Caribbean RoundUp

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.

Caribbean

The French territories in the in the Caribbean have begun discussions with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on their applications to become associate members of the community.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque met recently with a team from French Guiana led by the President of the Regional Council Rodolphe Alexandre.

This followed a recent meeting with a team from Martinique and will be followed by similar discussions later this month with representatives of Guadeloupe.

The discussions with the team from French Guiana focused on the terms and conditions of associate membership of Caricom, regional co-operation in the Caribbean and the relationship between CARICOM and French Guiana.

La Rocque said that the discussions followed on a mandate from the CARICOM Heads of Government to engage the territories.

Barbados

The Trinidad-based Ansa Merchant Bank (AMB) is providing funds to the Barbados government for a multipurpose sugar factory as Bridgetown signaled its intention of becoming a major supplier of sugar to the Caribbean.

Agriculture Minister Dr. David Estwick said Cabinet had approved the financing for the project at its January 8 meeting.

Media reports indicate that AMB could provide as much as Bds$60 million in financing to increase cane production and to satisfy the start-up operations of the proposed multi-purpose factory in time for the 2017 crop season.’

The state-of-the art sugar factory is part of the US4250 million Cane Industry Restructuring Project, with the first phase focusing on production of high-end direct sugar consumption, sugar for export, bulk sugar for domestic consumption, high-end sugar for the rum industry and 25 megawatts of electricity for the national grid.

Dominica

The Dominican government recently announced a stay on visas for Haitian nationals as it seeks to tighten its immigration policy,

National Security and Immigration Minister Rayburn Blackmore said the move, which came into effect last month, was not a ban and that there were challenges within the immigration system that had to be addressed.

“This is a country that welcomes everybody, but our relation with other friendly countries is critical to our national security; it is critical to our development as a country,” he said.

“What I have been able to do as of January is to put a stay on issuing visas for Haitian nationals, not a ban,” the minister said.

Haiti belongs to the 15-memner Caricom grouping, but unlike other members, its nationals require a visa to enter countries, its nationals require a visa to enter countries within the grouping.

Speaking on a radio program on the state-owned DBS radio, Blackmore said Dominica does not have a human trafficking problem, even though he had been asked by some nationals what the Roosevelt Skerrit government is doing about the situation.

He said the government intends to place greater emphasis on the trade that facilitates illegal immigration.

Grenada

Grenada Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said roaming charges pose a challenge to an integrated Caribbean platform and are too costly.

Mitchell, who is also CARICOM head of Government for the Regional Portfolio of Science and Technology made the comment recently while delivering the feature address at the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) 25th anniversary ICT Week at Hyatt Regency Hotel, in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

The conference was themed “Celebrating Our Past: Committing To Our Future”.

Both Caricom Secretary General Irwin La Roche and Jamaica’s Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell, also agreed roaming charges have to be addressed.

Having assumed office in 2013, Mitchell said he and his government incurred an exorbitant phone bill due to roaming charges.

Guyana

Four people, including three children drowned recently while returning from a ritual for a woman who died last year, police said.

They said the bodies of Radika “Nadira” Narine, 12, and nine year-old Annita Persaud were recovered close to the drainage sluice near the East Bank Essequibo village at Vergenoegen.

Danwantie Persaud took her grandchildren, Annita and Billy, to the home of her sister, where they were preparing for Danwantie’s mother who died on January last year.

Relatives said the quartet went to “throw away flowers” and failed to return. All the bodies have been recovered.

Jamaica

Jamaica saw double decreases in every category of crime last year, including a 16 percent drop in homicides, the island’s national security minister announced.

In a speech to Jamaica’s parliament recently, Peter Bunting said the 1,005 slayings recorded last year was Jamaica’s lowest annual total since 2003 and represents a 40 percent reduction over the previous years.

Aggravated assaults went down by 17 percent and rape by 23 percent.

Bunting described it as a “breakthrough year in the fight against crime”.

While credit for the decline relates to a number of factors, he partly attributed the success to changing the paradigm of policing in Jamaica.

Although violent crime in Jamaica is still very high, the United Nations has listed the island as having the world’s sixth worst homicide rate and about a decade ago had the highest.

Montserrat

Talks are continuing between the government of Montserrat and officials of the UK Department for International Development (DID) on the island’s 2015-2016 Recurrent Budget and related issues.

The meetings, which ended recently, are reviewing DID’s budget aid support to Montserrat, especially for the planning of the 2015-2016 government budget and is also assessing the performance of the existing UK-funded projects there.

The 2015-2016 Montserrat budget is due to the presented in March in the Legislative Assembly by premier and finance minister Donaldson Romeo. It will be his first budget following his People’s Democratic Movement’s electoral victory last September.

Romeo said he is seeking an increase in funding to meet some of the challenges his people and government face, as the small British territory continues rebuilding in the wake of a series of eruptions by its Soufriere Hills volcano between l995 and 2012.

Its eruptions have in the past rendered more than half of Montserrat uninhabitable, destroyed the capital, Plymouth, and caused widespread evacuations.

Official figures put the UK government’s volcano-related aid expenditure at around 400 million British pounds- about 1.6 million Eastern Caribbean dollars.

Trinidad

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says recent changes in the energy markets represent a major “economic challenge” for Trinidad and Tobago whose exports are heavily linked to these markets.

An IMF delegation, headed by Elie Canetti, advisor in the IMF Western Hemisphere recently ended a one week visit to T&T

He said although it is difficult to know where the markets will settle, the drivers of energy price declines appear likely to endure.

‘Therefore, we support the government’s prudent decision to prepare revised budget plans based on conservative price assumptions”, he added.

“For that reason, we agree with the authorities’ goal of returning to the original 2014/2015 target of a fiscal deficit of 2.3 percent, which barring the emergence of further downside risks, appears feasible,” Canetti said.

The IMF official said over the medium term, the fiscal recommendations issued by the Washington-based financial institution on the T&T economy remain critical to achieving long-term goals of diversification, and saving and investing for the future.

He said recent moves to tighten monetary policy appear appropriate, but shortages of foreign exchange remain a critical headwind for the economy, with businesses continuing to report severe difficulties in paying suppliers.

— compiled by Azad Ali

More from Around NYC