Caribbean RoundUp

People try to get off a boat carrying aid as national police arrive to secure the vessel carrying supplies as it docks in Jeremie, Haiti, Wednesday Oct. 12, 2016, after Hurricane Matthew hit the area. The U.N. envoy for Haiti says the impoverished Caribbean nation is facing “a humanitarian tragedy and an acute emergency situation” with 1.4 million people needing immediate help.
Associated Press / Dieu Nalio Chery

Caribbean

The decision by international banks to terminate relationships with banks in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) is encouraging money laundering and terrorist financing.

This was stated by the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Timothy Antoine, who said that “if you force people to hold cash and move around cash, you are encouraging that sort of behavior because there is less traceability, less transparency and that is what you do not want.”

Over the past two years, several international correspondent banks have sought to sever ties in an attempt to manage the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing through countries in the region.

But, he said, its efforts to address these risks are affecting the Caribbean as well as the international correspondent banks.

Antoine said the money that is being made through correspondent banking is not the fines that would be required to pay if the ECCB banks are caught harboring funds which turn out to be illegal or ill-gotten.

Antigua

Regional airline LIAT is exploring with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) the need to do a technical study that would encourage the airline’s shareholder governments to drop increasing taxes on air travel.

This is the view of the acting CEO of the company, Julie Reifer-Jones who said the study must be targeted, from the onset, at informing the region’s finance ministers on the economics behind lowering taxes with the hope of recouping revenue from increased air traffic.

She said the airline is proposing to the governments that there needs to be a reduction in the taxes, noting that there has never been a study that would guide the ministers.

Reifer-Jones said that the decision to lower taxes was “not an easy one” admitting that they would contribute to severalf government expenditures including the funding of airports.

In August, the Chairman of Pan Am World Airways Dominicana, Luis David Ramirez proposed that Caribbean governments co-operate through any of their regional multinational organizations to agree on a strategy aimed at reducing taxes.

Barbados

Six experts from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) are now in Haiti to provide operational support to the Civil Protection Directorate (CPD) in response to the widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew.

They are members of the CARICOM Operational Support Team (COST) and will provide support to coordinate relief efforts in Jeremie and Les Cayes, two settlements badly affected by Hurricane Matthew.

Hurricane Matthew ravaged the south and Grand Anse areas of Haiti between Oct. 3 and 4, 2016.

The National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) has reported that the immediate needs include water, sanitation, cleaning supplies and roofing materials.

The areas of major concern are the urban centers, coastal areas and the interior specifically in the Grand Anse, Nippes, and the south.

The CPD has confirmed in its latest report that there were more than 350 fatalities, 211 injured and over 61,000 currently staying in temporary shelters.

Dominica

Dominica party promoter Cabral Douglas, who recently sued the Dominica government for US$3 million over a cancelled concert two years ago, has retained one of England’s top barristers Dr. Leslie Thomas to argue his case in the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which is expected to start on Oct. 20.

Dr. Thomas brings a wealth of knowledge in high-profile cases, according to Douglas who is an attorney at law.

Douglas, son of former Prime Minister Rosie Douglas, who died in 2000, said Tommy Lee Sparta, along with three members of his team were deported from Dominica a day after their arrival.

The artiste had journeyed to the tiny Caribbean island to perform at a concert in Portsmouth in February in 2014. They were, however, denied entry and placed in custody before being deported.

Prior to his arrival, the Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches had called for a boycott of the artiste’s concert.

The group said its concern was based on Tommy Lee Sparta’s glorification of Satan and his promotion of violence.

Doulgas said while he lost money from the show’s cancellation, Tommy Lee Sparta and his team were stripped of their dignity and no amount of monetary disbursement can compensate for that.

Guyana

Guyana recently marked the 117th anniversary of the 1899 border dispute, insisting it would continue to pursue efforts to peacefully end its row with Venezuela.

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “Guyana continues to uphold and respect the Arbitral Award of 1899. It will defend its validity in the world’s highest court and expose Venezuela’s sordid efforts to besmirch Guyana’s development agenda.”

Despite agreeing to the 1899 tribunal award to settle the border dispute, Venezuela has, in recent times, continued to lay claim to Guyana’s territory alleging corruption on the part of the 1899 tribunal, which ruled in Guyana’s favor. Venezuela stakes its claims on a deathbed confession of a member of the 1899 tribunal.

Guyana has been pressing the United Nations to recommend a judicial settlement to the decades-old border controversy.

Last month, outgoing United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon promised to assess the border dispute between the two countries before he leaves office.

Jamaica

There are no reports of babies being born with microcephaly in Jamaica as result of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

This was revealed by Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton who pointed out there are more than 500 pregnant women on record who have contracted Zika, but the ministry is yet to be notified that any of those cases has resulted in a case of microcephaly.

He said the Ministry of Health remains very transparent about the possibility of babies being born with the disease, noting that if and when any report is confirmed, details will be made available.

Dr. Tufton said the government has taken a proactive position on the matter and has established a fund to address the possibility of babies being born with microcephaly.

Microcephaly is a birth defect where a baby’s head is noticeably smaller than average size of babies of the same sex and age, might often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.

St. Lucia

The new St. Lucia government says it will reveal its four-year plan for the island next April.

A government statement quoted Prime Minister Allen Chastanet as saying the plan will be outlined when his administration, which recently marked its first 100 days in office, presents the national budget.

Chastanet said that he spent his first 100 days in office working on a plan to reduce the island’s debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, as the island’s deficit is larger than anticipated.

“We’re using this time to develop our overall plan and so it is the intention of the government that when we announce the budget in April that we will announce a one year financial budget, but we’re going to roll out a four-year development plan for the country,” Chastanet was quoted in the statement.

The prime minister said that St. Lucia needs a major boost in investment.

Suriname

The Central Bank of Suriname has granted the Trust Bank a license to commence Islamic banking.

The Trust Bank, which is the first Islamic bank in the Western Hemisphere plans to be operational by the first quarter of 2017.

Bank officials say foreign investment will now flow through the Trust Bank and will be a boost to the Surinamese economy.

About a year ago, Trust Bank singed an advisory services agreement with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, the private sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDB) to process and support its conversion into Islamic compliant operations.

With the Trust Bank closer to reality, Suriname may emerge as a hub for Islamic banking and finance in the region,

Guyana, for example, is now turning to Suriname for help to access economic and technical support from the IsDB.

Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago government says it will never call a state of emergency despite the rising murder rate, which has reached 360 so far for the year.

National Security Minister Edmund Dillion made this statement during the budget debate in the House of Representatives last week.

He said the Police Service had given the motives for some of these murders, with the top reason being gang-related, which accounted for 99 murders.

He said 60 murders were drug-related; 49 were motivated by revenge; 23 as a result of domestic violence; and 29 were the result of altercation.

“This government finds these figures intolerable,” he said.

The former PP government under Kamla Persad-Bissessar had called a state of emergency in August 2011 after 11 people were killed over a 24-hour period.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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