In a controversial bid to raise a projected $20 million in revenue annually and stamp out the “illegal tobacco trade,” the government is set to implement tough new regulations on manufacturers, vendors and consumers of tobacco products that could see each charged large fines for infractions.
Beginning next month, the government intends to register all importers or producers of tobacco products in The Bahamas and have them place a bond with the government equivalent to the excise tax payable on the value of estimated imports or domestically manufactured tobacco products.
It is also the government’s intention to see each individual tobacco product – a cigar or packet of cigarettes, for example – literally stamped to reflect taxes paid, and begin to stringently monitor the authenticity and tax-paid status of tobacco goods in The Bahamas.
Financial Secretary John Rolle said that consumers of tobacco products may be approached and asked to demonstrate that they purchased their cigar or cigarette from a legitimate vendor who has paid the appropriate excise tax on the goods.
The government has suggested that it is concerned about counterfeit tobacco products entering the market.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has again defended the policies of his ruling Democratic Labor Party (DLP) government and is promising Barbadians that the projects outlined in the 2013 national budget will be implemented despite the ongoing economic situation in the country.
Addressing DLP supporters at the party’s annual conference recently , Stuart said his administration is also moving to decrease the “implementation deficit” over which his administration had been criticized in the past.
“The Minister of Finance has put in place a set of programs and policies to be pursued and, as prime minister, I will ensure that the phrase ‘implementation deficit’ will become something of the distant past because people will do what they are supposed to do,” he said.
He told delegates to the conference, the first since the party was re-elected in the February general election, that he had full confidence in Finance Minister Chris Sinckler.
Stuart said the situation confronting the island requires strong leadership and his government was dealing with the matter against the background where the population felt that things would always be easy.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has put supporters of the ruling Dominica Labor Party (DLP) on notice that he may be contemplating calling a general election ahead of the 2015 constitutional deadline.
Skerrit, speaking at a ceremony at Scotts Head, said if he is pushed by the opposition, then he would oblige and given them what they want, an early general election.
“They called for election in 2009 and when I gave it to them they were totally naked. So let them call for election, I hope when I call it they will be ready,” he said.
The main opposition United Workers party (UWP) is expected to elect talk-show host Lennox Linton as its leader when the party meets later this year for its annual convention.
Former Prime Minister Edison James has already indicated that he will not be contesting the Marigot seat, which he has represented in Parliament for many years and has thrown his support behind Linton, who is expected to contest the seat.
In the 201 general election, the DLP won 12 of the 15 seats. The UWP later unsuccessfully contested in the courts the electoral victories of Prime Minister Skerrit and his Education Minister Petter Saint Jean on the grounds that they held French passports at the time of their nominations.
The Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) says it is projecting a gold production target of 500,000 ounces for 2013.
At the start of Mining Week here, Natural Resources and the Environment Minister presented a report indicating that gold declared for the first half of this year increased by 23.2 per cent over the quantity declared for last year.
Gold maintained its reputation as the biggest producer in the mining sector for last year, with a production value in excess of GUY$137 billion (One Guyana dollar - US$0.01 cents) and accounting for 78.2 per cent of total value of mining output.
But in the wake of the recent fall in gold prices below the price of GUY$1300 an ounce, the GGDMA has appealed for local miners to take precautionary measures by paying attention to cost reduction and to improve efficiency.
It is also urging the government to provide more support through concessions and other measures.
“But this year we are hoping to top production of 500,000 ounces of gold which has never been achieved in Guyana in the history of gold,” said CGDMA Vice-President, Charles Da Silva.
President Ramotar addressing the opening of Mining Week and Award ceremony urged all stakeholders to work together and eliminate corrupt and criminal practices such as bribery.
The government of The Bahamas plans to forge greater economic ties with Haiti, Prime Minister Perry Christie said.
Haitian President Michel Martelly said this could help stem the flow of illegal immigrants from Haiti to The Bahamas by providing more jobs.
Martelly said he has asked Christie to send a delegation of Bahamian entrepreneurs, as well as the ministers for trade and foreign affairs, to identify areas for investment in northern Haiti.
“The people who are coming here, they are looking for jobs,” Martelly told reporters during an interview at the prime minister’s home on Christie’s 70th birthday.
“And I have proposed to the prime minister to invite a delegation of entrepreneurs to visit Haiti so they can see the opportunities.
“It would be (to) both of our advantage on the immigration issue where they would no longer have to take the boats and come here looking for jobs.”
Martelly said furniture and agricultural products made in Haiti are normally exported to The Bahamas through Miami, Florida.
He said if The Bahamas can access direct imports from Haiti it could lower prices on these goods and benefit both countries.
The president said the large numbers of Haitians seeking illegal entry into other countries is a major concern for his administration.
We can understand that it happens due to the lack of jobs in Haiti, so many people are unemployed.
“Due to the fact that our army was (disbanded), we don’t have a coast guard that is adequately equipped; so we have problems controlling our borders, but because of the will of the prime minister and myself to cooperate and fix this situation we are going to move forward in a new direction,” said Martelly.
The governments of Jamaica and China recently signed four agreements, among which will see the Asian superpower providing the island with billions of dollars in grants and loans to facilitate infrastructure development.
The signing followed an official welcome ceremony for Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, and reaffirmed the growing ties between Jamaica and the communist country, which is now the island’s biggest trading partner.
The Jamaican leader, who was on a five-day official visit to China, was given the red carpet welcome and a gun salute.
The signed agreements include a preferential loan deal with the China Exim Bank for the US$353-million three-year Major Infrastructure Development Program (MIDP), though it was not immediately clear how much funds will be disbursed.
There is also a 100 million Renminibi Yuan ($1.6 billion) grant aid from China to Jamaica that will be used for projects to be mutually agreed upon through consultations between both countries. Detailed accounting procedures for the disbursement of funds will be handled between the Ministry of Finance and the China Development Bank.
China has also agreed to assist the government of Jamaica in constructing the Tower Hill Infant School in Kingston and Morant Estate Infant School in St. Thomas.
What’s more is that China has agreed to dispatch a technical group to Jamaica for feasibility study on a teaching building project at the Confucius Institute on the Mona Campus, University of the West Indies.
Simpson Miller lauded the 40 years of diplomatic relations between China and Jamaica, noting that island was a supporter of the country even when it “was not fashionable.”
The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) says the decision by St. Lucia to join the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) may be the real reason why the United States government is denying members of the local police force from participating in training programs sponsored by Washington.
UWP leader Allen Chastanet said that Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony had used reports of “judicial killings” by the police as a smokescreen.
Chastanet described the radio and television broadcast of Prime Minister Anthony on the issue recently as “contradictory and misplaced” and that the country is still owed an explanation regarding ALBA and PetroCaribe, through which Caribbean countries acquire oil and petroleum products from Caracas on concessionary terms.
“Why is the U.S. only now putting sanctions on the entire police force and not just one officer who failed a lie detector or polygraph test, which the U.S. conducted on some 40 senior members of the police force?.
“Is the U.S. upset about the fact that Prime Minister Anthony chose to travel to Cuba earlier this year for their 15th anniversary, instead of attending a CARICOM (Caribbean Community) meeting with the U.S. Vice President (Joe Biden) in Trinidad? he asked.
He said the broadcast by Prime Minister Anthony lacked “substance” and “certainly did not offer any solutions, and did not come to terms with the issues at hand.
Police were recently appealing for assistance as they hunt several bandits who torched a gas station, burning its Chinese owner to death.
“If we don’t all get involved in trying to bring these people to justice, we are all responsible for letting the crime situation of our district deteriorate,” said District Commissioner Yvonne Pinas, following the incident in the Brokopondo district, Suriname, recently.
Chief of the Maroon village, Ludwich Wijnerman also appealed for assistance in catching the thieves who had become enraged after their attempt to break into the gas station had been foiled. “We cannot allow our village to continue being in such bad daylight. We want peace and order,” Wijnerman said.
Police have identified the dead man as 39-year-old Chinese national Suyaxiong. He was reported to be inside of the gas station with two other Chinese nationals when the bandits barricaded the exit before setting the building ablaze.
A Trinidadian wanted in the United States for the killing of three youths in a shooting spree outside a Boston house party four years ago was seized by U.S. marshals and escorted on a flight, which left Piarco recently.
Keron Pierre was 23 years old at the time of the shooting incident. Now 27, Pierre stepped nervously onto United Airlines Flight 1506 en route to face charges of murdering Brockton residents Shakora Gaines, 20, and Chantal Palmer, 20, as well as Anthony Peoples, 19, of Boston.
According to a press release issued by the Ministry of the Attorney General, Pierre landed at Newark, New Jersey, before arriving in Boston recently. He is scheduled to appear before a judge in court. The midnight extradition was the culmination of a process, which saw Pierre, originally from Richplain, Diego Martin, slip through the fingers of U.S. authorities after the 2009 incidents; enter Trinidad and Tobago at some stage without apparently being flagged and then launch a lengthy legal battle in the local courts after being discovered here, a battle which lasted almost four years but finally ended in June this year.
At the time of the events, Pierre was in the U.S. reportedly on a green card and was, ironically, in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. The triple murders are said to have taken place on March 29, 2009, outside a house party in Boston. It is alleged that Pierre and some of his friends were hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the house party when a car pulled up with four persons: Anthony Peoples, Shakora Gaines, Chantal Palmer and Sharon Headley.
Compiled by Azad Ali