Caribbean RoundUp

Groundcrew prepare a Liat airlines ATR 42-600 plane on the tarmac at Barbados’ Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados, March 18, 2019.
REUTERS / Phil Noble, file

ANTIGUA

Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne has hinted at the possibility of a new company to administer the affairs of the cash-strapped regional airline LIAT even as he confirmed that talks were ongoing with two potential investors for the airline.
LIAT’s former shareholders were the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In July last year the Antigua and Barbuda government secured an order from the High Court in Antigua for administration for LIAT, naming Cleveland Seaforth as the administrator for the company.
Earlier this year, Seaforth, in a letter to regional leaders, said that EC$79 million in severance is owed to the 154 workers already dismissed by the airline.
Seaforth said that apart from any possible severance, which may come from the LIAT estate, the Antigua and Barbuda government had indicated it is prepared to offer the staff up to a maximum of 50 percent of their severance either by cash, land or government bonds or a combination of the three.
Browne speaking on his radio program recently, said that the offer to LIAT workers in Antigua is still on the table even as it awaits an official response from the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU).
He said he is hopeful that the two viable investors who the administrator is having discussions with “will come in and bring some capital to the table.”
In May, the ABWU said the union is still awaiting a response from a May 19 letter sent to the court-appointed administrator on the payment to the former workers.
BARBADOS
Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley announced that her administration has put in place plans for the country to start reopening from June 30.
Speaking at a COVID-19 press conference recently, Mottley said the curfew will be removed completely as of June 30.
She however stated the country is not yet ready for mass events and based on this, the Crop Over Festival will not be held.
She said other regulated events will be permitted and the government will allow promoters to have parties that are limited to 50 people in one location.
Concerning the tourism industry, Mottley said Barbados will create a bubble for fully vaccinated passengers from low-risk Caribbean countries and those with a negative PCR test can immediately enter from June 30.
As it relates to pleasure craft vessels, Mottley there are still some protocols which have to be determined.
She added that her administration has also set a tentative date of July 16 for the resumption of spectators at open events.
CARIBBEAN
The economies of member states of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) suffered a significant set back last year mainly due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, according to the St. Kitts-based Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.
In the latest publication of its. 2020 Annual Economic and Financial Review, the ECCU countries, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat and Anguilla recorded economic contraction of 14 percent.
ECCB acting deputy director and economist at the Research Department, Beverley Labadie, said the tourism industry, which is a major money earner  for the countries, registered a decline of 65.4 percent.
She said that with many individuals losing part or all of their livelihoods during the period, governments have had to provide financial assistance and that resulted in increased expenditure.
The economist said that over the past two decades, before 2020, the last time the region registered a sharp downturn spike was in 2009, when economic activity fell by about 6 percent.
DOMINICA
Indian-born Antigua and Barbuda citizen, Mehul Choksi was denied bail for a second time when he appeared in a Roseau court recently on a charge of illegal entering the island last May.
Chief Magistrate Candia Carette-George remanded him in custody after he pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The 62-year-old Choksi, who was granted Antigua and Barbuda citizenship in 2017 under the island’s Citizenship Program, claimed he was kidnapped in Antigua and brought to Dominica on May 23, is wanted by Indian authorities for criminal charges, including corruption and money laundering.
Indian police want him extradited to face the charges which he has denied.
It is alleged that Choksi, a diamond mogul, who was last seen leaving his home in Antigua in a car, had planned his own “kidnapping” in a bid to avoid extradition to India. He will return to court next week when another application will be made again for bail by his attorneys.
GUYANA
The Guyana government recently announced that it will honor prominent historian, political activist and academic, Dr. Walter Rodney, nearly 41 years after he was assassinated in the South American country.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, in a statement to the National Assembly, said efforts will be taken to change key details on Rodney’s death certificate and make his grave site a national monument.
Nandlall said the actions follow a request by Rodney’s family, his wife and children and brother, to bring a level of closure.
He said although “this son of Guyana” was known and respected throughout the world for his academic accomplishments, scholarship and activism, his death certificate described him as “unemployed”.
The 38-year-old Rodney was killed on June 13, 1980, by a bomb that had been placed in his car. His brother, Donald Rodney, who was injured in the explosion, said that a sergeant in the Guyana Defense Force, named Gregory Smith had given Walter the bomb that killed him.
After the killing, Smith fled to French Guiana where he died in 2002.
In April this year, the Court of Appeal set aside the conviction that linked Donald Rodney, 69, to the assassination of his brother.
The Court of Appeal also set aside the 18-month conviction for possession of explosives against Rodney.
Nandlall told the National Assembly one of the greatest tragedies from Rodney’s death is the loss of his scholarship to the people of Guyana.
TRINIDAD
Majority-owned Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean Airlines Ltd. (CAL) intends to cut 450 jobs, about 25 percent of its staff, reduce its fleet and its routes, the airline announced last week.
With the pandemic entering its 17th month, this is the second adjustment the airline has had to make as its earnings have been steadily eroded.
For the first quarter of 2021, CAL recorded a loss of US $24.7 million. The loss represents a 75 percent decline in revenue to the same period in 2020.
In 2020, the airline posted an operating loss of US $109. 2 million when compared to operating profits for 2018 and 2019.
The airline has seen passenger numbers plummeted and flight numbers reduced to less than 10 percent of normal operations, CAL said in a statement.
Despite this, the airline continued to offer services on many of its routes and provided invaluable repatriation for Caribbean citizens given the financial impact of COVID-19, it said.
The airline said it “has determined that 25 percent of its workforce or about 450 positions throughout its network is surplus to its current needs.”
— Compiled by Azad Ali

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