Caribbean Round-Up

Guyana

The Guyana government plans to open offices in the country’s interior to cut down gold smuggling and ensure miner’s safety.

This was announced by Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud who said the offices will be opened on the northwest region near the border with Venezuela and in the western river town of Charity.

Miners currently have to travel hundreds of miles to sell gold at the Guyana Gold Board offices in the capital Georgetown or the nearby city of Bartica.

The announcement comes as miners complain about being robbed, assaulted and sometimes being killed en route to the offices.

Persaud said that as much as 400,000 ounces of gold are smuggled out the South American country each year to neighboring Suriname, where royalties and taxes are much lower.

Guyana

Authorities in Guyana’s main airport have revoked security passes for a dozen employees following an increase in cocaine-stuffed suitcases intercepted on flights to New York.

The CEO of Cheddi Jagan International Airport said that authorities have “canceled about a dozen passes of contracted baggage handlers and others.’

There have been at least four drug smuggling cases on flights to New York’s John F Kennedy Airport over the last year. The most recent seizure was recently when U.S. authorities found six kilograms of cocaine on a flight from Guyana.

U.S. officials say Guyana is a transit point for South American drugs bound for the U.S. and Europe.

Haiti

Haiti’s new prime minister and his cabinet have taken office recently, ending a period of deadlock.

Laurent Lamothe and his 21 ministers were inaugurated in a ceremony on the grounds of the National Palace.

Lamothe said he wants to tackle Haiti’s extreme poverty, which contributed to the devastation caused by the 2010 earthquake.

President Michel Martelly’s first prime minister resigned after only four months in office because they wrangled over government priorities.

Lamothe ran a global telecommunications company before he entered politics.

Martelly marked one year in office last month (May).

Haiti

The residents of a sprawling community heavily damaged by the Jan. 12, 2010 devastating earthquake are settling back into the neighborhood the rehabilitated with help from the United States and two non-governmental organizations in the impoverished community.

The Katye project to rebuild more than 600 homes in the Haitian capital’s Ravine Pintade neighborhood was funded by an US$ 8.5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for in International Development’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA).

U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten said the key to the project’s success was the integrated nature of its activities, including extensive community engagement and a commitment to upgrading all aspects of the neighborhood for the common good.

The project also helped residents re-establish their earthquake economic and social structures, the US government agency said.

Jamaica

Jamaica’s Fair Trading Commission (FTC) has been given the green light to challenge the controversial merger between two mobile giants –Digicel and Claro.

Jamaica’s Supreme Court recently threw out a petition filed by Digicel opposing the law suit by the FTC challenging the merger between Digicel and the now defunct Claro.

Digicel had contended that the FTC did not have the jurisdiction or authority to challenge the merger.

However, High Court judge, Justice Almarie Sinclair-Haynes, dismissed the Irish-based telecommunication company’s argument and ruled that the FTC had jurisdiction to challenge the merger.

The ruling now clears the way for the FTC to proceed with its challenge of the March merger in the Supreme Court. Digicel says it will appeal the ruling.

In March last year, Digicel, announced it had signed an agreement with America Movil to acquire its Claro business in Jamaica and to sell to America Movil its business in Honduras and El Salvador.

Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding had approved the deal in his capacity as minister with responsibility for telecommunications.

Jamaica

Police in Jamaica say the lottery scam worth billions of dollars is crumbling following the recent arrest of several people including an alleged mastermind.

In recent weeks, a special detective unit, the Lottery Scam Task Force, has been tracking those involved in a crime syndicate that has fleeced thousands of people in the United States.

Police said they made a recent breakthrough when a man thought to be one of the masterminds was among 28 people arrested during raids in the western parish of St. James.

Task Force leader Superintendent Leon Clunis said there has been a slow-down in the syndicate’s activities. He said the mastermind behind the scam, who is a well-known political activist, was held in the upscale community of Coral Gardens. His identity has not yet been released.

Recently, scores of people believed to be aligned to the lottery scam were arrested as police seized several assets, from cars to household appliances.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia is taking steps to increase wireless broadband (WiFi) Internet penetration with an ultimate plan to make it free across the country.

This was announced by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony who said the project to make St. Lucia “WiFi country” making wireless Internet access available island wide, was one of his administration’s key promises in its election manifesto.

He said the program will not be completely rolled out by the end of 2012, but the government hopes that in two or three years, a wireless internet connection could be available in any public place free of charge.

Details of the plan have been revealed by Technology Minister James Fletcher who said that government views the development of information and communication technology as a “key avenue” for development.

He said that government would also lobby Internet service providers to make their products more affordable for St. Lucians, just as it did regarding mobile phone prices.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago will be one of six countries to benefit from the newly-launched multi-million-dollar Caribbean Local Economic Development (CARILED) program.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaking at the recent CARILED launch in Belize announced that CARILED’s Caribbean-based regional project office will be in Trinidad and Tobago and the country will also offer in-kind contributions to CARILED to facilitate its work over the next six years.

She lauded the six-year regional program, which aims to promote local economic development across the Caribbean by building local capacities and competencies in the area of local economic development through pilot projects in six target countries.

Persad-Bissessar emphasized that “local government is at the heart of democracy” and serves as the foundation of a resilient economy.

The key partners of CARILED include the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), the Caribbean Forum of Local Government Ministers (CFLGM) and the Caribbean Association of Local Government Authorities (CALGA) and the CLGE.

The prime minister also thanked the Canadian International Development Association (CIDA) for fueling Can$23.2 million towards the Cariled initiative.

Persad-Bissessar was in Belize for the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), which brings together heads of state and government throughout the Commonwealth to advocate for a more democratic local government.

Trinidad

The rate of inflation in Trinidad and Tobago has increased to 11.8 percent from 9.1 percent in March.

In its repo rate statement, the Central Bank said data from the Central Statistical Office (CSO) indicated an outcome that represents the highest recorded increase in the inflation rate since January 2011, when it measured 12.5 percent.

On a monthly basis, headline inflation rose by 2.8 percent in April after having declined by 0.7 percent in March 2012.

“The continuing rise in food price inflation was the major factor behind the sharp jump in the headline rate,” the Bank stated.

“On a year to year basis, food price inflation increased by 26.1 percent in April 2012, up from 20.3 percent in the previous month,”

The surge was led by sharp increases in the prices of fruit, at 48 percent and vegetables, 34.3 percent, which were associated with weather-induced supply shortages.

Higher prices were also recorded in April for fish and sugar.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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