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Haitian migrants displaced from their home destroyed by Hurricane Dorian rest on a picnic table at a church shelter in Abaco, Bahamas, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. DA preliminary report estimates Dorian caused some $7 billion in damage, but the government has not yet offered any figures.
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Barbados

The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) announced it is closing the organization’s offices in the United Kingdom and the United States as part of its efforts to “play a stronger role in the new era of tourism development.”

This was revealed by CTO chairman Dominic Feede, who is also Minister of Tourism in St. Lucia. He said that in addition to the closure of the New York Office in December and the United Kingdom by Jan. 31 next year, there will also be a “comprehens­ive audit of the Barbados office.”

Feede said that some of the most discussed aspirations range from marketing the Caribbean as a single brand, more in depth research, and a greater uniformed approach to policy formulation and product development.

The CTO chairman said that the restructuring exercise is expected to significantly reduce the operational expenditures of the CTO, giving it more capacity to undertake its key functions of regional marketing, statistics and research and product development.

Bahamas

The Bahamas government has defended its decision to clear shanty towns in Abaco and compulsory acquire lands that had been reduced to debris by Hurricane Dorian when it swept through the tiny island on Sept. 1, 2019, killing at least 60 people and causing widespread destruction in Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Attorney General Carl Bethel said that the decision to remove the debris does not in any way, shape or form constitute any violation of the injunction.

He was responding to a letter sent to the Attorney General’s Office by human rights attorney Fred Smith.

Smith, a Queen’s Counsel, had claimed that the move by the government was in violation of an injunction handed down by a judge last year blocking the demolition of shanty town structures while a court matter in relation to those communities remains outstanding.

But Bethel insisted that there were provisions under both the Environmental Health Services Act and the Buildings Regulations Act to accomplish the government’s new initiative.

He said the law gives the minister with responsibility for works “special emergency powers” to demolish and remove structures irreparably dangerous due to the occurrence of “flood, fire, hurricane or any other disaster,” subject only to preserving valuable contents for the owner of such premises to the extent such salvage is possible without endangering safety of anyone.

Smith also objected to a statement made by Prime Minister Hubert Minnis in Parliament earlier this month that the government intends to acquire the shanty town land in Abaco.

The government has also issued an order prohibiting any rebuilding on the properties for at least six months.

Caribbean

Parliamentarians from Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago came to together recently at the Hyatt Regency, Trinidad to identify how female parliamentarians can rise up to their engagement in tackling the illegal gun trade in the region.

A statement from the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) said nearly 60 percent of all homicides in the region were gun-related and over 1.6 million illegal guns are in circulation, despite the fact there is no local manufacture base in the Caribbean.

The workshop was organized by PGA and was funded by the United Nations Trust Facility on Cooperation in Arms Regulation (UNSCAR).

It was tasked with highlighting how female decision-makers including parliamentarians are increasingly being looked to by the international community, to get involved, especially since the situation has deteriorated considerable in several CARICOM member States.

At the workshop, participants recognized that reckless, unchecked arms export by certain countries outside the region were a major cause of the problem.

Grenada

The Grenada government is moving to ban smoking in public places as well as restricting the use and sale of electronic cigarettes on the island.

Minister of Legal Affairs, Kindra Maturine-Stewart told reporters that the Keith Mitchel administration had taken the decision to table legislation banning the use and sale of vaping and e-cigarettes in Grenada.

He said that the data and statistics coming from within the world and data from the Caribbean shows a very worrying trend in respect to the prevalence and use of e-cigarettes and vaping.

She said legislation will be presented at the next sitting of Parliament.

The minister noted that as of now, e-cigarettes are available in Grenada and there is no legislation that prohibits, restricts the importation of the sale and use of e-cigarettes in Grenada.

Grenada has already in place a policy banning smoking in government buildings as well as schools and hospitals.

Jamaica

Jamaica Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett said the island will see an increase in flights out of South America starting in December.

Speaking at a news conference, Bartlett said that LatAm Airlines will have three weekly flights from Chile and other South American countries to Montego Bay.

This is in addition to 11 flights now offered by Copa Airlines out of Panama, to bring the total weekly flights between South American and Jamaica to 14.

The minister said that will go a long way in helping “us to further build out the South American market which right now, is the fastest growing for Jamaica, as some 23 percent at this time.”

He also said that Jamaica is expanding its source markets, with Japan and India being targeted.

Bartlett noted that these marketing engagements are critical in fortifying the resilience of the island’s tourism industry against any fallout that could result from shocks such as a global recession.

St. Lucia

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet recently announced that a new Visa Application Center for Canada has opened in St. Lucia.

He said the center is located at the Leverage Business Group office at the bottom of Mongriaud Hill with “hours of operation from 7.30 am to 4.30 pm.”

Chastanet said the center will provide visa services and biometric collection for persons who require a visa or work / student permit for Canada.

It means travelers no longer have to go to Barbados or Trinidad to have the process done, the prime minister said.

However, he said, “it does not change the process for Canadian citizens who need to apply for passports or other travel documents.”

Trinidad

From 2020 travelers will have shorter waiting times to be processed at Piarco International Airport, Trinidad and ANR Robinson International Airport in Tobago.

Speaking in the 2019/2020 budget debate in Parliament recently at the Parliament Chamber in Port of Spain, Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert announced the elimination of arrival forms at the two airports.

He said in keeping with international best practices and the ever-changing world of technology, “I propose to eliminate arrival forms at our airports. The new system will rely on advance passenger information using machine-readable passports and other appropriate technology.”

He noted that this initiative will significantly reduce the lengthy lines at the airports as it is aimed to improve the efficiency of Immigration and Customs.

Imbert also announced that from Jan. 1, 2020, the value of personal goods that can be imported without incurring customs duties would be increased from TT$3,000 to TT$5,000.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

Updated 2:55 pm, October 24, 2019
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