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Caribbean Round-Up

Barbados

Barbados is moving to boost its tourism industry with new additions to the list of tax exempt items provided under the Barbados Tourism Development Act.

This is according to Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy who disclosed recently that these amendments were all part of efforts to strengthen the sector.

“This act makes available a wide range of concessions to tourism investors. Tourism is very vibrant and dynamic industry, the act has to be flexible in order to keep up with demands of the industry. Some of items required by the sector that were deemed as luxury items, five or 10 years ago are no longer deemed as such.

“Recognizing this fact, and acknowledging the strident lobby from the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, my ministry is currently fine tuning a proposal for consideration by Cabinet, which recommends the expansion of the range of items that investors and operators in the sector can access free of duty under the Act,” he said.

Belize

The main opposition People’s United Party (PUP) is threatening legal action over the recent general election in Belize that resulted in a narrow victory for Prime Minister Dean Barrow and his ruling United Democratic Party (UDP).

The UDP won 17 of the 31 seats with the PUP improving significantly on the six seats it held in the last parliament to take 14 seats.

Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca said the polls which were monitored by an observer team from the Organization of American States (OAS), were neither free nor fair and that the electoral process was tainted with irregularities.

He said across the country there have been credible, reliable, documented reports of abuse and illegality in the conduct of the election process.

“Our party has assembled legal advisers, who are examining the documented evidence and reviewing the legal options available,’ he said.

The opposition leader said it is the intention of the PUP to file several election petitions in respect of the March 7 general elections.

The OAS praised Belize for the peaceful conduct of the poll, but urged the authorities to regulate campaign finance and curb the level of electioneering around polling stations.

Grenada

The Grenada government is taking legal action against Lawrence Duprey, the former executive chairman of the financially-troubled CL Financial and its Colonial Life Insurance Company (Clico) subsidiary.

Grenada and other Caribbean countries have been severely affected by the financial problems plaguing the Trinidad-based conglomerate, CL Financial, the parent company of British American Company (Baico) and Clico resulting in the loss of millions of dollars to policy holders.

Finance Minister Nazim Burke told legislators that the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) member countries are continuing to pursue support from the Trinidad and Tobago government that has pumped billions of dollars as part of a rescue plan for Clico policyholders in that country.

Burke said the support is being sought from Port of Spain for non-traditional policyholders including policyholders with Flexible Premium Annuities.

Guyana

The Guyana government has denied that it entered into a secret agreement with the Trinidad-based conglomerate ANSA McAL to build an ethanol plant in the South American country.

Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy reiterated the government’s position, less than 48 hours after an official government statement indicated that the ANSA McAl Group would build the ethanol project on 110,000 hectares.

The government said ANSA McAl’s selection was done by the U.S.-based company Numark Associates Inc. which won a publicly tendered service consultancy to expand bio-energy opportunities in Guyana

The agreement was signed last September to process up to 2,000,000 tons of sugarcane per year and produce 40 million gallons of ethanol annually.

Ramsammy said from his knowledge, no past or present government officials have ever engaged in any secret deal for the production of bio-fuel locally.

Haiti

President Michel Martelly displayed his Haitian passport on national television recently to try and quell rumors that he gave up his citizenship and is not eligible to hold office.

The Haitian constitution does not recognize dual nationality for senior government officials.

Critics of Martelly charged that he had renounced his Haitian citizenship prior to taking office last May. He had already denied that he held the citizenship of another country. But recently he showed reporters eight stamped passports that he has held over the years.

Jamaica

Reggae singer Adidja Palmer, better know as Vybz Kartel, was remanded to prison recently after he appeared in court charged with the murder of a businessman.

He will return to court later this month when the prosecution is expected to hand over documents to his defense attorneys.

Palmer, 35, is accused of conspiring with other men to murder businessman and promoter Barrington Burton.

It is alleged that on Monday July 11, 2011, Palmer, along with other men conspired to murder Burton, a 27-year-old businessman/promoter, who was killed while standing with friends along Walkers Avenue in Gregory Park.

The dancehall entertainer is also facing charges of conspiracy to murder and illegal possession of a firearm.

St. Kitts

The opposition in St. Kitts says it has drafted a Freedom of Information Act and has submitted it for debate in the National Assembly.

Opposition Leader Mark Brantely said as with the Integrity in Public Life, which the opposition had unsuccessfully submitted for debate among legislators last year, the Freedom of Information legislation was essential for the development of the country.

He said even as the opposition submitted new bills, it was not giving up on its efforts to have the Integrity in Public Life legislation brought to the House for debate, even if it meant making amendments.

Brantley said the Freedom of Information Act is vital for the democracy and the draft legislation had the input of all members of the opposition.

St. Vincent

Police in St. Vincent are investigating a fraud ring at the International Airport Development Company (IADC) where two junior employees colluded to defraud the company of US$23,608 by billing for more food than was delivered by the company.

IADC Communications Officer Jennifer Richardson-Herbert made the announcement recently but did not name the two clerks.

The monies were mostly siphoned off through the system used to feed Cuban workers at the project. It is the second time in two years that food and the IADC are at the center of investigations.

Richardson-Herbert also sought to reassure Vincentians that the majority of the staff of the company, tasked with constructing the US$241 million Argyle International Airport, the nation’s largest capital project ever, are honest and citizens should continue to support the construction of the project.

Trinidad

There is the perception globally that Trinidad and Tobago may be more corrupt than other countries, according to Arnold Niranjan, service line leader, Advisory Fraud Investigation, Ernst & Young.

He said based on Transparency International’s survey in 2011 they placed T&T at 91 with a score of 3.2 and TT dropped from 3.6 in 2010.

This, he said, is the lowest score since T&T was included in 2011.

On this scale, zero means very corrupt and 10 means clean and T&T is placed under five.

Niranjan was speaking at a seminar hosted by Ernest & Young on fraud investigations at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain recently.

He said according to Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), T&T is behind other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America such as Barbados and Brazil in dealing with corruption.

He questioned whether it was a slow moving legal system in T&T that was responsible for cases of fraud not being dealt with quickly enough.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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