The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says Antigua and Barbuda has made “significant progress” towards meeting the goals of its fiscal consolidation program to reduce debt and that it expects the economic recovery to continue in 2013.
An IMF mission headed by Geoffrey Bannister recently ended a visit to the island to carry out a review of the multi-million dollar Stand By Agreement, Antigua has with the Washington-based financial institution.
The team held talks with Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and other stakeholders within the public and private sector.
“The authorities have made significant progress towards meeting the goals of their fiscal consolidation program, to restore debt sustainability and lay the foundations for sustainable growth, despite a challenging international economic environment and domestic financial sector problems,” said Bannister.
He said good progress continues to be made on public financial management, civil service and public enterprise reforms, with ongoing technical assistance and that progress has also been made on improving tax compliance both within and outside the government.
Financial institutions across the Bahamas were on high alert recently as they rushed to protect the funds of thousands of customers whose credit cards were compromised by a major data breach.
Unconfirmed media reports point to the theft of a data tape from an international data acquiring company based in Barbados as the source of the breach.
Visa and MasterCard credit cards were impacted, prompting banks in the Bahamas to re-issue thousands of cards.
“All Bahamian banks had their card data compromised. This theft took place elsewhere and we were notified by Visa,” Anwer Sunderji, CEO of Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) told the Nassau Guardian in the Bahamas.
Paul McWeeney, the managing director at Bank of The Bahamas, said credit card companies and the Central Bank of the Bahamas called all major financial institutions to warn them of the breach. The bank has replaced at least 2,000 credit cards as a defensive measure.
Commonwealth Bank Ltd confirmed it could reissue as many as 5,000 replacement cards.
Barbados health authorities have issued an alert for gastroenteritis. They said that surveillance for the infection of the lining of the digestive tract has not detected an increase beyond that is expected so far for this year.
The authorities say they have received reports of a number of severe cases, particularly among people over the age of 60. No figures were available.
Gastroenteritis is an infection of the lining of the digestive tract with symptoms that include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, low fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and tiredness.
It may be caused by viruses, bacteria or other microorganisms and the Ministry of Health is reminding people that hand washing hands before handling food.
Retired Commissioner of Police Winston James is back on the job as head of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF).
Reports are that James was brought out of retirement to take charge of the force on a temporary basis by newly elected Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is also the island’s minister of National Security.
James has taken over from Commissioner of Police William Thompson who opted to take 25 days leave amidst reports that the new administration is not happy with him being at the helm of the force.
The long-standing member of the RGPF resigned from the top job shortly after the National Democratic Congress (NDC) took office after the 2008 general election and making way for another Commissioner of Police, James Clarkson.
When Clarkson’s contract ended 18 months ago the post was given to Thompson following interviews conducted by the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The government of China has given a boost to the Guyana One Laptop Per Family (OLPF) program with the grant of 28,145 laptops valued at US$8 million.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony at the Office of the President in Georgetown, Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh highlighted that the government has placed information and communication technology (ICT) at the very center of its efforts to transform Guyana into a more modern country.
He noted that ICT is a driver of economic growth in its own right, a driver of improved competitiveness in the private sector, and a very important source of personal empowerment of people.
The minister also observed that the use of the internet has become increasingly important as a tool for communication and delivery of services.
He stressed that the government’s position is that the vast benefits of ICT must be available to all citizens of Guyana, irrespective of where they live, their educational background or their age.
Jamaican lottery operator Supreme Ventures Ltd (SVL) says it is in a better position now to compete with the multi-million-dollar illegal gaming business in Jamaica, with that island’s government permitting the sale of lottery tickets on Sundays and public holidays.
The measure was part of the Jamaican government’s J$16.4 billion tax package, which included the state proposing to increase the lottery tax rates by as much as three percentage points on nine of SVL’s games, including Lotto Super Lotto and the popular Cash Pot.
SVL boss Brian George said illegal gaming operates on a Sunday and that represents a tremendous market that we believe that we have a responsibility to attack.
Illegal operators reportedly earn up to hundreds of millions of dollars annually from their own version of Cash Pot, which George acknowledged is the game that is most easily replicated.
Cash Pot is the top game in SVL’s lottery portfolio, representing 76.64 percent of SVL’s lottery revenue at the end of 2011, when the company’s annual sales were J$28 billion.
The move to allow sale of lottery tickets on Sundays and public holidays takes effect from April 1.
The Guyana government says it has launched an investigation into reports that several people had been beaten by police during an exercise to stop illegal mining operations within the Marudi Mountain area recently.
Media reports said that the alleged clash involving members of the Guyana Police Force and miners had been captured on camera and posted on the Internet.
A Government Information Agency (GIA) statement said that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), an agency of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment has commenced an investigation into the matter.
GINA said that Mines Minister Robert Persaud has since called for an emergency meeting of the GGDMA Board of Directors, in addition to requesting the assistance of the Commissioner of Police in investigating this matter.
The decision to investigate the alleged beatings follows the release of a report of a Commission of Enquiry that found police guilty of killing three protestors at the mining town of Linden last July.
In recent months, native Indians have complained against the granting of mining concessions that have been given out on ancestral lands, claiming that the mining pollutes rivers and chases away wildlife.
Police in Jamaica are continuing investigations into a child trafficking ring that they say involves locals as well as people from an unnamed British territory in the Caribbean.
The Child Development Agency CDA) said the matter had been turned over to law enforcement authorities and according to the Ministry of Youth and Culture, which has responsibility for the CDA, the matter came to light following investigations, which started more than a month ago as part of ongoing efforts to protect Jamaica’s children and ensure the country’s compliance with its international commitments.
Police said they have questioned a resident of the British overseas territory in connection with the case and the authorities said one child, who was the subject of a suspected human-trafficking attempt, is now in care of the CDA.
The ministry confirmed in a release recently that the suspect now faces prosecution under Jamaica’s obligations to the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has ordered a probe into allegations of an illegal “Flying Squad” made by some retired members of the Police Service.
She has appointed acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams to investigate reports of the resurrection of the Flying Squad, which was formed under the late Trinidad and Tobago ace crime-fighter Randolph Burroughs some two decades ago.
The prime minister said that the National Security Council, which she chairs, has referred the reports of National Security Minister Jack Warner and former Strategic Adviser to the Ministry of National Security Gavin Heera to Williams to determine who was wrong and whether anyone violated the law.
The instructions for the National Security Council from the acting commissioner of police to investigate, followed the receipt of “the written reports from Warner and Heera, would require him to determine whether Warner was involved or not.”
Persad-Bissessar and Warner have both denied any knowledge or participation in the alleged revamping of the “Flying Squad.”
Mervyn Cordner, a former Flying Squad member has claimed that the new Flying Squad was set up with about 75 retired police officers to carry out intelligence work to deal with the spiraling crime problem in the country. He also claimed that the unit was operating for about six months until it was shut down in December last year after the officers did not get pay.
Commissioner of Police Williams has also denied any knowledge of the revamped unit.
Compiled by Azad Ali