Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

The Antigua and Barbuda government says it has made an offer to purchase the property once owned by disgraced financier Allen Stanford who is serving 110 years in a United States jail for operating America’s second-largest Ponzi scheme.

A government statement said the Cabinet of Prime Minister Gaston Browne at its meeting recently “decided to make an offer to the receivers of the Stanford Development Company (SDC) for the purchase of the Pavilion Restaurant and the seven acres of adjacent land,” which sits within the precincts of the VC Bird International Airport.

It said the purchase is to ensure that the former Stanford employees, who have been awaiting monies due to them since 2009, will likely be paid shortly after purchase.

The receivers have asserted that the lack of funds have made payments to the former employees impossible.

Late last year, Stanford, the former Houston, Texas billionaire banker, filed a 299-page brief with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, making no fewer than 15 lengthy arguments about why he should be set free.

Stanford, who was once knighted by the Antigua and Barbuda government and operated several businesses on the island, was convicted in 2012 on 13 felony charges.

Barbados

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is projecting regional economies to grow by an average of two percent this year with expansions expected in all 19 borrowing member countries.

As was the case last year, most are set to grow by between one percent and three percent with the strongest performances expected in tourism and construction, along with some improvement in commodity exports.

The bank’s preliminary forecast also reflects an anticipation of moderate improvements in the economies of the region’s major trading partners, officials told a press conference in Barbados recently.

According to the CDB, while its preliminary estimate of regional growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) of 1.3 percent for last year is slightly lower than the revised figure of 1.7 percent for 2013, there is cautious optimism of further strengthening of the regional recovery.

In fact, the CDB says almost all regional destinations for which data were available recorded increased visitor arrivals last year.

Bahamas

The probable cause of the fatal plane crash that killed world renowned pastor, Dr. Myles Munro, 60, his wife and seven others in Freeport, Grand Bahamas, last November was “poor decision making of the crew,” according to a final report by the Bahamas Department of Civil Aviation.

According to the report, “the AAIPU (Department of Civil Aviation Aircraft Accident Investigation and Prevention Unit has determined that the probable cause of the accident was the poor decision of the crew in initiating and continuing a descent in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) below the authorized altitude, without visual contact with the runway environment.”

The AAIPU said the aircraft made an initial instrument landing system (OLS) approach to runway 16 at Grand Bahamas International Airport.

Due to poor visibility and rain at the decision height, a specified altitude in the approach, the crew executed a go around procedure, the report said.

According to the report, a fireball that lasted approximately three seconds was observed as a result of the contact between the aircraft and crane.

This resulted in the aircraft traveling out of control, before crashing inverted into a pile of garbage and other debris in the City Services Garbage and Metal Recycling Plant adjacent to the Grand Bahama Shipyard.

The group was traveling to Freeport for the Global Leadership Forum.

Guyana

The Ministry of Health has intensified efforts to prevent the reintroduction of measles into Guyana following the outbreak of the infectious disease in the United States of America and other parts of the world.

Indigenous Measles and Rubella were eliminated from Guyana and the Region of the Americas in 2002 and 2009 respectively, but remained endemic in some World Health Organization (WHO) regions.

These outbreaks, occurring since 2013, pose a threat to the Caribbean and sub Region including Guyana.

Immunization coverage nationally over the last five years is reported above 97 percent, but varies across the Region and is lower in rural and remote areas if Guyana, with small pockets of vulnerable persons including children and adults existing. The ministry is advising travelers into Guyana with a fever, rash along with a cough or running nose or pink/red eye to please contact a doctor or the nearest health center within your community immediately.

Haiti

The Haitian government is exploring measures to prevent future incidents involving overhead high voltage power lines, the Minister of Communication, Rotchild Francois Jr. said recently.

The development followed a revision of the death toll from the recent electrocution during the Carnival celebration which left 18 dead. Most of the dead, 15 men and three women, died during a stampede after one of the floats carrying the popular band Barikad Crew hit an overhead electric cable causing a sudden large flash that caused a crowd of spectators to panic.

Jamaica

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is urging Jamaica to pass a law to abolish corporal punishment.

The body considers corporal punishment to be violence against children and made the recommendation for a full ban in the final report on Jamaica, following a visit and presentation by a Jamaican delegation to its meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, recently.

The committee was responding to concerns on corporal punishment contained in a report submitted by local human-rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ).

The lobby group said the government has failed to make the necessary legislative changes to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence, which it said was part of the committee’s recommendation in 2003.

The committee, too, also acknowledged progress, but agreed with the JFJ that corporal punishment should be abolished everywhere.

St. Lucia

Venezuela is gearing to receive its first set of medical students from St. Lucia through a new ALBA-funded education program.

In August 2014, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, through the Grand Mariscal of Ayacucho Foundation, introduced the process of promotion and postulation of scholarships to pursue studies in Integral Community Medicine at the University of Health Sciences of ALBA-TCP.

The Ministry of Education in coordination with the Venezuelan Embassy in St. Lucia initiated the process, exceeding the expectations of the estimated number of students who would be interested in pursuing higher education in Venezuela.’ In December 2014, the group of pre-selected students was interviewed at the head office of the Embassy of Venezuela and in January a selection committee was formed to validate the requirements and results of the interviews.

The embassy now awaits notification and publication of the final list of students accepted to pursue Integral Community Medicine in Venezuela.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines authorities are seeking to ensure that the merger between British telecommunications giant, Cable and Wirless Communication (CWC) and Columbus Communication will not seriously affect local customers.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, Commerce and Information Technology Nathaniel Williams said that while Jamaica has given the green light to the planned merger, individual countries in the region continue to assess the implications of the multi-billion deal.

Speaking on the state-owned NBC radio, Williams told listeners that individual governments will agree whether or not it is in the interest of each state for there to be a merger.

“If they do not agree, then the companies may have to operate individually as they are. If the government agrees to the merger however, there may be some issues which the government wants to ensure happen. Of course government has to protect the people’s interest,” he said.

Last year, both companies announced the deal in a joint statement, saying the proposed acquisition, valued at US$3.025 billion will enable the combined company to significantly accelerate its growth strategy, improve service delivery to customers in the region, offer customers a comprehensive portfolio of high-quality products and serves and strengthen their position against larger competitors.

But the deal has come under criticism from Digicel, the other telecommunication provider in the region that is urging regional governments not to approve the deal.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala recently signed a Partial Scope Trade Agreement at the Ministry of External Relations of Guatemala.

T&T and Guatemala began these negotiations on April 11, 2012.

The agreement was signed between T&T Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and Minister of External Relations of Guatemala Carloa Raul Morales.

It seeks to promote the harmonious development of the economic relations between both countries through the expansion of trade in goods and services. It is anticipated that this will contributed to the removal of barriers to trade and enhance the development and expansion of trade.

The creation of new trade and investment opportunities on account of the agreement is expected to result in increased employment and foreign exchange earnings that will contribute to the economic well-being of Trinidad and Tobago, a news release from the T&T Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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