Caribbean Roundup

Bahamas

Bahamians will have to dig deeper into their pockets as the government is increasing the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 7.5 percent to 12 percent. The increase comes three and a half years after VAT was introduced.

Finance Minister Peter Turnquest said the measure which is projected to bring in another US$1.1 billion in revenue in the next fiscal year, is aimed at trying to close the fiscal gap and avoid a crisis. He said the government fully appreciates the sacrifice that the substantial increases in the VAT rate and other taxes will represent for the citizens.

Speaking in the House of Assembly, Turnquest also announced VAT-free breadbasket items.

Starting Aug. 1, 2018, the Minister said VAT on all breadbasket items will be eliminated with the exception of sugar, as sugar will for—health reasons — be removed from the list of items.

Some items, he said will include butter, cooking oil, mayonnaise, grits, cheese, corned beef, evaporated milk, rice, flour, tomato paste, baby cereal, soups, broth, powdered detergents and mustard, among other things. But Turnquest has indicated that the government “remains open to all viable” alternatives to a 12 percent VAT.

Barbados

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said her new government would seek a one percent interest payment on any loan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as it seeks to turn around the ailing economy. Mottley recently returned from the United States where she held talks with the Washington-based financial institution.

The prime minister is hoping to reach an agreement with the IMF as soon as possible, indicating that she is hopeful it would be done within a nine-month period.

She said the island’s arrears are closer to Bds$1.9 billion, as her administration, which came into power on May 24 after the general elections, had been discovering new debts.

Mottley also announced that the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Luis Alberto Moreno will soon be visiting Barbados for talks with the government.

She said the IDB official praised Barbados for the recent steps taken to turn around the economy.

Guyana

RORAIMA Airways is partnering with aerospace and defense organization PAL Aerospace to help build a made-in Guyana aerospace and defense sector.

The announcement was made by director of RORAIMA Airways, Gerald Gouveia, who said the partnership came about following a visit to Newfoundland, Canada, last November by a private sector team. He said RORAIMA is seeking to learn best practices so it can capitalize on the opportunities in the oil and gas industry.

He said the company which has experience working in gas and oil for the past 30 years will provide services to the regulators of the oil and gas sector.

Director of Research and Development at PAL Aerospace, Stephen Green, noted that the company is one of Canada’s largest aerospace and defense firms.

PAL is a fully integrated company that provides maritime patrol aircraft and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services.

Green said a number of local companies have been partnering with international companies to capitalize on opportunities in Guyana’s rapidly growing oil and gas industry.

Jamaica

Jamaica police have charged the 16-year-old son of popular entertainer, Mavado with murder and other criminal charges.

Police said the teenager had been charged in connection with the murder of Lorenzo Thomas, 23, popularly known as “Chulups” and “Israel”, who was shot and killed and his body was set afire by a group of armed men who forced their way into his home recently. The police have also charged him with conspiracy to murder, arson, shooting with intent as well as illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition. He recently appeared in court and his case was put off until next month.

St. Kitts

A fund has been launched to provide financial support and assistance to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to manage outbreaks and emergencies with health and humanitarian consequences across the risk management cycles. The Stop Epidemics There and Here (SETH) Fund was launched at the recent 63rd CARPHA Health Research Conference in St. Kitts. Deputy Prime Minister Shawn Richards said the best insurance is to stop epidemics in the major tourist markets and throughout the world and right here in the Caribbean.

He said in the areas such as disease surveillance, emergency preparedness and response, as well as health promotion and police development.

Richards said CARICOM is progressing one step further with the official launch of the SETH Fund.

He said the fund will support member states to better respond to all major threats to regional health security, many of which are being made worse by climate change.

St. Vincent

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says he has not received any information that state-owned oil and natural gas company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), has suspended fuel shipments to St Vincent and the Grenadines under the PetroCaribe agreement.

He, however, said the country is being affected by the sanctions that the United States has imposed on the Nicolas Maduro administration.

Gonsalves refuted allegations that the Petrocaribe oil shipments have ceased at a recent press conference. He said the Venezuelan charge d’ affairs in Kingstown said he had not received any such information. Gonsalves admitted the U.S. sanctions began affecting the country as early as last year.

A report was recently circulated via social media claiming that PDVSA was suspending oil shipments under the PetroCaribe deal to eight Caricom countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, and St. Kitts and Nevis. The Gaston Browne government in Antigua and Barbuda also dismissed the report as “fake news.”

Trinidad

The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTM) in Trinidad and Tobago has called for a shutdown of the county on September 7 —the the third anniversary of the Dr Keith Rowley’s administration in office.

JTM leader Ancel Roget gave the Government a failing grade when he addressed thousands of workers at the annual Labour Day rally in Fazybad, South Trinidad. Roget called on them to rest and reflect on Sept. 7, 2018 as he gave the government a failing grade on crime, the economy, health, labor, health and education.

Roget gave Dr Rowley an F in all the categories saying that there was a need to send a powerful message to ensure that they do the job they were hired to do.

He said September 7 will be a day to rest and reflect to say to the Prime Minister and his government that, “we are not accepting crime and gruesome murders, we are not accepting the sending home of thousands of workers, we are not accepting your disrespect for labor.”

He called on all workers, business places, civil society groups, religious groups and non-governmental organizations, students and the unemployed to support JTM’s stance, saying that as a progressive labor movement, they saw their responsibility going beyond the boundaries of industrial relations and collective bargaining for its members.

“We maintain that ours is a sacred duty to provide a voice for the voiceless and we stand in defense of those who are the most vulnerable in our society,” Roget said.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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