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Jamaica’s Minister of Finance Audley Shaw discusses his country’s economic improvement during the Americas Conference in Miami.
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Caribbean

Four CARICOM leaders, presidents and prime ministers of the 120-member Non Aligned Movement (NAM) recently attended a two-day summit in Margarita Island, Venezuela.

They were; Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, Roosevelt Skerritt of Dominica, Dr. Timothy Harris of St. Kitts and Nevis and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Six other CARICOM member-states were also represented, with Senator Peter David leading the Grenada delegation and St. Lucia represented by non-resident ambassador to ALBA and PetroCaribe Eustace Vitalis.

Other states represented by their resident ambassadors in Venezuela were Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez gave the inaugural address saying, “Emancipati­on, anti-imperialism and peace are the flags that define the XVII NAM Summit Venezuela 2016”.

Venezuela has assumed NAM’s rotating presidency for the next three years, after taking over from Iran.

With 120 member states, NAM is the second largest international body after the United Nations. It has 53 members from Africa, 39 from Asia, 26 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 17 observers countries and 10 observer organizations.

This is the third time a Caribbean island has hosted a NAM Summit and the fourth time for a Latin American country.

Cuba hosted the NAM summit and assumed the presidency in 1979 and 2006 and Venezuela’s neighbor, Colombia hosted the 1995 summit.

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has called on his colleagues in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to support his country’s efforts in reaching a settlement with the United States in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Internet Gaming Dispute.

He was at the time speaking at the recent NAM Summit which was held in Margarita, Venezuela.

The dispute which has been ongoing for 13 years with the United States has reached a stalemate, and Browne is urging his colleagues to stand up for the founding principles of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Browne called on the NAM to show solidarity with Antigua and Barbuda as “we seek justice that has been awarded to use by the competent international body- the World Trade Organization (WTO)”.

Barbados

International credit agency, Standard and Poors (S&P) has lowered its long term foreign and local sovereign ratings on Barbados to B- from B.

S&P said the outlook for the island is negative.

In a recent statement S&P said over the last several years the government’s financial profile has been eroded “because of persistent high fiscal deficits, reflecting both budget slippage and unbudgeted spending”

The global agency noted that the central bank continues to finance the government “which we consider at odds with its goal to defend Barbados’ long standing currency peg with the US dollar’.

However, S&P said while economic growth should pick up during the next two or three years, there is a “lackluster private-sector confidence, continued delays in several tourism projects and potential spillover from Brexit and this should help keep growth moderate”

The statement said the country’s per capita income projected to be almost US$16,000 in 2016 higher than that of most of its rating peers.

Cayman Islands

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LBGT) activists are calling on the United Kingdom to end the inequity, discrimination and mounting hostility against them in the Cayman Islands.

A representative from Colors Cayman, the only organization in the Cayman Islands campaigning for equal rights for LGBT people is urging the territory’s Governor General Helen Kilpatrick to help pave the way for a legal framework providing rights for LGBT people and for the registration of same-sex relationships.

Given the absence of local political support, Billie Bryan, who founded the grassroots organization, said he is asking the British to make an order in council to legitimize same-sex unions.

Bryan wants the UK to step in and protect their rights and to ensure that the “power of the church’ locally is no longer allowed to fuel the discrimination, which he said, is such that “no politician” has declared to challenge the “legally enforced discrimination that LBGT people to suffer in the Cayman Islands”.

Bryan said that, while the current premier has asked the people to be fair and stop the intolerance, he has nevertheless made it quite clear he will not be introducing any rights for the LGBT people to enjoy a family life like other members of the wider community, even though this is contrary to the Cayman Islands constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

Premier Alden McLaughlin is also refusing to introduce any legal framework that would accommodate even the registration for same-sex relationships.

Grenada

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell will present his country’s national budget on Nov. 25.

The government is now meeting with various stakeholders, including the private sector, labor movement and civil society groups.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Finance said the consultations have been very engaging and many interested and practical suggestions have been put forward. The government will be assessing the suggestions to determine what is practical to implement 2017 and what may require further research and analysis.”

It said discussions are also being held with other government departments and “consultati­ons are also being planned with other stakeholders, including stakeholders in Carricaou and Petit Martinique”

Prime Minister Dr. Mitchell has already indicated his administration would be seeking consultations with the various interest groups on the way forward.

Jamaica

The Jamaica government is moving to “weed” out corruption within the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA).

Minister of Finance Audley Shaw said there were several breaches within the JCA, including goods at the transshipment point — meant for overseas destinations — remaining in Jamaica and the importation of illicit cigarettes, alcohol and pharmaceuticals.

Shaw who was speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica (Amcham) President’s Breakfast on data and document security recently, noted that corruption is becoming a nationwide crisis.

He said no stone would be left unturned to clean up the system, create better equity for all Jamaicans and at the end of the day a cleaner quality of life with better economic growth.

In a panel discussion involving members of the banking, entertainment, pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries, the group highlighted that fraudulent paperwork has cost local companies millions in technologies to mitigate the activities.

Globally, fraud currently accounts for US400 billion. But by 2020 that figure is expected to reach US1 trillion, the finance minister said.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts and Nevis signed the instrument of ratification with Germany on assistance in civil and criminal tax matters through exchange of information.

The agreement was signed on St. Kitts and Nevis 23rd anniversary of independence on Sept. 19, 2016 in Bassseterre.

Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, said that St Kitts and Nevis was signing the instrument of ratification because it is a responsible member of the international community that believes in accountability, transparency and good governance with other member states.

He said that in an era where issues such as correspondent banking is a topical subject, putting in place this necessary instrument of ratification becomes even more significant.

German Ambassador Lutz H. Gorgens thanked the government of St. Kitts and Nevis for its cooperation in signing the instrument, while emphasizing the importance in today’s world.

The agreement was negotiated between the governments of St. Kitts and Nevis and laid in the National Assembly of St. Kitts and Nevis on Aug. 18, 2014.

Suriname

Suriname’s state-owned mining company Grassalco has secured a US$7.5 million contract to supply crushed stone for the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana.

Grassalco and Zhong Da International Engineering Company have signed the contract to deliver the material in partnership to the client, China Harbor Engineering Company in Guyana.

The contracts were signed by Grassalco’s chief executive officer, Sergio Akiembooto, Zhong Da International Engineering Company and China Harbor Engineering Company.

Akiemboto said the lucrative contract is to crush 300,000 tons of stone to be exported over a period of one year.

The first shipment is expected to take place later this month.

Grassalco’s CEO Akiemboto said the deal will pave the way for the mining company to secure deals in the region which will eventually play a major role in the economic development in the Caribbean as a supplier of crushed stone.

So far, the Guyana deal is the largest contract the state-owned company has received.

A few months ago the company supplied boulders to Barbados for the construction of a sea wall at the Sandals hotel construction project.

Trinidad

United States Ambassador John Estrada said the Trinidad and Tobago government had submitted a “detailed explanation and the step-by-step plan’ to the United States Treasury for bringing the Foreign Accountant Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) into force.

In a statement, Estrada, who was recently in Washington DC, USA, for meetings with the Department of State, Congress and the White House, expressed disappointment over the failure of the Trinidad and Tobago government to pass the FACTA legislation.

He said in a meeting with the United States Treasury representatives; “I expressed concern of the government of Trinidad and Tobago failure to pass the FACTA legislation.”

Ambassador Estrada said the government of Trinidad and Tobago has submitted to the Treasury a plan that T&T intends to follow to being the FACTA agreement into force, the statement said.

Last week Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley accused the opposition of trying to frustrate the government’s efforts to pass the legislation.

The government is hoping that the United States Treasury will grant an extension to time, which expired on Sept. 30.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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