CARICOM has extended congratulations to new Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley — the first ever woman to head a government in Barbados.
The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin Rocque said he is looking forward to welcoming her at the grouping’s next summit to be held in Jamaica in July.
In a congratulatory message following her Barbados Labor Party (BLP)’s historic 30-nil victory over Freundel Stuart’s Democratic Labor Party (DLP), La Rocque congratulated Mottley on her “truly historic achievements” following the recent general election.
“The overwhelmingly victory clearly indicates that the people of Barbados have tremendous faith in your ability to lead the country to even greater heights,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to welcoming her at the CARICOM summit in July.
The CARICOM Secretary General said that he was also looking forward to Prime Minister Mottley continuing the leadership role that Barbados has exercised in the Community and as Lead Head of Government in the quasi-cabinet for the CARICOM Single Market and the Economy (CSME).
Regional leaders also congratulated Mottley on her clean sweep at the polls.
Among them was Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who described the victory as “unprecedented, ” reminding Mottley that as she faces “the challenges ahead, I am confident that this overwhelming mandate will be used to provide a new opportunity to address the priorities of all the people of Barbados.”
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, were among the other regional leaders who congratulated Mottley on her landslide victory.
The Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) recently launched its Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) project in Antigua and Barbuda.
The EFT allows all customers of all local commercial banks to transfer money in a single day, faster and more cost efficient than a wire transfer.
This was revealed by the marketing manager and public relations officer of the Antigua Commercial Bank, Shantia Edwards, who is part of the Antigua and Barbuda Bankers Association.
She explained that the EFT will accommodate swift payments through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network. Edwards added that ACH is the electronic payment network that allows the clearing of electronic payments between financial institutions.
According to Edwards, customers would only need to send instructions to their bank to authorize payments. She said that with the EFT, the banks will then send the funds, through the ACH network, to the bank of the individual or business that the customer wishes to pay. The EFT will allow the payment to be available the same day.
Edwards disclosed that the EFT, which was also launched recently in St. Kitts and Nevis, will be implemented throughout all countries of the ECCU by this month.
The Grenada government has signed an International Solar Alliance through a joint initiative of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The initiative comes out of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (Cop 21).
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter David noted that with the signing of the International Solar Alliance agreement with India, Grenada would be exposed to possible financing in small and medium projects where solar energy can be used for community development as well as larger projects.
He remarked that Grenada “looks forward to the co-operation through the initiative of the two leaders and in that regard would do all we can in the fulfilment and success of the agreement.”
Indian Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, H.E Anupriya Singh Patel, said the agreement has been signed and ratified by the government of Grenada, which is more environmentally stable with respect to climate change.
The International Solar Alliance she explained, is an alliance that targets 121 countries that lie between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn that come together to ensure they exploit solar energy.
The Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) said it is working in collaboration with Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy Chamber to develop a safe to work (STOW) certification program for its oil and gas sector.
GNBS Director Candelle Walcott-Bostwick said the team from the Energy Chamber will arrive in Guyana this month to share its experience of implementing the STOW-TT certification program and to determine if a similar program can be created locally.
Walcott-Bostwick said the consultation with oil operators in Guyana will be useful since the agreed-upon requirements would cater to health, safety and environmental measures that would have to be attained by contractors before they can be certified.
She said once they are STOW-certified, it would give them that pre-qualification to be eligible for selection adding that the initiative would give regulators in the local energy service sector the opportunity to collaborate and execute joint health, safety and environmental inspections to ensure full compliance by local operators.
Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke recently informed Parliament of a 19 percent decline in the rate of poverty in Jamaica in 2016, which he described as “the largest annual reduction” in a decade.
In a statement to the House of Representatives, Dr. Clarke said that a dramatic fall in the incidence of poverty “must be considered good news by all Jamaicans.”
Opposition Spokesman on Finance Mark Golding, in responding to the minister, said that the positive momentum was inherited from the previous People’s National Party government and continued through the calendar year of 2016.
Fisheries ministers recently attended the 12th regular meeting of the Ministerial Council and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), held in Montserrat.
The ministers endorsed a newly drafted protocol on securing sustainable small-scale fisheries in the region.
CRFM executive director, Milton Haughton, noted that small-scale fisheries are the mainstay of the fisheries industry, both in the region and around the globe.
He said that small-scale fisheries account for 95 percent of fisheries in CARICOM and are vital for food security and employment, particularly in coastal communities.
Globally, it accounts for 90 percent of all the fisheries produced, Haughton said.
The Ministerial Council endorsed the protocol and agreed on the need for immediate implementation.
It furthermore called on regional and international development partners and donors to support the protocol on small-scale fisheries and to assist member states with implementing it as well.
The high-level of non-performing loans or bad loans continues to be the main risk across banks in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union.
Gordon Julien, country manager of Scotia Bank St. Kitts and Nevis, spoke about the challenges customers face with repayment of loans which often lead to delinquency.
He said a non-performing loan is a situation where a loan becomes so delinquent to the point where a period of 90 days would have lapsed without payment of principal and interest and collection of that loan is in significant doubt.
The bank manager said in the case of sudden unplanned expenses that may affect a customer’s ability to make regular payments on their loan, there are certain recourses for those situations, including having a conversation with their lender.
He noted that once you have entered into an agreement with the bank that does not stop because you have lost your job, because you have divorced or you had a medical emergency; the expectation of the bank is that you honor your obligation and make that payment.
Julien explained how non-performing loans impact a bank’s bottom line and how that, in turn, affects the delivery of other financial services to customers.
A controversy is brewing between Sat Maharaj, secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Sabha (SDMS) and the Ministry of Education and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar over an On the Job Training (OJT) woman who was not allowed to wear her hijab if she is to get a job to teach at the SMDS Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu School.
The woman, Nafisha Nakhid, 23, a mechanical engineer, was sent to the school to assist in teaching mechanical engineering, but was not given the position because she wore a hijab.
Maharaj said its policy barring the wearing of the hijab in its schools breaches citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of religious beliefs.
Persad-Bissessar, who did not support Maharaj on the issue, was banned from the Indian Arrival Day function hosted by the SDMS.
Sat told the opposition leader he has revoked the invitation.
Persad-Bisessar told the media “this matter is not a political one, it is one of natural justice, equality and fairness.”
Maharaj also warned Persad-Bissessar that the Hindu vote could no longer be guaranteed for her. He called on Hindus to “free up” their vote.
The Hindu religious leader has stoutly defended the hijab ban stance saying it was part of the school’s dress code.
The government has since asked the courts for an interpretation of the issue.
— compiled by Azad Ali