Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

The Antigua and Barbuda government says it will settle the country’s longstanding debt to the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

The debt, which dates back to the late 1990s, provided loans to the country for the construction and renovation of the parallel taxiway at the airport, the repairs of All Saints Road, and the construction of American Road to Airport Road.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne and the first Deputy Prime Minister, Charles “Max” Fernandez signed off the new financial arrangement recently, with the chairman of the Fund’s board, Sheik Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabha.

In a response to the development, Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell said his administration had failed to resolve the debt during its time in office.

He explained that the government had been unable to come to agreeable terms with the Western Asian Fund.

“It’s a debt that we met and during our 10 years it’s the only one, with the exception of the one with Trinidad and Tobago that we had not resolved from the administration before our time,” he said.

The former finance minister further noted that his administration had devised a debt management plan to service Antigua and Barbuda’s mounting debt burden.

Bahamas

The U.S. Department of State has warned citizens traveling to The Bahamas because of a rise in armed robberies in New Providence.

A recent travel advisory posted on the Department of States’ Overseas Security Advisory (OSCA) website warns visitors of an increase in robberies in tourist areas.

“An apparent two-year rise in armed robberies in The Bahamas has spurred numerous warnings by foreign governments to their citizens visiting the country,” the report said.

“Given the large volume of U.S. tourists that visit The Bahamas and recent criminal incidents in popular tourist destinations, American visitors to tourism hubs in Nassau should be cognizant of heightened criminal risks,” the report said.

On each country’s website, travelers are warned that crime in The Bahamas is on the rise.

Barbados

A lawyer has taken the Council of Legal Education, which runs the Norman Manley School to court challenging its refusal to admit him to pursue the six-month course to qualify to practice law in Jamaica.

Owen Roach is contending that the law degree he obtained in 2001 from Middlesex University is of equivalent rating to the LLB offered at the University of the West Indies.

Lawyers from overseas are required to do a six-month program before they can be allowed to practice law in Jamaica. Roach is seeking leave from the Supreme Court to go for Judicial Review to quash the council’s decision not to admit him to the Norman Manley for the September 2015 academic year.

The application is set for hearing on Oct. 13. He is also seeking an expedited hearing for judicial review.

Roach, who is a barrister-at-law residing in London, obtained a joint major Bachelor’s degree in law and politics at the Middlesex University in the United Kingdom.

He is a citizen of Montserrat and therefore a citizen of CARICOM and is expected to apply to the Law School in Jamaica, he said in his court document.

Cayman Islands

A Cayman Islands pastor is calling on churches in the Cayman to stand firm against gay marriage, noting that the only morally acceptable sex is that between a man and woman who are married and everything else was a sin.

Pastor Alson Ebanks from the Church of God in a statement submitted to the media that the objection by Christians to gay sex is not hate speech and has compared the expression of those objections to homosexuality to a parent chastising a child for being badly behaved.

Defending the church’s opposition to same sex unions, the pastor wrote that the church rejected the practice of classifying as ‘hate speech’ any objection to a particular behavior lifestyle, in particular when the opposition is to be the behavior and not an attack on the personhood of the practitioners.

In the statement, which was endorsed by all of the pastors of the various Church of God congregations in the Cayman Islands, the influential pastor, who is one of several local church leaders who have been particularly vocal over their objection to same-sex unions and gay marriages, but almost silent on most other sex-related transgressions, said no human is free from “sexual challengers” and that “all sexual behavior has moral implications.”

As the local Human Rights Commission awaits a response from government about how it plans to address the question of civil unions for gay couples in Cayman, it appears likely that sooner or later same-sex unions will be legal in the Cayman Islands, regardless of the position taken by religious institutions.

Cuba

The communist-island of Cuba is expecting some three million tourists this year.

This was revealed by Cuban tourism official Pablo Vazquez who said in Panama that given the tourist boom witnessed by the island, marked by a 17 percent growth.

Vaquez who is the representative for Venezuela and Central America made his statement during the opening of Panama’s Tourist Fair and he added that over 10,000 Panamanians have traveled to Cuba this year.

Cuban authorities are currently building new tourist facilities, marinas and other resorts on the cays to the northern of central Villa Clara province and in eastern Holguin province, said Vaquez.

The construction program is joined by more than 11,000 private homes offering accommodations in coordination with the Ministry of Tourism, plus another 53 business projects included in the island’s tourist investment portfolio.

The Panamanian Tourist Fair, which was attended by tour operators, travel agents, journalists, was the appropriate venue for Cuba to promote what is known as Tourism of Events, included on the island’s promotional strategy.

Jamaica

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe paid a short visit to Jamaica last week.

During his visit Cameron addressed parliamentarians. Abe is expected also made a brief visit en route to the 70th anniversary celebrations of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Japanese prime minister used his visit to lobby Jamaica to influence member states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in support of efforts to reform the UN Security Council.

Jamaica’s Ambassador to the UN Courtenay Rattray is the incumbent chairman of the UN inter-governmental Negotiations on Security Council reform.

In addition to the visit of both prime ministers, Princess Anne of Edinburgh is also scheduled to visit this week (October) for a working visit.

Her visit coincides with her attendance at the Caribbean-Canada Emergency Leaders’ Dialogue.

Guyana

Guyana and Venezuela have agreed to restore their respective ambassadors despite a continuing border dispute.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his Guyanese counterpart, David Granger, met recently in New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly.

In July, Venezuela recalled its ambassador and last month stalled its acceptance of Guyana’s nominee for ambassador to Caracas.

President Maduro said that Venezuela would restore its ambassador to Georgetown “immediately” and accept Guyana’s nominee.

He described his meeting with President Granger as “complex, tense, difficult,” but insisted Venezuela was “not an imperialist country” and that he wanted to restore “brotherly relations” with its eastern neighbor.

Granger had accused Venezuela of conducting an “extraordinary escalation of Venezuelan military activity” near the disputed border.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony said he is not afraid of reports circulating that a few police officer are plotting to overthrow him.

He told the St. Lucia Times that a very small group of police officers were behind the plot. The police force itself is not involved in this plot, he said.

Dr. Anthony disclosed that a senior officer at the center of the allegations is reported to have openly boasted of his intentions to his colleagues and civilians alike, to bring down the Kenny Anthony administration and the Labor government.

According to the prime minister, the officer is alleged to have said this with impunity.

While making it clear that government ministers and officials are not above the law and enjoy no immunity from the legal process, Anthony noted that likewise the police enjoy no special immunity from prosecutions when they commit infractions of the law.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago’s economy has declined by two percent in the first six months of this year, according to the Central Bank.

In its September Monetary Policy announcement released last week, the bank said economic contraction of the T&T economy is now estimated at two percent in the first half of 2015.

“Trinidad and Tobago’s domestic economic outlook has deteriorated. Provisional estimates indicate the domestic economy contracted by close to two percent in the first half of 2015. Continued shortfalls in natural gas production saw the energy sector decline by an estimated 3.5 percent in the first six months of 2015.

“The non-energy sector, which has provided support to the overall economy for the past few years, lost momentum, declined by around one percent in the first half of 2015. This decline was mainly due to a slowdown in construction, distribution and manufacturing. Early indicators point to continued sluggish economic performance in the third quarter in 2015”.

President of the Manufacturers Association Dr Rolph Balgobin said the economy is “either in recession or in the cusp of one,” according to the president of the T&T manufacturers Association.

Other economists are saying that T&T’s economy contracted by two percent during the first six months of 2015, was not surprising.

They say this had to do with the fact that revenues are very weak while expenditure remains particularly high, citing the various wage increases received by public servants before the Sept. 7 general election.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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