Caribbean RoundUp

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
Photo courtsey of CARICOM Secretariat

Caribbean

CARICOM says it disagrees with statements that the 15-member regional grouping “has been slow” to deal with the unfolding situation in the Dominican Republic where people of Haitian descent are being deported from the Spanish-speaking country.

CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque told reporters in Barbados ahead of the July 2-4 summit of regional leaders “I disagree. I fundamentally disagree”.

He said the issue will be among agenda items to be discussed by CARICOM leaders regarding the Dominican Republic matter.

The Dominican Republic gave a deadline of June 17, 2015, for people of Haitian descent to apply for legal residency.

Hundreds of people, mostly, low-wage workers from neighboring Haiti, waited in line for hours to submit residency applications under a registration initiative that began in June last year.

The Dominican Republic has said that migrants who can prove they entered the country before October 2011 can qualify for legal residency.

Antigua

Residents within the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) sub-grouping will no longer have to travel abroad for treatment of cancer and other chronic non-communicable diseases.

This as the grouping recently opened its Organization of Eastern Caribbean (OECS) Cancer Center in St. John’s Antigua.

The Center, which is the brainchild of former prime minister now opposition leader Baldwin Spencer took three years from ground-breaking in April 2012 to formal opening in June 2015 and is partnered after a similar center in The Bahamas.

Although based in Antigua and Barbuda, the center will be jointly owned by all OECS member states.

Spencer said that the opening of the Caner Center will improve the provision of accessible cancer treatment services throughout the sub-region, since the center will provide high quality medical radiation and surgical oncology services which will be markedly discounted for government supported patients.

Cancer services at government hospitals throughout the sub region is expected to be boosted through regular oncology clinics, developing cost effective and safe chemo therapy services providing oversight and expertize in the various islands and by providing major cost savings to partner governments.

Former Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman and prime minister of The Bahamas, Perry Christie, highlighted the fact that every year more than 1,000 persons are diagnosed with cancer within the OECS.

He also noted the opportunity for medical tourism even as he underscored the importance of healthier lifestyles by regional citizens.

Bahamas

After months of uncertainty, Bahamas mega resort Baha Mar announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. district court of Delaware and warned it would have to cut jobs if it does not resolve the matter “in the next few weeks.”

“The board of directors has determined that due to the financial consequences of the repeated delay by the general contractor, and the resulting loss of revenue, the Chapter 11 process is the best path to provide the time to put in place a viable capital structure and working relationships to complete construction and successfully open Baha Mar,” the resort said in a statement.

Baha Mar Ltd. will file an application in the Supreme Court of The Bahamas seeking approval of the U.S. court orders, the statement added.

The $3.5 billion resort has been delayed three times and Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian has charged that its contractor, China State Construction American Bahamas Ltd, is to blame.

The Export Bank of China is financing the resort. There are about 2,000 employees at Baha Mar.

Barbados

The Barbados government has imposed a l0 percent tax on carbonated soft drinks, and fruit juices, with sweeteners with the aim to decrease consumption.

This is intended to help reduce the high incidence of non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes, and contribute to the overall good health of Barbadians.

This message from the Ministry of Health is in response to suggestions in the Daily Nation newspaper recently that the tax was less about health and more about generating revenue.

The tax is in fact, all about health, the Ministry said.

“Taxation is a proven method used in public health to influence positive behavior. This was clearly demonstrated in the reduced demand from and consumption of tobacco products after these products were taxed,” the statement added.

It further disclosed there is evidence emerging which suggests taxing food high in salt and sugar “had good public health benefits.”

The “Health of the Nation Study” conducted in Barbados in 2012 revealed two in every three Barbadian adults were overweight or obese. One in three adults was hypertensive, and one in five, diabetic.

Grenada

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Grenada will receive US$2.8 million after the island successfully completed the second review of its economic performance under a three-year program supported by the Extended Fund Facility (ECF).

The IMF said that the disbursement brings to US$8.5 million the amount of funds made available to Grenada since the US$21.7 million EFC arrangements was approved in June 2014.

“The Grenadian authorities have achieved important results in the context of their Fund-supported economic program. Fiscal targets have been exceeded, important reforms of the fiscal policy framework have been put in place and significant progress has been made in restructuring public debt,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Min Zhu said.

He said stronger economic activity has supported program implementation, although unemployment remains elevated.

Zhu said Grenada is well advanced in its ambitions fiscal adjustment and in restoring debt sustainability.

He said good progress has been achieved in advancing the regional the banking system, coordinated by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.

Guyana

Former Guyana President Bharath Jagdeo has been named as Opposition Leader by the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic, even though it is still to determine whether or not he will take up the position in the National Assembly.

PPP/C General Secretary Clement Rohee told a news conference recently that the PP’s list of legislators has already identified and the party’s list of regional representative has been forwarded to the Guyana Elections Commission.

Rohee confirmed that a report in a daily newspaper in Guyana identifying Jagdeo as Opposition Leader was true and that it was now left to the former head of state to accept the position.

The report noted that Jagdeo, who served as president from l999-2011, was seen as the most suitable candidate from a list that also included former president Donald Ramoutar.

The PPP/C controls 32 of the 65 seats in the National Assembly, but the party has claimed that the May 16 poll was rigged and has since filed a petition to declare the results null and void.

Jamaica

Damion Bryan Barrett, the first Jamaican to be extradited to the United States to face lottery fraud charges, has been sentenced to almost four years in a U.S. federal prison.

Barrett, 29, who pleaded guilty earlier this year of being part of a wire fraud conspiracy, was sentenced recently when he appeared in a south Florida court.

District Judge Williams Zloch sentenced Barrett to 46 months in prison and ordered to pay US$94,456 in restitution.

If he receives a job in prison that pays wages, he would have to turn over half of it toward the judgment.

He was also sentenced to five years unsupervised probation after his release and ordered to pay 10 percent of his monthly earnings toward the judgment.

Barrett was part of a conspiracy that tricked senior citizens into believing that they had won millions of dollars and as a result, needed to pay advance fees to claim their winnings.

The sweepstakes scam that operated between late 2008 and 2012, used middlemen in South Florida to collect cash from victim all over the U.S.

The middlemen took a percentage and sent the rest to Barrett in Jamaica.

According to prosecutors, this case could pave the way to holing foreigners accountable for preying on Americans.

Suriname

President Desi Bouterse has fired Paul Somohardjo as the acting Speaker in a move he said was aimed at avoiding a possible legislative and constitutional crisis in Suriname.

Somohardjo, the oldest elected legislator, was sworn in recently by Bouterse in order to convene the first session of the new Parliament following general elections last month.

But Bouterse told reporters he had no other choice than to relieve Somohardajo of his duties after the legislator sent a letter to him indicating he wasn’t able to convene the meeting.

“I had no other choice than to dismiss Mr. Somohardajo since his actions would have created a constitutional incident if by June 30 the new parliament hasn’t been sworn it,” he said.

Somohardjo, during a meeting with Bouterse, had said he needed more time to prepare the inaugural session of the legislative, but the head of state argued that it would have been against the constitution since the term of the current parliament ended on June 30, exactly five years after it was inaugurated.

The acting Speaker said that taking into account the results of the May 25 general elections were only confirmed on June 15, that newly-elected members of Parliament should be sworn in no later than 30 days, making July 15, the appropriate day to begin the new parliament.

In the general elections Bouterse’s National Democratic Party secured 26 seats in the 51-seat parliament.

However, legal experts are questioning whether or not Bouterse has constitutional powers to fire the acting Speaker.

Trinidad

A new air transport agreement signed between Trinidad and Tobago and Canada is expected to further boost trade and tourism between the two countries.

Speaking at the signing ceremony held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Port of Spain, Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran described the agreement as an important milestone.

“Trinidad and Tobago will benefit by being able to do more flexible routing to Canada via other countries, also with respect to coming from other countries to Trinidad,” he explained.

Noting that Trinidad and Tobago’s last air services agreement with Canada was signed in l971, High Commissioner of Canada to Trinidad and Tobago Gerard Latulippe said, once ratified, the new agreement will replace the former agreement.

“The agreement creates a modern framework for air services between Canada and Trinidad and Tobago and Canada by removing all restrictions on the number of flights and airlines designated to operate those flights. It also allows air carrier to freely set the prices according to market conditions. The agreement also includes strong safety and security articles,” he said.

The signing of the agreement came six years of negotiations between T&T and Canada.1

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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