Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

The Caribbean in the last 10 years alone has achieved a 61 percent reduction in AIDS-related deaths, according to a report, titled “Focus on Location and Population: Fast track to end AIDS by 2030,” which was released by UNAIDS recently. Dec. 1 marked World Aids Day.

The report said since 2000, new infections in the region declined by 50 percent and additionally, following the success of Cuba, several Caribbean countries have also been on track to be validated as having eliminated HIV transmission.

“All these gains are linked to improvements in HIV testing and treatment. Based on the new World Health Organization guidelines for initiating patient on antiretroviral medicines immediately after diagnosis, treatment coverage for the region is 44 percent for adults and 36 percent for children,” states the report.

It also noted that strategic efforts were also required to reach those most vulnerable.

The report said in order to reduce dramatically new HIV infections and deaths due to AIDS renewed efforts must be put in place to eliminate stigma and discrimination.

It also identified five groups relevant to the Caribbean that required intense investments and efforts, which included adolescent girls and young women, gay men and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and prisoners.

Barbados

Barbadians will have to pay more to use their cell phones come January 2016.

But Minister of Finance Chris Sinkler says that rather than having to pay a Bds$0.03 (US$0.015) per minute tax on airtime, which was government’s original plan, mobile phone users will see the hike in the form of an increased Value Added Tax (VAT) rate on cell phone service- 22 percent, up from the usual 17.5 percent.

In an interview with Barbados Today, Sinkler explained the government had decided to go to the latter route, since the initial plan and would be too difficult and expensive for telecommunications providers to implement.

“It would mean an additional cost to them to do a new billing system to accommodate the new excise at three cents,” he said.

“They also indicated that they would prefer if it were a percentage, rather than a real figure. It was recommended that the easiest and cleanest way to do this would be to do an increase on the VAT, because VAT is already charged with those services.

The measure is expected to raise between Bds$15 million (US$7.5) million and Bds $16 million (US$8 million) — about half what government would have raked in via the airtime tax route.

Guyana

The Justice for Walter Rodney Campaign has petitioned the government to ensure a proper inquiry is conducted into the death of Dr. Walter Rodney.

The group includes former and current members of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), the party that was once led by Dr. Rodney, made a plea in a petition delivered to the government that call on President David Granger to life government’s “short-sighted” abrupt end to the enquiry and allow key witnesses to testify in the probe.

The “petitioners” are demanding that Guyana’s President Granger allow the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry two more weeks it requested to properly complete its work.”

According to the Justice for Walter Rodney Campaign, “the administration is refusing a mere two weeks, after 24 years of evasion by successive governments.”

One June 13, 1980, Rodney 38, was killed by a bomb in his car.

“The refusal by the Granger-led coalition government to allow the commission to complete its work now threatens to undo more than one year’s work and to deny Guyanese the opportunity to finally establish the truth of the death of one of Guyana’s great sons,” said members of the Justice for Walter Rodney Campaign.

Grenada

Grenada won first place at an awards ceremony recently in Dominica which celebrated conservation campaigns on six different islands.

The campaigns are part of a regional initiative, “This is Who We Are,” that promoted the importance of protecting marine and coastal ecosystems.

The ceremony was held in Cabrits National Park, overlooking one of Dominica’s marine protected areas.

Mayor of Portsmouth Titus Francis welcomed an audience of more than 100 community members, international campaign teams, local fishers and government representatives.

The main award was announced from a sealed envelope by Parliamentary Representative of Portsmouth Ian Douglas,

Grenada won first place with St. Lucia in second and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in third place.

A panel of international judges determined the winners based on innovation, impact, and campaign sustainability.

Jamaica

The Ministry of Health is advising Jamaicans they should step up their mosquito prevention activities given that the Zika virus has entered the Caribbean region.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse says the ministry has received reports of a possible link of Zika virus infection to birth defects. The Pan American Health Organization is investigating the matter.

After the Zika virus outbreak, several babies in Brazil were found to have microcephaly, which results in an abnormal growth of the brain and stunting of the growth of the head of the fetus arising from infection in the first months of pregnancy.

“Pregnant women are among the high-risk group for severe symptoms of Zika virus. Children under five years old, the elderly and persons with chronic non-communicable diseases are also at greater risk. We therefore appeal to all Jamaicans, but especially those who fall in this group, to take precautions and prevent not being bitten by mosquitoes as best as possible,” she said.

“The Aedes aegypti is the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus as well, as dengue and chikungunya,” the minister noted.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris has paid tribute to former Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Governor Sir K. Dwight Venner whose retirement came into effect on Nov. 30, 2015.

In a letter to Venner, Harris wrote: “On behalf of the government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis, I wish to thank you for your outstanding service as governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) over the last 26 years. Under your leadership the ECCB has seen tremendous growth and expansion of its portfolio services and overseen growth and stability in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) financial system.”

Harris said a component of Venner’s legacy would be the foundation laid for sustainable development and transformation of Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) countries.

St. Lucia

Officials of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) recently paid a visit to St. Lucia to launch two milestone projects that will improve water access for more than l00,000 residents who live in some of the most underserved areas of the country.

The launch of the John Compton Dam Rehabilitation and Vieux Fort Water Supply Redevelopment projects will help end acute water shortages that have threatened the livelihoods of residents and stymied the growth of businesses in the north and south of St. Lucia.

The projects aimed to provide an efficient, reliable, climate-resilient water supply to the two areas.

The John Compton Rehabilitation Project aims to improve the reliability of water supply during the dry season for 93,000 residents in the northern districts of Castries.

The project is supported by funding of US$14,798 million provided by the CDB, the Inter-American Development Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Trinidad

The main opposition party in Trinidad and Tobago, the United National Congress (UNC) has won round two of its legal battle against the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) and the Election and Boundaries Commission (EBC) in its election petition.

The Court of Appeal in a 2-1 judgement upheld the decision of a High Court judge who granted leave to the UNC to challenge the results of the Sept. 7 general election.

The UNC is seeking to have the court declare the results in six marginal constituencies null and void, based on a decision of the EBC to extend the voting hours by an additional one hour (until 7 pm).

The UNC lost the six marginal seats to the PNM.

It is contended that under the Constitution the EBC did not have the authority to make such a move, but could only adjourned the voting process to the other day in the instance of election violence.

The EBC had extended the voting time because of incessant rain, which caused some voters not to get to the polls before the 6 pm deadline.

The issue will now go to trial by a High Court judge.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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