Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

Cuba will host the seventh summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) which will take place on June 4, 2016 in the capital, Havana.

This was revealed by the organization’s Secretary General Alfonso Munera who recently paid a working visit to the island.

He met with Cuba’s Foreign Minister Marcelino Median on drafting the documents for the summit.

The two high-ranking officials addressed the performance of the ACS and the role of Cuba while chairing the Association’s Council of Ministers, according to a statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

During the 21st Meeting of the ACS Council of Ministers, held in January in Haiti, Cuba took up the pro-tempore presidency of the organization until 2017. The association comprises 25 member states and seven associated countries.

Antigua

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) will be presenting both sides of the Privy Council / Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) debate to workers in a forum later this month.

Government has launched an on-going public education campaign on the matter in March, but the union is of the opinion that the campaign is “biased.”

Deputy Secretary General of the ABWU Chester Hughes said it will be the first time that both sides of the debate will be presented because “we have seen government’s organizing committee presenting only one side of the debate.”

The forum the Workers Choice-Privy Council or the CCJ will be held on April 28 as part of the union’s Labor Week celebration.

Former Attorney General Justin Simon QC, Attorney Kendrickson Kentich, former ABWU President Sir Keithlyn Smith and head of the newly formed lobby group CCJ Not Yet, Eleston Adams are among the presenters at the debate.

Chairman of the National Coordinating Committee (NCC) charged with educating the public on the CCJ, Ambassador Dr. Clarence Henry has stated repeatedly he is satisfied that the campaign is providing citizens with arguments from both sides.

He also said previously it is not the responsibility of the committee to advocate on behalf of the London-based Privy Council.

Barbados

Barbados is seeking to further partner with Cuba in an effort to take advantage of emerging opportunities now that the country has re-establish diplomatic relations with the United States of America.

This was revealed when Industry Minister Donville Inniss recently received a courtesy call from Cuba’s Ambassador to Barbados Francisco Fernandez Pena.

The minister disclosed that from forging deeper economic relations with Cuba, the Barbados government was also eager to engage robustly in trade and there were several companies ready to do business with the Spanish-speaking island.

Come next month, Bank Breweries Limited would be shipping approximately one million cases of Banks Beer to Cuba.

Inniss said that early next month, a delegation comprising government and private officials would be traveling to Cuba to conduct a trade mission.

The minister told the Cuban ambassador that over the years, Cuba has been committed to providing extensive technical assistance to Barbados, especially in the area of health care.

The two officials also spoke briefly about the upcoming Cuba International Tourism Fair set to take place in Havana.

Restorations of relations between Cuba and the United States were reinforced on March 21, when President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit since 1928.

Dominica

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission recently visited Dominica to conduct the 2016 Article IV consultation.

Following the mission which was led by Alejandro Guerson, the IMF issued a statement saying; “Tropical storm Erika hit the Dominica economy hard. Output is estimated to have declined by 3.9 percent in 2015 as a result of the storm. Tourism activities have largely normalized following the resumption of full operations at the main airport, and visitor arrivals showed some recovery. Other sectors will likely need more time to be fully restored.”

“Notwithstanding weak exports of agriculture and tourism, the 2015 current account deficit remained contained at an estimate of 9.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on the back of lower oil import,” it states.

The statement added in part, “the government should continue with its plan to adopt the reforms needed to support the recovery process and to ensure fiscal sustainability. The measures already identified are appropriate and consistent with the commitments which include further re-prioritization of public investment, wage restraint, a gradual unwinding of storm-related social assistance with the regional debt target commitment.”

Guyana

Guyana is taking steps towards dealing with the high rate of suicides with President David Granger saying “the time for mourning suicides has passed”.

He told a National Stakeholders Conference on Suicide Prevention recently that it was imperative Guyana implement measures aimed at reversing the high rate of suicides in the South American country.

Official figures show that in 2014, there were 97 suicides — a decrease on the 128 recorded in 2013.

Last year, 89 suicides were reported and there have been several cases so far for this year.

The president said he was disturbed about the high rate of suicide as any other Guyanese.

Granger said that Guyana had to do away with the label that it is the “suicide capital of the world.”

He reiterated a call for extensive research to be conducted to determine the reason for the high rate of suicides in this CARICOM country saying that suicide is usually premediated and not hastily or thoughtlessly done.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Guyana has a suicide rate four times the global average, ahead of North Korea, South Korea, and Sri Lanka.

Grenada

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell will formally open an International Conference on The Indian Diaspora in Grenada and the Wider Caribbean at the end of this month.

The conference will run from April 29 to May 1, to commemorate the arrival of East Indians in Grenada on May 1, 1857.

Indo-Caribbean Cultural Center Co Ltd (ICC), Indian Cultural Organization (Grenada) Inc. and the Indo-Caribbean Heritage Foundation (IHF) are organizing the conference with support from Belmont Estate Group of Companies and the High Commission of India to Trinidad and Tobago.

May 1 has been official recognized by the government since 2009 as Indian Arrival Day.

On that historic day, the Maidstone docked at Irwin’s Bay in St. Patrick’s with 287 passengers who were brought as indentured laborers to replace the emancipated African slaves.

In this African-dominated society, Indians now comprise 2 percent (1,700) of the total population of 105,900 persons in Grenada.

Race relations continue to be harmonious to the extent that the rate of inter-racial marriages in Grenada is the highest in the Caribbean.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony has welcomed a decision by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Grains Flour Mill to establish a facility in the south of the island, saying it would provide significant employment for residents in the area.

Dr. Anthony, who recently toured the facility, said it is a major boost for the south of the island saying it is a good investment because of the job opportunities.

He said over the years, successive governments have had the challenge of dealing with unemployment in Vieux Fort, which he represents in Parliament.

The prime minister said most of the factories located there have been closed and moved overseas claiming the high cost of operations in St. Lucia.

He said the facility, which is expected to provide employment for about l00 people, once fully operational would make the island self-sufficient in flour.

The flour mill is expected to be fully operational by November this year.

Suriname

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reached an agreement with the Suriname authorities for a two-year standby arrangement for approximately US$478 million.

The IMF team led by Daniel Leigh recently visited Paramaribo for discussions with the Surinamese government.

The IMF’s Executive Board could consider the proposed financing arrangement in early May.

“Suriname is facing challenging conditions in the near term, caused largely by the sharp decline in the international prices of its commodity. The sustained drop in the prices of gold and oil has caused substantial external developments, combined with the closure of Suralco’s alumina refinery in late 2015, have pushed the economy into a recession, the IMF noted.

“The Suriname authorities have put forward an ambitious reform program to stabilize Suriname’s economy and set the stage for its recovery,” the IMF said.

The Caribbean Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and World Bank are also discussing the possibility of providing financial support to Suriname.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley will join world leaders in May at an anti-corruption conference in London to discuss the issue of beneficial ownership of trusts and the need for declaration of who really owns the companies in such situations.

Minister in the Attorney General’s Office Stuart Young in announcing the trip said those international discussions would fit quite appropriately with the leaked revelations of the “Panama Papers” which has been making headlines around the world.

Leaked documents from Panama’s Mossak Fonseca law firm have raised eyebrows by revealing offshore holdings of past and present world leaders, business people, sports and other personalities in more than 200 territories for the past 30 years.

The London conference, which British Prime Minister David Cameron last year invited Rowley to attend, will be one of several engagements Rowley has overseas from May 2-14, when he undertakes security, anti-corruption and energy-related trips to the United States, Ghana and London respectively.

-compiled by Azad Ali

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