Caribbean Round-Up

Caribbean

Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Ministers for Education has decided to introduce the Caribbean Primary Exit Examination in 2012, which is to replace the Common Entrance Examination and Grade 6 national assessment.

This is a major decision coming out of the just concluded 21st meeting of the OECS Ministers of Education, which was held in the British Virgin Islands.

The new examination will be introduced in 2012 following a two-year period of preparation that includes extensive discussion and public sensitization, teacher training and school preparation. The examination will be piloted in September 2011.

The adoption of a common protocol on the use of mobile phones in schools in the OECS was another major development coming out of the meeting. The protocol bans the use of mobile phones in classes or in the possession of students writing national or regional examinations.

Antigua

Consumers in Antigua and Barbuda are now paying more for gas and diesel.

The price of gasoline on the local market has increased by 60 cents to EC$12.10 (US$4.48) per gallon, while the prices of diesel moved 85 cents to EC$11.75 (US$4.35) per gallon.

The pass-through mechanism, which was implemented by the government will not apply to liquefied propane gas (LPG) used for cooking.

Under the pass-through mechanism, which Antigua and Barbuda and other countries of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union agreed to implement changes in the international price of oil are reflected in the domestic prices of gasoline and diesel.

As such, any fall in international oil price will be reflected in a reduction in fuel price in Antigua and Barbuda.

Similarly, an increase in global oil price will result in a corresponding increase in fuel prices on the local market.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda up until now, had taken a decision not to fully implement the measure and therefore continued to subsidize fuel prices in the country.

With the pass-through mechanism in place, the Ministry of Finance will review fuel prices on a monthly basis in keeping with fuel shipments to the country.

Bahamas

A small aircraft crashed in a lake in the Bahamas recently, killing at least seven people, shortly after taking off from the international airport in the capital Nassau, local authorities said.

An official of the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority said the plane, a twin-prop Cessna 402, which can carry up to 10 people, came down in Nassau’s Lake Killarney just east of the airport on New Providence Island after setting off on a flight in the southern Bahamas.

Initial reports indicated one person might have survived.

Barbados

Barbados ailing Prime Minister David Thompson has announced that he was reshuffling his Cabinet and easing his workload.

The changes, which were made recently, included the prime minister handing over responsibility for finance to Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development, Christopher Sinckler, and taking the Economic Affairs portfolio from Dr. David Estwick to add to Sinckler’s new responsibilities. Sinckler’s current responsibilities have been split between two other ministers.

Speaking to the nation in an audio rather than television broadcast because of his weight loss due to pancreatic cancer, the prime minister said, “My reduced physical capacity has placed a strain in my ability to serve you as I would dearly want to, particularly in these challenging economic times when the signs are clear that full global economic recovery is still a fair distance away.”

Thompson said while he would continue as prime minister he will now only have the added responsibility for National Security, while Attorney General Freundel Stuart will be deputy prime minister and minister of home affairs.

Barbados

Barbados has officially opened a new consulate in Cuba. The opening of the embassy in the island comes just over a year after Prime Minister David Thompson made an official visit to that country in 2009, where he made the announcement of Barbados’ intention to establish a diplomatic presence in Cuba.

The embassy will be instrumental in the establishment of business contacts and the identification of emerging opportunities within Cuba for Barbados’ services, trade and commercial sectors. The increasing consular needs of the growing number of Barbadian students in Cuba all provide strong rationale for the establishment of an embassy in Cuba, the government said.

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator Maxine McClean hailed the move.

Guyana

Election campaigning has got into full gear in the ruling People’s Progressive party (PPP) for a presidential candidate for next year’s general elections in Guyana, while the opposition People’s National Congress (PNC) is moving towards choosing its candidates as well.

Recently, David Granger, who served as a national security advisor in the Desmond Hoyte administration, said that he was available to run for the top post of the opposition party.

He said that he is willing to unite the talent of the party and to make it a viable and effective movement.

Dr. Richard Van West Charles, son-in-law of the late Forbes Burnham, founder leader of the PNC, who served as health minister, said the PNC presidential candidate should be both the leader of the party and the presidential candidate. Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Robert Corbin has announced that he would not be the PNC presidential candidate, but wants to remain leader of the PNC.

Guyana

Guyana political parties are moving to get voters to go to the polls for next year’s general election.

The parties are considering the impact of fewer eligible voters. According to the Guyana Elections Commission figures there are 446,681 registered voters. That figure is down from the close to 500,000 in the 2006 election.

David Granger, who wants to be the presidential candidate for the main opposition People’s National Congress, is concerned about voter apathy. He said the PNC will have to work even harder to get people to cast their ballots.

Jamaica

Jamaica’s murder rate has dropped below the 80 mark for the fist time since July 2002, after 72 killings were recorded for September.

Police crime statistics for September 2010 indicate a major decline of 42 percent in the number of murders when compared to September 2009.

This is the lowest number of murders recorded in any one month since the start of the year. The overall reduction in recorded murders for September 2010 when compared to September 2009 is 55, police statistics reveal.

The September 2010 murder figures continue the trend of the last three months, where murders recorded have fallen below 100. Five of the six other major crimes (shooting, rape, carnal abuse, robbery and larceny) recorded significant declines for an overall 14 percent drop in September 2010 when compared to August 2009.

Murder has shown a 42 percent decline.

Trinidad

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has announced that the People’s Partnership Government will launch a commission of inquiry into the collapsed CL Financial institution to find out who and what is responsible for the fiasco which occurred at its subsidiaries Colonial Life Investment Company (Clico), British American and Clico Investment Bank (CIB).

She also said the commission would also probe the beleaguered Hindu Credit Union (HC).

Speaking in the House of Representatives recently the prime minister said, “Given the systemic risk involved with this crisis, the thousands of people, taxpayers and their families who have been adversely affected, the significant taxpayers’ funds already spent and to be spent, Cabinet has decided to have a commission of inquiry appointed into this financial crisis; the CL Financial crisis as well as the Hindu Credit Union crisis.”

Persad-Bissessar said that questions must be asked of the regulators (Central Bank), auditors executives and the former People’s National Movement (PNM) government about the “oversight and governance failure across the board.”

The former Patrick Manning administration had injected TT$5 billion to deal with Clico and an additional $2 billion to treat with other CL Financial entities.

Persad-Bissessar said neither her government nor Trinidad and Tobago’s taxpayers could afford another TT$7 billion to pay-off all investors in Clico and British American.

Finance Minister Winston Dookeran in the 2010/2011 budget presentation in the House of Representatives recently announced that the government would pay depositors $75,000 and the balance of their investment will be repaid over a 20-year period at zero interest.

This has angered more than 2,000 policy holders who are demanding the government review its proposals.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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