Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin La Rocque has called for a “strong collaboration action” to urgently address the criteria for access to concessional financing.

He said that is vital if Small Island Developing and Low-Lying Coastal States (SIDS), including CARICOM countries, are to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Addressing the Eight General Meeting between CARICOM and its associated institutions and the United Nations (UN) System at the Secretariat in Guyana recently, Ambassador La Rocque drew attention to the challenge member states faced in accessing concessional development financing because if their designation as middle-income countries, based on a narrow and unique criterion of per capita income.

He said regional countries were being denied access to financing that would help them address formidable development challenges, such as their small size, inherent vulnerabilities, susceptibility to exogenous shocks and a lack of resilience.

Yet, Ambassador LaRocque said, a significant portion of the high level of indebtedness of CARICOM nations was due to those shocks and the reconstruction requirements after natural disasters.

Touching on a number of other developmental issues, including adaptation to and mitigation of the effects of climate change and transnational organized crime, the secretary general reiterated the need for effective partnerships for successful outcomes.

Antigua

Antigua & Barbuda Commissioner of Police Wendell Robinson said two people have been charged in connection with an alleged human smuggling ring, which is under investigation.

Speaking at a press conference recently, Robinson said, “They were charged under the Immigration and Passport Act. There were two persons charged and we are looking at a third person, and there are a number of other investigations to do and persons to be interviewed”.

The police commissioner did not reveal the names of the accused persons or the suspects.

Acting Chief Immigration Officer Annette Mark said the two are charged with aiding and abetting, but declined to say whether they were the sponsors of the 14 Syrians currently in custody.

The immigrants, who are all males, were picked up between July 22 and 23 after U.S. officials warned the government of two human smuggling and human trafficking rings involving Syrians and Cubans.

Bahamas

Bahamas’ Harbor Island has won top honors in the prestigious Travel + Leisure’s World Best Awards 2015.

It was voted “Best Island in the Caribbean” by the publication’s most discerning travelers, who rated their experiences in the annual World’s Best Awards 2015 readers’ survey. This is the second time that Harbor Island has received this award.

“We are thrilled to receive this impressive award, a fitting tribute to this lovely island that was once the capital of Bahamas,” said Joy Ann Jibrilu, Director General of Tourism for the Bahamas.

Director of Sustainable Tourism for The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism Jacqueline Ramsey added that the honor represented a big win for residents of the island, which is just 3.5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide.

Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda, both in the British Virgin Islands St John in the US Virgin Islands; and Anguilla rounded off the top five islands in the Caribbean.

For the last 20 years, the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Award has been the travel industry’s leading barometer of the places and companies that are satisfying the most passionate and sophisticated travelers in the US.

Barbados

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is predicting a one percent growth for Barbados but accountants want action on the “daunting challenges” facing the country.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados (ICAB) said it majority concerns were with the country’s external risks, high fiscal deficit and debt levels and competitiveness challenges.

ICAB president Lisa Padmore in evaluating the recent report released by the IMF Article IV Consultation on Barbados noted that Government debt was 101 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at March 2015, excluding securities held by the National Insurance Scheme which, if included, becomes 136 percent of GDP.

This represents a sharp rise from the March 2011 level of 76 percent of GDP

Guyana

The Ministry of Finance and Energy is reminding all concerned that, as part of the reforms under the homegrown program, the concessions to returning nationals were adjusted as of May 9, 2014.

In this regard, returning nationals are now eligible for 50 percent concession on a vehicle.

The vehicle may be purchased locally, if so desired. The exemption will be valid for three years. If the vehicle is sold within three years of the concession being granted, the returning national is liable to repay the taxes forgone. With respect to the environmental levy — vehicles one to five years will attract a two percent cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value and vehicles over five years will attract 30 percent CIF value.

Jamaica

Financial institutions in Jamaica will for the for the first time, from August, have to report specified financial account information on American citizens who have accounts in that Caribbean island to U.S. authorities.

This follows the passage of amendments to the Revenue Administration Act last month, which gives legislative effect to an agreement by the U.S. and Jamaican authorities in May 2014 as part of the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FACTA).

Piloting the amendment bill, which received support from both sides, Minister of Finance and Planning Dr. Peter Phillips told Parliament it would facilitate the introduction of an international tax complaint regime and give effect to greater transparency of information for tax purposes, adding that it contemplates the advent of new international standards and instruments.

“The Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) of the United States represents one such instrument and the agreement to give effect to this, which was signed by the government of Jamaica and the United States, has to be incorporated into our domestic legislation,” he explained.

Under the amendments, effective Aug. 17, 2015, financial institutions in Jamaica will be required to make the relevant financial reports to Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) on financial accounts held by U.S. taxpayers, including entities in which the U.S. taxpayer holds a significant ownership interest.

However, for all subsequent years, the reporting date will be May 31 of each year.

The JAJ will also have to submit the relevant information received from local financial institutions to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the U.S.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia government is moving to make incentives available to offshore education institutions.

The Offshore Higher Education Licensing and Incentive Bill, passed recently in the island’s Parliament to provide a broad framework for licensing of those institutions, will make granting the incentives possible.

Minister of Education, Human Resource Development and Labor, Dr. Robert Lewis said, “the bill is the first to provide legislative incentives for higher education institutions in St. Lucia. Many higher education institutions have sought incentives but they could not be given incentives because there was no legislative authority to do so.”

An eight-member board comprising two representatives from the Ministry of Education, a representative from the Ministry of Finance, two from the Ministry of Health and Dental Association and one attorney-at-law will be established to review the licensing incentives applications.

Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony noted that the bill also provides incentives to those who want to invest in dormitory construction.

Meantime, the government has encouraged offshore educational institutions to accredit their programs. While licensing is compulsory, accreditation is not.

Trinidad

A total of 11 persons have been charged with the murder of former Independent Senator and State Prosecutor Dana Seethalal, SC, who was shot to death in May last year while she was on her way home from a casino in Port of Spain.

The men Rajee Ali, 29, Devaughn Cummings, 29, Ishmaed Ali, 30, Richardo Stewart, 30, Earl Richards, 48, Stephen Cummings, 33, Gareth Wiseman, 33, Hamid Ali, 34, Kevin Parkinson, Leston Gonzales, and Roget Boucher, 29, all members of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, a black Muslim organization appeared in the Port of Spain Magistrate’s Court and their cases were adjourned to Aug. 28, 2015.

The area around the court was cordoned off from the public as the prisoners were brought under heavy security for their cases.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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