Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

A mother and her two sons serving lengthy prison terms on a joint conviction for the 2006 murder of Lionel “Black Money” Farell had their sentences reduced by the Court of Appeal. Barbara Peters who was initially ordered jailed for 20 years had five years shaved off her sentence.

While her son, Junior Roberts, who was also serving a 20 year sentence, is to spend 18 years in prison.

The Court of Appeal also reduced Shavuaghn Roberts’ 18 year sentence by a year. Justices of Appeal Joyce Kentish, Mario Michel and Davidson Baptiste ruled the sentences excessive.

The killing occurred on June 7, 2006, at number 2 Armstrong Rd., not far from Farrell’s home and in the presence of his family and neighbors.

Meanwhile, two Jamaican drug mules caught at VC Bird International Airport recently were convicted and fined in the St John’s Magistrates’ Court. John Planter and Ricardo Mills were respectively required to pay $35,000 and $18,000 forthwith. Planter pleaded guilty to possession, importation, intent to transfer and intent to supply three pounds of cannabis to other persons.

Mills, who had ingested one and a half pounds of marijuana and imported it into country, admitted guilt to possession, intent to transfer and importation of the controlled substance.

Police said they admitted to ingesting marijuana-filled packages. They were taken to Mount St John’s Medical Centre where they passed out a combined total of four and a half pounds of the drug. The drugs were valued at $18,000.

Barbados

The ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has revised downwards the long-term rating for Barbados – the second downgrade in four months.

Recently, the United States-based credit rating agency announced that it had moved the island’s rating from BB+ to BB- in response to a persistent current account deficit and a high fiscal deficit.

“The downgrade reflects the mounting external pressures associated with a persistent current account deficit and external financing challenges, as well as the ongoing high fiscal deficit largely because of a substantial fall in government revenues as a result of the weak economy,” the agency said.

According to S&P due to the large fiscal deficits, it is expected that the net general government debt burden will rise to above 70 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in fiscal 2013 (ending March 2014) from 67 percent in fiscal 2012 and 60 percent in fiscal 2011.

Straughn, who met with a visiting team from S&P two weeks ago, warned that tough decisions now had to be made and he called on government to “bite the bullet and make the necessary cuts now.”

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands Development Bank (CIDB) made a loss for the second year running, according to Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick.

Despite having assets to the tune of $41 million, the bank made a net loss of $766,880 which follows another loss made in 2011 when the bank lost $777,664 according to the audited financial statements that were made public this week.

At a time when the bank should have been making a profit in order to offset the loan that is due in two years, the financial statements show that the bank has been incurring losses for the past two years.

Moreover, instead of the bank increasing its customer base so as to attract better terms in refinancing its loan portfolio, the statements paint a picture of a situation where customers are not showing interest in the banks products.

In the past two years, the CIDB has also repaid borrowed funds to the tune of $750,992 and spent $11,438 buying property and equipment. Salaries and other staff benefits have cost the bank $2.3 million for the last two years.

According to the audited report posted by the Auditor General’s office, the CIDB was established on 1 March 2002 to mobilize, promote, facilitate and provide financing for the expansion and strengthening of the economic development of the islands. The bank does this by providing financing for tertiary education, housing, agriculture and the development of small businesses.

Dominica

Dominica says it is pursuing efforts to get the European Union to remove the visa requirements for nationals travelling to Europe, saying that it was important to stimulate trade under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed with Europe five years ago.

Junior Foreign Affairs Minister Alvin Bernard said Dominica has joined several countries in making the request.

“We have made some progress and we have had tremendous commitment from various representatives of the Council, but at the moment, the most recent report that we have received is that the Council is at the moment preoccupied with two other countries that have been included on the negative list,” he said.

Bernard said Dominica was pursing the initiative “because we see the lifting of the visa requirement for Dominica and other affected countries, particularly signatories to the Economic Partnership Agreement as critical. Dominica and other countries of the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) grouping signed the EPA in October 2008 that also provides substantial EU aid for trade.

Recently, Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for Home Affairs said the commission was putting in place measures to allow citizens from six Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to travel to the Schengen area without a visa.

Guyana

Guyana has produced more than half a million tons of rice this year, surpassing the 2012 figure by more than 107,000 tons, according to official figures released here.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country said rice production for the year stood at 529,384 tons, a 25.43 percent increase over the 2012 figure of 422,057 tons.

The Ministry of Agriculture gave no revenue figures for the rice production this year, but said that the production “pushes forward the possibility of Guyana possibly reaching 600,000 tons before the 2020 projection.

“The sector continues to experience yearly increase in rice production due to more land being brought under cultivation, and the provision of improved farming techniques with better seed varieties, which in turn have led to improved yields per hectare.”

It said that a major incentive for the increased project has been the price for Guyana’s rice improving, “which thus far has been stable”

St. Kitts

In the face of public upheaval over an Iranian turning up at Canada’s border with a St. Kitts-Nevis diplomatic passport, the local government has said it approved the Middle Easterner’s passport and conferred him the status of Special Envoy to the Federation.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Patrice Nisbett told the nation at the Nov. 26 sitting of the National Assembly that Iranian national Alizera Moghadam obtained St. Kitts-Nevis citizenship through its Investment Program, after which he was given the diplomatic appointment.

“Ministers having duly considered the content of a Memorandum dated Jan. 4, 2013, approved the appointment of Mr. Alizera Moghadam, a national of Iran who had formally acquired, following successful completion of all the necessary due diligence, citizenship of St. Kitts and Nevis through the Investment Program; as a Special Envoy to Azerbaijan and Turkey with the mandate to explore areas of interest to the Federation,” he said.

There was also no response to media claims that Moghadam told Canadian authorities he paid $1 million for the passport.

St. Lucia

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony says the island’s tourism industry is on a slow but steady rebound.

The prime minister in an address at an awards ceremony at the Windjammer Landing – a leading hotel here, pointed to a four percent growth in arrivals as an important sign of light at the end of the tunnel.

He said that while the industry has been encountering an immensely challenging period, there are important signs that health is returning to the sector and the confidence in investment has also received a boost as illustrated by plans by many properties to expand.

“After several years of decline when hotels did not invest in new plants, equipment, machinery and employees, we are now slowly beginning to see a turn around. Over the last few weeks, I have noticed at Cabinet meetings that a number of hotels are seeking incentives to expand, refurbish and renovate. That has not happened over the last two years,” he said.

Dr. Anthony also spoke directly to plans by Windjammer Landing to expand the 116-villa property located on the islands north west coast.

He said the decision to expand at this time was “critical and vital” not only to the tourism sector but to the country’s economy.

Anthony, who is also finance minister, exhorted employees in the sector to continue to do their best in maintaining the world class service, which has granted the destination much acclaim.

Trinidad

Guyana and T&T are forging ahead with an agreement, which allows for investors from T&T to engage in large scale farming in Guyana, and will see both countries engaging in more economic activities.

Earlier this year, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed for 10,000 acres of Guyana to be made available to T&T investors and farmers for agricultural development.

During a press briefing in Georgetown recently, Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said discussions were held this week with Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj to push the agreement forward.

“We are at the beginning of a collaboration that will benefit both countries,” Ramsammy said, “No financial investment will be made by either government but, agricultural and economic activities will be facilitated in both countries.”

This project follows through on an initiative proposed by former Guyana president Bharrat Jagdeo for CARICOM countries to collaborate with Guyana and expand underdeveloped agricultural lands. This strategy is geared toward reducing food import bills, increasing inter-regional food security and reducing food inflation.

Barbados

Domestic violence has claimed the life of a sixth woman this year in Barbados. Krystal Lovell, 22, of St. Thomas, was reportedly stabbed to death recently in the presence of their two-year-old daughter, Skye.

Her former boyfriend, Jerrick Tudor, was taken into custody by the police after he was apprehended by Krystal’s father, Roosevelt Lovell, in the backyard.

The couple broke up recently after a seven-year relationship. Guyanese-born Tudor is said to have moved out of the small wooden house that they shared in her family’s backyard.

It was the second time in less than three years that Krystal’s father lost a daughter to violence. His eldest child, Nikita Belgrave, was one of the five women killed in the Campus Trendz fire on Tudor Street, The City.

Guyana

Guyana ranked a very poor 27 out of 100 points in the Transparency International 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

The report was released recently. Last year, Guyana scored 28 points. Guyana is again doing worse than every other country in Caricom except for Haiti (19) which has also traditionally been one of the worst performers.

Transparency International (TI) premiered a new methodology last year where countries are ranked from 1 to 100 points with 100 representing the least corrupt. Any score below 50 indicates a serious problem and though it is not possible to meaningfully compare Guyana’s performance with the previous methodology, the country remains in the bracket of those with a very serious problem.

By contrast, Barbados scored 75 points, the highest in CARICOM, The Bahamas 71, St. Lucia 71, Trinidad and Tobago 38 and Jamaica 38. Suriname came in at 36 this year. The perception of corruption has remained a big problem for the Ramotar administration over the last two years.

Compiled by Azad Ali

More from Around NYC