Caribbean RoundUp

Bahamas

The Bahamas government has welcomed the latest ratings from the US-based Moody’s which reclassified the country’s outlook from “negative” to “stable.”

In its February report, Moody announced the Bahamas’ sovereign rating outlook to stable from negative and affirmed the debt grade at ‘Baa3’, citing as main trigger behind the revision important progress in strengthening its fiscal policy through the introduction of fiscal rules and more frequent and in-depth reporting of the fiscal accounts.

Standard and Poor’s credit rating for Bahamas stand at BB+ with stable outlook.

Minister of Finance, Peter Turnquest said that the evaluation represents an “independent and impartial assessment of the country’s progress on what had been a dire and untenable fiscal situation.”

He said the recent results are encouraging as they underscore that the strategies employed by the government to stabilize the fiscal situation and strengthen the economic fundamentals are bearing out.

Barbados

Barbados is embarking on a fish silage project after the authorities say between 30 and 70 percent of every fish caught by local fishermen is discarded.

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey said, “we are not catching enough fish and a lot of what we do catch is wasted. They say up to 30 to 70 percent of every fish is wasted in Barbados and that is indeed too high.”

He said this project is so vitally important because it gives us the opportunity to reduce the wastage of the fish by finding ways to use more fish, but more importantly by utilizing that for something else.

Humphrey said the project is an initiative between the government of Argentina, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and involved the Ministries of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy.

The minister said the primary object of the project was to make use of discarded fish and reduce the large percentage of fish thrown back onto the near shores, which pollutes the waters and creates an environmental hazard.

Caribbean

Caribbean countries have been warned that the rainfall over the next three months may be “drier than usual” in some islands, resulting in a progressive increase in wildfires.

The Barbados–based Caribbean Climate Forum (CariCof) in its latest Caribbean Climate Outlook, which was recently released said with weak El Nino conditions forecast to persist, chances of drought and recurrent dry spells in the second half of the dry season are increased and heatwaves will start occurring locally into May.

It said the frequency of wet days and wet spells should be low during March and April, but the chance of extreme wet spells tends to re-emerge in April or May, with some concern for flash flooding and flooding potential arising then.

CariCof warned of the potential for slightly faster than the usual depletion of large water reservoirs and soil moisture in the Greater Antilles and the Leeward Islands.

It said that there would be rising flood potential towards May, especially in coastal Guyana.

Guyana

The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) says it has collected Guy$199 billion in revenue last year as compared to Guy$171 billion in 1917.

Commissioner-General, Godfrey Statia said the GRA is not in the business of driving people out of business, “we try to work along with taxpayers for them to pay their taxes.”

He said taking away assets from the taxpayers is the last resort, after indicating that the authority had anticipated it would have collected Guy$181 billion last year.

Statia said the GRA has been working with delinquent taxpayers to meet their financial obligations to the state, noting that many taxpayers who have challenged the matter in court have lost.

He said that Guy$15 billion in arrears had been collected last year, including Guy$7 billion during the tax amnesty.

Jamaica

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness has warned criminals bent on committing murders and other crimes that they will not escape the long arm of the law.

The warning comes after what he describes as the resurfacing of criminality in St. James since the State of Emergency (SOE), which started in January last year, ended on Jan. 31, this year, following the opposition party’s refusal to support any further extension.

He said the government will act if even if the opposition feels that it is their duty to offer comfort to those who will cause discomfort.

He was speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the state-of-the-art J$1.296 billion Closed Harbor Park development, popularly known as Dump Up Beach, in Montego Bay, St. James recently.

At the same time as the prime minister was speaking, a gunman reportedly invaded a restaurant at the intersection of Top Road in Norwood in the parish, shooting to death a man and woman.

Minister of Security, Dr. Horace Chang, who is also the Member of Parliament for St. James North Western, which includes the community where the double murder took place, condemned the killings after visiting the scene.

Meanwhile, the police is investigating eight murders over a 12-hour period last week after gunmen went on a rampage in Westmoreland, in the Western parish.

Haiti

The African, Caribbean and Pacific( ACP) Group of States has expressed “deep concern” at the ongoing political crisis in Haiti, where opposition forces have been staging street demonstrations in a bid to force President, Jovenel Moise out of office.

ACP Secretary General, Dr. PI Gomes said he condemns the perpetration of the violence and deplores the loss of life in the French-speaking Caricom community.

The Guyanese-born diplomat said he was urging “all parties to refrain from any further action that could exacerbate the situation” and also called on the Haitian authorities to “exercise maximum restraint in responding to any acts of provocation by the protestors.”

Opposition political parties have been staging street demonstrations in support of their calls for Moise to step down, after accusing him of not investigating corruption in the previous government over PetroCaribe, an oil alliance of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase oil on conditions of preferential payment.

St. Kitts

The St. Kitts and Nevis government has said it will consider and consult further on creating a framework for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes after a national commission submitted several recommendations surrounding the use of the drug in the twin-island Federation.

Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris told Parliament recently that the National Marijuana Commission, which had been appointed to consult with the public and enquire into wide-ranging issues surrounding the use of marijuana, had issued 13 recommendations for consideration.

He said the Commission, which began its work on October 2017, presented its report on Jan. 10, this year and “the Cabinet has accepted the recommendations of the commission,” which was chaired by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws.

He said the Commission has recommended that the Drugs Act be amended given that blanket criminalization of cannabis has been overtaken by the passage of time and regional and international developments.

Dr. Harris said the commission felt the regime for the use of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes should be permitted under license and a strict legislated regime.

Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago government is considering an amnesty for Venezuelans fleeing the crisis in their homeland to register legally and possibly work for one year.

This was revealed by National Security Ministry who said the registration process will begin soon to document and register all Venezuelan nationals in T&T, once Cabinet gives the approval.

He said the registration process is simply to get the correct data of the number of Venezuelans who were staying illegally in T&T

Young could not say whether the registration will give access to health and educational opportunities for Venezuelans who are fleeing their homeland in droves because of the socio-economic crisis.

He also said a collaborative crime initiative was in place to pull back on illegal entry by immigrants, which will involve more coastal patrols and land surveillance.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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