Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

Progress has been made in reducing new infections and AIDS-related deaths, but these gains appear weak.

This is according to a new report titled “Communities at the Center-The response to HIV in the Caribbean”, which was released ahead of World Aids Day 2019 on December 1 with the theme “Communities make the difference.”

According to the study, national responses are highly dependent on donor funding, especially for programs focused on key populations.

The study noted that the financial resources available for HIV responses in the Caribbean have fluctuated over time, reaching the same level in 2018 as in 2010.

In total, US$326 million was available for the Caribbean’s HIV programs in 2018, considerably less than the US$600 million needed to achieve its Fast-Track Targets by 2020.

Figures released show that an estimate 416,000 people acquired HIV in the Caribbean last year, 16 percent fewer than in 2010.

Belize is the only Caribbean country to have recorded an increase in HIV incidence between 2010 and 2018.

All other countries reported declining incidence, with the decline in the Bahamas and Cuba exceeding 20 percent. There has been a 38 percent decreased in the annual number of Aids-related deaths since 2010 with 6700 deaths in 2018, according to the report.

Guyana

The Guyana government says the country stands to benefit from its production sharing agreement signed with the US-based oil company, ExxonMobil.

According to the agreement, the average range for countries is between 45 and 70 percent, and in the case of Guyana and ExxonMobil, the government has a take of 59 percent.

Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman has dismissed suggestions that the country would not benefit as much as it should as a result of the agreement, insisting that this is not the case.

He said it the maximum is 70 percent and the minimum is 45 percent and Guyana finds itself taking in 59 percent, he asked, “how is it that I could be accused or the government accused of giving away the wealth for less”.

Quoting various international reports on the deal, Trotman reiterated that Guyana will benefit regardless, even at a low price of oil Guy $10,000 per barrel, Guyana will still earn approximately US$51 billion.

Trotman explained further that this was projected by an independent energy research company, RYSTAD Energy, in 2018, not taking into account future discoveries by ExxonMobil.

Guyana is due to begin commercial exploration of its oil next year.

Grenada

Grenada Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has denied media reports that his ruling New National Party (NNP) received campaign financing from Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture (GSA), a failed Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program.

The Qatar-based Arabic news and current affairs satellite TV channel, Al Jazeera, in a one hour program recently, alleged that Caribbean countries with CBI programs were also selling diplomatic passports to person who make significant financial contribution to political parties.

The television station named Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada among the countries that had benefited from the sale of foreign diplomatic passports.

Under the CBI, Caribbean countries provide citizenship to foreign investors who make a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of these islands.

In the television program, a man identified as Leo Ford is seen and heard saying that the prime minister requested funds for the 2018 general election.

But Mitchell told reporters that the Al Jazeera program “is totally false.”

He said the NNP did not receive a single cent from these people.

Last year, the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Committee announced it had “suspended the acceptance of applications in respect of the approved project, Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture, until further notice.

St. Vincent

A high court judge in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has jailed two men to 10 years after they were found guilty of using a cutlass to chop a United States couple aboard their yacht near the southern Grenadines island of Union, more than six years ago.

Justice Brian Cottle sentenced Enard Douglas,21 and Jerome Jordan, 23, on the charged of aggravated burglary to five years for grievous bodily harm and five years for unlawful wounding. The sentences are to run concurrently.

The court heard that Christina Curtin received a massive gash to her left cheek when she and her boyfriend Mark Beiser were attacked and chopped about their heads and hands with cutlasses aboard their yacht Rainbow on the evening of Oct. 3, 2013.

A nine-member jury found them guilty of the charges and as the judge sentenced them to jail, Justice Cottle said the view was expressed that the crime had affected not only the two victims but had serious impact on the economic livelihood of many islanders.

He said that the impact on the tourism industry in the Grenadines was another important factor that took the case out of the class of regular aggravated burglary.

Douglas was 16 while Jordan was 17 at the time of the crime.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia government has signed a contract with the Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) for data collection of the island’s entire landmass and coastal zone.

The agreement was signed under the Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP) as one of the highlights of the one-week World Vabk’s project supervision mission last month.

LIDAR is a remote sensing technology that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure variable distances to the earth.

A government statement said LIDAR data can be used to create high-resolution 3D models and maps of landscapes and environments and is being used in many countries to inform policy makers on how best to utilize scare resources and better plan to protect citizens from the impacts of weather-related disasters.

It said LIDAR contract had been signed with the US-based design, geospatial and infrastructure management firm, Woolpert-GDS Joint Venture and will be managed by the Department of Physical Planning on the island.

St. Kitts

A move by the St. Kitts-Nevis government to limit the terms of a prime minister has been defeated after opposition legislators stayed away when the vote was called in Parliament recently.

Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris had piloted the Constitution of St. Christopher and Nevis (Tenure of Office of Prime Minister (Amendment Bill, 2019) and it needed the support of the opposition to get the required special majority needed to amend the constitution.

But when the vote was taken, only seven government MPs were present to vote and Speaker Michael Perkins said the bill had failed to meet the constitutional requirement.

He said it would have required eight elected members to have supported the bill but because seven would have voted it needs at least one part of a member to make it two-thirds, so it would have required at least one elected member of the opposition to have supported the bill for it to pass.

But the main opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labor Party had criticized the legislation, saying it would not provide the necessary support for the special majority needed, noting also that given the balance of power in the current Parliament, the bill has no prospect of being passed without support from the opposition.

Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago government is replacing the TT$100 currency to a new TT$100 bill which National Security Minister, Stuart Young said will help fight money laundering and other illicit activities.

Speaking at a news conference held at the Diplomatic Center in Port of Spain last Friday, Young said certain information had been provided to his ministry, regarding certain criminal and corrupt activities which if allowed to continue would undermine the rule of law, good governance and national security.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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