November, 2017

 

Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 29th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Regional petroleum company SOL’s US$100 million attempt to buy the state-owned oil terminal has been halted.  The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) has ruled against Simpson Oil Limited’s plans to acquire the Barbados National Terminal Company Ltd (BNTCL) stating the company would have to agree to some hefty restrictions.

Credit rating agency Moody’s is warning that Barbados remains on the wrong track.  More than six months after its last downgrade of the island’s rating, the New York-based entity has issued a new assessment asserting that Barbados’ credit profile has deteriorated.

Barbados tourism is getting a multi million dollar boost as result of a partnership with popular American television programme The Wendy Williams Show.  Director of the United States Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI), Petra Roach, said the partnership included seven days of pre-promotion, 20 days of promotion, plus all the online and social media activity associated with the show’s social media accounts which have over 5.5 million followers in total.

Opposition Leader Mia Mottley has called on the government to go back to the drawing board with its Protection of Agricultural Products and Livestock Bill, 2017.  While saying she was in agreement with some aspects of the new legislation, Mottley said there was need to re-examine some “archaic” clauses that may serve to hamper small-scale vendors and farmers.   She took offence to pro visions in the Bill such as the registration of all farmers and vendors, arguing that “Every boy selling ackees, everyone selling nuts or coconuts in this country, whether in a cul-de-sac or at a roundabout, is being made to be a criminal if he does not register under this Act, where he may merely be looking for a way to support his family.”

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

Two lawyers have been charged with the possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.  They were arrested after being stopped in a roads block Sunday nite.  During a search, they were allegedly found with a marijuana cigarette and a bag containing marijuana.

Meanwhile, Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the release of a prisoner identified as Vicky Boodram from the Women’s Prison at Golden Grove, Arouca around 5.15 p.m. on Monday.  The probe was announced in a police statement issued late on Tuesday, almost a day after two police officers allegedly went to the Golden Grove Prison and took Boodram away to a “night court” that does not exist.  Boodram, 35, was on remand since March, 2016, after being denied trial on 175 fraud related charges.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism and the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) to facilitate the training of people involved in the industry.  The training will be conducted at the Jamaica Centre for Tourism Innovation over a three-month period and will provide the first intake of 50 students, with AHLEI world-class training and certification.

Dateline Georgetown, GUYANA:

Following severe criticism and protests, the Guyana government is removing the 14% Value Added Tax (VAT) on private educational institutions which it controversially imposed in the last Budget.  In presenting the 2018 Budget Monday, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan said the VAT will be removed, effective January 1st next year, in view of the representations made.”


Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 28th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Kingstown, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES:

Vincentian diplomat Sehon Marshall will have to return home from the United Nations to explain a damning allegation of domestic violence to the Dr. Ralph Gonzalves administration.  Days after Marshall, a counselor of the island’s Permanent Mission to the UN, reportedly punched his wife, Xandra Marshall – who is also a diplomat – in the mouth, the government has issued a recall for the embattled diplomat.  According to reports in the New York Post newspaper, police officers responded to an incident at the family’s home last Friday – a day before International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women – when Mrs. Marshall was allegedly slapped in the face by her husband, in front of her mother.  Marshall was not arrested because he has diplomatic immunity.

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

When the country’s new Director of Public Prosecutions is eventually chosen, the process will be one of the highest integrity, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has promised. His comments came in the wake of statements made by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley last week when she was hosted by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).  “Had Miss Mottley done her homework,. She would have known that the office of DPP is filled by the Governor General, acting on the recommendation of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission” the AG told the Daily Nation.

Barbados is reaching out to Latin America in an effort to attract international business companies and is using its “favourable tax treaties and tax laws” as a a tool.  And even though the business community has expressed concerns over heavy losses in revenue from this sector, and in the wake of its blacklisting as a tax haven by some international agencies and American states, those involved in the offshore sector say the facilitation process in Barbados as well as a highly-skilled workforce, continue to make Barbados attractive as a home for international businesses.  Among those championing the cause was Kenneth Campbell, the Director of Investment Promotion at Invest Barbados who told a seminar for Latin American service providers that companies were opting for Barbados as their place of domicile because of its reputation as a “very well regulated centre” and that ”the process of doing business in Barbados as well as the network of double taxation treaties and the ability to provide substance” were favourable.

As the Freundel Stuart administration struggles to collect more than a billion in owed taxes, one international tax expert based in Barbados is warning of the need for a clear tax structure that is based on integrity. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) Tax and Legal Services Leader for the Caribbean, David Prestwich, warned that although companies wanted to pay their fair share of taxes, they were less likely to do so if the systems implemented were not transparent.  He argued that it was easier for companies to plan when there was certainty in relation to how their taxes were being used and what changes were likely to be made within a year or two of them being introduced.

Chief executives of some of Barbados’ top statutory corporations are being pout on notice that should the fledgling Solutions Barbados win the next general election, they will be forced to adopt its recommended management system or face the axe.  Leader of the two year old party, Grenville Phillips 11 is touting ISO 9001, the latest quality management system standard of the Geneva-based International Standard Organisation (ISO), as the management system of choice for all government agencies.  Phillips told the public launch of his party’s candidates that ISO 9001 “can solve most if not all of our nation’s management issues.”

Dateline Castries, ST. LUCIA:

The sale of soft drinks at schools across St. Lucia could soon fizzle out.  The Ministry of Health and Wellness has embarked on a campaign to end the sale of the unhealthy drinks at the nation’s educational institutions.  Chief nutritionist, Lisa Hunt-Mitchell has discussed the proposed ban with school principals.  Hunt-Mitchell lamented that sweet drinks were having a disastrous effect, with rising incidence of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cavities and other illnesses.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

The government of Jamaica has endorsed the “Model Guidelines For Sexual Offences Cases in the Caribbean Region, developed by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which provide internationally accepted best practices for the management of such cases across the region.  The document was crafted through support from the Canadian government-funded Can$90 million Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) project.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says that despite the myriad of challenges that have faced the Caribbean for the first half of the year, the region has welcomed nearly a million more tourists than the same period last year.  “For the first six months of 2017, data compiled by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) show that the region welcomed 16.6 million international tourists or 800,000 more than for the first six months of 2016, constituting a growth rate of 5.2 per cent” Bartlett disclosed.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Some 40 key policymakers from member states of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and 100 professionals and executives will assemble at Atlantis Resort to participate in workshops, conferences and seminars all week until this Friday, December 1.  Yesterday marked the beginning of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Week, facilitated by The Bahamas government and the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA).  CEO of URCA, Stephen Bereaux told a pre-conference media briefing he believed that the benefits of a single Caribbean cyber platform, will “improve social and economic development and understanding of internet intelligence in the Caribbean, while focusing on cyber security and development.  He also commented:”As small island states, we must make sure that small economies do not fail due to lack of economies of scale and scope.”

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) sub-regional headquarters for the Caribbean has established a task force to advance ECLAC’s debt for climate adaptation swap initiative.  The debt swap initiative, which was first presented at ECLAC’s Caribbean development roundtable in St. Kitts and Nevis early in 2016, is a mechanism intended to address at once, the crippling debt of the Caribbean and their need to generate the resources needed to financer resilience building measures.  It is an innovative strategy that involves harmonizing concessionary flows to transform the debt of the region to a source of investment in resilience, while at the same time re-energizing growth and promoting economic transformation in the economies of the sub-region, through investment an adaptation projects and green industries.

The “fake oil” scandal has claimed a political casualty with the resignation of Senator Allyson Baksh.  Baksh, who is the daughter of chief executive of A&V Oil & Gas, Haniff Nazim Baksh, the man at the centre of the “fake oil” controversy, resigned as People’s National Movement (PNM) Senator yesterday.  She will be replaced by former PNM Public Relations Officer, Ronald Huggins, a 38 year old businessman and real estate agent.

Dateline Toronto, CANADA:

The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) has bestowed its most prestigious honour on social advocate Jean Augustine.  The Grenada-born retired Canadian school teacher and politician, was given the CTO’s Lifetime Achievement Award – the first person ever to be given the award in Canada.


CDN Special Feature: SIR HILARY MAKES TIMELY CALL FOR NEW-STYLE IMF

By Ricardo Blackman in Barbados

Sir Hilary Beckles, noted Barbadian academic and Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, recently  called for a new-style International Monetary Fund (IMF) “and a 21st Century post-IMF Caribbean economy.” I concur 100 percent with Sir Hilary.  His call is most timely.  Barbados became a member of the World Bank since September 12th, 1974, automatically qualifying for membership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It’s perhaps opportune to clinically examine the extent to which membership of this prestigious Washington-based financial institution, has worked for Barbados.   The stark reality is that Barbados has been given a “bad break” by the World Bank.   

Have institutions like the World Bank, and its subsidiary organisations such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the International Development Association (IDA), who have been “supervising” activities on the international playing field and spurring the process of globalization, been playing fair.  Have countries like our own Barbados been disadvantaged as result of an imbalance of opportunity to participate on the international stage?

I am aware, for example, that while the World Bank and their wholly owned subsidiary, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) is a separate body from the IMF, they closely collaborate to control the economies of the Caribbean.  Despite its membership of the World Bank since September, 1974, the Bank’s Doing Business Report failed for many years to publish any information on Barbados. The Doing Business Report provides rankings, rating a country’s economy based on the regulations it has in place to accommodate and facilitate the establishment and operation of business

While other Caribbean islands were listed, the omission of Barbados from this report is, in my opinion, at the root of the economic problems and series of successive downgrades Barbados has experienced.

Although from 2013, Barbados is now appearing on the Doing Business Report, Barbados has also been omitted from the Bank’s Doing Business Law Library, deemed by the World Bank as being the largest free on-line collection of business law regulations.

Another example of the exclusion of Barbados can be seen in the IFC’s publication of the Global Credit Reporting Program, which provides charts and maps, illustrating countries which have existing, developing or no private consumer credit bureaus serving financial institutions and other lenders. Despite the 25-year existence of the Barbados-based Caribbean Credit Bureau Ltd, the IFC claims that the data comes from country assessment and advisory work of its Global Credit Bureau Program and the Doing Business Survey.

The unexplained exclusion of Barbados from important listings of the IFC, and by extension, the World Bank, would have sent an unfortunate and harmful message that the island state is not a good country to invest and do business in and should be avoided, and that other islands on the list are a safer place for investor capital.

Equally puzzling is the fact that the Barbados Bankers Association (BBA) now wants to embrace the self-serving ideas of the IFC where a foreign credit bureau will be in possession of our confidential financial information instead of supporting the development of local entities to manage our information assets. These are the assets on which the future of our children will be built. 


Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 27th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados 

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

A Solution Barbados administration will forgive all debts owed to government by Barbadians and introduce a 10 percent flat tax across the board to replace the many taxes now in place.  Candidate for Christ Church East Central, Scott Weatherhead, announced this during the launch of its candidates to contest the next general election.  The launch took place in Independence Square on Saturday nite.  “So if you owe the government of Barbados money in land tax, solid waste tax, road tax, VAT, corporate tax, personal income tax or any money whatsoever, we will write off your debt completely and you will no longer owe the government one red cent from the day we are elected to office in this country.”

Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has sought to ensure Dominicans enrolled at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) that their studies will not be compromised due to the challenges caused by Hurricane Maria.  Students have been outlining concerns about their ability to complete courses, given that their parents at home are now rebuilding their homes and lives after the category five storm destroyed the majority of houses on the island in September.  Skerrit, who made a brief stop in Barbados on his way home from meetings abroad, told the students that his government will do all in its power to keep Dominicans studying at home and abroad enrolled in current programmes, whether it be at primary, secondary or tertiary level.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

Former housing minister, Dr. Roodal Moonilal, said he never collected an original cheque from the Estate Management Development Business Development Company (EMBD) for delivery to a contractor.  Moonilal was asked by the Sunday Express about text exchanges between himself and former EMBD CEO, Garry Parmassar, which appeared to show he requested certain cheques be sent directly to him and he was deeply involved in the awarding of contracts and payments to contractors.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, has warned that his administration would not allow for lawlessness in Trinidad and Tobago, and instructed the police and the security forces to take “any and all resources” to ensure law and order.

Dateline Kingstown, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES:

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says it will not now comment on media reports in the United States that one of its diplomats had punched his wife, who is also a diplomat, in the face at their Brooklyn home on Friday.  A government spokesman said that members of the Ralph Gonzalves administration were aware of the media report about the alleged incident.  But the spokesman said that the government would investigate the matter before commenting.  The New York Post reported Friday that Selmon Marshall, 43, a counselor at the Permanent Mission of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, allegedly punched his 36 year old wife, Xandra Marshall, in the face.  Mrs. Marshall took up the post as Deputy Counsel General at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consulate in New York, a post her husband previously held. Police officers who responded, could not arrest Marshall because he has diplomatic immunity.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has promised additional measures to fight crime, including money to pay the legal expenses of police fingered by thye Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) and legislation to prevent persons suspected in violent crime being given bail.  Holness told Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporters that the government intends to include the funds in the Supplementary Estimates (Budget) expected to be tabled next Wednesday in the House of Representatives, to provide legal support for police who face the court for the shooting of suspects as well as reintroduce legislation to have persons charged with gun crimes refused bail in court.


Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 24th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Former Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Dr. DeLisle Worrell, is proposing an immediate radical restructuring of the Barbados economy.  It would see 4,500 public sector job cuts over the next three years, with retrenched civil servants going home with $270 million in separation packages funded by international institutions.  The Weekend Nation learnt that Worrell’s remedy also calls for government to enter a five-year structural adjustment programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  There would be conditionalities related to measurable targets for public sector reform”.  Tapping the IMF’s help would then “unlock finance from international financial institutions and official sources such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) he added.

A mere month after Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler publicly boasted of the performance of the controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), it seems the dreaded tax is not reaching its revenue targets.  It was back in October that Sinckler revealed in Parliament that the NSRL, which was increased from two to ten per cent on July 1, had raked in $50 million in the three months following the announced increase in his May 30 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals.  However, in the Draft Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan (BSRP) 2017, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados Today, ahead of its tabling in Parliament next month, officials of the Ministry of Finance who prepared the document following consultation with the Social Partnership, have suggested that the burdensome tax was now likely to perform weaker than earlier expected.

The Freundel Stuart-led Democratic Labour Party government is currently on a road to no where and the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) assessment of the island’s economic situation has confirmed this, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has said.  In fact, two BLP economists have cried shame on the DLP administration for its handling of the economy, saying they were convinced things were getting worse instead of improving, despite burdensome tax measures.  BLP candidate for Christ Church East Central, Ryan Straughn and the Party’s candidate for St. Michael South Central, Marsha Caddle, spoke to reporters during a media conference in response to the latest IMF Article IV consultation which ended with the release of a preliminary assessment yesterday.  Straughn, an economist and past President of the Barbados Economic Society, said he was concerned about the direction in which the country was headed, adding that most worrying was the fact that Barbados’ foreign reserves declined by about four weeks in the last quarter of last year. For her part, Caddle said the IMF statement suggested that “Barbados is even in further decline and the latest fiscal measures had failed on every front.”

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley will address the nation through a media conference at the Office of the Prime Minister this morning.  Rowley is expected to address the deteriorating state of lawlessness in the country, with the latest national embarrassment coming on Thursday when thugs blocked the Beetham Highway and attacked citizens entering and leaving the nation’s capital city.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert has confirmed that he denied permission to the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) to spend $3 million in celebration of its 50th Anniversary.  Imbert told The Express that the money collected by NLCB is for the benefit of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

The government of Jamaica is taking steps to improve the quality and efficiency of transactional public services with a US$160 million loan programme approved by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB).  The programme consists of a US$110 million policy-based loan and a US$50 million investment loan.  In support of the Jamaica Government’s Public Sector Transformation (PST) Programme, the loan package is expected to result in an improvement in service delivery in prioritized ministries, departments and agencies as evidenced by a reduction in waiting times and transaction costs as well as a better adaptation of the public sector workforce to citizens’ needs.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has shrugged off questions on whether he regrets lambasting the media this past Saturday, charging that he is focused on growing the economy and creating jobs for Bahamians.  “I am heading to Cabinet’ he said yesterday, after viewing the body of the late Sir Arlington Butler at the House of Assembly.  “I’m going to approve some investment to try to grow the economy.  There are too many Bahamians out here who are hurting who need jobs.  That is my No. 1 priority.”


[OPINION] The Paradox of Abundance

By Armstrong Williams

Life is funny.  As suckling babes, the most luxurious thing we could ever imagine is the nurturing warmth of our mothers.  But as we age, a whole host of desires and ambitions begin to take shape in our minds. For the most part, whether we want to admit it or not, those ambitions generally center around wealth and social status.  These things replace the womb as the object of our desires, and give rise to an almost insatiable desire for more.  As we sit down with our families this thanksgiving, perhaps it is time for us to put things into greater perspective.

I can remember clearly when I started out in business, I merely wanted to save fifty thousand dollars.  As a spiritual wealthy and poor financial, righteous government staffer with conservative leanings, I thought that princely sum would remove all fear of my lack of financial resources and want. I could upgrade my car from an old jalopy to a used Ford truck. I could furnish my small 201 Mass apartment on Capitol Hill. I could travel and live a little. Fifty grand is all it would take.

And so I got to work. I poured all of my heart and ambition into building a business marketing nutritional supplements. I became very good at it. By the time I sold my business I had my fifty grand and then some.  But that was not the end of the story.  By that time I had become known around town as somewhat of an entrepreneur. Back then, D.C. didn’t have many of those. In fact, business was frowned upon, as the name of the game in Washington was respect, power and then money. In that order.

But through the grace and mercy of God, I persevered.  My friend Steadman Graham and I started our own public relations firm. We figured, ‘hey, we’ve been doing this for politicians and celebrities for almost a pittance. Why not do it for ourselves and make it pay off?’  Those were the fun old days in retrospect.  Learning to close deals.  Dealing with the stress of meeting payroll every month.  Becoming creative and resourceful.  Building a team, and then forging relationships that would help our firm to grow and thrive.

I remember when one day at age 33 my accountant informed me that my net worth had reached a million dollars.  In fact it happened at age 31 and I had no idea. Wow! I stopped and paused. I didn’t really feel much richer than I had at fifty thousand. I was actually working harder. My expenses and obligations had increased. A million dollars sure didn’t seem like the princely sum it appeared to be from a distance. When I got up close to it, it seemed like barely a year of rent, business expenses and payroll. It certainly was not a luxurious cushion.

And so it went, on and on.  By the time I became a multi-millionaire, many of my friends were billionaires. They could do things I couldn’t. They had private jets. They had luxury yachts.  They had vacation homes in exotic places.  They had wine cellars fit for a king.  I studied them. I wanted to grow. I learned how to use even greater leverage. I became a better manager of my character, people and resources. I got to know the captains of industry on a first name basis.

But there were certain things that never changed. That proved to be the core of my life over the years. My daily phone conversation and prayer with my mother at four a.m. every morning.  The workouts at my gym every morning at 5 a.m. My daily radio show.  Writing my weekly column.  Hanging out with my good friend David Modell at the Preakness or at Baltimore Ravens games. Hosting my family on thanksgiving – when they would all come up from South Carolina and we would eat, and sit and laugh together.  I began to appreciate these luxuries more than any others.

The famous Indian novelist Rabrindrath Tagore once wrote, “I get a dinner of some kind every day, but the Goddess of Plenty keeps behind the scenes. Now that the goddess herself has appeared, it matters little if the dinner lags behind.”  I don’t believe in gods and goddesses, as a follower of Christ. But the lesson is a good one.  We should be mindful and grateful for the source of all of our abundance. For it is not the things in themselves that are the miracle, but it is the source of miracles that we should appreciate.

When considering all of the material abundance we have been blessed with this Thanksgiving, let us be more mindful of the source.  God appears to us in our friendships and our relationships with his fellow creatures.  Let us not place material things above love and comradery. Many of my dearest friends lost a parent in 2017.   I lost my friend David Modell this year. My beloved mother passed away April 7 and the devastation of that loss continues consistently everyday with no end in sight. My mother’s sister Ruth and brother Roosevelt also died this year. I am thankful for the riches they brought to my life.  They are and continue to be my most cherished fortune.

 Mr. Williams is Manager / Sole Owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the year. 

Listen to Mr. Williams on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly 6:00-8:00pm EST

Follow me on Twitter @arightside 


Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 23rd

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados 

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team has left Barbados convinced that government is not doing enough to fix its fiscal problems.  Judith Gold, head of the IMF delegation that conducted the Annual Article IV consultation between November 7th and Tuesday, is therefore urging the Freundel Stuart administration to cut its spending further.  Failing this, the island’s debt problems would continue, she warned.  The IMF is also offering its help to government. “It stands ready to assist the government of Barbados, including through continued policy dialogue and technical assistance,” Gold said.

A Barbados Labour Party (BLP) government would do anything that is “legal and moral” to drag the struggling economy from the brink”, BLP leader Mia Mottley has vowed.   Mottley did not say if this included an arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) although the BLP has said in the past it would consider a home grown programme based on an IMF model.  In fact, the international lending institution was not mentioned at all while she fielded questions yesterday at the monthly business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) at Hilton Barbados Resort.  However, in response to a question about engaging multilateral organizations, the opposition leader made it clear that the BLP would do whatever was necessary to get the job done.

In an attempt to avoid a possible roadblock, government is making a last ditch effort to get the full support of the Social Partners for the Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan (BSRP) 2017, which is due to be laid in Parliament by next month.  Barbados Today understands that a draft of the 104-opage document was given to the Social Partners on Monday last week, ahead of a meeting which took place just over 48 hours later.  However, it is understood that all parties did not agree fully with the draft document, prompting minister of finance, Chris Sinckler to schedule another meeting with the Social Partners for later this week in order to “refine” some aspects of the plan in the hope of getting their full backing.  The plan, which is designed to “put the Barbados economy on a path of sustainable economic recovery and reinvigorate social progress” was first announced by Sinckler in his May 30 Budget presentation.

Government is in the process of establishing a Wages Board to look at regulating wages for categories of workers, especially those involved in security operations and daycare and elderly care facilities.  Acting Chief Labour Officer, Victor Felix expressed optimism that the entity could be established before year end, while speaking to reporters after delivering remarks at his department’s Labour Management Relations seminar at the Warrens Office Complex.

Cable and Wireless West Indies Limited, which trades in Barbados as Flow, has been taken to court by a group of former shareholders.  Acting on behalf of the Cable and Wireless Minority Shareholders Group, Q.C. Garth Patterson has filed a claim in the High Court in a class action against the directors of the utility company.   Ricky Went, one of those spearheading the lawsuit, told reporters on the sidelines of the monthly luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Hilton Barbados, that when Cable and Wireless merged with other utility entities, the minority shareholders were effectively locked out of the company.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

In hard times, people apparently turn to gambling.  At a time of economic difficulty, the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) has recorded the highest level of sales and profitability inn its history.  In fiscal year 2016/2017, the State company recorded $2.6 Billion in revenue.  It paid out 70% of this revenue intake ($2 billion) in prizes, while it remitted $306 million to the Treasury.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

The Inter American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a US$20 million loan to support the Jamaica government’s efforts to measurably increase the conviction rate for murders and other violent crimes.  It said this project aims to help reduce homicides through intensified crime prevention activities, as well as to improve the quality and rate of criminal investigations  being managed by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Press Secretary Anthony Newbold, said Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis does not have to consult cabinet  when he decides to reveal new policy initiatives on matters of national importance.  “The Prime Minister makes statements that he thinks are appropriate for him to make, Newbold said.  “He will make statements sometimes without consulting the cabinet and he has a right to do that.”


Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 22nd

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Two weeks of economic consultations between government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ended yesterday with officials mum on the details of the closed-door Articled IV discussions.  However, were the island’s economic management placed in the hands of the United Progressive Party (UPP), a borrowing relationship with the Washington-based lending institution would not be out of the question at this delicate stage. With the economy currently said to be limping along under the weight of a $300 million deficit, a national debt of 144 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), and less than adequate foreign reserves of below $600 million, or eight weeks of import cover, UPP leader Lynette Eastmond said her party was willing to “review all options for borrowing, including going to the IMF.”

Member of Parliament for St. James North, Edmund Hinkson, has criticized the Road Traffic Act (Amendment) Bill 2017, saying it was especially flawed in its provisions for the disabled.  Speaking in the House of Assembly during the second week of debate on the bill which was tabled by Minister of Transport and Works, Michael Lashley, the opposition parliamentarian zeroed in on the proposed fine of $500 for persons who wrongfully park in parking spots reserved for people with disabilities. Calling it a “joke” Hinkson suggested that the fine should be at least $1,000 while stressing “this bill has tremendous flaws in it.”,  making it clear that the opposition Barbados Labour Party did not accept “the concept that an amended Road Traffic Bill is better than no Road Traffic Bill at all.”

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago’s first public forum on the appointment process for judges, got off to a scanty start yesterday.  But this did not stop the question being asked as to whether the power of appointment should remain solely with the Judicial and Legal Services Commission.  Yesterday’s launch of the series of public consultations, during which a committee formed by the LATT will listen to opinions and recommendations on the appointment of judges, was held at the Government Plaza in Port of Spain.

The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is warning its “most errant” customers that before the end of the year, it will begin advertising their properties for sale, as it seeks to recover millions of dollars in unpaid rates.  WASA Chairman, Romney Thomas said the Authority is owed close to $500 million in arrears by both  commercial and residential customers and will be taking “drastic steps” to recover it.   He identified private sector entities as having the largest arrears.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Veteran journalist Gladstone Thurston, has sharply rebuked Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ attack on the media as nothing more than an “insane attempt at rank intimidation”.  “Prime Minister Minnis in his address at the Bahamas Press Club’s awards banquet, came across as rather presumptuous” Thurston wrote on his Facebook page.  ‘Here is a man with less than zero experience in journalism telling experienced journalists how to practice their profession.  It is akin to me having absolutely no knowledge of medicine, lecturing him, a gynecologist, on how to perform a caesarean section.  When I was given the microphone, I was tempted to remind him that talking fool is a very serious thing.  Members of the Press ought rightfully to have felt insulted by the Prime Minister’s remarks.”

A company planning to mine crypto currency, has chosen The Bahamas to domicile its operations because of the solid IT infrastructure of a local company, a release for the company stated.  Cuba Venture Corp Blackchain Revolupay announced that “it has identified a crypto currency data mining centre for its primary data mining effort, located in The Bahamas.  The release did not disclose the name of the “centre”.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

For decades, Jamaica’s economic performance was a sad joke at economic conferences, with its skyrocketing inflation, growing unemployment, stagnant growth and burgeoning debt creating a sense of despair at the country’s persistent poverty.  Last week in Kingston, at a conference, the institution she leads co-hosted with Jamaica, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde lavished praise on the Jamaican authorities for “the remarkable job” they have done in the last four years in turning the economy around.

Starbucks has opened its first store in Jamaica and extended its 76th market globally, making an historic milestone for the global coffee company’s Caribbean operations and its storied history of sourcing the highest quality coffee from the region going back to more than four decades.  The new café, located at the famous “Doctor’s Cave Beach on the “Hip Strip” in the resort city of Montego Bay, offers customers an inviting destination to relax, unwind and connect in one of the area’s most iconic neighborhoods. 


Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 21st

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has again stood defiant in the wake of a series of downgrades, telling party supporters Barbados could not be downgraded by any rating agency. “No rating agency in the world can downgrade Barbados.  Rating agencies can downgrade your credit rating, your ability to borrow money, but they cannot downgrade you as a people” Stuart said at a weekend meeting of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP).

For the second time in three years, Queen’s Counsel, Michael Carrington, who is also Speaker of the House of Assembly, has found himself before the law courts over a money dispute with one of his clients.  In the latest legal standoff, Ajax Construction has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court, challenging the level of fees charged by Carrington for legal work done with respect to the purchase and resale of a portion of land at Warrens, St. Michael.  Ajax Construction is also claiming that Carrington wrongfully withheld some $45,000 from the company and has asked the court to reward it certain sums of money, costs and other relief.  However, Carrington has filed his defence and counterclaim, arguing that he was entitled to all the monies, including his legal fees and costs for representing the company in the purchase of the parcel of land from the National Housing Corporation (NHC) and negotiating the sale of the same property to the City of Bridgetown Co-operative Credit Union.

Barbadians can look forward to paying less for electricity as government is set to save big thanks to a new energy policy.  Members of the Division of Energy, including Minister of Energy, Senator Darcy Boyce, announced the ambitious energy policy for 2017-2037 yesterday.  Acting chief project analyst, Bryan Haynes told the media the policy’s focus was transitioning the island from fossil fuel dependency to one that was energy efficient and renewable energy based.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

The Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD) has filed a claim in the High Court against former housing minister, Dr. Roodal Moonilal.  The action follows investigations by the Ministry of the Attorney-General into pre-election contracts distributed through the EMBD to five contractors in August 2015.  “This claim centres around the award of ten contracts in one month before the September 2015 general elections, to a select five contractors for the upgrade and rehabilitation of certain Caroni traces and two other contractors for rehabilitation works, the AG’s Ministry said in a statement.

Officials of the National Insurance Board (NIB) are advocating the implementation of recommendations listed in the Ninth Actuarial Review of the National Insurance System (NIS).  The review, published in 2015, painted a bleak picture of Trinidad and Tobago’s national insurance system, noting that funds are being depleted faster than contributions were being made to the fund.  It warned that NIS funds would be completely depleted by 2030 if the system is not reformed.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

On a night where members of the media were hinioured by their peers, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, who brought the keynote address, accused journalists in The Bahamas of going after drama and excitement while “missing important stories on public policy” and suggested they are more interested in “easy stories” instead of giving a broader context on issues…”in addition to the sometimes heated moments in events of the day, there is much more that the Press may report on, especially on matters of public policy” said Minnis at The Bahamas Press Club Awards at the Hilton Hotel where he was given the Person of The Year Award.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

Barbados and other Caribbean countries are losing millions of dollars every year due to a number of concessions being used to pure visitors to their shores, according to former Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding.  Golding has described the practice as “a serious danger” to economies, pointing out that it was almost impossible to wean some businesses off these concessions.  He said tax incentives should not be to the detriment of the country’s economy, and the process should be transparent while suggesting that necessary changes should be made over time.


Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 20th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Castries, ST. LUCIA:

All is not well with the proposed Harmonised Credit Reporting Legislation, which seeks to facilitate “an advanced and fair” credit reporting system throughout the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) to enable the sharing and reporting of financial information within the financial system, with adequate safeguards for consumers. The Bill, which, to date, has been given the blessing of only three (3) of the eight member governments of the ECCU, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was due for ratification by all member governments by September 30th, 2017. But after a “closed door” consultation in St. Lucia, convened by regulator, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), stakeholders are still seeking answers to several questions. One such stakeholder is the Barbados-based Caribbean Credit Bureau Limited (CCBL), which has provided credit reporting services to the region since November 1993.  CCBL has been serving the credit reporting needs of Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines for some years and Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Grady Clarke wants answers on the legality of the work that is still being done by CCBL in these markets.  Stressing that the recent St. Lucia consultation did not provide adequate time for the ventilation of “very important issues”, Clarke said he remained concerned about the level of misinformation and lack of meaningful consultation, secrecy and assumption that surrounds the proposed enactment of the Bill. One of his burning questions is whether the governments of the sub-region are being asked to sacrifice local skilled jobs and ICT infrastructure to the benefit of a foreign-owned entity.  He said he hoped that given the several stakeholder question s still left unanswered, upcoming consultations in the sub-region are not “shrouded in secrecy” but are open to the Press and, indeed, members of the public.

Dateline Washington. USA:

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has published new data on its offshore leaks database on close to 25,000 entities connected to the Paradise Papers investigation.  More than 70% of the new records belong to entities incorporated in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Spill the beans Dale Marshall.  That’s the call from Prime Minister Freudenl Stuart to Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) spokesperson on crime, Dale Marshall, who on Saturday alleged that corruption in Barbados had reached startling levels.

The banking industry is under attack again for clinging to its money and not lending to various sectors for developmental purposes.  The most recent criticism has come from church leader, Bishop Dr. Marlon Husbands of Sanctuary Empowerment Centre, who lamented that even the church was facing difficulty in getting bank funding.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

Primer Minister Andrew Holness has called for the strengthening of relations between Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states and non English-speaking countries across the Caribbean and Latin America.

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, has proposed to convene a meeting aimed at exploring options to help Caribbean countries build defences against major catastrophies such as Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated parts of the region earlier this year.

Approximately 87,000 direct jobs are expected to be created if Jamaica’s Logistics Hub Initiative is realized, CEO, Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority, Dr. Eric Dean has said.  A further analysis of the multiplier effect done by Nathan Associates, a group of economic consultants, headquartered in the United States, shows that each job can potentially create five additional openings, equating to an overall 437,000 employment opportunities.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

In another report concerning the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago Chief Justice Ivor Archie and convicted felon Dillon Johnson, the Sunday Express has now revealed that Johnson was among a number of people granted Housing Development Corporation (HDC) units after Archie personally intervened with a senior HDC official to fast-track the applications.

The Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago has been ordered to pay compensation to a Claxton Bay-based motor vehicle dealer in the sum of $8.5 million, and to also hand over to the company 185 vehicles which it imported but which the authority had refused to release.  The order was made by High Court Judge Kelvin Ramcharan in the San Fernando High Court, following the hearing of a judicial review claim filed by A&M Marketing Co. Ltd.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Boasting 300 new employees to bring its staff complement to more than 3,400, Baha Mar last nite officially opened the second phase of its multi-billion-dollar resort complex, the SLS Hotel, the first of its kind outside the United States.  Baha Mar President, Graeme Davis, greeted guests, including Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and Minister of Tourism, Dionsio D’Aguillar, at the 300-room luxury hotel, thanking government for helping the resort meet its milestones.