Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News 02/15

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

High Court Judge Randall Worrell will determine today whether Central Bank Governor Dr. DeLisle Worrell will continue in his role or be left open to firing by the Minister of Finance.  In a rare Sunday nite ruling, Justice Worrell imposed a temporary injunction barring Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler from taking any action against the Central Bank boss after Sinckler summoned him to Government Headquarters last Friday and gave him the option to either resign by the end of business last Monday or face dismissal.  The injunction stands in the way of the Minister moving on his lead economic adviser at the Central Bank.  In what is expected to be one of the most closely watched legal battles in years, the High Court is expected to hear from the Solicitor General, Jennifer Edwards why Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had the legal power to remove the embattled Governor.

“I am absolutely sure he knew the dangers but did not speak up long ago when the time was ripe.”  So said Professor Compton Bourne, a former President of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in a response to government’s effort to remove Dr. DeLisle Worrell as Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados. Bourne addressed the fallout from the printing of money to finance government’s deficit, a policy pursued by the Freundel Stuart administration for the past three years and which might have led to the depletion of Barbados’ foreign reserves.

Property owners in Barbados may have to obtain a tax clearance certificate from the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) before they can proceed with the sale of their property.  This is government’s latest attempt to close loopholes in the tax system, as Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler yesterday complained there were “too many people who seek to dispose of property, hold on to the proceeds and disappear, refusing to pay the taxes owed to the Crown.”

But Opposition leader Mia Mottley contends that the proposed measure is “ill-advised” and will “grind businesses in Barbados to a halt.” if implemented.  Mottley issued that warning yesterday as she and other Barbados Labour Party MPs chastised the Freundel Stuart administration for its proposed Barbados Revenue Authority (Amendment) Bill 2017.  Mottley told the House of Assembly that the legislation, if passed by the House, would affect, not only small property owners, but also businesses, including restaurants and hotels. Despite Opposition rejection, the Bill was however passed late last nite.

The government has been given enough latitude.  That is the position of the General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Roslyn Smith, who was speaking to the media after meeting with temporary workers in the public service for close to three hours at the Horatio Cook auditorium Monday evening. She said they last met on the salary issue in October, 2016 and that the proposal for a 23 per cent increase over three years was still on the table, but they have been unsuccessful in getting a meeting with the players in the Ministry of the Civil Service.  

The state broadcasting company may be considering a series of temporary layoffs as it scrambles to pull itself out of a black hold of debt.  Management of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was huddled in a meeting when a fresh episode of sickness hit the Pine, St. Michael entity and left it searching to find stand-ins for the Morning Barbados TV show.  One of the proposals coming out of the meeting would be to cut managers’ salaries by 10 per cent and temporarily lay off at least 25 workers every ten weeks to cut down on the $1.6 million monthly wage bill.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

A group of doctors has high hopes that an artificial disc, owned exclusively by a Jamaica-born doctor, can be used as a tool to drive medical tourism in Jamaica.  The technology was used for the first time in a four-level disc replacement procedure at the Andrews Memorial Hospital in St. Andrew on February 1.  The surgical procedure was performed by orthopedic spinal surgeon, Dr. Kingsley Chin, who was born in Buff Bay, Portland.  Chin is CEO of Kic Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on the health technology sector and the owner of Axio Med, a health tech company that has developed the technology known as the Freedom cervical disc.

Basseterre, ST. KITTS:

Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris says the coalition government has in two years kept more than 50 election manifesto promises. “I would wish to record among our outstanding achievements, the quiet way in which, within 6 months we took the policy action required to remove VAT from food, medicines and educational supplies. You may ask why these three, because fundamentally, these three were the essence of the quality of life which most people, and particularly the poor, in  St. Kitts and Nevis, were able to experience.”

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Amid concerns in various quarters that the recently tabled Interception of Communications Bill 2017 (ICB) was unnecessary and would be an invasion of citizens’ privacy, Bahamas Attorney-General, Allyson Maynard-Gibson said in a statement on Monday that the proposed legislation is a very important tool to fight against crime, much of which is gang-related, transnational and involves guns and drugs.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

The government will accept no further delay on the Foreign Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) issue, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said Monday nite.  This after he had given in to Opposition demands for one more meeting of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on FATCA.

The government of Trinidad and Tobago saw its fiscal deficit expand by more than 143 per cent last year, a report by the Barbados-based CIBC First Caribbean International Bank has found.

Dateline St. John’s, ANTIGUA:

Nearly two years after the row started, the United Progressive Party (UPP) has officially expelled Member of Parliament, Joanne Massiah, the representative of the All Saints East and St. Lukes constituency.  The development also comes a month after Massiah hinted at forming her own political party and further criticized the current UPP political leader, Harold Lovell, for his performance during his stint as Minister of Finance from 2009 to 2014.

Dateline Kingstown, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES:

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Argyle International Airport was officially opened on Monday nite with a flag-raising ceremony in which Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonzalves described the US$259 million facility as “a symbol, a metaphor of what is possible in us.”