Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Feb. 6th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Government has a $1.4 Billion problem that is threatening to “erode” recently reported fiscal gains.   International credit rating agency Moody’s warned that this large expenditure on transfers and subsidies and interest payments alone between April and December was a clear sign government’s fiscal problems “are likely to persist”.  In its latest credit opinion on Barbados, released yesterday, Moody’s estimated Barbados’ interest payments would surpass a quarter of government’s revenue in the current financial year.  Moody’s pointed out this would be “one of the highest interest burdens in our rated universe.”  With Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler expected to lay the 2018/2019 estimates of revenue and expenditure in the House of Assembly this morning, Moody’s cautioned that “limited emphasis on expenditure controls and a growing interest burden will erode a portion of the revenue gains.”

Government’s latest plan to revive the ailing economy has been endorsed by the trade unions and private sector, but with conditions.  Toni Moore, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union (BWU), Cedric Murrell, President of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados and Charles Herbert,  Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association are all for the Barbados Sustainable Recovery Plan 2018 (BSRP) which Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said would be laid in Parliament shortly.  However, Moore said though the BWU recognized its membership would be called on to make sacrifices, it expected consultation

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has announced that the 2018/2019 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure will be laid in the House of Assembly today.  He made the revelation at a weekend meeting of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP).  The Estimates have traditionally been laid in March.

Government need not look any further than the skyrocketing cost of living for solid evidence of the negative impact its economic policies have had on Barbadians over the past 10 years.  This suggestion from Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) economic advisor, Dr. Clyde Mascoll on Sunday nite as he revealed findings of his own informal survey on the rising cost of living during a BLP weekend meeting.  Mascoll reported that in January 2008, when the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) took office, the cost of a three-and-a-half pound chicken was $13.20.  However, he said when he checked, the same item was currently priced at $19.77.

Barbados’ largest credit union has launched an internal investigation into allegations of possible conflict of interest by its most senior policy makers.  The supervisory committee of the Barbados Public Workers Co-operative Credit Union Limited (BPWCCUL) has confirmed that it was giving top priority to a probe into claims the BPWCCUL President, Raphael Holder might have breached Section 75 of the Cooperative Societies Act Cap 378 A which requires directors of the board to disclose their interests in the award of material contracts.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

The Jamaica Government, worried at the “negative connotation” that the words state-of-emergency (SOE) may have on the island as a tourist destination, is now referring to the situation as “enhanced security measures”.  National Security Minister, Robert Montague, said that the state of emergency which was recently extended for a further 30 days in St. james where the tourism capital, Montego Bay is located, said that “we will no longer refer in St. James to the state of (public) emergency.  “We are in the tourism capital.  Tourism is the lifeblood.  A state of emergency has a negative connotation overseas and therefore we would like to refer from henceforth to the enhanced security measures, Montague said.

Dateline Basseterre, ST. KITTS:

Leader of the Opposition in St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Denzil Douglas, will head to the High Court on Monday, February 26, 2-018, where he will defend his eligibility to serve as a member of Parliament while being the holder of a diplomatic passport issued by Dominica, which identifies his nationality as Dominican.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

Owners of social media accounts will have to think twice before posting potentially defamatory statements against others on the various media platforms.  Doing so could result in their having to pay thousands of dollars in compensation to their “victims”.  The High Court yesterday delivered a landmark ruling which, in the absence of legislation, will govern the use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as communication applications, including WhatsApp and Viber.

The Caribbean Regulatory System 9CRS) has launched VigiCarib,  a voluntary regional system for CARICOM States to report adverse drug reactions (ADRs)  and suspected substandard and falsified products.  Medicine safety and monitoring systems are often limited in the individual small states of CARICOM and the rationale for a regional approach is that with pooling of resources, sharing of information and co-ordination of activities, there will be efficiencies of scale that can lead to stronger systems overall. The programme will help to protect patients and bolster their confidence in health care, as well as send a signal to manufacturers and distributors that their products are being monitored for safety and quality. VigiCarib is endorsed by CARICOM Ministers of Health.

Dateline Port of Prince, HAITI:

According to the World Prison Brief (WPB) ranking, published at the end of January, Haiti has the highest prison occupancy in the world at 454.4 per cent, which means that Haiti’s prisons are populated some 4.5 times the capacity to house prisoners.  The overcrowding causes many human rights violations, including major health problems, the spread of diseases, malnutrition and violence.  In addition, some 72% of prisoners were in pre-trial detention without having been tried.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Over 100 Jubilee Gardens residents have filed a class action suit against the government and Renew Bahamas, claiming their health and that of their families and the enjoyment of their homes, have been impacted by fires and hazardous smoke from the New Providence Landfill for years.  In a writ, filed by  Fred Smith QC, who is representing the group, the residents claim they have all been “injuriously affected by the continuous fires, thick black smoke, unbearable stench and dangerous, toxic and hazardous emissions occasioned by the fires from the New Providence Landfill.”.

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