Caribbean

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is wishing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a “speedy recovery” following his latest surgery to deal with his ongoing battle with cancer.

CARICOM chairman and St. Lucia Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony said the regional grouping “has noted with keen interest the official reports indicating that this latest operation has been lauded as a success and this is indeed welcoming news.

“We are also acutely aware that the post-operative process will be complex and challenging. Although your road to full recovery may be long, we in the Caribbean Community are confident that your determination, the prayers and well-wishes of the people of Venezuela as well as your friends in the international community, including Caricom member states, will provide you with the necessary faith, courage and strength to overcome this adversity,” Dr. Anthony said Venezuela’s Vice President Nicholas Maduro said Chavez is likely to face a “complex and difficult” recovery after undergoing surgery in Cuba.

Guyana

Trinidad and Tobago’s Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) has been granted “flagship status” by the Guyana government.

This means that CAL can compete with other carriers providing nonstop services to Guyana from North America.

This was announced by Guyana’s Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn.

Benn was part of a large party of government officials and senior officials of CAL, including Chairman Rabindra Moonan as they waited at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport to witness the departure of CAL’s first ever non-stop service between Georgetown and Toronto recently. They were also on hand for the arrival of the first non-stop flight between Lester Pearson International and Cheddi Jagan International.

Moonan said CAL was committed to providing a better service to the Guyanese people at home and the diaspora in North America.

Jamaica

The Jamaican government said that J$3billion will be provided to sugar canes farmers over the next four years as part of a massive industry replanting and modernization exercise.

This was disclosed by Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Roger Clarke, who said the intent is to boost cane production by some 800,000 tons by increasing the amount of land under cultivation to 20,000 hectares up from 12,000 hectares.

The funds, being provided under the European Union (EU)-supported Cane Expansion Fund will be providing on a revolving basis to plant and replant cane, supply land preparation and harvesting equipment and support installation of sub-surface drip irrigation in Clarendon and St. Catherine.

Already US$0.002 billion has been expended to bolster the ongoing can planting and replanting exercise.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia government has denied reports that ministers were to receive a 30 percent increase in salary.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said the reports were “mischievous and untrue.”

Media reports claim that the Kenny Anthony administration, which has urged public officers to accept a wage freeze for the 2010-2012 period, was now giving consideration to the recommendations of the Salary Review Commission (SRC) for the increase.

The government said that the former administration had appointed the SRC to review the salaries of numerous officials and parliamentarians and that “to date the Commission has not submitted its final report to the government of St. Lucia.

“Indeed, the life of the Commission had to be extended to allow it to complete its work,” the statement said, adding that the former Stephenson King government “proceeded to increase the salaries of senior public officials by as much as 30 percent in some cases before the completed report was laid in parliament”.

The statement noted it is a little surprising these allegations could surface when the public sector has a representative on the commission.

St. Vincent

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says the island’s sole electricity provider is to invest in a project to upgrade hydroelectricity next year.

Speaking at the 19th annual convention of his ruling Unity Labor Party (ULP) recently, Gonsalves said that the St. Vincent and Grenadines Electricity Services (Vinlec) had a budget of EC$31 million for 2013 including funds for the hydro development project.

Hydroelectricity is the term referred to electricity generated by hydropower through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is most widely used form of renewable energy.

Gonsalves said an additional 1.1 megawatts of hydro power would become available, adding “right now hydro provides 20 per cent, or about four megawatts of power for St. Vincent.”

Gonsalves told supporters that Vinlec would also invest more than $8 eight million dollars next year in providing additional l00 kilowatts of solar energy.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago is considering joining the international standards of E-passports or digital passport by 2017.

This was revealed by National Security Minister Jack Warner while speaking at a three-day sub-regional workshop on capacity-building in travel document security and identity management, which brought together various Caribbean countries at the Hilton Trinidad, Port of Spain recently.

However, while he noted that this transition would be very costly, the minister said he believed it was worth the price.

“It seems if given the opportunity the traveling public should embrace this technology. But this is why we are having this workshop, to engage in discussion and to learn more about the technologies that exists and how they could be applied or not to be applied,” he told participants.

The National Security minister said that since the introduction of machine readable passports (MRP) in 2007, there have been no reported incidents of tampering of T&T passports.

This, he said, speaks highly of the design of the passport.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia government says it has increased the number of building supplies, which are exempted from tax under the current construction stimulus program, saying it was necessary in order for more consumers to benefit from the initiative aimed at stimulating a sluggish economy.

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony told Parliament that following the introduction of the value added tax (VAT) there had been some anxiety as to whether the tax measure would have impacted the initiative.

“I think citizens have now been assured that VAT was not imposed on the program, so I think next year we will be able to be in a better position to judge how effective the program has been,” he said.

Several businesses and financial institutions have invested in the stimulus program with consumers also enjoying reductions in the price of several building materials. They also benefit from the lack of stamp duty on loans for residential and commercial mortgages.

Anthony told legislators he is hopeful that other businesses would follow suit and adopt the construction stimulus program.

The construction stimulus program was introduced in August and is for an 18 months.

The government said it had invested EC$45 million into the program, which is being touted as a “once in a lifetime opportunity for citizens to become first time home owners and business people seeking to expand.”

Trinidad

Police have charged former Trinidad and Tobago Junior National Security Minister Colin Partap with refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test in August this year.

The charge was laid following instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP) Roger Gaspard.

Partap was asked to pull aside by police after leaving a popular Port of Spain nightclub and to submit to a breathalyzer test.

Police said he initially refused and was taken to the Belmont Police Station.

Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams arrived at the station sometime after and advised Partap to undergo the test.

Williams said Partap will appear before a Magistrate in the Port of Spain Court on Jan. 27, 2013.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessa later fired Partap from his ministerial post.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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