Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Samaritan Presbyterian School wins Kiddy Cricket Festival


THE Samaritan Presbyterian School is the 2014 champions of the annual Grenada Cricket Association/Scotiabank Kiddy Cricket Festival held at the La Sagesse Playing Field on Tuesday, May 20.

The Festival brought together the eight zone champions in a day of thrilling competition. In the finals, the Samaritan Presbyterian School from St. Mark’s defeated their neighbours the St. Patrick’s R. C. School in a keenly contested final to emerge as the Scotiabank Kiddy Cricket Festival 2014 Champions.

Samaritan Presebyterian School Winners
Samaritan recovered from a rocky start to post a match winning score of 121 runs for 8 wickets; they were led by Lindon Henry with 61 runs. St. Patrick’s lost early wickets due to good bowling from the St. Mark’s team; they eventually finished on 100 runs for 5 wickets with the Festival’s top scorer Shaidon Franklyn with 51 runs.
St. Patrick’s R. C. School, Runners up

A prize giving ceremony concluded the day. The St. Patrick’s R. C. School won the awards for best fielder, top scorer, and top wicket taker along with most improved team and their runners-up trophy. Samaritan Presbyterian won the most disciplined award along with the Champions Trophy.

From October 2013 to March 2014 forty schools competed in the preliminary rounds and eight advanced to the finals. The eight finalists were: St. Patrick’s R. C. School, St. Mary’s R.C. School, Florida Government School, Grand Roy Government School, Crochu R.C. School, Constantine Methodist School, St. Paul’s Government School, and Samaritan Presbyterian School.

Why tourism gave up on the EPA


When the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the countries of Cariforum and the European Union was finally signed in 2008, the Caribbean tourism sector believed that it contained much value to an industry that had become the region’s largest employer after the public sector; its biggest foreign exchange earner outside of the oil, gas and extractive industries; and a significant generator of external tax revenues.

During the negotiations, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), its private sector counterpart, the Caribbean Hotels and Tourism Association (CHTA), and the region’s trade negotiators, managed to have inserted into the final text a detailed chapter on tourism, despite resistance from the European Commission which wanted only a minimal text.

Subsequently, the EPA was welcomed by the industry in the belief that it offered an opportunity to begin to address tourism’s development needs, be better prepared for international competition and for it to emerge fully into the mainstream of Cariforum and Governments thinking.

It was, the CHTA’s President at the time, Enrique de Marchena, said, the first time that a major economic partner, the EU, had recognised in a Treaty the importance of the industry, its future centrality to Caribbean growth and the importance of nurturing its competitiveness.

Today, as European consultants once again circle the Caribbean trying to discover how the EPA has progressed, asking sometimes hard to understand questions of time-constrained private sector executives, it is worth considering why the region’s most significant industry has scarcely benefitted from the agreement’s commitments; and why tourism remains an anathema to many officials and developments specialists, despite it being one of the few, perhaps only industries, where the Caribbean is able to sustain long-term competitive advantage.


Central to the industry’s interests then was a three-page annex on tourism and other language woven into the agreement and its many pages of schedules.

In particular, the annex covers issues that range from ensuring fair competition in relation to tourism, through to possible areas for development support, and schedules that spell out the ways in which individual Caribbean nations would open areas of their tourism product to European participation.

In the context of the industry’s needs, the EPA indicated that Europe would find ways with Cariforum governments and representatives of the tourism industry to provide specific deliverables. These included the commercial transfer of technology to support the industry’s development in areas such as information technology; support for small and medium-sized enterprises in the tourism sector; the mutual recognition of industry qualifications; and support for the introduction of environmental and quality standards applicable to tourism. It also suggested that European technical and development support would be made available for the upgrading of national accounting systems so that governments can understand better the role of tourism in the economy, and it proposed support for the development of internet marketing strategies and the creation of sustainable tourism standards.

So interested was the industry in how small locally owned hoteliers, restaurateurs and others might be able to access the apparent promise of the EPA, that CHTA, with CTO’s support, commissioned a user-friendly study for the sector.

Today, five years on, virtually none of what the tourism sector hoped for has happened and the industry, which is nothing if not practical and delivery oriented, has largely given up on the EPA as time-wasting and is asking why.

As with much in life there are no simple answers. The EPA’s was ill conceived by Europe. Its provisions have not been fully implemented in many Caribbean nations; the accompanying development assistance is controlled by Caricom and European bureaucracies that in many instances are antipathetic to the ethos of the  private sector or tourism; the institutions of the EPA scarcely function; and money is more easily spent on consultants, meetings, travel and reports than on small viable cost-sharing projects of demonstrable practical value.

More specifically, in the case of tourism, excellent business support mechanisms like Caribbean Export are not specifically tourism-oriented; the industry is still seen by many in the region for complex historic and cultural reasons as somehow less than legitimate and given only grudging support; the global recession and downturn in tourism has resulted in the industry’s representative bodies being less well funded and less vocal; and key tourism professionals have had to spend their time focussing on commercial survival.

More generally, any promise that the EPA may have had is passing. Other similar agreements with Central America, Andean nations and very soon with Mercosur and Cuba, let alone the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the US, all threaten to eclipse any value and opportunity the Caribbean had, with largely only Trinidad, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic taking advantage of the enhanced market access provided.

Economic revolution

In the past twenty years the economic structure of the Caribbean has changed almost beyond recognition. The region has moved from being dominated by an agriculture-dependent preference-based model involving Government’s constant intervention, to one that has to rely to a significant extent on an industry that is private sector led, and which, helped by the region’s location and outstanding natural environment, has become the most tourism dependent in the world.

Treated well, the industry has an extraordinary contribution to make to regional growth; treated badly, it has the capacity to damage economies and reduce government revenues.

Tourism and its continuing ability to compete globally has, in all but a few Caribbean nations, become the essential provider of employment and national income; and by extension, the taxes that pay for electorates’ expectations of public services, from education and health care to roads. Put another way, as a multifaceted export industry helping drive domestic demand and employment, tourism is the one of the few areas in which small economies can prosper.

In 2008 CHTA’s then President said that tourism would be the litmus test of the EPA’s success or failure. If the Caribbean or Europe having produced the language that enabled support for the industry could then not deliver, he argued, this would be telling.

His words were prophetic. There are hardly any externally supported tourism programmes, no regional tourism development fund or agency able to deliver exclusively the small or medium-sized programmes that this vital part of the private sector needs and, it seems, declining interest in Europe in supporting the industry that now drives much of the Caribbean economy.

(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)

Saving the CARICOM-Canada talks


Negotiations between Canada and the 15 member-states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) are now in danger of ending without result on June 30 – a ‘drop dead’ date that both sides accepted toward the end of last year. After six rounds of negotiations since March 2009 – the last one being held in Canada in March 2014 – the Canadian government has reportedly told CARICOM governments that they should ‘raise their level of ambition’ or, on June 30, Canada will end the talks.

By ‘raising their level of ambition’, the Canadian government means that CARICOM governments should, among other things, commit to removing tariffs on Canadian goods imported into CARICOM markets, grant more binding protection for Canadian investment into wider areas of Caribbean economies, agree on rules that determine the true origin of products, and allow competition from Canadian companies to bid for projects in the region. Of course, there would be reciprocal arrangements granted to CARICOM companies into the Canadian market. But, given the relatively meagre resources available to Caribbean companies, they would hardly be able to take advantage of these arrangements, whereas Canadian companies, with considerably greater capacity, would.

CARICOM’s experience with the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that its member-states signed with the European Union (EU) does not encourage Caribbean governments or the Caribbean’s private sector to sign another FTA, particularly one that will not contain a specific commitment to development assistance over a predictable period – and Canada has been reluctant to include such a commitment in the Agreement. This is not because the Canadian government will not provide development assistance to the region, since it has already undertaken to do so separately; it is because Canada does not want to set a precedent for FTAs with other countries with which Canada is also negotiating.

Canada’s commitment to providing assistance to CARICOM countries was announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007. The commitment was for CAN$600 million over 12 years and includes CAN$14.5 million for the Caribbean Community Trade Competitiveness Programme, CAN$20 million for the Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Programme and CAN$20 million for the Caribbean Institutional Leadership Development Programme. Seven years into the disbursement of the pledged assistance and less than five years from its conclusion, CARICOM governments would be keen to secure a further commitment from Canada for development assistance.

In the event, what is at stake here? The reality is that in terms of trade in goods between Canada and CARICOM countries, not very much. Canada’s merchandise trade with CARICOM is less than 1% of its total trade, and CARICOM’s exports to Canada represent only 4% of its total export of goods. So, Canada has very little to lose in terms of trade in goods if it walks away from the trade negotiations. In 2012 (the last year for which reliable statistics are available to the CARICOM Secretariat), CARICOM enjoyed a trade surplus with Canada of US$735.1 million with only a portion benefitting from duty-free treatment under the existing Canada-Caribbean agreement. But, for many CARICOM countries, the value of exports of goods to Canada is miniscule. For example, in 2012 the value of exports for the Bahamas was US$21.8 million; Barbados, US$7.5 million; Antigua and Barbuda, US$500,000; St Lucia, US$356,136; Dominica, US$124,598 and St Kitts-Nevis US$30,461. The four CARICOM countries that enjoyed the greatest value from their exports to Canada in 2012 were Suriname, US$458.2 million; Guyana US$401.9 million; Jamaica, US$261.2 million and Trinidad and Tobago US$251.5 million. The larger portion of the exports of Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, principally gold, alumina, petroleum and natural gas, would not be affected whether or not an FTA is signed because they enjoy a zero Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff.

Beneficial relationship

In 2009, Professor Norman Girvan (lately deceased) had pointed out the relative smallness of trade in goods between Canada and CARICOM and how little trade would be liberalized by an FTA between them. He had also signalled that if such an FTA gives Canada any more favourable terms than the EPA with the EU, the EU will be entitled to claim equal benefits from Caribbean countries, putting them at a greater disadvantage. In this connection, CARICOM governments would calculate that they have more to lose from signing an FTA with Canada that does not address their needs than in having no bilateral agreement at all.

Of course, the relationship between Canada and CARICOM countries goes far beyond trade in goods, and it would be in the interest of both sides to work diligently to maintain their overall beneficial relationship even if the current negotiations on trade in goods collapses on June 30. As I pointed out in a commentary in January 2014, Canada is home to a significant number of CARICOM’s diaspora; it is a major source of tourists to the region; and Canadian private sector investment in the region in a variety of industries, including banking, tourism and mining, is huge – direct investment is in excess of US$75 billion, and trade in services is roughly US$3 billion annually. From Canada’s standpoint, CARICOM states have been natural allies with whom it shares traditions, values and a long history of connections at many levels. In a sense, these links are more valuable than trade in goods.

A greater effort should be made by both sides to settle an FTA with which they could both live. In this context, CARICOM governments might consider moving the current discussions beyond the trade negotiators who are hobbled in their work by too rigid mandates from their governments.

To lift the discussion and to try to save the negotiations, CARICOM governments might consider an initiative to send, within the next three weeks, an empowered delegation of decision-makers to talk with decision-makers in Canada, including the Trade Minister, to seek flexibility on the matters that both sides regard as crucial to them and that would allow them to conclude an agreement. It would be up to Canada whether or not it accommodates such an initiative from CARICOM governments, but at least CARICOM would have made the effort.

Simply announcing failure to agree on June 30 would not be good for Canada or CARICOM countries.

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

Caribbean may hold geopolitical significance


OF late the global political environment has taken on a reality where tensions are brewing among some of the major actors (countries) in international politics.

The tensions have surfaced both in Europe and in Asia. The decision by Russia to annex Crimea, the Ukraine peninsula and the subsequent turmoil in Eastern Ukraine has brought a swift reaction by the West (the United States and Western Europe) in the form of sanctions against Russia, which is accused of having a hand in what is now the Ukraine crisis. They have threatened more biting ones should the situation escalate and many commentators have described relations between the West and Russia as the worst since the start of the 1990 when the Cold War ended.

Many hundreds of miles away from Europe, China is said to be asserting its power in the South China Sea much to the annoyance of the Philippines and Vietnam, which claim sovereignty over part of that area. China and Japan are also at it over a group of islands which both countries have claimed as their own. The United States as the lone superpower in the meantime, while seeking not to take sides in what is taking place in Asia although it does not agree with the Chinese posturing, wants to see a peaceful solution – at least that is what it says. These events are enough to make the world nervous as what could likely happen should relations between the states involved deteriorate even further.

There are many who would say that these global events mean absolutely nothing to small states such as what we have in the Caribbean. Once thought as having some geopolitical significance, some countries of this region were brought fully in the rivalry which existed prior to and even after the second world war. They were the locations for American bases which allowed for the staging of troops and other military installations in the event hostile powers came a calling. They also benefited after the war from enormous financial aid, technical assistance, trade preference arrangements and participation in multilateral economic programmes, all with one goal in mind – to ensure the political and economic environment was such that it did not give rise to Russian influence.

However, with the cold war having ended in 1990 or thereabout and the end to East West tensions, geopolitics as far as the Caribbean goes is no longer a drawing card for the US and other great powers in terms of their foreign policy making. The world was expected to settle down and the market was now the preferred option for economic policy making including in states that were once under communism. Small countries have their own battles to fight: how to cope with global economic changes, how to reposition themselves for greater economic take off once the current crisis fully abates; and how to deal with natural disasters and in particular Hurricanes, which do cause significant negative impact on the region.

With new tensions having surfaced it remains to be seen just how far they will go and who will be seeking to exploit small countries to woo them to the side of the protagonists. It has happened before and could be so again. Interesting times are ahead and, who knows, geopolitics could again hold significance.

STATISTICS KEY TO DEVELOPMENT


By Linda Straker

“A data revolution for sustainable development, with a new international initiative to improve the quality of statistics and infor-mation available to citizens” was the theme for a CARICOM High-Level Forum on Statistics, which opened in Grenada on Monday at the Radisson Hotel.

Bringing together governments and other statistical institutions within CARICOM, the forum was part of a number of activities aimed at showing the role of statistical information in the development of the region as citizens and governments prepare to embrace the various opportunities that can be realised through statistics.

Statistics fall under the supervision of the Finance Ministry and in delivering the feature address, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also the Finance Minister, told the participants that statistics ought to be seen as the voice of the people.

“Development is about empowering our citizens, whether it is through education and skills development or health care. It is also through statistics that we inform about their reality and results of actions taken by the people or by Government,” he said, while explaining that statistics is not only important for policymakers, but also for providing information to the citizens of our region.


“Our citizens require appropriate statistics to hold their governments and all serious stakeholders accountable. Therefore, the role of statistics in development is not only for our governments to monitor, but also to drive the development outcomes that statistics measure through the voices of the people of our region,” he said.

Dr. Mitchell said that every regional territory is faced with tremendous and quite similar challenges and it is therefore difficult to address these challenges effectively if governments cannot measure their magnitudes accurately.

Sharing an example of how accurate statistics need to be, he said that regional talk shows through the various outlets have become a dominant medium for public information and many times misinformation, often generating more heat than light.

“It is said that there are two kinds of statistics, the kind you look up and the kind you make up. I am afraid there is too much ‘making up’ of statistics on talk shows around our region. We must change that,” he said.

“Given this reality, we must develop and timely disseminate information products which our citizens can consume, and in the process become more enlightened and empowered to play their specific role in nation building.”

He also believes that statistical development requires a regional approach at a time of unprecedented economic challenges with very limited and stretched public resources, and dwindling grant resources, the necessity for evidence-based policymaking is crucial. Every development dollar must count.

“None must be wasted. Governments and citizens alike need relevant and timely information on which to make decisions. It is clear, even with the best intentions, that national statistical systems are currently not meeting these challenges. Consequently, we must invest in regional approaches that help to optimise our scarce public resources,” he said.

“In our region, the free movement of people – and of minds – has to be encouraged and entrenched in the sharing of best practices as we confront the enormous challenges we face. Statistical development should not be static or isolated within individual countries because the development of statistics is essential to regional and national advancement.”

The main objective of the forum was to enable high-level commitment by governments of CARICOM to the strengthening of the national statistical systems as a key means of sustaining the development and availability of timely, high quality and relevant statistics for decision-making, and for the empowerment of citizens of our entire region.

Carnival season opening tomorrow with Port Highway jam


THE Port Highway in Tanteen is expected to be converted into a potpourri of Carnival displays when the Spicemas Corporation (SMC) opens the 2014 Carnival season tomorrow, Saturday, May 31, 2014.

It will be the launch of Spicemas 2014 and the SMC will continue to reveal its plans for this year’s Carnival season. A statement from the SMC said that the launch will provide Carnival lovers with a taste of all the exciting events down to the climax in August. The event is scheduled to kick off at 3 p.m. during which the Spicemas Carnival season will be officially declared open.

ABOVE : The Spicemas Corporation (SMC) held a motorcade
around the island informing and inviting people
to attend the Carnival launch.
Several Calypso and Soca artistes are expected to perform during the launch, which will live up to its energised reputation, said the release, which also confirmed that the event will highlight other
aspects of Spicemas including Pan, Fancy Mas, Moko Jumbies, Jab Jab, Vieux Corp, Wild Indian and Shortknee.

The organisers of Spicemas are looking forward to having a much bigger launch than in previous years and are inviting all to come out and enjoy a taste of what’s to come for the Carnival season. The list of activities slated for Spicemas 2014 will be revealed during the launch.

Mr. Alister Bain, Chairman of Spicemas, said: “We are looking forward to a safe, secure and well-organised season with the involvement and participation of everyone, including stakeholders, sponsors, the RGPF, the general public and our visitors.”

The Port Highway is located alongside the Roy St. John playing field and the launch will be happening eight days after the SMC held a motorcade around the island informing and inviting people to attend the launch. The main venue for Carnival celebrations in 2014 will be the Roy St. John playing field in Tanteen because there will be cricket games at the National Cricket Stadium, which over the years has become the venue for main Carnival final activities such as Soca Monarch and Panorama. (LS)

Business management workshop held for creative industry entrepreneurs


By Linda Straker

MORE than 20 persons involved in various areas of the Creative Industries are now more knowledgeable about writing proposals as cultural entrepreneurs as a result of a two-day workshop undertaken by the OECS Export Development Unit.

Held at the Coyaba Hotel Conference Room last Friday and Saturday, the session was facilitated by Dr. Jo-Anne Tull, who is a writer, researcher and consultant in the creative industries. She is a lecturer in the Department of Creative and Festival Arts at UWI, where she co-ordinated the BA in Carnival Studies programme and teaches business of the arts courses.
A few of the participants having a discussion
during the Business management workshop.
Some of the more than 20 persons who participated
in the Business management workshop.
Business Development Officer for the Creative Industries, Sobers Esprit, said that from all accounts the people of the OECS have seen and somehow come to accept that the creative industries can be fun, but also in reality is another sector that can have significant positive impact on the GDP of the region, once the proper mechanism is put in place.

“The creative sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world and we believe that as we
in the OECS transit our economies that there are possible ways which the Creative Industry can make a real contribution to the GDP of each island. So that is why we need to take a closer look at the development of enterprises in the Creative Industries,” he said, while explaining that it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry, but the OECS is yet to put the proper mechanisms in place to truly benefit.

“The Creative Industries have increasingly become one of the main sources of greater production and employment in many countries and there is no reason why we in the OECS should be left behind,
but as you will know and agree with me, success requires working together,” he said.

The participants had a number of sessions which included: Managing your cultural enterprises – the key to success; Creating a spirit of entrepreneurship; The building blocks of strategy; Formulating project ideas, cultural enterprises; and Mapping support mechanism for marketing and financing the creative project.

They were also introduced to useful terms and concepts such as the SLEPT Framework, which categorises environmental influences; and the COWS Analysis, which summarises the key issues from the external environment and the internal environment that are most likely to impact on strategy development.

There were similar workshops undertaken already in the islands of Dominica, St. Vincent and St. Lucia. These national training programmes receive financial support from the European Union through the 10th EDF Economic Integration and Trade of the OECS Region.

Mexico appoints first Honorary Consul to Grenada

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nickolas Steele, reading the
acceptance letter for Mexico’s Honorary Consul
to Grenada, Mrs. Magdalena Fielden.

By Linda Straker

“I undertake this responsibility, Mr. Ambassador, with pride and pleasure. I am assured that the many friends I have made along the way here in Grenada will continue to support my efforts, albeit in new ways and arenas,” was the promise from United Mexican States’ first Honorary Consul to Grenada, Mrs. Magdalena Fielden, when she received her Exequatur last Friday night from Foreign Affairs Minister, Nickolas Steele.

“It will be a challenging but exciting tour of duty and I look forward to embarking on this journey under the guidance of the Mexican Embassy in St. Lucia, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Grenada and the many, many partners and friends in the public and private sectors,” she told the many diplomatic and invited guests who attended the special ceremony to welcome her into the diplomatic community.

It’s her belief that by both countries strengthening technical co-operation, there will be great tangible benefits for both nations. “I wish to assure the governments and citizens of both Grenada and Mexico that I will do all that I can to further the implementation of the commitments undertaken in the recently adopted bilateral agreement signed in Merida, Mexico. I am prepared to do all that is asked of my office and even to go beyond the call of duty to ensure a mutually beneficial and enduring relationship between our countries,” she said.

In his remarks, Mexico Ambassador to the OECS, H.E. Luis Manuel López Moreno, said that with
the accreditation of Mrs. Fielden and the inaugur-ation of the office, the Government of Mexico demonstrates again its unequivocal commitment to deepening the relationship since diplomatic ties were established more than 50 years ago.

“I am proud to convey the sincerest regards from President Enrique Peña Nieto and his assurances that having an Honorary Consul in Grenada is more than a mere gesture of our friendship, it is a measure that has already started bearing fruit and brings us one step closer to our journey forward for the good of our people,” he said.

Ambassador Moreno said that the Mexican Government jealously guards its friendship with Grenada and has therefore entrusted the care of that relationship to one of its most outstanding citizens. Describing the many initiatives undertaken by Mrs. Fielden as cultivated bonds of friendship, professional engagement and exposure to things Grenadian, he said that his country could not have chosen a more passionate and dedicated represen-tative to be the first honorary consul.

Alex Phillip is new Supervisor of Elections


A public officer with more than 25 years’ experience is Grenada’s new Supervisor of Elections following the resignation of Mr. Aaron Francois earlier this year.

Mr. Alex Phillip, Principal of Wesley College, was appointed and sworn in by Governor General, Dame Cecile La Grenade.

Mr. Phillip’s appointment comes a few weeks after the resignation of Mr. Francois, who said he resigned from the post due to professional and personal reasons.

According to the law which governs the Parliamentary Elections Office, only an appointed public servant can be appointed as the Supervisor of Elections.

Mr. Phillip is a career educator and has served as a secondary school principal at the Wesley College for the last 11 years. (LS)

Central bankers seeking regional solutions


Operations managers of regional central banks came together recently to try to reduce the challenges being faced regarding the management of debt and foreign reserves.

Delivering brief remarks at the meeting, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Dr. DeLisle Worrell, stated that by sharing information over the three days of talks, solutions could be discovered to the issues being experienced across the region.

Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados,
Dr. DeLisle Worrell, officially opened the meeting.
(Front row, second from left) Governor of the Central Bank of
Barbados, Dr. DeLisle Worrell, poses with visiting Operations
Managers of Regional Central Banks.
“The conference will discuss debt management, another area that presents challenges. The conventional approaches to the management of debt distinguish between the circumstances of advanced countries and emerging market countries, but they do not acknowledge any distinction between large, self-contained countries like Brazil and small countries like ourselves who have to depend on foreign exchange inflows to fuel economic growth. We therefore have to share experiences among ourselves in search of our own guidelines for managing debt, guidelines that make sense in our reality,” he said.

As he opened the meeting, Dr. Worrell highlighted the obstacle presented by foreign reserve management, especially in light of the current international environment of very low interest rates on the liquid securities that central banks hold.

“The conference will discuss the pros and cons of adopting more flexible investment guidelines, in the search for greater yield on foreign reserves,” he stated.

In addition, Worrell pointed out that regional central banks had to re-think how to do things in “the search for greater efficiency within the financial sector and to ensure that finance serves the development needs of our increasingly sophisticated society”.

Speaking on payments in particular, he stated that while technology made it possible to effect payments almost instantaneously from anywhere in the world, issues with security and verification meant that only small cash transactions and transfers could be made.

“The ongoing challenge for payments systems is how to keep the systems safe, while at the same time speeding up the payments process to take advantage of new technology,” he added.
(JMB)

Declaration signed at regional Trusts’ Conference


Addressing issues of building capacity in technical restoration skills, sharing of both information and expertise, collaboration with both local agencies and government and international agencies and regular meetings to advance the goals of restoration for attainment of both cultural and economic goals.

These are some of the issues addressed in the declaration formed and signed at the conclusion of the first Caribbean Conference of National Trusts held at the beginning of this month.

In addition, the declaration states, “Conscious of the long-standing struggle to protect, preserve and restore the riches of our built heritage and to protect from despoiling and over development of our beautiful natural heritage... we declare our full support for all measures designed to protect, preserve, restore and utilise our natural and built heritage in a sustainable way, for the social, cultural and economic benefit of all the people of the region.”

Noting that the conference was “a resounding success,” Chairman of the event, Senator Professor Emeritus Henry Fraser, expressed his hope that the energy from it would generate interest within the region, especially from those willing to volunteer or donate funds to the various trusts.

“We are just hoping that we can raise the profile, excite the people, excite parliament and the politicians, excite the philanthropists and get people to start writing cheques and coming forward to help in all of the islands,” he said.

He also extended thanks to all of the sponsors and partners who made the event possible, including the Peter Moore’s Trust, the Tourism Development Corporation and Nick Parravincino of Realtors. (JMB)

CARICOM region to benefit from ICT


THE CARICOM region is “quickly marching”, towards a regional arrangement that will see it have its own platform for Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

And, according to Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, “Barbados is fully on board, in this venture”.

He said: “We recognise the upstanding work of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union as well as the work of respective governments…

“Prime Minister [Keith] Mitchell of Grenada, at the Prime Ministerial level, has been leading the charge in this respect, as we believe we have to drive the costs of telecommunications downward, whilst at the same time expanding access within the region and the world out there.”

Inniss made these comments following a recent two-day trip to the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) Ministerial Meeting in Georgetown, Guyana.

Asserting that Barbados needed to “take control” of its ICT development “a bit more”, Inniss emphasised that  it was recognised that “once these infra structural arrangements and administrative arrangements were solidified,” there was phenomenal growth that could take place in our economies that will flow from the work of ICT based enterprises. He noted that this would go a long way in making government far more “efficient and more cost effective to administer”.

Common threat

Dr. Lorna Inniss, Acting Director of CZMU,
speaking to The Grenada Advocate.

Barbados has begun engaging in a comprehensive programme to pull an opportunity out of the problematic lionfish invasion into Caribbean waters. However, national efforts could be a mere drop in the ocean if a regional entity with the backing of all the Caribbean territories is not formed very soon to spearhead efforts in reducing the dangerous numbers of the venomous fish which is causing devastation to coastal and reef environments.

According to Dr. Lorna Inniss, Acting Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU), the approach that Barbados has taken to begin finding solutions to the lionfish problem has thus far been an exciting and promising one. Speaking to members of the media during the Lionfish Derby 2014, which culminated at Browne’s Beach in Barbados over the weekend, she explained that scientists from the CZMU had teamed up with divers as well as local chefs to show how the spiny fish could be deboned and prepared into many sumptuous dishes.

She said that the CZMU had embarked on a series of training programmes to work with fisherfolk and divers to get them to see the economic possibilities of capturing the fish and selling it as an alternative protein source, which would contribute to the country’s food security whilst helping to lower the effects the fish was having on reef fish populations.

Mojo’s Restaurant serving up some lionfishcakes.
Despite this, Dr. Inniss emphasised that victory could only be won through regional collaboration.
“[Getting a regional body to spearhead this is] one of the proposals lagging behind the others. We are in touch with the other islands but, in my view, that is not enough. It is time for us to have a regional organisation take ownership of this programme and say, ‘Look, countries come together and let’s deal with this,’” the scientist explained.

“We have begun the conversation, but if we are working so hard in Barbados and the other [countries] are not doing anything because they do not have the capacity to do so… you are not [going to see] the action on the ground and the involvement of stakeholders and partners.”
Miles Philips, Research Assistant with The Centre for Resource
Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), University
of the West Indies, demonstrating the removal of the spines.


The head of CZMU remarked that the Unit intended to invite other countries to view the progress Barbados was making through its derby.

She also stated that she was hoping for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to take this project on board.

“[UNEP] is hosting the Global World Environment Day here next month. They have signed on to a protocol to the Cartagena Convention on special protected areas and wildlife... [and] I know they have been doing a little bit of work, but I would be happy if they begin a much wider framework mechanism where every country is pulled in and we can begin working together in a co-ordinated fashion. I’m not sure that we can eradicate now, but we will be able... we have to be able to manage the [lionfish] population at a certain level,” she insisted.

It is understood that the levels of the lionfish are at critical stage throughout the region. (RS)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Football’s future rests in the education of coaches


FOR the Caribbean region to progress any future in football they first have to educate the coaches.

That was the view of CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb when a press conference was held at the National Stadium on Friday.

Webb mentioned that they are many avenues opened to the Barbados Football Association (BFA) and all they need to do is request what they need.

“Nothing starts at the top,” said Webb who said that they are trying to empower and educate the coaches in an effort to improve the football throughout the region.

CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb (left) presenting
a token to BFA president Randy Harris.
Webb noted that they have not developed their coaches though they are many ex-players who have the good of the sport at heart but do not have the adequate skills and knowledge.

Though the region as a whole lacks what many of the larger football communities have at their disposal, Webb believes that educating the coaches is the way to go.

President of the BFA Randy Harris, made note that at present Barbados coaches do not hold any FIFA European license but they do hold diplomas which is not the same thing.

In the wide ranging press conference, Webb also mentioned the time for talk has long past and it is time for all the stakeholders in football to come together with the common interest and goal and do what is best for football.

As it relates to the World Cup which is next month, Webb said that the Caribbean will first have to improve on many things before they once again have representation in the final.

He mentioned that everyone has their peaks and balances, and in a small territory as the Caribbean those peaks and balances become even harsher.

One of the problems which he identified was that by the time young players reach the age of 17 or 18 years, they lose interest and no longer play the game.

It has been many years since the CONCACAF region has hosted a World Cup and they are going forward with their intention of bidding to host the World Cup in 2026 which will make it 32 years since it last hosted the event. A sustainable Caribbean pro football league is also being looked into as part of his plan along with rebuilding the image of CONCACAF.

The rise of populism in Europe


Between May 22 and May 25 Europeans will vote for a new European Parliament.

The result may be startling. Opinion polls suggest that around 30 per cent of the 751 seats could go to the Eurosceptic, populist and extremist parties that are riding a powerful wave of anger with Europe’s established political class.

Subsequent to the elections the global media coverage will likely reflect on whether the populist parties are racist, anti-immigrant and a dangerous throwback to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s. Some of this may be true, but it will be to miss other important messages.

If as is expected a large percentage of European voters cast their ballot for parties like the UK Independence Party in Britain, the Front National in France, and the Partij voor de Vrijheid (the Freedom Party) in the Netherlands, the medium term impact may be just as great on the position of the traditional parties. They will know that if populist parties win huge numbers of votes they will have little option but to adopt some of their views on issues such as Europe, crime and migration if they are to continue to control the outcome of national elections.

What is apparent is that voter sentiment in many parts of Europe is undergoing a profound change. This is driven largely by a sense that the tribal politics of the traditional parties has had its day, a view that the established political class is self-seeking and out of touch with ordinary people, and a sense that that the European Union’s implied federalism and its huge free spending bureaucracy has become remote and even damaging to the lives of many Europeans.

The latest opinion polls suggest that support for the two principal groupings in the European Parliament, the centre-right European Peoples’ Party and the centre-left Party of European Socialists is evenly balanced; with the growing probability that newly elected MEPs from small populist parties will be able to decide which group holds the majority in relation to which issues.

One consequence may be the emergence of new pan-European political alliances in the European Parliament that respond to European concerns in ways that negatively touch policy or issues that matter directly or indirectly to many parts of the world including the Caribbean.

For the Caribbean this may seem remote, but if evidence were required about the ways in which thinking may change, one only has to read the recent comments by the US Ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner. Speaking earlier this month, he made clear that he fears that new groups of populist European political parties, together with the numerically significant Green Party, could form an alliance against globalisation that may result in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership (TTIP) – the free trade arrangement that Europe and the US believe is necessary to stimulate growth – being set aside or changed by the Parliament.

For those reading this who do not know the European system, it is important to understand that it does not function quite like other integration mechanisms. In outline, its three principal bodies are the European Commission, a kind of European public service with executive power, that develops policy and proposes regulations; a Council of Ministers consisting of all 28 member states that signs off politically on what is proposed after deals and compromises; and a Parliament that until quite recently was discursive, advisory and virtually powerless.


However, that has been changing and it is likely that the next Parliament will begin to flex its muscles making greater use of the powers it was granted under the Lisbon Treaty in 2007. So much so that the Parliament and its members, who are little known to most EU voters in comparison to their familiarity with those in their national parliaments, could now emerge, paradoxically, as having much greater relevance at a time of opposition to the increasingly federalist approach of much of the Council and the Commission.

For most in the Caribbean, its governments and parliaments, Europe’s Parliament is a mystery, and to the region’s detriment, a body which has largely been ignored, other than by the region’s Ambassadors in Brussels. This is despite the fact that it has been of great value in the past to industries such as rum, sugar and bananas that were able to have its committees and its members hear the Caribbean’s concerns and intercede on its behalf.

In an apparent indication of this failure to recognise its potential value, the proposed 2014 meeting of the European Parliament’s only Caribbean-specific body, the Cariforum-EU Parliamentary Committee, chaired by a British pro-Caribbean socialist MEP, David Martin, and on which fifteen MEPS of many EU nationalities sit, was cancelled because of the inability of the Caribbean side to attend.

This is short-sighted as the European Parliament’s importance is increasing. It helps define Europe’s development and foreign policy; it contributes to and challenges the work of the European Commission; and its now enhanced legislative powers allow it to decide on EU legislation on an equal footing with the Europe’s Member States in around 90 per cent of cases.

Importantly too, it now elects, in theory at least, the President of the European Commission; consents to the appointment of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs; has budgetary powers; is playing an increasing role in issues from climate change to transport policy and tax transparency; and later this year, once the 28 new Commissioners (appointed ministers in all but name) have been selected, confirm them in their posts.

For much of the Caribbean, the European Parliament falls into the category of too difficult. Despite this, the next European Parliament and Europe’s national parliaments ought to be the subject of much greater focus and lobbying by the Caribbean, not least because many of the new intake could challenge Europe’s traditional values of equality, tolerance and human rights to the detriment of issues of real interest to the region, such as immigration, and trade policy and development.

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

The Caribbean should show leadership in the Commonwealth


In my previous commentary, I argued that the 53-nation Commonwealth association is an important instrument for the promotion of the interests of small states including those in the Caribbean. But, I also pointed out that it is facing significant challenges to its existence.

The main point of the commentary was that the Commonwealth’s preservation and enhancement are in the interest of all Commonwealth member-states and especially so for its smaller ones that have far fewer foreign policy instruments and much less resources than the bigger members. In this connection, small states, such as those in the Caribbean, cannot afford for the Commonwealth to wither and die.
What are the challenges that now confront the Commonwealth?

A major challenge is that approximately 70 per cent of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Budget is funded by only three of its member governments – Britain, Canada and Australia. For financial year 2012/2013, the Budget was a meagre £16.1 million. For the current financial year, there has been no real increase in the Budget which was settled for the current year only after unprecedented manoeuvrings and disagreements amongst government representatives who make up the organisation’s Board of Governors in London.

The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation that provides assistance to developing member-states is also largely funded by the same three member states. Last year, its budget was a mere £29.7 million. Even if the total resources were divided only among its 31 small states, they would each have received less than £1 million a year. Recently, the government of Canada announced that it will not be providing its usual voluntary contribution to the Fund for the next two years. While the Canadian government has not formally given a reason for its actions, it is widely believed that it did so in protest against the Chairmanship of the association being held by the President of Sri Lanka whose government it considers to be in violation of the Commonwealth’s human rights values. A consequence of Canada’s withdrawal of its voluntary contribution is a reduction in the donation of the British government that was set at 30 per cent of the total contribution of all other member-states. The losers in all this are small states particularly, though the Commonwealth’s standing and worth are also tarnished.

The other 50 Commonwealth member-states are unwilling to increase their contributions to the Secretariat and the Fund even though some of them, such as India, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa and Nigeria, are relatively rich. Further, more than half of the member-states are in arrears of their contributions to the Secretariat.

The Secretariat needs at least another £3 million per annum to carry out effectively the mandates it now has, and to keep good quality staff. Instead, it is being compelled to function on less money in real terms than it had in 2012 and it has had to reduce its entire staff complement to about 250 – fewer than the staff at the Canteen of the UN organisation in New York.

A North-South divide has developed within the inter-governmental association centred on the comparative importance of upholding democracy, human rights and the rule of law as against the necessity for economic and social development. This contention divided the Board of Governors who took over 18 months to settle a strategic plan for the Secretariat and even longer to agree a Budget. All of this, including an attempt by a small group of High Commissioners to micro-manage the Secretary-General, paralysed the Secretariat.

It is this latter point that plagues the Commonwealth more than any other and poses the greatest threat to its existence. Over the years, there has been an assumption that despite their diversity in ethnicity, religion, geography, size and culture, Commonwealth countries would remain cohesive under the Commonwealth banner because of their historical links to Britain and the legal and administrative systems that resulted from those links.

But, the Commonwealth is now an association of 53 nations. It is no longer the eight countries that fashioned the modern Commonwealth in 1949 or even the twenty that agreed to establish a Secretariat in 1965. It is a very diverse grouping. At the heart of its present difficulties is the very diversity that gave the Commonwealth strength as it used elements that made for like-mindedness – such as mutual interest in overcoming poverty, racism and oppression. Common factors of law, of learning, of language and of forms of governance, made that harmonising process possible.

But, these elements require constant nurturing if they are to continue to serve the Commonwealth and its members. If the diversity of its member states in their economic ambitions and their political aspirations is not managed to create mutual understanding and goodwill and to pursue shared goals, it is their differences and divergences that will prevail. The Commonwealth will be nothing more than any other multilateral or international organisation in which North-South animosity predominates in every discourse intensifying division. The association will continue the drift away from the notions of goodwill and trust that are foundations on which it was created.

The diversity can be a strength again if it is harnessed and co-ordinated and if room is made to accommodate dissimilarities. It is that process that is now sorely needed in the Commonwealth and that requires diligent attention by governments and the Secretary-General. Divisions have to be bridged and ruptures healed.

The Commonwealth’s small states, including the 12 in the Caribbean, have a vested interest in maintaining and preserving the Commonwealth. In this connection, Caribbean governments have a responsibility to their people to provide leadership in the Commonwealth – to manage its diversity, to turn contention to consensus and to make the association meaningful. The next Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Malta in November 2015 is the place to show such leadership, but the time for the Caribbean to take the initiative is now.

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

Always be at the ready


When it comes to being prepared, one can never be too thorough or too early. Therefore, though the month of June signals the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, it would be wise for people to start taking stock of their vulnerabilities and apparent risks and make the appropriate adjustments right now.

Leading by example is the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), which has been hard at work from as early as March in keeping the public up to date on its improved plans for handling regional disasters. So far we have heard of a new ten-year strategy and a greater focus on country-specific plans, all made more effective through a $20 million grant, as well as plans for a new multi-purpose complex in Barbados, which will comprise a training facility, the Regional Coordinating Centre, warehouse and the Agency’s headquarters.

Yet the workload for CDEMA can be considerably lessened, as can the severity of the impact of storms and hurricanes, if individuals made a greater effort to safeguard their homes, businesses, personal property and, most of all, their lives. The severity of the risks faced by these types of weather systems should be acknowledged by all individuals year-round, not just between the months of June to November, since some preparations may take more time to implement than the weather allows.

Safeguarding one’s home, for instance, should always be at the forefront of one’s mind, so instead of relying on last minute measures like tying down roofs or boarding up windows, consideration can be given even outside of the hurricane season to installing hurricane shutters to protect windows or hurricane straps to protect roofs. Going even further back, homes should be built to the correct safety standards and workers in the construction sector need to ensure that correct methods are employed during the building stage, so that it would become the norm and not the exception, for all homes to be built with hurricane resistance in mind.

Another area where many persons fall down, and which can, and should, be addressed prior to the start of June is the matter of insuring property. Home and business structures should be insured to cover any possible damage which can result from weather systems, either directly or indirectly – including damage caused by flooding and fire. While Barbadians have been spared the ravages of a serious hurricane in recent years, lessons can be learned from the many house fires which leave uninsured homeowners reeling from loss with little prospect of rebuilding.

Personal possessions too, should be protected. Private safes or safety deposit boxes at commercial banks can keep important documents like deeds, wills, or even jewellery in good condition and damage-free. After a storm or a hurricane, it is easier to pick up the pieces and move on if you do not have to worry about recovering the cost of lost possessions or damaged property.

In the end it all comes down to being as prepared as possible and in this the CDEMA has provided a good example. Grenadians and their Caribbean neighbours should take a leaf out of that organisation’s book and take hurricane preparedness more seriously. Traditionally, it has been routine to see hundreds of people lined up within hours of an approaching system to buy food, sheets of wood, or other emergency material. This habit must change. Wherever possible, emergency stock should be obtained beforehand and every precaution taken to prepare for any disaster. As Caribbean people, our actions should reflect more than a fleeting rush to ride out a storm; for us in the region, it should be a way of life.

MINOR RESHUFFLE – Sen. Brenda Hood promoted to Minister


By Linda Straker

Former Minister for Culture, Alexandra Otway-Noel, said that the decision to separate the Culture Ministry from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Ministries is a good decision because the workload has been tremendous.

Prime Minister Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell announced a minor reshuffle to Grenada’s Cabinet 14 months after his Cabinet of Ministers took the oath of Office after his New National Party won the February 19, 2013 General Elections.

During last week’s post-Cabinet briefing, Dr. Mitchell said the decision was taken to have a Minister solely responsible for Tourism and Civil Aviation, and another in charge of the affairs of Culture.

Senator Brenda Hood, who was Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Culture, was promoted
to head the Ministry of Culture.

“The Culture issue is one that is extremely important. As you know, it ties in a lot with development and of course, the promotion of this country,” Prime Minister Mitchell said, while he explained that Hood will be a full Minister in Cabinet responsible for Culture and Minister Otway-Noel will continue to be in Cabinet, but responsible for Civil Aviation and Tourism.

In a statement via her Facebook account, Minister Otway-Noel said that the decision to split the ministries is a very good one. “The workload has been tremendous and all three ministries are so important for us to have a world-class tourism product. I welcome the decision and congratulate Minister Hood on her appointment as Minister for Culture, and our Honourable Prime Minister for his
vision,” she wrote.

“We will continue to work together and with the rest of our team to ensure Grenada continues to advance in all areas. I would like to thank the staff at the Ministry of Culture for their hard work and dedication over the last year. Thank you all for your continued love and support! God bless,” said the statement, which was addressed to family, friends and supporters.

Prime Minister Mitchell, who is also the Minister for Finance, said that the change will not have significant financial effects on the administration of the ministries as they currently exist.

“There will be one Permanent Secretary for the both ministries and nothing new will be added,” he said.

Climate Change adaptation programme formally launched


FROM the early days of talking about the impact of Climate Change, the message has always been one of “adaptation and mitigation” and on Tuesday, Grenada formally launched a project that is aimed at targeting all of the society with initiatives that will encourage people to adapt new habits and behaviours to deal with the impact of climate change.

“Friends, we need to adapt today because fortunately, many of these negative impacts are manageable. We have to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable,” Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell told the hundreds of persons who had gathered for the launch of the logo that will be used to identify Grenadapts, which is an outreach initiative of the Integrated Climate Change Adaptation Strategies (ICCAS) in Grenada.

The new Grenadapts logo.
The ICCAS project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, building and Nuclear Safety under its International Climate Initiative. It is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, the Deutsche Geselischaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the United Nations Development Programme.

“The new logo,” Dr. Mitchell said, “will help us to make climate change and our adaptation efforts more visible to everyone here in Grenada. Together with the proposed outreach campaign, I hope that fruitful discussions will be stimulated, which may lead to change in behaviour and to concrete action. I call upon the schools, the churches, our community groups, let’s get involved and start the dialogue,” he said.

The Government is currently developing two important documents under the ICCAS project. The first is a Coastal Zone Policy and a Coastal Zone Management Roadmap. The second one is Grenada’s National Adaptation Plan to manage climate change in a more co-ordinated and strategic way.

Another activity under the ICCAS project has been the introduction of the “Caribbean Climate Online Risk and Adaptation TooL” (CCORAL) here in Grenada. With this tool civil servants, private sector and NGOs will be able to judge whether or not climate change has a negative impact on their planned activities, their proposed plans or legislation, and make decisions accordingly.

Head of the GIZ-ICCAS, Dieter Rothenberger, explained GIZ is about integration not fragmentation, and that the goal of the ICCAS is increasing resilience of vulnerable communities and ecosystems to climate change risk in Grenada through integrated adaptation strategies.

“Instead of only implementing isolated measures, the ICCAS programme offers an integrated approach by linking local activities with national policies and sector specific experiences with comprehensive intervention packages,” he said, as he explained the approach of the project.

“Grenada will be supported at multiple levels – from the national to the local and across different climate sensitive sectors,” he said.


Environment Minister, Roland Bhola, said that climate change poses the biggest threat to Grenada and other small islands as they put structures in place to develop and at the same time undertake practices aimed at reducing or eliminating some of the risk.

“There is a very thin line between consumption and conservation … progress and protection,” he said, while explaining that countries still have to fulfilled the millennium goals, such as reducing poverty and hunger.

“Therefore, whatever we do to protect the environment for future generations must be done in a context of people not going hungry as we fulfil other initiatives aimed at improving and developing the lives of those who will be affected,” he said, while delivering the feature address.

Also addressing the launch was UNDP Resident Representative, Lara Blanco, who said that Grenada is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change as it stands to lose agricultural lands for food supplies and up to 75 per cent of Grand Anse Beach, which is the hub of tourism activities.

The logo for Grenadapts was developed by AllyDay. It will be used on billboards, bumper stickers and other activities associated with the project.

Parliamentarians to meet fortnightly


By Linda Straker

Parliamentarians in the House of Representatives have agreed to meet fortnightly instead of the traditional once per month session in an effort to timely approve the increasing number of Bills.

Gregory Bowen, Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, explained that this has become necessary because of the increasing number of Bills presented in the Parliament for approval. The Lower House met on May 2 and May 16. The Senate is scheduled to meet on May 23. Members in the Senate will have to agree to meet fortnightly.

During last Friday’s sitting, six Bills went through first, second and third stages of reading and received the necessary approval. Only two of the five which were down for second and third stages, received approval. Bowen told the House this has become necessary to avoid the lengthy delay and waiting period for Bills to get the consent of the Parliament.

Among the Bills which went through all the stages were: The Grenada Citizenship by Investment (Amendment) 2014 – The Bill seeks to effect some minor amendments to the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Act in an effort to make the implementation of the programme more efficient.

Another was the Income Tax (Amendment) 2014, which provides for persons who are in the accommodation sector to pay 10% VAT on services supplied more than the threshold of EC$120 000 per year.

Also approved was the Terrorism Amendment Bill 2014. The purpose of this amendment is to enhance Grenada’s compliance with the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force recommendations contained in Grenada’s draft follow-up report of November 2013. The Bill provides for immediate freezing of the assets of entities or individuals, and their associates designated as terrorist entities by the Security Council of the United Nations.

Lower House approves new regulations for architects


By Linda Straker

Architects in Grenada will soon have to register and pay an annual fee to continue to practise in the profession, once he or she is accepted by the Board of Architects to operate.

Parliamentarians in the Lower House last Friday approved a Bill for the registration, practice and discipline of those in the profession. A person will be qualified to be registered as an architect if he or she has been awarded a degree, diploma, or other qualification in architecture granted by a university or school of architecture, which in the opinion of the Board is evidence of satisfactory training in architecture, or has had less than three years practical experience in architecture acquired under
the direct supervision of an architect duly registered by the Board.

However, any person who does not possess the qualification when the law comes into effect, will be provided an opportunity to register if in the opinion of the Board that person is a fit and proper person to be registered as an architect, is a member in good standing of the Grenada Institute of Architects and has had before the commencement of the law, no less than ten years of practice of architecture in a responsible position under an architect with qualifications.

A person registered to practise architecture, according to the law, shall be obligated to ensure that he or she remains current with the ever-changing requirements of the practice of architecture through continuing education in a form or format to be determined by the Board.

Nothing shall prevent a person from engaging in those aspects of architecture that include drafting or supervising any architectural works as owner, contractor, superintendent or clerk of works; performing the architectural work involved in minor alterations or where no authority requires the drawings to bear the stamp or seal of an architect, nor requires any such person to become registered under the law.

Persons registered as an architect shall abide by a code of conduct, which includes avoiding conflict of
interest; shall not engage in corrupt practices; apply high standards of skill, knowledge and care in all work; respect the beliefs and opinions of other people; recognise social diversity and treat everyone fairly; be aware of the environmental impact of their work; and engage in good employment practices. They shall not sign or affix their seal to drawings, specifications, reports or other professional work for which they do not have direct knowledge, supervision or control.

The Bill is expected to be approved by the Senate during today’s session.

Imani programme to commence on June 1


THE third batch of Imani trainees will begin the programme as of June 1 and one course will not be offered as a means of ensuring that there isn’t an overkill of that skill in the market.

Youth Minister, Emmalin Pierre, has disclosed that cosmetology will no longer be offered as part of the Government training programme, but instead there will be a heavy focus on hos-pitality arts and agriculture sectors.

“When we look at the areas for great potential, we see a need for training in the hospitality sector, so we are going to focus on that industry along with agriculture,” said Pierre, during last week’s post-Cabinet briefing.

She further explained that all those who have applied to participate in the training will be called back for a second interview to review their present status and to identify areas of interest. Those who applied for training in areas that are not available will be encouraged to participate in programmes that are available.

The third batch is expected to be 1 000 young people between the ages of 16 and 35. The financial compensation for each trainee will vary based on qualification, but generally it’s between $700 and $900. Since the programme began last year, two batches of 1 000 trainees were admitted to the programme with a significant amount already gaining permanent employment, which has resulted in their names being removed from the list as a trainee.

However, because more than 300 have failed to comply with the regulations of the programme, they were terminated. No one who was terminated can return to the programme.

The Imani training is an 18-month Government programme aimed at providing young people with training in various careers, professions and skills with a view to making them become employable and marketable. (LS)

CDEMA Director: Good communication remains a top priority


The 2013 Christmas rains in the Eastern Caribbean tested national readiness and co-ordination capacities, as well as the regional response support mechanism in some respect.

This was noted during the 5th Meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) by Executive Director of Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson.

However, he said that the events highlighted two key areas of concern; the Development and Disaster Nexus, and the need for greater attention to risk communication.

“Some have argued that there was not adequate notification of the impending adverse weather provided by the meteorological offices. Findings have indicated that the Met Offices did indicate that there was a trough. I think the real issue is how that information would have been interpreted by the general public and the need for communication of potential risks associated with early warning,” he stated.

The Director also took the opportunity during the TAC meeting to acknowledge the support of the National Disaster Co-ordinators, as well as regional and international CDM partners for the quick support in providing response support to this event. He also recognised the tremendous spirit of solidarity and support provided by the Governments of the Region. (TL)

Region must be stronger to face the changing environment


It is not only the Caribbean that is being affected by many of the stipulations that are recently being enforced by many international bodies, but overall, changes are being made in the industry globally. However, in countries such as Barbados, the introduction of FATCA feels like a huge weight because of their size and the importance of international business to the country.

Speaking with Andrea M. Ewart, a customs and international trade attorney with her own firm, Develop Trade Law, who visited Barbados last week to conduct a technical worship addressing the Canadian Basin Initiative (CBI), she said, “FATCA is definitely a challenge for the Caribbean, but for once, this may probably be the only circumstance that this is not something that is affecting the Caribbean alone, as the Swiss banks have to comply etc. It suggests the requirements for this industry are being changed, [and are] not just a set of criteria to be imposed on the Caribbean. Going forward, it is about looking at the best practices and seeing how some other countries are dealing with these new stipulations.”

The new Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) will require many banks and other financial institutions worldwide to submit detailed information on their customers to the US tax authority, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Ewart suggested, “Sometimes there are agreements that are being drafted and countries are being asked to sign, but sometimes the region has a history of signing stuff that someone else has drafted and not looking at it closely and we don’t have quite the negotiating leverage that we think we might. [We must therefore do] a bit more background research before signing on to these things to see what are best practices and how the more developed economies handling their issues as we want to be held to the same standard.” (NB)

Historic Caribbean National Trust Conference a resounding success


“The best conference I’ve ever been to!” “Today was the most memorable day of my life!” “What an experience!”

These were just some of the excited comments at the end of the historic first Caribbean Conference of National Trusts which just concluded at the Savannah Beach Hotel, the Garrison, Barbados. The conference ended with a Heritage Island Tour and lunch at the famous Fisherpond House recently.

The Barbados National Trust hosted some 75 people at this conference, designed to share experiences, challenges, skills and solutions between the 13 Caribbean countries represented.

Heritage site inscription

The recent inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage site was part of the inspiration for the gathering. But it was also the recognition that we are all in the same Caribbean boat of having a rich heritage that is largely ignored by our Tourism authorities and our Ministers of Finance. Hence, the Trust secured funds to assist several countries to participate.

Trusts represented included those from UNESCO World Heritage sites St. Kitts (Brimstone Hill), Dominica (Morene Trois Pitons) and St. Lucia (the Pitons), as well as Bermuda, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Curacao, Aruba, St. Eustatius, Dominica and Montserrat.

The Minister of Tourism opened the Conference and the Minister of Culture spoke at the Reception at the famous George Washington House. Both praised the work of our national trusts and spoke with passion and conviction on the huge importance of our heritage and heritage tourism in restoring our economic health.

Outstanding Keynote Lectures were given by Dr. Lennox Honychurch of Dominica on the restoration of the Cabrits, and Barbadian descendent Ian Sanchez of Charleston, South Carolina, on “Restoring Prosperity: Economic and social Benefits of Preserving Natural and Cultural Assets in Barbados and Carolina”. In fact Ian Sanchez’s lecture received the Chairman’s award (by participants’ votes) for the best lecture of all, beating Dr. Honychurch into a close second! But all of the presentations were five star in quality.

Ian Sanchez is in fact the grandson of Barbadian hero, the famous “T.T.” Lewis, trade unionist of the early 1940s, and is a leading preservationist in Charleston.

There were several international leading experts on preservation, and other keynote lectures were given by leading members of the International National Trust Organisation – Dr. Bill Turner, the Vice President, from British Columbia,  Catherine Leonard, Head of the INTO Secretariat and based in Britain, and  Natalie Bull, Director of Canada Heritage Trust.

Tracey Todd of Middleton Place, South Carolina, Terry Suthers of Harewood House in Britain, and Jeff Soule of the American Planners Association, completed the international experts panels, while Donald Insall Associates with architect Rudylynn deFour Roberts of Citizens for Conservation in Trinidad presented a splendid Workshop on Historic Building Restoration. A cross section of stakeholders including Paul Altman, realtor, and  Colin Jordan of the BHTA, took part in the panel discussions.

Detection of Chikungunya pathogen easier


DETECTION of Chikungunya pathogen in the region has been made easier.

The Government of Canada’s Global Partnership Programme has donated a fully equipped Bio-safety Level 3 laboratory to Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.

The facility also ensures that the agency is now better equipped to perform faster and safer detection and response to infectious disease outbreaks in the Region.

Handing over the laboratory, High Commissioner for Canada to Trinidad and Tobago, Gérard Latulippe, said, “In our modern age, disease knows no boundaries.”

He added that “isolated disease threats can very quickly become regional or global menaces, posing serious threats to the health, safety and security of people the world over”.

In this regard, the High Commissioner explained that this new laboratory is intended to strengthen biological security, biological safety and biological risk management across the Caribbean. He further indicated that the GPP works collaboratively at the “health-security interface” to address biological threats of shared concern and responsibility to health and security sectors.

Preventing outbreaks

Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr. C. James Hospedales, pointed out that the movement of international travellers, as well as the increased volume of global food trade, can facilitate rapid disease outbreaks among countries.

“Having the capacity to rapidly detect, diagnose and respond to disease outbreaks, natural or deliberate, is of paramount importance towards safeguarding our economies,” he said.

Dr. Hospedales indicated that “The new facility will in time allow us to strengthen surveillance and conduct operational research on this Chikungunya virus.”

Minister of Health of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Fuad Khan, also emphasised the importance of this facility upgrade, stating, “This first-class laboratory will enable us to be even better prepared for any emergencies that can be caused by pathogenic agents through early detection and enhanced response capabilities.”

He added that this is of significant importance to the Caribbean, even as we seek to combat diseases such as the recently detected Chikungunya virus. (JMB)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Retirement was in thoughts for a long time: Sammy


DARREN Sammy, the West Indies all-rounder who announced his retirement from Test cricket recently, has said his decision wasn’t a fallout of his being replaced as captain by wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin.

Sammy, whose decision to call time on his Test career came hours after he was axed as captain, said he had been thinking about it for a long time. “After the New Zealand series [which West Indies lost 2-0] I sat down with the team management and the selectors and then told myself that we cannot continue like this. Probably my career is on the line. I was very serious about it,” Sammy told ESPNcricinfo.

“It was a difficult decision. If you have been playing cricket as a kid, all you have been dreaming of is to represent your team in Test cricket and I have been fortunate enough to do it. But I thought it was the right time for me to move on. I feel it’s time the West Indies Test team continues to move in a new direction, under a new leader.”

Extending his support to Ramdin, who led Trinidad and Tobago into the semi-finals of the regional four-day championship, Sammy had a word of advice for him as well. “Denesh has been captaining regional teams with distinction but it (leading West Indies) is a difficult job,” he said. “Leading guys who come from different cultural backgrounds and getting the best out of them. I wish him all the best as he tries to the lead West Indies Test cricket forward into a new era.”

Despite marking his Test debut with a seven-wicket haul in the second innings at Old Trafford, or having been heckled as perhaps the slowest-ever West Indies new-ball bowler, Sammy, the first cricketer from St. Lucia to play Test cricket, will be most remembered for having led the West Indies when a player revolt marred Caribbean cricket in 2010.

Shared values and the Caribbean II


For much of the last decade the Caribbean has been actively diversifying its political and economic relations. As a consequence, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Korea, Iran, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, as well as long-term partners in North America and Europe, are now actively engaged with the region.

At a hemispheric level the nations of the Caribbean have drawn much closer to near neighbours in Latin America both bilaterally and through institutional arrangements such as CELAC, ALBA, the PetroCaribe arrangement with Venezuela, and other relatively new hemispheric security, financial and development mechanisms.

There has also been an upsurge in interest by the Gulf States, especially Qatar and Abu Dhabi. More recently too, sovereign wealth funds and Turkey have been seeking to engage with countries across the region.

From a Caribbean perspective this has been welcome. It has provided new partners at a time of austerity and has enabled the region to find new sources of economic support and international political leverage as the region seeks to respond to a multi-polar, multi- issue global environment.

One consequence has been that nations like China and Venezuela, and perhaps others in the future, able to offer support to the countries of the region on financially soft terms, have come to play a role in ways that traditional partners in Europe and North America cannot match. This has resulted in the seeming paradox that the nations that are the region’s most important trade and tourism partners, and which share the values and the lifestyles to which most Caribbean people aspire, have become, in some important respects, marginal.

Last week this column suggested that despite this, for any partnership to truly prosper in the Caribbean there needed to be shared values; a lesson that Europe for example has largely learnt and incorporated into its polices by recognising the need for reciprocity, whether through free trade, the provision of
development assistance, or other responses which despite shortcomings denote a genuine sense of union.

I noted that there was a need for China, as it emerges as the pre-eminent global economic leader, to insert greater reciprocity into its relationship with the Caribbean, to do more practically to recognise that it is distinct and apart from Latin America, and to find ways to create significant long-term employment and contribute to all that might help the Caribbean prosper in the world.

It was essential, I argued, to add value and not simply see the region as a platform for economic advantage or as a counter that one day might be strategically significant. The Caribbean’s strong sense of self-identity and independence required engagement in a manner that passed beyond self-interest.

New framework

What space did not permit me to write in developing this theme was that there is also a need for Caribbean politicians to better think through its new range or relationships. Most nations now recognise that the nature of the world and the changing location of political and economic power require fluid and overlapping alliances, the region still has much to do to reconcile why the region requires of its traditional partners a commitment to social development, freer trade, development assistance, job creation and more, but from newcomers seeks little more than a commitment to capital investment and cheap money.

That said, in the coming months traditional partners are likely to seek to re-engage in part on the basis of shared values and in a more co-ordinated way than has been the case for many years.

In a world in flux in which new fault lines are emerging, the case is likely to be made that fairness, probity, democracy and a whole range of Western precepts relating to the sovereignty of states including equity, justice, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and the rights of the individual, are bonds between Europe, North America and the Caribbean that make the relationship special and are values worthy of being strengthened.

For some in the Caribbean this may be challenging given the still lingering sense that important elements of the relationship were squandered through forays into Iraq and Libya; have been skewed by the constant transatlantic focus on security; and have been downgraded by what many Caribbean Governments regard as indifference in high level transatlantic policy towards the region.

Notwithstanding, the Caribbean also has much to do if a shared values are to play a greater role.
Ministers and officials on both sides of the Atlantic speak in private about finding it increasingly hard to understand or define the Caribbean thinking in relation to the way their preoccupations have changed. This, they suggest, is not because there is any absence of thought, or willingness to be supportive on common concerns such as vulnerability. Rather, they argue, this is because the region has failed to weave its requirements into a whole that places the Caribbean in a new contextual framework, as a distinct grouping of states with a clear and common agenda that can be linked with the global interests of traditional partners and their acceptance of multi-polarity.

Pressing need

Discussing this recently with a number of senior Caribbean figures outside of government it is clear that they too feel that there is a pressing need for the region to move beyond where it is today, develop new thinking and start to define where the region or individual nations might be twenty years from now. While they argue that in Cariforum at least the same fundamental transatlantic values remain, and that there is no serious interest in a deep regional engagement with the world’s authoritarian democracies, they want to understand where any new emphasis on shared values will lead.

While they accept that the regional leadership deficit remains a problem, they note too that re-engagement will only be of significance if there is long-term consistency on the part of traditional partners, a genuine understanding of the issues that matter most to the Caribbean, support in
international fora and financial institutions in ways that accommodate the Caribbean’s smallness and vulnerability, and a much better understanding of shared history.

(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)

Small states in danger of losing a strong advocate


The 53-nation Commonwealth association is an important instrument for the promotion of the interests of small states including those in the Caribbean.

But, it is facing troubling times and requires strong, visionary and knowledgeable leadership to regain a place of respect within its member states and the international community. If it fails to do so, the Commonwealth will limp into oblivion and the greatest losers will be its 31 small member states – 12 of which are in the Caribbean.

The importance of the Commonwealth to small states lies primarily in the access its Summit meetings give leaders of these small countries to leaders of some of the world’s major powers on an equal basis. No other international or multilateral organisation affords such an opportunity.  The ‘retreat’ of Heads of Government at their meetings is a particularly beneficial mechanism if it is used as it was intended. When the idea of the ‘retreat’ was presented in 1973 by then Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, its purpose was to gather Heads of Government – along with only the Secretary-General – for a ‘no-holds-barred’ discussion on issues within the Commonwealth and the global community. There were no Ministers or officials present.  Consequently, leaders could speak openly and frankly to each other and what came out of the ‘retreat’ was far better understanding and much greater commitment to a shared agenda. Often frank talk with leaders whose policies bordered on violating Commonwealth values served to pull them from the brink or to encourage their departure from the ‘Club’ if their offending policies persisted.

For small states, the most valuable outcome of the candid discussions in the ‘retreat’ was that they could build friendships with the leaders of more powerful countries such as Britain, Canada, Australia, India and Nigeria. The development of such personal friendships resulted in contact and co-operation for problem solving beyond Summits.

Devaluation

Regrettably, since 2005 when Ministers and officials began to participate in Heads of Government Conferences and ‘retreats’, the value and importance of the ‘retreats’ particularly have been severely eroded. The measure of the erosion is the continuous decline in the number of Heads of Government who attend the meetings or go to the ‘retreat’. Heads of Government have made it clear that they do not travel long distances to attend what is billed as a ‘Heads of Government Meeting’ to talk to Ministers and High Commissioners. At the ‘retreat’ in Sri Lanka in November 2013, less than 20 Heads of Government were in the room, hence no frank and personal discussions took place and the objective of consensus – built on understanding and appreciation – was lost as was the worth of what came out of the meeting.

Small states cannot afford the devaluation of meetings of Heads of Government, particularly at the ‘retreat’. Their battles in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and in the G20 are much more effectively fought with the support of larger and stronger countries.

That’s why frank and persuasive conversations in the ‘retreat’ are vital to small states. When the Prime Ministers of Britain, Canada, Australia, India and South Africa (all G20 members) have a deeper appreciation of challenges facing small states and are willing to champion them, the interests of small states have a much better chance of being advanced.

If the Commonwealth delivered nothing more than the unique opportunity for forthright dialogue between Heads of Government that results in joint action within their grouping and in the international community, it would have done enough in a world that is increasingly divided and polarised. And, for small states, if all they got from the Commonwealth are readiness and resources to advocate their interests, they would have improved their situations meaningfully in a world where they exist in the margins of global consideration.

Networking

The Commonwealth is a network of global networks. Its 53 member-states come from every continent, they are big economies and small ones, and they represent every colour and creed – that in itself is a vital network for multinational dialogue. The network is greatly enhanced by the involvement of Commonwealth mem-bers in almost every other multinational organisation, including the OECD, the G7, the European Union, the African Union, ASEAN, NATO, NAFTA, and the OAS. A shared Commonwealth position taken into all these fora has the real potential to make a difference – not only for Commonwealth countries but for the world.

However, for the Commonwealth to play this role for member-states, its current challenges have to be overcome and its leadership revitalised. Among its challenges is the importation into its councils of regional differences that are played out in many of the UN organisations. Instead of the Commonwealth being utilised as a means to resolve the differences, officials have reproduced them in Commonwealth discourse and so are derailing the unique opportunity that the association presents.

The differences have become so stark, and the absence of leadership to provide a healing touch so pronounced, that the most ardent supporters of the Commonwealth fear that the association will not long survive. More recently, the division within the association has widened by an empty argument over whether its focus should be development or democracy. Indeed, the two values are inextricable and, in the past, the Commonwealth has pursued them on parallel tracks with the greatest portion of its resources dedicated to development. What the association now needs is leadership that will promote the intimacy in diversity that was – and still could be – the greatest quality of the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Heads of Government should give that leadership. They meet again in Malta in November 2015 under the Chairmanship of the Maltese Prime Minister, but ahead of the Summit it would be beneficial for a preparatory meeting of Heads of Government – one Head from each region –to recommend how best to make the Commonwealth meaningful to its members and relevant to the conduct of international relations in the 21st century. In January at a Conference on the Commonwealth at Cambridge University I had suggested that such a meeting might be convened by the Maltese Prime Minister.

One thing is for sure – if the Commonwealth goes, its small member states will lose their most important advocate. None of them can afford the loss.

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