Caribbean RoundUp

From left, businessman Dikran Izmirlian, Li Ruogu, chairman and president of the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China, Sarkis Izmirlian, Baha Mar CEO, and Bahamian Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette pose for a photo at the Baha Mar groundbreaking ceremony in Nassau, Bahamas, Monday Feb. 21, 2011.
Associated Press / Tim Aylen, File

Caribbean

The European Commission (EC) is giving $100 million euros to help the Caribbean cope with effects of natural disasters, particularly the region’s most vulnerable states such as Haiti.

In a statement the EC said, “the impact of natural disasters is increasing despite countries’ efforts to reduce it. Over the past year, drought has affected more than 6.2 million people in the Caribbean, especially in Haiti, Dominican Republic and Cuba.”

“Irregular and insufficient rainfall throughout 20156 has caused loss of crop and livestock in the region. For the third consecutive year, some people are facing periods of drought that threaten their livelihood, with the most vulnerable groups being small producers, day-laborers and people with no land of their own,” the statement said.

As a result, the EC’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department is contributing 13.9 million euros to help the Caribbean people cope with drought in 2016, facilitate access to food and water and protect the livelihood of more than 429,000 people.

Since 1994, the European Commission has given the Caribbean 509.7 million euros in financial aid.

Antigua

Travel demand to Antigua and Barbuda grew by 35 percent in 2015, compared to 2014, according to Expedia, one of the world’s leading travel companies.

It noted that Package bookings, transactions that combine components like flights and hotel, also continue to increase in Antigua and Barbuda with nearly 30 percent increase in 2015 year over year.

New data from Expedia also indicate that the United States remains the key feeder market for the twin-island federation with a reported growth of nearly 40 percent in 2015 year over year.

The United Kingdom and Canada are other key markets for Antigua and Barbuda, growing at 50 percent and nearly 15 percent respectively as well during the same time frame.

Representatives from the Expedia’s Market Management team recently attended the third annual Showcase Antigua and Barbuda, the destination’s premier trade event and the single most important business generator for Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism industry.

Following the three-day conference, Expedia said it seeks to continue to add more properties to its portfolio in 2016 and to support tourism growth in Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean region.

By working with the Expedia group, hotels in Antigua and Barbuda gain exposure to the more than 200 websites in more than 75 countries worldwide in 35 languages, in addition to a myriad of mobile sites and apps.

Bahamas

The Bahamas government has announced that an agreement has been reached to continue with the construction and completion of the multi-billion dollar Baha Mar Resort and work is expected to resume soon.

This was revealed by Prime Minister Perry Christie, during the recent 2016 / 2017 Budget debate in the House of Assembly, who said the Export-Import Bank of China has agreed to finance the project with China Construction America (CCA), a subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Company, completing the project, which has long been in receivership.

While not disclosing details of the resumption of construction, Christie said the agreement was reached after two days of meetings in Beijing, China.

He said Attorney General Allyson Maynard Gibson and Sir Baltron Bethel, represented the government’s interests in the negotiations.

Christie said a first round of bids for buyers interested in purchasing the mega development is complete and there are a number of “reputable” interested buyers.

He also assured local contractors that the government will fight for them to be re-engaged and that consideration is being given to settling the debts owed to Bahamian creditors.

Dominica

The Caribbean is being told to brace itself for unusual weather and chances of more hurricane activity this season than in the past five years.

A two-day Caribbean Regional Climate Control Forum (CariCOF) recently took place in Roseau, Dominica where the Wet / Hurricane Season Outlook for 2016 was presented by climatologist with the Dominican Meteorologist Service (DMS) Annie Carrette-Joseph.

She said between June and August, there would also be gradual drought alleviation across the region and that “surface water reservoirs will recharge, there will be soil moisture replenishment and an increase in river flow.”

Joseph predicted that water shortage-related problems in agriculture will disappear in many places and that “where it has not already started, the wet season may start abruptly in June”.

CariCOF noted that the second half of the wet season will be wetter or unusual in countries such as Belize and the Leeward Islands with Carrette-Joseph warning that “moist conditions may favor mosquito breeding.”

The outlook, which was prepared by the DMS in collaboration with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), also warned of extremely wet spells occurring with “serious potential for flash flooding and landslides”.

In addition, September to November will be wetter than usual and there will also be chances of more hurricane activity than in the past five years.

Guyana

After an absence of five years, Insel Air of Curacao will reconnect Guyana and Brazil come July 4, 2016.

The last airline to fly this route was META, which flew between Paramaribo, Georgetown and Boa Vista, which ended around 2011.

Insel plans to fly three times weekly between Boa Vista and the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Guyana. These flights will connect with Insel’s network of 26 destinations in the Pan-American region, according to a press release from the airline recently.

“In just 120 minutes from Georgetown to its hub in Curacao, passengers can connect to destinations such as Miami, Santo Domingo and St Maarten,” Insel said.

Guyana has limited air connectivity with Latin America, which was cited by a 2015 Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report.

Recently, Fly AllWays airline of Suriname has been granted permission from the government of Guyana to operate two routes, which will fly twice weekly. The routes are Paramaribo, Suriname / Georgetown.

Grenada

The Grenada government says it ready and willing to bring back Grenadian students from Venezuela as the South American country continues to face an economic crisis.

In a statement, the Keith Mitchell government said it has communicated to the students its readiness to facilitate their return home.

The government said the Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs are in constant contact with the students and Grenada’s Ambassador to Venezuela Hassan Hadeed, continues to visit them and provide the needed material and other support.

A meeting was recently called by the ministers for Foreign Affairs, and Education to brief the parents and guardians of the students and to assure them that the government of Grenada is prepared to take necessary action, at any given time, to ensure the well-being of the she Grenada government says it’s ready and willing to bring home Grenadian students from Venezuela as that South American nation continues to face financial and other challenges.

However, it noted, “the majority of students, for now…have indicated a willingness to complete their studies, in spite of those challenges.”

Oil-rich Venezuela is in the midst of a crisis that has stemmed from the fall in global oil prices. There have been reported shortages of food and other basic supplies.

Jamaica

The Jamaican government said more than 400 nationals were denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago over the past 15 months.

This was revealed by Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith who told the Senate recently that 326 Jamaicans were denied entry into Trinidad and Tobago in 2015 and 113 Jamaican have so far been refused entry during the first three months of this year.

The two CARICOM countries have been holding talks in a bid to deal with the problem, particularly after 12 Jamaicans were deported in April, claiming they would have been a drain on the local economy.

Immigration officials say that several thousand Jamaicans are living in Trinidad and Tobago illegally.

Johnson Smith said Jamaica has sought to deal with the issue at both the bilateral and regional levels and following talks with Port of Spain, a commitment had been given by the Trinidad and Tobago government to resolve the issue “as expeditiously as possible.”

She told the Senate that at the regional level, Jamaica requested the item “Treatment of CARICOM Nationals Traveling in the Region” be returned to the agenda of the recent meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which has oversight for the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are signatories to the CSME that allows for the free movement of goods, services, labor and skills across the 15-member regional grouping.

St. Kitts

The St. Kitts and Nevis government recently moved swiftly to revoke the passports of David B Kaplan and his wife Lisa Kaplan, both of whom are named in a recent United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing alleging a fraudulent scheme that raised $15. 8 million, of which approximately $385,000 was sent to St. Kitts and Nevis to obtain citizenship for Kaplan and his wife.

According to the SEC complaint, and filed on May 19, 2016, in the United States District Court for Nevada-Reno, Kaplan repeatedly lied to prospective investors by stating that their funds would be invested in a low-risk, private offshore trading program that would provide estimated monthly profits of 10 percent.

In a press statement, the St. Kitts and Nevis government reiterated its commitment to the highest level of due diligence and transparency in relation to the citizenship-by-investment program and, based on the SEC filing, decided to revoke the passports with immediate effect.

The statement said, “the Kaplans’ application was processed after appropriate due diligence checks by a highly reputably, internationally renowned due diligence service provider found no evidence of impropriety or illegal activity.”

Trinidad

The five Trinidadians who are in jail in Venezuela on suspicion of terrorism will have to wait until due process is completed before they are released.

This was disclosed by Trinidad and Tobago National Security Minister Edmund Dillion following a meeting with members of the Venezuelan government during a visit to Caracas last week to discuss security measures that could be of mutual benefit to both countries.

During the meeting the issue of the five Muslims was raised, but Dillion said they would have to abide by Venezuelan law.

He said it is left to the government and judiciary to determine protocols and methodology in terms of the release of those persons.

The men were detained when they went to Caracas about two years ago to obtain visas to travel to Mecca for a pilgrimage.

There was some hope that they would have been freed after talks were held with President Nicholas Maduro and his delegation when they paid an official visit to Trinidad last week about their detention.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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