Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

Chikunguyana (CHIKV) cases are approaching about one million in the Caribbean.

This was disclosed by Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (Carpha) Dr. James Hospedales.

He gave the figures while attending a recent National Commission’s Stakeholders Meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Hospedales said CHIKV is approaching one million, if you are counting the Caribbean. There are many people who are ill. People get something from the pharmacy and there are those who get results from the lab tests.

“The biggest countries like the Dominican Republic, which has a population of about 10 million are affected. There are bigger numbers in the bigger islands,” he said.

CARICOM recently adopted a 10-point plan of action to ensure that the deadly Ebola virus does not enter the Caribbean region.

Antigua

The opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) in Antigua has launched a petition geared towards reversing the award of National Hero recently conferred on former Prime Minister Lester Bird.

In a release the UPP said it has been inundated with calls “demanding that action be taken to register our collective disgust” at the award conferred on Sir Lester during the 2014 Independence Ceremonial Parade on Nov. 3, 2014.

“The regime over which Lester Bird presided has been written about by credible and respected political analysts. Bird’s failure to take a decisive legal action against these persons to clear his name points convincingly to his culpability in these unprecedented acts of corruption,” said former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.

The party plans to submit a signed petition to Governor General Sir Rodney Williams, in the hope that he will reverse the former prime minister’s Most Exalted Order of National Hero award.

Bird, 76, was named a Knight of the Most Exalted Order of National Hero (KNH) “for his contribution to national development as an outstanding sportsman, lawyer and parliamentarian for 43 years including l0 years as prime minister.

The event was boycotted by Spencer and members of the UPP.

Barbados

The Barbados government plans to reduce its budget deficit to 6.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by March 2015, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Christopher Sinckler said.

Sinckler said in a statement that the government was moving ahead with the implementation of “its fuel stabilization and growth program.”

“Following the explosion of our deficit at the start of the program, when the 2013 deficit reached just over 12 percent of GDP, we set ourselves the ambitious but necessary targets target of reducing the fiscal deficit to 6.6 percent of GDP by the end of the fiscal year, March 31, 2015,” he said.

For the next six months, the ministry will focus on cutting government expenditures, bolstering the Barbados Revenue Authority and reducing the dependence of state-owned enterprises “on the public purse,” Sinckler said.

Barbados main industries are tourism, agriculture and manufacturing, according to a 2012 report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bermuda

The Bermuda government has unveiled plans to legalize marijuana for medical use, while also giving police more discretion to caution first-time offenders who might otherwise been charged with marijuana position.

The exact cannabis- containing products that will be permitted under amendments to the Pharmacy and Poison Act l979 were not elaborated on during the Throne Speech at the re-opening of Parliament.

“The government has led the debate on the issue surrounding cannabis use in this community,” Governor George Fergusson said.

“Significant public engagement, augmented by scientific research and a full consideration of the criminal justice implications, has helped to shape the government’s position on these matters,” the governor said.

A major report into reform of Bermuda’s laws on cannabis was handed over to the government earlier this year.

The Cannabis Reform Collaborative (CRC) group produced the report after canvassing views through seven groups and targeting different age groups.

Guyana

Guyana says it has exported 400,000 tons of rice, the most in the country’s history.

Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said it was the very first time in Guyana’s history that already 401,000 tons have left the South American country adding, “with the countries that we presently have to supply before the end of December, we have 137,000 tons of contract signed to be exported.”

Last year Guyana exported 395,000 tons with more than 50 percent going to Venezuela with significant buyers being Europe, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean countries.

Guyana and Panama signed a rice deal in September resulting in Guyana exporting 50,000 tons of rice to the Spanish-speaking country.

Ramsammy said the new contracts for rice export are also on stream but even with those Guyana already signed, it is on pace to surpass 500,000 tons.

Haiti

The World Bank has signed a grant of US$24 million from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to help 23,000 Haitian children attend school and receive quality education through tuition waivers and other support.

The lending agency says the grant, recently signed by Haiti’s Minister of Economy and Finance Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie and World Bank Special Envoy Mary Barton-Dock, complements an ongoing “Education for All project” of US$85 million that the bank manages.

“Poor families at times spend up to 60 percent of their income on the schooling of their children. These challenges are compounded in rural areas by greater poverty and difficult access to schools,” Barton-Dock said.

Jean-Marie said the additional financing focuses on the Haitian government’s priorities to “increase school enrollment and attendance in disadvantaged areas and improve the quality of teaching.”

The project will improve teaching and reading instruction materials and construct l60 classrooms in community-based schools.

Jamaica

The opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) has called on the Portia Simpson-Miller to curtail expenditure on all cellphone calls made by government ministers.

The JLP said the information obtained under the Access to Information legislation showed that millions of dollars were paid to meet the bills of government ministers.

Junior Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Arnaldo Brown had the highest bill, amounting to J$1 million over a 12-month period.

JLP secretary Dr. Horace Chang said in light of the fiscal challenges facing the country, the amount being spent on bills will be viewed negatively.

Chang said that the level of expenditure was “not in keeping with a government through a serious austerity program.”

St. Vincent

Police in St. Vincent are investigating three murders over the week-end recently that has brought the homicide count to 30 so far for the year.

Investigators say that over a 15-hour period last week-end they received reports of three murders, where Keon Lawrence was found dead near a riverbank.

In August, Lawrence survived a gun attack, during which he received two gunshots to the chest and a broken arm.

Homicide officers responded to two calls, the first being in the interior agricultural district of Marriaqua, where the body of Lawrence Marks was found in Yambou.

Some three hours later, Damien Bloucher, 26, died after being attacked by two men in Glen.

The killings come just three weeks after a peace rally in Glen, where there have been several murders since June.

The police are working on the theory that some of the killings are related to drug deals gone sour.

Trinidad

Police have been combing the hills in a rural area in East Trinidad over the past week in search of a family of four, including a one-year old baby, who were reportedly kidnapped.

A fifth man, a friend of the family, also went missing.

So far they have recovered two bodies and the child, which were all in an advanced state of decomposition.

With no conclusive identification of the bodies, police believe that baby Shania Amoroso and a man known as Felix Martinez, 51, were the bodies found l00 feet down a precipice in a forested area in a community know as Brasso Seco last week.

The third body is believed to be that of either Irma Rampersad, 49, or her daughter Felicia Gonzales, 17 or the other daughter Jenelle Gonzales, 19, who all went missing from their home three weeks ago.

Police and soldiers have been combing the forests areas around the clock hoping to find the other two bodies.

Police issued a wanted bulletin for a man, who escaped from prison in January this year in connection with the bizarre killings of the family.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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