CaribbeanRoundup

Caribbean

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will focus over the next two years on unveiling the Single Information Communication Technology (ICT) Space as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Chairman of the Conference of Heads Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines said a roadmap to this end would be developed and presented to the Heads of Government Meeting in July.

The community’s efforts to boost development through the use of ICT would be undertaken in tandem with the reform process for the years 2014-2019, Dr. Gonsalves said at the conclusion of the recent 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting.

He said the roadmap would include elements such as spectrum management, bringing technology to the people and transforming them to digital citizens, diaspora re-engagement, cyber-security and public-private partnerships.

The Single ICT Space will encompass the management of regional information, human resources, legislation and infrastructure in the sector to elicit maximum benefit for the region’s populace.

Bahamas

As uncertainty persists around the introductory rate of Value Added Tax (VAT), Prime Minister Perry Christie has assured that his administration will not tax Bahamians “more than they can bear.”

Christie announced recently that the government will not introduce VAT at 15 percent and is instead looking at a lower rate,

It is still unclear what the new VAT rate will be.

Christie said the government will make more announcements on taxes following its receipt of several private sector reports. The government initially said VAT would be introduced on July 4 this year.

Tourism stakeholders and the Coalition for Responsible Taxation have commissioned studies on various tax models and how they can impact the country.

The Coalition previously said it is possible for it to complete its study and present an alternative to VAT that can be implemented before July 1, 2014.

Haiti

A U.S. program that seeks to save Haiti’s forests by shifting people away from charcoal stoves has largely failed to reach its goal, according to an audit by the US Agency for International Development.

The liquefied petroleum gas stoves aimed at commercial and institutional users cost about $100. The World Banks says nearly 90 per cent of Haiti’s 10 million people live on less than $2 a day.

The audit reported a lack of financing available to help people cover the costs.

It said only 337 of a hoped-for 4,500 street food vendors, orphanages and schools shifted from charcoal to liquid petroleum gas, and a minority of those targeted for the smaller stoves made the switch.

Development professionals have often tried to wean people in poor countries away from charcoal because creation of the fuel can devastate forests. Charcoal production is widely blamed for leaving Haiti with only two percent of its original forest cover.

The $8.2 million project was launched in 2012 by Chemonics International Inc. a for-profit company based in Washington, DC, that works throughout the developing world. It is among the many U.S. groups that received contracts to help build Haiti rebuild following the 2012 deadly earthquake.

Jamaica

Lawyers for dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel (Adidja Palmer) are going to appeal his murder conviction by a Jamaica High Court recently.

Kartel, along with fellow entertainer Shawn Campbell, also called Shawn Storm; Kahira Jones, Shane Williams and Andre St. John had been charged with the murder of 27-year-old Clive “Lizard” Williams, a dancer on Aug.16, 2011.

Shane Williams was found not guilty. The men had been in custody since September 2011, all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The jury deliberated for more than two hours before reaching a guilty verdict (10-1). The men will be sentenced next week.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn said the 55-day trial provided a shot in the arm for Jamaica’s judicial system.

During the trial, the prosecution argued that on Aug. 16, Williams was taken to Kartel’s home in Havendale, St. Andrew where he was stabbed and beaten to death over two missing guns. His body was never found.

St. Lucia

Guyanese cargo vessel Lady Zai remained quarantined in St. Lucia as investigation continues into the death of a crew member and the hospitalization of others, following the outbreak of a “communicable disease” on board.

As a result, none of the remaining eight crew members have been allowed to disembark while the cargo has not been offloaded.

Senior Medical Officer Dr. Sharon Belmar George confirmed the crew member died recently as a result of respiratory failure associated with bronchial pneumonia before the ship arrived in St. Lucia’s waters.

“The ministry is working with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in determining the cause of the respiratory ailments,” she said.

Trinidad

Young Pakistan freedom fighter Mala Yousafzai, who was shot in her head a year ago by a Taliban gunman for defying orders and going to school in her homeland, will visit Trinidad and Tobago after accepting an invitation from Tertiary Education and Skills Minister Fazal Karim.

She would be a motivational speaker to children at a function to be held by the government.

Mala became a global name as the Pakistani teenager stood up for education of girls on Oct. 9, 2012. She almost paid the ultimate price when she was hot in the head at point blank range while riding the bus home from school. She was not expected to survive.

Her miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote village in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York and Buckingham Palace.

Jamaica

Jamaica will soon begin the construction of the first licensed casino on the island.

Celebration Jamaica Development Limited, one of the companies which applied for the first set of casino licenses, is looking at starting construction as early June once government gives approval.

Founder of the company, Robert Trotta, said the project will be completed in three years once approval is granted. He said the casino hotel with 2,000 rooms will be constructed in Rose Hall, in the western parish of St. James.

Meanwhile, Celebration Jamaica Hotel and Resort is seeking to secure exclusive casino license for St. James for its Las Vegas-style entertainment complex.

The company hopes to get a temporary casino license during the construction phase to train prospective employees.

Trotta said the complex will consist of 1,000 rooms, full service casinos, an entertainment complex, restaurants and bars. When completed 4,000 full-time workers will be employed and 16,000 jobs created.

In 2010, the casino bill was signed into law paving the way for legalizing casinos in the tourist capital of Montego Bay and the northern parish Trelawney, in the hope of encouraging Las Vegas-styled casino hotel resorts.

Trinidad

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar recently announced that she held discussions with the Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco) to help promote and preserve local culture in schools.

The announcement was made during a luncheon in honor of the Calypso King.

During the luncheon, Arts Minister Dr. Lincoln Douglas revealed that the government had given a check for US$60,000 to assist with his medical expenses from his stay at two New York hospitals.

Dr. Douglas said he was in talks with the icon to secure memorabilia spanning the calypsonian’s career.

Sparrow is expected to return to New York shortly for physical therapy and further treatment.

St. Lucia

National Security Minister Phillip La Corbiniere has hinted that that the St. Lucia government would not support plans to decriminalize marijuana for medicinal and religious purposes.

Speaking on television in St. Lucia, La Corbiniere said he remains unconvinced about decriminalizing marijuana, telling viewers if he had a deciding vote, it would be an emphatic no.

The minister said he had seen youngsters with whom he went to school move from marijuana to hard drugs, and watched generations of families destroyed.

La Corbiniere said St. Lucia had a problem with the use of alcohol resulting in tremendous social and economic cost.

CARICOM leaders at their just concluded inter-sessional summit in St. Vincent and the Grenadines discussed the issue of decriminalizing small quantities of drugs as well as exploring the economic benefits that might be derived from marijuana cultivation.

The regional leaders agreed to the “establishment of a Regional Commission to address the issues identified and any others deemed relevant in order to provide clear guidance with regard to decisions to be taken.”

Compiled by Azad Ali

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