworks to combat gender-based violence in all its forms. This includes the very reason why we are here – supporting the development of a CARICOM model and implementation of National Prevalence Surveys on gender-based violence.”

This would be achieved through improving the current system of data reporting and collection; enhancing the ways that the relevant authorities respond to and tackle reports of gender-based violence and developing more efficient programmes and services for women and girls who have fallen victim
to this form of violence, explained the UN Women Representative.

“Our support to this region will focus on supporting strengthened protocols to ensure effective case referral processes, including collection of administrative data; strengthening response by the judicial and policing systems to combat impunity and improved and coordinated response services for women and girls who have experienced violence.”

In addition, they would also work on addressing the misconceptions of what makes a man, some of which can lead to gender-based violence, she stated.

“We would also significantly expand prevention efforts through an emphasis on addressing culturally sanctioned behaviours – including the complex issue of masculinities – which contribute to the perpetuation of violence against women and girls.” (PJT)

More info needed


In order to truly comprehend the extent of gender-based violence in the Latin American and Caribbean region and to find suitable measures to put in place to effectively address this problem, there needs to be two types of data.

This is the belief of Programme Manager, Culture and Community Development, CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Hilary Brown, who delivered remarks at the Expert Group Meeting on Piloting Prevalence Surveys on Gender-Based Violence in the Caribbean at the Radisson Aquatica Resort in Barbados recently.

“We recognise that we need the two types of data – population-based data to measure rates of prevalence through surveys and interviews; and service-based or administrative data collected by police, social services, health and justice systems to measure response – if we are to fully understand the dynamics of gender based violence, secure national and global commitments and make decisions to effectively respond to and prevent the problem.”

She said that this is why a meeting of this nature is so important because it would help the key stakeholders collaborate to find a Prevalence Survey Model on Gender-Based Violence that is an ideal fit for this region.

“Therefore, this is a pivotal meeting that aims to create a CARICOM Prevalence Survey Model on Gender-Based Violence based on the global models and national best practices that are most suited for implementation in our region. The task requires the commitment and joint efforts of those of us represented here – National Statistical Offices, Ministries responsible for gender equality, non-governmental organisations providing key support services as well as representatives from international and regional organisations.”

This meeting also provides these various organisations with an opportunity to put this model into action and then observe it after it has gotten off the ground to make sure that it can guide legislation and other forms of administrative decision making as well as community action, stated the Programme Manager.

“We would like to use the unique opportunity provided by this meeting to agree on a suitable model for the region and plan to pilot and assess the proposed model. We know that these are critical inputs for more effective policy and decision making and action by the community to address gender based violence.” (PJT)

Provide enabling environment for healthy living


An enabling environment must be provided in order to get the citizens of the Caribbean to eat healthy, exercise, reduce alcohol intake, eliminate tobacco and adopt other healthy lifestyle habits.

This is according to Professor Sir Trevor Hassell, President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC).
“Individuals may opt to adopt healthy living, but there needs to be an enabling environment for them to do so through mechanisms that include, policies and legislation; co-operation of, and initiatives led by, the private sector; and advocacy, education and service delivery programmes led by civil society.”

Quoting from the Port-of-Spain (POS) Declaration of 2007, he explained that in order to build this enabling environment, all stakeholders in society must play their part.

“This approach, that is, a multi-sector, all of society approach to NCDs, was first strongly called for at the Heads of Government of CARICOM Summit in Port of Spain, 2007, when the Declaration arising from that Summit stated, ‘We are fully convinced that the burdens of NCDs can be reduced by comprehensive and integrated preventive and control strategies and through collaborative programmes, partnerships and policies supported by governments, private sectors, NGOs and our other social, regional and international partners.’”

Professor Sir Hassell said that this statement, considered daring at the time, revealed that tackling NCDs must be a priority for all involved.

“This is, and was at the time that it was included in the pre-amble to the POS Declaration, a clear and bold statement, that recognised the fundamental issue of the NCDs as a lifestyle matter and one that is the business of all. For it was recognised that a change or correction of the lifestyles – exposure to tobacco smoke, unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and abuse of alcohol that lead to NCDs – can only be achieved if there is involvement of all sectors of society.”

He said that this approach was then seconded by a United Nations (UN) Meeting of 2011.

“The call for a multi-sector approach to Healthy Living was re-stated at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on NCDs 2011, when multi-sectorially was mentioned on several occasions in the Declaration arising out of that meeting and specifically in article 36 of the Declaration where it was stated that we ‘recognise that effective non-communicable disease prevention and control require leadership and multi-sectoral approaches for health at the government level, including, as appropriate, health in all policies and whole-of-government approaches across such sectors as health, education, energy, agriculture, sports, transport, communication, urban planning, environment, labour, employment’.” (PJT)

CARPHA and CTO partner to establish a Tourism and Health Programme


The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has partnered with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) to establish a Tourism and Health Programme.

The goal of this programme is to improve the health, safety, quality and sustainability of the Caribbean tourism industry thereby contributing to the industry and the region being more competitive and sustainable.

Secretary General of the CTO, Hugh Riley, said that partnering with CARPHA gives access to an immediate and authentic source of information about health risks to the Caribbean.

“Through CARPHA’s guidance we will be able to assist our tourism stakeholders in understanding how best to handle a situation that might threaten the health of our citizens and our visitors”.

Recognising that the Caribbean is the most tourism dependent region in the world and that the industry is vulnerable to health, safety and environmental issues, such as food borne and enteric disease outbreaks, and climatic change, Dr C. James Hospedales, Executive Director of CARPHA pointed out that “challenges faced in the industry are preventable through collaborative efforts with regional and global partners to improve monitoring and response, training and standards. In so doing, CARPHA is responding to an identified need in the region as the majority of CARPHA’s member states are dependent on tourism.”

Successful implementation of this programme will also assist Member States to meet global commitments, such as those contained in the (revised) International Health Regulations (2005) for strengthening surveillance and response capacity, assessment and management of food safety events, and building human resources. (TL)

Include NCDs in national developmental plans


Addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) must be included in the National Developmental Plans of Barbados and other islands in the region if we are going to successfully tackle these diseases.

This is the belief of Professor Sir Trevor Hassell, President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) who delivered the feature address at a Health and Lifestyle Expo recently in Barbados.

He said that this is imperative in ensuring that each stakeholder knows the role that they have to play in addressing the obstacles that the islands in the region face when combating NCDs.

“These challenges and issues must be addressed, and to do so requires information and education of all stakeholders so that they appreciate the roles that they each can play in the multi-sector approach. Failure to do so will result in unnecessary illness and death and an undue hindrance to development,” he revealed.

Hence, he is calling for the various issues, obstacles and possible solutions to be included in the National Development Plans for Barbados and the rest of the region as early as 2015.

“It is for this reason that I advocate and call for the inclusion of the NCDs in National Development Plans of Barbados and other Caribbean countries, and in the Millennium Development Goals due to be renegotiated next year.”

He further pointed out that the need for such plans was first called for at the Heads of Government of CARICOM Summit in Port-of-Spain (POS), 2007 which included the establishment or advancement of already established National Commissions.

“Against this background the Heads of Government in the POS Declaration called for a specific mechanism to be put in place across the Caribbean to advance the multi-stakeholder response to NCDs and thus they said and I quote ‘we strongly encourage the establishment of National Commissions on NCDs or analogous bodies to plan and co-ordinate the comprehensive prevention and control of chronic NCDs,’” he stated.

Professor Sir Hassell stated that putting these plans in place would be especially crucial at this juncture because as we battle with other nations to overcome this global economic crisis, it is the perfect opportunity to see exactly how this economic situation can be made worse for the region if we do not effectively address these NCDs.

“And so there are many challenges, but many opportunities, but as I said on another occasion recently, I sense that we are reaching a positive tipping point in our responses to the NCD epidemic. The broader national economic challenges being experienced provides us with an opportunity to assess the economic impact of NCDs on the financial health of the country and perhaps provides a window of opportunity to take decisions likely to have a long-term positive impact on the health of our people.” (PJT)

Response improving


 THE Caribbean region has and continues to be exposed to chemical emergencies.

From a series of oil spills in 2013 in Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and Dominica; to an explosion and fire of a recycling plant in Barbados and a landfill fire in St. Lucia; to cyanide leaks and pollution in Guyana and Suriname.

This was highlighted by Joanne Persad, Programme Manager, Response and Recovery at the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), during the opening ceremony of the regional meeting for National Emergency Co-ordinators under the Assistance and Protection, Caribbean Regional Project for Creation of a Regional Chemical Response Capacity at the Radisson Aquatica, recently.

Joanne Persad, Programme Manager, Response and Recovery at
the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).
The regional meeting for National Emergency Co-ordinators
under the Assistance and Protection, Caribbean Regional Project
for Creation of a Regional Chemical Response Capacity was
held at the Radisson Aquatica, in Barbados recently.
She recalled that last year, the CDEMA Co-ordinating Unit (CU) embarked on a more Comprehensive Strategic Approach to strengthen the regional capability for chemical emergencies.

“This strategy is an overarching approach to holistically consider the wider planning and development issues and the roles, responsibilities and functions of key stakeholders. It considers the need for firstly, a comprehensive risk assessment for Chemical Emergencies or Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear (CBRN) at the regional level, for the national legislation and/or policy to support a wider national programme.”

Persad went on to indicate that within the scope of planning for natural hazards there has been the ongoing growth and development of a Regional Response Mechanism (RRM).

She said that the RRM is being expanded in several ways, including for chemical emergencies. She explained that the aim is to identify and build capacity for Chemical Emergencies or CBRN response support.

“There are several options for consideration as we seek to strengthen the region’s capability for addressing CBRN. One option for consideration is, in the same manner that SAR teams can be
deployed for SAR operations or the CARICOM Disaster Response Unit (CDRU) supports relief operations in an impacted state, there is the potential for a regional CBRN or HAZMAT team.

“Another option would be a mutual aid system, which already exists among 18 Participating states, but would be expanded and specifically designed to include CBRN particularly at the Sub-Regional Focal Grouping,” she highlighted. (TL)

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Cuba investment and competition


On March 29 Cuba’s National Assembly passed a new foreign investment law. Its content has far reaching implications for the future economic organisation of the country. It has also stimulated a lively public and private debate in the rest of the Caribbean about whether it represents a new economic challenge to the rest of the region.

Unusually, the changes that the new law contains had been widely trailed in Cuba’s national and provincial media before its passing. This was because of its contentious nature within Cuba and the challenge it offered to many Cuban conservatives’ belief in the need to maintain full control over national sovereignty and economic decision making.

The result was the slow progress as sometimes challenging political and technical discussions took place in provincial assemblies and in consultations with mass organisations such as the trades unions.

At these meetings various concerns were expressed. Particularly contentious was whether the same investment rights would be granted to Cuban Americans; who, having left the island, significant numbers of Cubans believe, should not be able to benefit. There were also voices at the liberal end of the debate questioning whether the law should enable investment by a small group of increasingly wealthy Cubans living in Cuba and paying taxes.

The passing of the new investment law marks a clear victory for President Raúl Castro, and those at high levels within the Cuban Communist Party who recognise the need for change. It reflects too a view that fundamental reforms within Cuba are more likely to take place during the period up to 2018 while Raul Castro remains as President and retains the moral authority to argue for and ensure change. The lengthy debate speaks also to the fault lines that continue to exist between those who are seeking to maintain a more pure socialist line and those who believe Cuba has no option but to reform and modernise.

Details of the new law have been well publicised, but in essence the new legislation will modify the existing foreign investment law that dates back to 1995, bringing it in line with the government’s broader project of updating its socialist economic model.

According to a front page article in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, the legislative proposal is intended to increase the rate of economic growth and increase funds for investment so as to ‘accelerate the development of prosperous and sustainable socialism’. It allows for foreign investment in all sectors except education, health and ‘armed institutions’ and will offer tax exemptions to overseas companies.

In a break with the past, the new law establishes foreign investment as a priority for the future development of Cuba; aiming to revive local industry and making Cuban goods competitive on the world market through new financing, and access to advanced technology and know-how in key areas, such as agriculture, industry, tourism, biotechnology and renewable energy.

Under the new law Investors will be exempted from paying tax on profits for eight years upon the signing of an agreement; investors will be exempted from income tax; 100% foreign ownership will be allowed, but such companies will be denied the same tax benefits afforded to joint ventures with the Cuban state or associations between foreign and Cuban companies; the new law does not specifically exclude Cubans living abroad; and state-run companies, private farm and non-farm co-operatives can be authorised to form ventures with foreign investors.

One of the interesting side effects of the law’s passing has been a debate in parts of the rest of the Caribbean about the possible negative effects of Cuba’s emergence at some future date as a significant beneficiary for foreign investment and its potential to out-compete near neighbours.


The comments, while understandable, perhaps say more about much of the region’s continuing failure to understand that competition is not a zero sum game, that the rest of the region has had more than fifty years to prepare while Cuba has been economically isolated; the lamentable failure of Caricom to create a viable single economy or to address the economic imbalances between its smaller and larger members; and many nations continuing failure to recognise that to succeed it is first necessary to identify where future competitive advantage might lie.

Cuba’s unusual process of trying to adapt market economics reality to the needs of its unique social model should therefore be a moment not for hand wringing in the Caribbean, but a change to be welcomed if as seems likely it portends further gradual and stable change.

Whether what has been agreed will transform Cuba or as seems more likely, as with much of the Cuban economic reform process, this may involve a kind of learning through doing process rather than planning, remains to be seen, but it should be welcomed.

As the year goes on, at least two leading US private sector associations are expected to take high level delegations involving a number of major US corporations to Cuba. Although many pressures still surround the process of US economic re-engagement it is clear that US business is acutely aware of the potential opportunity now opening up.

This seems to have spawned an increasingly aggressive approach on the part of the US Treasury which by placing pressure on the international banking system and individuals in Europe and elsewhere to reserve the future Cuban market for US business alone.

For its part, Europe is in the process of re-engagement through negotiations for an association agreement that could lead eventually to a freer trade and development relationship. The first formal exchanges on this are expected to take place very soon.

That said, the biggest challenge now lies within Cuba itself as it weighs how flexibly and rapidly it will implement its new law and how its seeks to balance competing interests between a future improved relationship with Washington, which it genuinely wants, a closer relationship with Europe, an interest in resuming a closer relationship with Russia and its desire to see stability return to Venezuela.

(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)

Japan’s yen for whales blown


It’s not often that, apart from funerals, grown men are seen to shed tears openly, and certainly not tough men who have fought hard political campaigns in the relentless battleground of the United States and served on the staff of John Kerry, now US Secretary of State.

Yet, that is precisely what happened in the court room of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on March 31 when a decision was handed down that Japan’s whaling programme in Antarctic waters was not ‘scientific’ research, but pure and simple commercial whaling that repeatedly violated a global moratorium instituted by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and must cease.

The man who shed those tears was Patrick Ramage. For years, he has been the lead person at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in the campaign to stop Japan’s commercial whaling. The ICJ’s judgement was the vindication of years of hard work that was, on numerous occasions, emotionally raw for him and many other deeply concerned environmentalists. The tears of relief and satisfaction were shed for millions of people the world over who, in many ways, had contributed to the fight to stop Japan’s commercial whaling that was conducted under the pretext of ‘scientific research’.

The ICJ was firm in its judgement that Japan violated the IWC’s moratorium by issuing permits for its factory ships to enter the Antarctic to kill whales by the hundreds. The Court stated that Japan failed to justify its sample sizes – 850 minke whales, plus or minus 10 per cent; 50 fin whales; and 50 humpbacks, and the Japanese government was given an immediate order to revoke any existing permits and to refrain from issuing any more. The judgement was “final, without appeal, and binding on the parties”.

The case was taken to the ICJ by the government of Australia under the leadership of Kevin Rudd whose party now forms the opposition, after years of acrimony in the councils of the IWC between countries that opposed whaling and those that supported it principally Japan. In the IWC forum, Japan received support from small states in the Caribbean and the Pacific – many of which were not involved in whaling but, it is claimed, were beneficiaries of Japanese aid in return for their votes.

Many international observers expressed the view that Japan had cynically taken advantage of the very small and resource-poor Caribbean and Pacific states by requiring their votes in return for aid. Indeed, in the Caribbean, the only one of the small states that had any traditional interest in whaling is the island of St Vincent and the Grenadines to which the IWC has granted a disputed Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling quota. Now watch-groups in St Vincent and the Grenadines and outside of it say that whaling from the Grenadine Island, Bequia, has become a blood sport and is not related to nutritional and subsistence needs – an important test for the allocation of a quota.

The larger Caribbean countries – Cuba, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana – never fell prey to Japanese overtures, and Dominica untangled itself a few years ago.

Even though Japan has continuously asserted that it was whaling for scientific research, whale meat was stockpiled in the country and the government mandated that the meat be served in state-funded institutions such as schools and welfare homes. Despite this, Japanese themselves have rejected whale meat in their diets. For instance, the country’s Ambassador to the US, Kenichiro Sasae, is reported to have said during a public meeting in Los Angeles in December 2013 that: “As an individual, I like whales and if you go out and see the whales, there is no reason for us to kill this lovely animal. But it’s history and it’s politics, I would say. There are a small number of Japanese people still trying to get this won. But mainstream Japanese are not eating whale anymore.”

In any event, the ICJ judgement caused Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to state publicly that his government will abide by the court decision even as he said that the ruling was “a pity and I am deeply disappointed".

Japan conducts a similar whale hunt in the North Pacific as it hitherto did in the Antarctic. The government will now have to re-think this undertaking in the wake of the ICJ judgement. At least one expert in Japan believes that the government should abandon its whaling programme altogether. Shohei Yonemoto, an environment and bioethics professor at the University of Tokyo, is reported to have said that Japan would be wise to abandon “the money-losing and controversial business”.

Should Japan abandon the whaling exercise, it is hardly likely to continue to give support for the attendance and voting at IWC meetings for the small states that have voted with it. And, if in the light of Japan’s withdrawal of financial support, those countries stop participation in the IWC meetings, they will be hard-pressed to justify their attendance and voting record in the past.

As for ending the hunting of whales that has been endangering many of the species, there are still two countries that continue to object to the IWC moratorium. They are Norway and Iceland. The small Caribbean and Pacific countries are unlikely to be lured into their fight since neither country has sought to give aid in return for support at the IWC.

In any event, Norway and Iceland will now come under considerable pressure from the international community – both governments and environmental groups - which have been encouraged by the ICJ decision. As Patrick Ramage observed, the ruling “certainly has implications ultimately for whaling by Iceland and Norway, and it will increase pressure on those two countries to re-examine their own whaling practices and the various reasons and pretexts given for that whaling activity.”

Meanwhile, the Japanese yen for whaling has suffered a huge blow. Many Caribbean environmental groups that participated in the struggle to get their own governments not to support Japan will feel vindicated by the ICJ decision.

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

Growth challenges


There is an answer out there for everything … and if not, someone is sure to soon discover or invent it.

Recently in the news there has been a continued focus on the region’s resistance – or lack thereof – to the effects of climate change, whether those be direct environmental impacts such as increased famine, hurricanes and seismic activity, or indirect socio-economic considerations such as food and water shortages.

Each group of factors should be areas of real concern for Grenada and the wider region, yet it is the view of many that decision makers are not responding in the necessary manner to ensure that our economies are best poised to withstand or at least cope with the challenges.

The challenges are not unique to the Caribbean. Indeed, the entire world is faced with having to grow more food with a changing resource base, for example. Factors such as soil loss, air pollution due to industrialisation, deforestation (and in some cases reforestation), migration or extinction of critical players within the eco-system and the invasion of plant and animal diseases, are all issues that many countries have to confront. What makes the small island states of the Caribbean at risk is the limited landmass and non-production of certain basic items which make them dependent on countries with a greater agricultural and manufacturing base.

Countries such as Barbados, as was pointed out recently by historian Dr. Karl Watson, have shown particularly vulnerabilities (dating as far back as the 17th century) because of a highly dense population which has meant, despite the view held by some, that it was never in a position to adequately and entirely feed its own people... at least when it comes through farming in the traditional sense.

According to numbers provided by Dr. Watson, the numbers of estates on the island dropped from around 500 in the immediate post-Emancipation years to 280 by 1942, with 81 156 acres under food production. Today, over 60 years later, approximately 18 000 of land is under cultivation.

Land that has been reforested can be cultivated once more, but the trend is not so possible when a large portion of those bread baskets have been converted to real estate. How does one seek to grow more food with limited land?

The Inter-American Insititute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), in collaboration with other entities, has done extensive research and documentation in the area of soil-less agriculture; that is, growing food crops without soil. According to the literature, crops can still be grown without naturally occurring soil, as long as the basic requirements for optimal plant growth, such as air, moisture and nutrients, are provided. Soil-less technologies provide solutions for food production in areas where traditional soil-based production may be considered a significant threat to the sustainability of the soil or natural environment, or where there is an incapacity to meet production needs.

The main types of soil-less technologies being practised are hydroponics (where oxygenated and nutrient-enriched liquid is fed directly to the root base), areoponics (where nutrients for uptake are supplied through the surrounding atmosphere) and media culture (where soil is replaced with both organic and inorganic material ranging from foam and fiber to gravel, sawdust and sand).

The technologies mentioned above are not exhaustive and should be given greater consideration – not to be used exclusively – for adoption into the region’s farming practices.

As we opened in this discussion, there is seemingly a technological solution for every predicament. Sadly, the inclusion of technology to advance farming in the Caribbean is still glaringly inadequate, even to deal with basic production challenges. Meanwhile, other countries are advancing.

ACT UNDER REVIEW


Grenada will have a revised Public Finance Management (PFM) legislation as part of the three-year Home-Grown Structural Adjustment Programme, which began as of January 1, 2014.

The current PFM legislation is an Act that provides for the proper management and control of public money, public property and the control of other resources, and provides for matters connected with same.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance,
Timothy Antoine, talking with IMF officials.

However, on Monday, a news release from the Ministry of Finance said that in support of the Home-Grown Programme, a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) spent the past two weeks in Grenada providing technical assistance to improve the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act.

“This is one of the structural benchmarks under the Home-Grown Programme,” said the release.

“The amendment,” according to a representative from the Ministry of Finance, “is aimed at strengthening the enforcement and some aspects of the management and control.”

Mr. Tej Prakash, who is a Fiscal Affairs Expert assigned by the IMF to lead the review, first visited Grenada during the period August 26-30, 2013, when he met with various stakeholders including some members of the Senior Managers Board (SMB).

Mr. Prakash along with Mrs. Elsie Addo Awadzi, Consulting Counsel of the IMF’s Legal Department, are now in the process of drafting the revised Bill. During the period March 31 – April 4, 2014, they conducted follow-up meetings with stakeholders, including a seminar with the SMB on Wednesday, April 2, 2014. The objective of the seminar was to obtain feedback on the main provisions of the revised PFM Act.

Senator concerned about removing sections of E-Crimes Bill


By Linda Straker

Senator Sheldon Scott, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, is of the opinion that some of those persons who are calling for the removal of Section Six of the Electronic Crimes legislation will within the coming months demand that Government take action for vulnerable citizens who will become victims of cyberbullying.

“I am certain that in the coming months, some of the very people who are saying to remove the section and we have complied as Government, they will be calling on us to take action to protect young people who will fall victims to cyberbullying,” Scott told the Senate in his wrap-up debate on the Bill last Friday.
Senator Sheldon Scott, Parliamentary
Secretary in the Ministry of Youth.

Scott, who presented the amended legislation to the Upper House of Parliament, said that Government was taking the action because of concerns highlighted by the media fraternity and the implications it could have on their jobs.

“Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell had given a commitment to remove the section and we do that today,” said Scott, who is of the opinion that sub-section B of the legislation should not be removed.
Section Six of the Electronic Crimes Bill made it an offence to send offensive messages through communication services, etc. It says a person shall not knowingly or without lawful excuse or justification send by means of an electronic system or an electronic device:

(a) Information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character;

(b) Information which he or she knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance,
inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such electronic system or a electronic device; or

(c) Electronic mail or an electronic message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.

The legislation further explained that for the purpose of this section, the term “electronic mail” or “electronic message” means a message or information created or transmitted or received on an electronic system or electronic device including attachments in text, images, audio, video and any other electronic record which may be transmitted with the message.


A person who contravenes subsection 1 commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year or to both.

“I am 1 000% sure within five years they will be calling on us to get modernised and so on,” said Scott, who feels that Section B provided some level of protection to vulnerable and unfortunate persons, in particular teenagers.

The amendments to the Electronic Crimes Bill have received approval from both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament and the next step is for it to be gazetted with the consent stamp of approval from the Governor General with a date of effect.

Senator opposes amendment to CBI Act


By Linda Straker

Raymond Roberts, Labour Senator in the Upper House, has described the amendment to the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Act as ill-advised.

Roberts, who was the only senator present during debate on the Citizenship by Investment Amendment Act because the other senators were absent, said that the labour movement, which he represents in the Senate, is very concerned about the decision by Government to delete from the original legislation the section which provides for the names of all applicants to be published in a Parliamentary bi-annual report.

“We are an open society and want to see transparency. We, therefore, cannot understand the reason for the removal of this section, which will let us know who are our new citizens,” he said in his arguments while debating the removal of Section 15 sub-section B of the Citizenship by Investment Act.

Reminding the House that during the first citizenship programme, there were nationals from countries that were known to be involved in terrorist activities receiving Grenada’s citizenship and passport, Roberts said that publishing the names of all who applied for citizenship would be letting everyone know who are the holders of Grenada’s passport.

Roberts said that he foresees some governments taking action against Grenada for embarking on the programme, which has the potential to hide wanted persons who might be involved in acts of terror.

“Once again I see further visa restriction,” he said, without naming any potential countries who may take such action against Grenada.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has said that it was an error on the part of Government to initially include a section in the Citizen by Investment 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.

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.

Since getting the parliamentary approval to establish a Citizenship by Investment Programme by establishing a Citizenship by Investment Committee, Grenada has appointed two marketing agents whose task is to identify suitable applicants for citizenship by investment or permanent residence.

They are Peter de Savary Company and the United States Regional Economic Development Authority (USREDA). While it is unclear which area de Savary’s company will focus, the USREDA will focus on projects and real estate.

Media workers get tour of upgraded Spice Island Beach Resort


By Linda Straker

Repeat visitors will be extremely pleased and amazed at the improvements, while first-time guests should be satisfied beyond expectation. This is just one of the many objectives Sir Royston Hopkin wants for all who decide to stay at his small, luxury hotel on the Grand Anse Beach – the Spice Island Beach Resort.

The resort recently underwent a US$2.5 million improvement which virtually transformed the property, and last week a number of media workers in Grenada had the opportunity to take a tour. They got to see first-hand why the Spice Island Beach Resort will remain as one of the finest small luxury properties in the region.

Sir Royston speaking to the press. 
In keeping with Sir Royston’s vision to operate a unique boutique hotel that can compete with the best worldwide, this recent renovation is the third one since 2000 on the 64 luxury suites.

“When my guests depart I don’t want them to say that their expectation was met; I want them to get an experience beyond what they expected, and so whenever we are doing upgrades the comments from the guest play a very important role,” Sir Royston explained.

The renovations included refurbishment work on Janissa’s Spa, which now features a separate hair salon, a brand new manicure and pedicure facility, a new indoor couple’s massage room and sauna room complete with double outdoor showers.

The fine dining area of Spice Island Beach Restaurant.
“What is important to note is that these [facilities] are not only used by the guests, but locals as well,” pointed out General Manager Brian Hardy. “We are open seven days a week and all that is required is an appointment…” he added.

Sir Royston noted that excellent service should not only be experienced by guests, but also by Grenadians.

“We have local rates not just for the Spa, but for every service in the hotel, especially our restaurant,” he said.

Work was also done on the lobby/reception area, which features new trimmings, chic lighting and aesthetics, while the hotel’s entrance was also enhanced with an upgraded porte-cochere (passageway) featuring contemporary pavers.

Mr Killa named as Cultural Ambassador


Hollice “Mr Killa” Mapp is this country’s latest Cultural Ambassador, as Cabinet on Monday agreed for him to be among the list of persons who, through their work, can promote the country in the area of culture.
 
Economic Affairs Minister Oliver Joseph made the announcement on Tuesday during the weekly post- Cabinet briefing.

“His duty will be to promote Grenada and he is well-known, not just in Grenada but throughout the region and internationally,” said Joseph, who admits that Killa’s recent exploits during the Trinidad Carnival has resulted in more bands from Trinidad for Spicemas 2014.

“He promoted Grenada so much that already more than one band will be coming up for our own carnival,”  Oliver revealed, who noted that he believes cultural ambassadors plays an important role when it comes to pushing the cultural activities of the country.

Other ambassadors

According to papers laid in the  Parliament last week Friday, the other cultural ambassadors are: Richardo Keens Douglas, Cecil Wilt Cambridge, also known as Tallpree; Winston Fleary, Urias Peters, Lazarus Antoine, Finley Jeffery, and Sheldon Douglas.

Youth have a new broadcast forum


THE youth of the Caribbean have opinions on the issues affecting them, and they are being given a forum to express themselves to in excess of one million viewers across the Caribbean and the Diaspora.

And this is needed, because, according to UN Resident Co-ordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Stephen O’Malley, the youth are being impacted by problems today that the youth of yesteryear did not have to face.

He said, “I think we would all agree that the challenges youth face across the region are real, they’re significant, they’re substantial – just getting a start in formal employment, for example, continuing with formal education.

“There are a lot of real pressures on youth at this time, and an expectation that youth will have to do more to make their own way, than they might have in the past when they would have expected to move into a government job or move seamlessly into some form of work. It’s going to be a much more challenging environment for them. And that is the same situation it is elsewhere in other parts of the world.”

Therefore, he asserted, “Our agreement with Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) will, through this agreement, develop a television programme utilising that existing media content generated by the Youth-IN Programme to share those stories.”

Speaking last Friday at the Letter of Agreement Signing Ceremony, he added, “We really feel that, through this collaboration, we will be able to bring forward material that allows youth and helps youth to envision their future and to fully participate in building their own future, the future of their community and the future of their country and of the region.”

Encouraging speech

Additionally, in an interview with The Grenada Advocate, he reiterated, “I really think that [the challenging situation I outlined before] is the case, and here again, I put it in a global perspective.

“If you look at trends in youth unemployment and underemployment across the world, you can see that people are having a hard time getting into the workforce, moving out of edu-cation into their first job, et cetera. And that is the kind of thing that I do believe is a greater challenge at this particular time than it has been in the past.”

Therefore, he contended that the televised Youth-INSPIRE series will give the youth a much-needed platform, because, “From my perspective, it seems like around the region the youth want to be involved. They are trying to find ways to do that. They are not passively sitting back.

“So the question is, are there things that we can do to help promote them, to help encourage them, to really say, ‘people value what you have to say, so say it?’”

And he noted that is what Youth-INSPIRE now, in addition to the UNDP Youth Think Tank, is saying to the youth. (KG)