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Caribbean

The World Trade Organization (WTO) says the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), a multi-donor program that helps the poorest countries, including the Caribbean will have its mandate extended into a new phase.

The WTO said the EIF Steering Committee made the decision.

“Trade can be effective tool for economic growth and poverty reduction when the right conditions exist,” said WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo, in addressing the Committee.

“The EIF was established precisely to help LDCs create those conditions,” he added.

The EIF Steering Committee urged the EIF to build on the achievements of the first phase while addressing the need for reforms in key areas in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of the program.

The WTO is one of six partner agencies of the program and also hosts the Executive Secretariat.

Azevedo stressed that the program is “making a difference on the ground through increased private sector development and employment in some of the poorest countries.”

Antigua

The Antigua & Barbuda government has listed combating violent crimes, especially those committed with guns, among its top three priorities in 2015 and has outlined plans to achieve the objective.

In his address to the nation on New Year’s Eve, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the “astronomical” increase in gun crime, a situation which he said was inherited from the previous government, is impacting the country both socially and economically.

“It also affects our productivity, lower our gross domestic product and undermines our quality of life,” he said.

The prime minister said his government would treat “extremely harsh” home invasions and violent crime, both of which have been more frequently reported in recent months.

Browne said introducing stronger legislation in Parliament is the government’s first course of action to address the problem, adding that there will be stiffer penalties for possession of weapons and for violent crimes involving weapons are to be introduced.

He also announced changes to come to the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda in 2015.

“The police force will also be bolstered in terms of numbers, equipment and training, enabling them to provide rapid response to crimes,” the prime minister said.

Browne also promised that the Police Force would be restructured to better serve the nation though he did not outline details.

Bahamas

The government of the Bahamas is implementing a new value-added tax on most goods and services.

The 7.5 percent tax applies only to businesses whose profits exceed US$100,000 a year. The new tax replaces the hotel accommodation tax and certain customs duties and excise taxes.

The government said in a statement recently that the more than 5,000 businesses have registered to start applying the tax. Businesses have until Feb. 28 to become fully compliant.

The tax went into effect from Jan. 1, 2015.

Barbados

The small Caribbean island of Barbados has been recognized by the United Nations as particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. But the islanders do not just have rising sea levels and extreme weather to contend with. They rely heavily on imports to feed the densely populated nation and the thousands of tourists who visit the island every year.

One local entrepreneur’s vision for how the islanders might start to produce food themselves has become a successful reality.

Damian Hinkson has built a system of pumps in his garden that allows him to cultivate vegetables and fish simultaneously by circulating water between an aquarium and a plant pot.

Hinkson’s “aquaponics” system is now being distributed amongst his community and is enabling others to produce food in their own backyards.

Guyana

Last year was another record-breaking one for the rice industry, which recorded a production of 635,238 tons, of which 501,208 tons was exported Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said.

He said the export value surpassed the Guy$1 billion.

“The growth in rice export since 2010 has been phenomenal and we expect it to grow even more in 2015,” he said, adding that the export in 2013 was 394,000 tons, from a production of 535,212 tons, which was far above the original target of 413,000 tons.

Dr. Ramsammy said that of the 501,208 tons exported in 2014, some 187,995 was shipped to Venezuela, while another 59,279 tons were shipped to Panama.

“Export to CARICOM was 99,000 tons,” Dr. Ramsammy said. “Exports to Europe was l02, 000 tons, plus other shipments were made,” he added.

Guyana currently has export agreements with several countries in the Caribbean, as well as with Venezuela and Panama and other markets

The agriculture minister underscored the “significant contribution” that the rice industry continues to make to Guyana’s economy, despite the challenges on local and international markets.

Haiti

Haitian President Michel Martelly has called on all Haitians to unite in a spirit of sacrifice to serve the highest interests of Haiti where a new prime minister has been appointed as the Caribbean country struggles to solve a political crisis that threatens its stability.

Martelly, who earlier this month accepted against his will the resignation of his good friend Laurent Lamothe as prime minister, said he has made a lot of sacrifices to help break the deadlock and move the country toward elections to renew the elected officials in local government entities and Parliament.

“Putting our forces together is the only way toward finding a solution and we can still do it,” said Martelly, who was accompanied by the new appointed Prime Minister Evans Paul and members of the outgoing cabinet.

Paul a veteran and moderate opposition figure, was named last week by Martelly to replace Lamothe and is tasked with continuing a dialogue initiated by the Haitian leader to ease the political situation and facilitate the holding of local and legislative elections.

Martelly warned the population against maneuvers by opposition political hardliners who, he said, have chosen destruction, instability and chaos as a strategy to bring about change in the country.

Jamaica

Police in Jamaica are reporting that between Dec. 28 and New Year’s Day 13 pounds of cocaine valued at J$8.4 million were seized at the island’s two major airports.

In the first incident on Dec. 28, the police seized two and half pounds at Sangster airport at Montego Bay and arrested 29-year-old Ferron Ford of Birmingham, England for attempting to export the illegal drug.

Then on Dec. 31, Katerina Ana Schofield, 28, of Zurich, Switzerland was arrested after she too was caught at Sangster airport attempting to export another two and a half pounds of cocaine.

The two other incidents were on New Year’s Day at the Norman Manley International Airport, resulting in the arrests of two British men who were found attempting to smuggle cocaine out of the country.

St. Kitts

The United States Department of Treasury says it is following closely the activities of a former Iranian national, who now holds a St. Kitts-Nevis passport and was “responsible for converting foreign currency into U.S. bank notes.”

The Treasury Department said that Hosein Zeidi, is among nine individuals and entities under various Iran-related authorities under surveillance for their “support of Iranian government sanctions evasion efforts and human rights-related abusers, including those engaged in censorship”.

It said Heidi holds a St. Kitts and Nevis passport, number RE0003553 and he carries the alias Hosein Zeidi and Hossein Mansour Zeidi. He has a United Arab Emirate (UAE) national identification number 444169.

The U.S. Treasury Department gave no details as to how Zeidi had in his possession a St. Kitts-Nevis passport, but the twin-island Federation provides citizenship to foreigners who provide significant investments to the island.

“The Iranian government contracted Zeidi and Seyed Kamal to convert Iranian funds denomination in non-Iranian local currency into U.S. dollars,” the Treasury Department said.

Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago government is taking steps to ensure the safety of patrons at every Carnival event this year.

This was revealed by National Security Minister Gary Griffith who said a comprehensive security operational plan will be in effect to ensure that every event takes place under high security and all additional security resources available will be utilized to serve as a deterrent to criminal elements.

For the first eight days in 2015, 15 murders have been recorded.

Minister Griffith said the Police Service, in tandem with the National Operations Center (NOC) would be ascertaining the number of events scheduled for the season and will be conducting high visibility operations to secure patrons going to, attending and leaving those events.

“Covert operatives would also be used to patrol events to address the increased concern of pick pocketing,” he said.

The government is considering a ban on glass bottles for the Carnival events,including the two-day celebrations.

— compiled by Azad Ali

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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