Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

Tax officials say they are extending an amnesty under which businesses in the country are allowed to clear their arrears owed under the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) without a penalty.

Commissioner of the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), Ralph Warner said the program which began in July, would be extended until December.

He said at least 60 businesses are expected to take advantage of the initiative in the first instance and believes more will do so given the extended period.

“It looks as if persons that are owing large sums will take part in the initiative and we hope they do because this is basically to help the tax payer regularize their status with the department,” Warner said.

The “Fresh Start” initiative is part of the new government’s campaign program to help delinquent tax payers to regularize their status.”

Antigua & Barbudans pay a 25 percent sale tax.

Barbados

Barbados has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the People’s Republic of China resulting in the donation of 25,000 LED lights and 100 air-condition units to support the island’s climate change efforts.

A government statement said that Energy Minister Darcy Boyce, who signed the agreement with Chinese Ambassador, Wang Ke noted that electricity accounted for a significant percentage of government’s operating costs estimated at more than Bds$100 million.

He said that lighting and air-condition accounted for the majority of electricity usage and costs.

In an effort to reduce these recurring expenses, the Energy Minister said government intended to retrofit 75 state-owned buildings with energy efficiency lighting. It is also planned to replace aging and inefficient air-condition units, which have been identified through energy audits.

He said the saving as a result of the new Chinese donation is estimated at Bds $1.4 million.

Boyce said that government’s original goal was to attain 29 percent of electricity generation from renewable energy resources and a 22 percent reduction in the use of electricity consumption by 2019.

Guyana

The Indian construction firm, Surendra Engineering Corporation (SECL) has denied that it had submitted false documents to the Guyana government in order to secure a multi-million dollar contract to construct a hospital in the South American country.

The government said the firm had submitted a document purporting to come from the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in accordance with the provisions of the contract that required certain securities to be provided by the contractor in relation to advanced payment guarantees, as well as security, which would guarantee performance of a particularly quality.

But Attorney General Anil Nandlall said that when the document was “produced to my chambers for examination we requested some form of authentication for this company in terms of its existence and standing as a result of that request purporting to come from the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, a notary public seal affixed to that document in my limited experience, a document coming from a bank will not ordinarily have affixed a notary seal.”

The AG said formal enquiries from the Central Bank in Trinidad confirmed first by phone that the document did not come from them, and a signature on the document was made by someone who does not seem to exist.

He said the Central Bank of Trinidad has since launched its own investigation and the authorities in Guyana are assisting.

But SECL managing director Brijen Praikah said his company “is not aware of the document and has not provided any such document as referred to in the reports in respect of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago.”

SECL said that while it would remain committed to the Specialty Hospital Project, it would be considering legal action against the government.

Haiti

Antigua-based regional airline LIAT recently announced the launch of its inaugural service to the French-speaking Caribbean nation, Haiti, as part of a major initiative to restructure its commercial activities to improve the performance of the cash-strapped airline.

LIAT said effective Dec. 5, this year, it will launch services to Port-au-Prince every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and that “the new route will meet customer demand and provide connections for customers to travel within the Caribbean to and from this growing market.”

It said new winter schedule will come into effect on Oct. 26 and run until March 28, 2015.

LIAT said the new schedule has been designed to allow customers to connect with other carriers, such as British Airways, Virgin and Air France.

Jamaica

Former Jamaican Tourism Minister Daryl Vaz is due to go on trial early next year on corruption-related charges.

Vaz, who will now appear in court on Feb. 16, had been charged in April 2012, following allegations that he conspired with former senior superintendent James Forbes and businessman Bruce Bicknell to quash a bribery charge against Bicknell.

Prosecutors alleged that Vaz approached the arresting officer, Sergeant Jubert Llewellyn, and promised him “gold bars,” a code word for a promotion, if he withdrew the charge against Bicknell.

In July, the Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn withdrew the bribery charge against Bicknell. She then argued it would be difficult to mount a successful case against him.

However, Forbes was convicted and fined J$800,000 for his role in the conspiracy.

Vaz, who is the opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) Member of Parliament for the constituency of Portland, appeared in court recently when the trial date was set.

St. Lucia

Cannabis Movement of St. Lucia is advocating marijuana tourism as a way out of the current economic crisis facing the island, but Chairman of the movement, Andre De Caires, says that St. Lucia may be took late in jumping on the bandwagon.

De Caries made the call as preparations are being made for to discuss marijuana tourism during the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) State of the Industry Conference this week in the United States Virgin Islands.

He said St. Lucia seized the economic opportunities offered by marijuana, it would have proved to be a “profitable option.”

The CRO said the debate surrounding marijuana tourism has taken a sharper focus in recent months, following its legislation for recreational use by two US states, including Colorado.

Uruguay has also become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume cannabis.

Since it became legal in Colorado at the start of the year, there have bene several reports of a boom in arrivals from both within and outside the United States.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has called on the sub-regional organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to develop measures that would allow the countries to adapt and strengthen their resilience to climate change.

Addressing the Fourth Climate Change seminar recently organized by the St Lucia-based OECS Commission, Gonsalves said the region needed to take “more seriously” the impact of climate change on its socio-economic development.

He described St Vincent and the Grenadines as a “disaster prone”, adding “we need to adapt, strengthen our resilience to mitigate, we need to reduce risk human and natural assets resulting from climate change”.

Gonsalves said there were existing studies done by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) as they relate to the impact of climate change as well as seeking funds and accessing technologies required to undertake “needed mitigation actions and to adapt to adverse impacts of climate change”.

Trinidad

A Catholic priest has expressed alarm at the 38 police killings for the year in Trinidad and Tobago, labeling them as “extra-judicial killings” he delivered the homily at the inter-faith service at the ceremonial opening of the 2014/2015 law.

Speaking to a packed Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port of Spain of members of the legal fraternity, which included President Anthony Carmona, Prime Minister Kala Persad-Bissessar, SC, and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, SC, Fr. Clyde Harvey said :“over 30 of our citizens have been killed by police officers”.

These killings, he said, have been extra-judicial killings. “Let’s name it for what it is. I think all of us have to feel something.” He said.

“Is there are a few police officers who are responsible for thirty-something deaths, which means that some of them are carrying three, four of five ghost. If that is so, we have a problem, a serious problem and all of us are responsible and that affects the law because people on the ground know what is going on,” Fr. Harvey added.

Jamaica

The Jamaica government has announced an immediate ban on the importation of electronic cigarettes.

It said that the Jamaica Customs Agency should not allow clearance for liquid cartridges or replacements.

An e-cigarette is battery-powered vaporizer which stimulates tobacco smoking by producing an aerosol that resembles smoke.

It generally uses a heating vaporize liquid solution known as e-liquid.

The Health Ministry said that the cigarettes have not been fully investigated and the nicotine is not yet known.

In a brief statement the Health Ministry said that smokers were not aware of the health risks that they are exposed to, or the benefits associated with the use of e–cigarettes.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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