Barbados

The Barbados government says it is working with other partners with the Caribbean Community (Cairocm) grouping as well as at the international level to ensure that the island does not face unfair competition with regards to the export of its rum products.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said that Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have been able to purchase products much cheaper than Caribbean rum producers and, as a result, this gave them an unfair advantage as far as rum exports were concerned.

Recently Caricom countries said they continue to have “serious concerns” regarding the competitiveness of Caribbean rum in the United States and have renewed calls for talks with Washington on the issue.

A statement issued at the end of the Council for Trade and Economic Development noted that rum production and export were critical to the socio-economic well-being of the region.

“In addition to being the largest agriculture-based export industry in Caricom, the rum industry is a substantial employer and a major contributor to foreign exchange earnings and government revenues”, the statement said.

Dominica

The trial of four men, including a Colombian national charged in connection with a drug bust off the north coast of Dominica recently, has been set for April 29 next year,

The prosecution objected to having the four accused – Camilo Adrien Pinzon Gomez of Colombia and local nationals Johnny Joseph, Kevin Collins and Paul Benedict Augustine – released on bail on the grounds that police were searching for other suspects in the EC$1.75 million drug bust.

The four men pleaded not guilty when they appeared in court recently to the charges of importation, possession with intent to supply 70,000 grams of cocaine which law enforcement officials said they intercepted north of Portsmouth.

Prosecutor Claude Weekes told the court that the state “intends to confiscate the assets of the men if found guilty,”

He also disclosed that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and other law enforcement agencies were interested in the matter and granting the accused bail would jeopardize the ongoing investigation.

The defense attorneys said that within a week’s time they will be ready and would apply for bail. The accuse men were remanded in custody.

Guyana

Guyana has produced in excess of 400,000 ounces of gold this year, Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud has announced.

“Our gold declaration has just passed 403,000 ounces. The initial target that we had set ourselves in the budget was in the range of 373,000 ounces. The miners had set themselves a target of 400,000 ounces and these numbers are also above what was recorded last year,” Persaud told reporters.

He said that the production figure could also increase since there were still a few days to go before the end of the year.

He said the export gold value would be close to US658 million.

Gold declaration in 2011 was just over 350,000 ounces and Persaud said that all of the gold declared this year came from small and medium-scale miners.

Haiti

The United States Government Accountability Office says Haiti has exported nearly US$18 million in apparel to the US duty-free during the first nine months of this year.

It said that the amount is significantly more than what had been exported for 2011 when the revenue from the exports was estimated at US$350,000.

Haitian clothes makers are increasingly benefitting from a US trade preference aimed at promoting the impoverished nation’s economy, according to the US congressional auditors recently released recently.

It said exports so far for this year was less than one-tenth of one percent of Haiti’s US-bound exports.

The report said the number of special trade credits Haitian apparel firms received grew about fivefold.

These credits are given to firms that use US-produced fabric and other materials in exchange for duty-free trade preferences.

Haiti’s garment industry once employed more than 100,000 people but it was devastated in the l980s and l990s when the country stumbled through a period of political upheaval and economic sanctions.

Jamaica

Jamaica is encouraging private-public partnerships as it seeks to develop the island’s information communication and technology (ICT) sector, said Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, junior minister in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce.

She said with an estimated 26 companies providing more than 13,000 jobs in the offshore business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, the island was looking to accommodate others wanting to set up shop here.

“Without any doubt, the local ICT sector is experiencing a growth phase. We are seeing for example, the entrance of BPO giants, such as Sutherland Global Services, who will commence operating a Global Delivery Center at the University of the West Indies Mona campus very soon.

“indeed, with the current expansion rate and projected growth of the ICT sector, it is expected that some 5,000 jobs will be created over the next three years,’ Ffolkes Abrahams said.

Suriname

The trial of Suriname President Desi Bouterse and others implicated in the deaths of 15 prominent people who were opposed to then then military government in 1982 has been put off amid further uncertainty as to whether the court could continue hearing evidence in light of the recent passage of an amnesty law.

The trial was due to resume recently, but the Prosecutor’s Office announced it was awaiting a ruling from the Constitutional Court on the amnesty law resulting in Judge Cynthia Valstein-Montor having to postpone the matter to a later date.

The trial had been halted in May after the National Assembly approved the controversial amnesty law that could pardon all the suspects in the December l982 murders.

The legislation amends an l989 bill which pardoned crimes committed during the internal war that raged in l986. The new law was passed after 12 hours of debate and opponents fear it could end the ongoing trial for Bouterse and 24 associates on charges of abducting and murdering 15 prominent political opponents in December 1982.

Earlier this year, thousands of people took to the streets in a silent march protesting the amnesty law.

National and international human rights and non-government organizations, including the European Union have called on the government not to use the new legislation to impede the ongoing court case.

Trinidad

President Max Richards has written to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar seeking information surrounding the controversial Section 34 clause of the Administration of Justice Act, which he proclaimed in August 2012.

This was revealed by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley who told a press conference recently that “he (the President) has informed me that on December 7, he wrote the Prime Minister under Section 81 of the Constitution. The matter is now there with the Prime Minister who is required to respond to the President under Section 81 of the Constitution.”

“We had asked the President to ask the Prime Minister to furnish his Excellency with information in respect of all the circumstances surrounding the early proclamation by the Government of Section 34 of the said Act,” (the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill 2011),” Rowley said.

Section 81 of the Constitution states: “The Prime Minister shall keep the President fully informed concerning the general conduct of the government of Trinidad and Tobago and shall furnish the President with such information as he may request with respect to any particular matter relating to the government of Trinidad and Tobago.”

The controversial piece of legislation was debated in the House of Representatives with both Government MPs and Opposition MPs led by Rowley, voting in favor of it. In the Senate, both Government, Opposition and Independent Senators voted in favor of the legislation.

It also led to the firing of Justice Minister Herbert Volney, who Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar accused of misleading Cabinet on the early proclamation, which could have seen two United National Congress (UNC) financiers accused of fraud and money laundering being set free since they their cases have been pending for more than 10 years.

Rowley had led a march from outside the Red House Port of Spain to the Office of the President where he handed over a petition, which he claimed contained thousands of signatures to the President calling for a probe into Section 34.

Persad-Bissessar said she has responded to the President’s letter.

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