Caribbean Round-Up

Antigua

The Antigua and Barbuda Trade Union Congress (ABTUC) is calling on the Baldwin Spencer administration to delay the implementation of the personal income tax after the Inland Revenue Department said it had began administering the Personnel Income Tax Act in full, including the provision to withhold taxes from qualifying benefits and allowances.

Finance and Economy Minister Harold Lovell had said in his 2012 budget presentation the government would take steps to close a legal loophole through which some taxpayers have avoided paying their fair share by classifying disproportionate amounts as allowances and/or benefits.

Government said that consultations with a number of stakeholder groups resulted in a revised PAYE Guide being released last month.

But in a statement, the ABTUC said that is has and continues to take the position that the percentage of the workforce who presently carry the bulk of the income tax burden “ought not to experience any further hardship at this time.”

It said this must be balanced against equitable implementation and fiscal responsibility.

Dominica

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has brushed aside rumors of an impending Cabinet reshuffle saying his administration is not going to be distracted by those reports.

“If there is going to be a Cabinet reshuffle, when the prime minister in discussion with his colleagues comes to the final list, then we shall advise the country,” he told the state-owned DBS radio.

“I don’t think it requires public debate or public discussion. We are not going to get distracted. We have a lot of work to do. We have done a lot and still have a lot to do,” he added.

In recent weeks, media reports in Dominica have suggested that Skerrit, who led the ruling Dominica Labor Party (DLP) to a convincing victory in the Dec. 18, 2009 general election, would reshuffle his Cabinet.

The media reports said that senior government minister Charles Savarin, who recently underwent medical treatment in the neighboring French island of Guadeloupe, would retire from active politics.

Guyana

Guyana President Donald Ramoutar has defended the decision of his administration to seek a court ruling on issues affecting the conduct of Parliament and accused the main opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) of wasting a valuable opportunity for building national consensus in the country.

Ramoutar told a news conference that his continued monitoring of the situation in parliament clearly shows that, “APNU and AFC (Alliance for Change) are squandering the opportunity of working together with us in the interest of our nation. They are violating all parliamentary norms and practices, he said.

The president said since the Parliament began in the new term following the general election last November that led to the opposition parties having a controlling majority in the 65-member chamber, there have been willful efforts to create a hostile atmosphere characterized by uncooperative and disruptive strategies by the opposition.

He warned against reversing the democratic gains made since l992 when the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) came into power.

Haiti

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is putting into action a precedent-setting seismic reduction plan for Northern Haiti.

The plan, a flagship project for UNDP and its financial partners, is a joint venture between UNDP and Haiti’s National System for Disaster Risk Reduction, under the Ministry of the Interior.

According to the UNDP’s Helen Clark, this is one of the first times that a developing country has taken advance measures to reduce the vulnerability of its people and economy to future earthquakes.

“This project is a historical landmark and this is to the credit of the Haitian government, which decided to engage a proactive strategy of risk reduction in order to avoid a similar tragedy to that which struck Port-au-Prince and its region on Jan. 12, 2010,” she said.

Because of its geographical location, Haiti is exposed to floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, landslides and earthquakes, with particular vulnerability in the northern regions, which sit atop two tectonic plates.

Haiti

The Irish-based telecommunications company, Digicel, recently announced it had acquired Haitian mobile operator, Viola, from its parent company, United States-based Trilogy International Partners, for an undisclosed sum.

Digicel’s acquisition of Viola will see mobile users across Haiti benefiting from increased investment in even better mobile services and new technology in the future, said Colm Delves, Digicel Group chief executive officer.

Digicel said the transaction was completed recently.

Voila has been offering uninterrupted services in Haiti since September 1999 and currently services nearly a million customers, Digicel said in a statement.

It said Voila is widely recognized for bringing innovation to the telecom sector in Haiti and has redefined corporate social responsibility for foreign investors.

Jamaica

The Jamaican government will soon launch its energy efficiency and conservation program, aimed at saving some $2.6 billion (US$30 million) per year in energy costs.

This was announced by Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell recently when he addressed the opening of the Jamaica Power Summit 2012 in New Kingston.

He said the program will be financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

St. Kitts

The St. Kitts and Nevis government says it is looking at the possibility of implementing a new pricing system for the sale of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) after indicating that the present mechanism is responsible for “an artificially higher price than necessary for the consumer.”

Information Minister Nigel Carty said that the government is considering whether to use the Mont Belview System instead of the Mean Caribbean Posting used as a benchmark for the standardization of the pricing of cooking as imported into the twin-island federation.

Carty said Cabinet had agreed that the practice of offsetting taxes due by the suppliers against government transfers to the suppliers will be discontinued in order to improve accountability and transparency in government’s tax collection policy.

He noted that a report submitted to the cabinet by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Denzil Douglas indicated that the Mean Caribbean Posting index mechanism “is too arbitrary, leading to an artificially higher price than necessary for the commodity.”

St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was recently released from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados where he spent three days receiving treatment for an abscess, Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Douglas Slater said.

Gonsalves, who fell ill as he prepared for official visits to Kuwait and Qatar, was forced to seek medical attention in Barbados, after his condition deteriorated.

“He is recuperating satisfactorily and was assessed by his doctors to be well enough to continue his recovery out of hospital. He will however continue to rest and receive necessary follow-up medical care and hopes to return to St. Vincent soon,” Dr. Slater said.

The tests disclosed that there seemed to be “a focus of infection somewhere, which was manifested as a persistent fever among other symptoms.”

“It was subsequently discovered that there was a skin infection resulting in the formation of an abscess. The abscess has been drained and other necessary treatment initiated,” Dr. Slater said.

Trinidad

The host of a Crime Watch program in Trinidad and Tobago was arrested and charged for allegedly committing breaches of the Sexual Offences Act (in relation to the broadcast of the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl on his reality TV crime show last October) and resisting arrest.

Ian Alleyne pleaded not guilty to the charges in the Port of Spain Magistrate Court and was granted $80,000 bail to reappear in court on May 14.

Caribbean Communications Network (CCN TV), which broadcast the show, was slapped with nine charges, including breaches of the Telecommunications Act. The media house was charged jointly with Alleyne and will also appear on May 14.

Hundreds of Alleyne’s supporters gathered outside Express House in Port of Spain when police went to arrest him after his 6:00 p.m. program.

The angry mob tried to stop the police from taking him away as Alleyne remained defiant that he will not be going with them. However, after some 45 minutes of drama, the police were able to subdue and handcuffed Alleyne and took him to the station.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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