Caribbean Roundup

Bahamas

The Bahamas government will soon announce sweeping changes to the operations of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force to include an improved Coral Harbor Base, more resources and a link with the police in crime-fighting initiatives.

Prime Minister Perry Christie said the Ministry of National Security would make “a significant communication” on the issues that are impacting the work of the Defense Force and the government’s commitment to improving this.

“Our commitment to add to your manpower, ships and resources that you have, the ability to protect our borders and be able to interdict all of the criminal activities that are taking place whether human smuggling, drugs, gun-running or whatever it is to add to your capacity over the next period of time, as a result of the commitment we made to the people of the The Bahamas to be of assistance in a specific way to the Defense Force,” he said.

Christie said improvements would have to be made to the Defense Force Base to improve its infrastructure and make it suitable for the next two decades.

The Prime Minister said the government would find a way, to put in policy for the country to take advantage of the abilities of the Defense Force marines and use them for the greater good of the country.

Guyana

The Chinese-owned Bosai Minerals Group Guyana Incorporated says it is losing millions of dollars as it is unable to fulfill its international obligations as a result of the protest action that has virtually shut down the mining town of Linden.

“We are not producing nothing, so we can’t ship nothing, in other words we can’t sell anything,’ the company’s community relations officer, Vanessa Davis told the Guyana Times newspaper.

Linden has been hit by protest action after residents there took to the streets to demand that the Donald Ramoutar administration reverse a decision to increase electricity rates and cut the estimated three-billion dollar subsidy to the Linden Electricity Company Incorporated by one third.

In addition, the bauxite pensioners say they no longer enjoy 300 kilowatt-hours free electricity and have been told they have to pay for the remainder of the existing market rates for other customers.

At least three protestors were shot and killed during clashes with the police on July 18. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has condemned the killings and the government has promised a Commission of Inquiry into the matter.

Davis said that the company, which in March this year announced plans to inject US$200 million into expanding its operations, was only able to ship bauxite two weeks ago.

Guyana

Linden, Guyana’s Mayor and councilor Winston Smith are predicting a national economic shutdown if the Government does not meet with protestors to discuss the issues affecting them, such as the hike in electricity rates and unemployment which have sparked weeks of unrest.

The residents of the bauxite mining town have been protesting since July 18 over the proposed hike in electricity rates. The protests resulted in the death of three people.

There was another standoff with the police recently which resulted in tear gas being thrown into the crowd of people, including children.

The action triggered a riot with seven buildings being gutted by fire and several people injured.

Smith said the Government needed to involve the people of Linden in stakeholder consultations to resolve the problem.

He said more than 70 percent of the people in Linden, Guyana’s second largest town, are unemployed.

Guyana

Officials in Guyana say they plan to fire more than a dozen baggage handlers and ramp attendants after police found 57 pounds of cocaine that was about to be loaded onto a flight headed for New York City recently.

Airport Authority Chief Executive Officer Ramesh Ghir said that airport workers were clearly involved in the attempted smuggling of the illicit drug.

Twelve employees were dismissed earlier this year after someone threw a bag with 50 pounds of cocaine over a perimeter fence at the South American country’s international airport.

Jamaica

The Jamaican Government is monitoring the elections in Venezuela as the fate of the country’s petroleum sector is tied up in the outcome of the polls which are due in less than two months.

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell says he is hopeful that President Hugo Chavez retains power as the stability of Jamaica’s economy depends heavily on the election results.

This is because Venezuela’s opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, who is seeking to unseat Chavez, has expressed plans to scrap the PetroCaribe agreement.

Under the agreement, Jamaica and other selected Caribbean countries receive preferential treatment in buying oil from Venezuela.

Paulwell says Jamaica is not in a position to lose PetroCaribe.

The Energy Minister said if the PetroCaribe deal should end, one of the biggest impacts would be see in the amount of foreign currencies that Jamaica would have to pay out to purchase oil.

The elections in Venezuela are scheduled for October 7.

Jamaica

South African President Jacob Zuma has reached an agreement to strengthen ties with Jamaica.

Zuma, who was in Jamaica to attend the celebrations marking the island’s 50th anniversary independence from Britain, told reporters “we are committed to encouraging and facilitating South African companies doing business in Jamaica,”

Speaking at a joint news conference with Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, the South African leader said that a number of other draft agreements and memoranda of understanding between the two countries in the areas of sport, defense and security, public works, education and social development.

“These agreements will serve to foster mutual cooperation exchanges and best practices in the respective fields,” he said.

Simpson-Miller said that some of the areas being looked at include science and technology, tourism, the crafting of an air service agreement and increased trade between both countries.

Trinidad

Heavy rains and flood caused more than TT$100 million in damages to homes and infrastructure in the North Western peninsula of Trinidad recently.

Surrounding communities in the Diego Martin area in West Trinidad were hit by severe flooding over the August 11 week-end, leaving two residents dead and hundreds homeless.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar who toured the flood-stricken area declared a disaster zone.

A total of 12 homes were destroyed and appliances lost in close to 1,000 homes, chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation Anthony Sammy told a news conference.

He said that while the total initial assessment stood at more than $109 million, the figure is expected to climb.

More than 1,100 people have been carrying out mopping up operations.

Trinidad

Florida’s Lt Government, Trinidad-born Jennifer Carroll said her visit to Trinidad was to strengthen trade ties and to talk about the upcoming US presidential elections.

Carroll led a delegation of 27 Florida companies and met with several government ministers and members of the business community during her week-long stay in T&T.

She told a media conference at the US Embassy in Port of Spain that Florida companies in the delegation have met with local companies and made deals adding that some companies would remain to cement the deals.

Carroll, a Republican, disclosed that there are 40,000 Trinidadians living in Florida. Last year 75,000 nationals visited the US State

The Lt Governor said she was invited by the US State Department to talk about the US national elections in Trinidad and Tobago.

She said the main issue in the US election campaign is about jobs in America.

Carroll noted that Florida’s economy is moving up and that unemployment there has declined from double-digit to single-digit figures adding that both countries will mutually benefit from these deals.

She said T&T imports a lot of products from Florida and they are looking for a win/win situation.

There was a demand for peppers and cocoa from T&T, she said.

Carroll also disclosed that there was shortage of fertilizers worldwide and suggested that local companies can manufacture the product and export it.

Turks and Caicos

The leaders of the two political parties in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) have signed an anti-value added tax (VAT) petition on behalf of their parties. In addition, an Advisory Council member has resigned over the VAT issue.

Dr Rufus Ewing, leader of the Progressive National Party (PNP) and Oswald Skippings, leader of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), represent the entire electorate of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The petition has now over 3,000 signatures, which represent over half of the electorate, who believe that VAT will adversely affect business in the TCI. They are calling on the government to delay its introduction to enable a full analysis of its cost and potential impact to be performed so that there can be an informed debate as to its merit and value for the Turks and Caicos community.

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