Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Feb. 9th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Opposition leader Mia Mottley has all but dismissed questions raised in Parliament this week by Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler about alleged wiretapping between 2000 and 2009, during most of which the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) was in power.  Without specifically mentioning the bugging allegation, Mottley told a news conference that Sinckler’s comments were nothing short of a red herring to distract Barbadians from the many problems facing the country in the lead up to the general election, due by the middle of this year.  “It is difficult to ignore or remain silent on the clearly deliberate attempt by some in our midst to dumb down the reality and gravity of the economic challenges confronting Barbados” the BLP leader said.

The Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) has reacted to concerns arising out of a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  In its Harmful Tax Practices – 2017 Progress Report on Preferential Regimes, the OECD noted that Barbados was in the process of making amendments.  However, it raised concerns that the island’s financing and leasing regimes had “potentially harmful features” based on ring-fencing which is the practice of transferring assets from one destination to another, usually through the use of offshore financing for tax avoidance purposes.  However, the ongoing changes have created uncertainty for some service providers and investors in the local international business sector with BIBA assuring that there was no need to fear the closure of businesses as the revisions were merely designed to satisfy the requirements of the OECD while ensuring the viability of the domestic sector.

Government is not trying to make Barbados a police state.  This is the assurance to the public from Minister of Home Affairs and Attorney-General Adriel Brathwaite and Commissioner of Police, Tyrone Griffith.  Late last month, in the House of Assembly, Brathwaite presented a Bill that outlined measures to amend the Police Act.  The proposed amendments have come in for strong criticism by social commentators including David Commissiong and members of the Opposition who said the privacy of Barbadians was under attack.  However, Brathwaite said there had been too much “misinformation” about the Bill.

Meanwhile, social activist and attorney-at-law, David Commissiong, is hinting at a legal challenge to the newly amended Police Act.  In a Press Release entitled:”A Citizens Response to the Newly-Amended Police Act”, Commissiong did not expressly state that he would sue the “callous and stiff-necked” Freundel Stuart administration, which gives police, particularly the Commissioner of Police, extensive power to impose curfews and curb Barbadians’ constitutional rights.  However, there was no doubt where he stood on its constitutionality.  “It is highly unlikely that the new piece of legislation will pass the test of constitutionality once it is challenged in the Supreme Court of Barbados” the attorney said in the release.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) says it stood willing and able to lend a helping hand to the Barbados government in cleaning up the embarrassing sewage mess along the island’s south coast.  The Director of Economics, Justin Ram gave the assurance while urging the Freundel Stuart administration to make the necessary investment in upgrading the sewerage system, even if it means getting that money from the “very liquid” local banking system.  Ram strongly urged government to push ahead with upgrading the island’s road infrastructure while stressing the need for public private sector partnership.

A major merger is in the making in Barbados’ financial services sector.  Globe Finance and Signia Financial have confirmed that they are currently exploring a possible marriage, subject to regulatory approval.  However, the final decision will be up to their shareholders.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

Hotel occupancy rate in Trinidad and Tobago during the Carnival season has decreased this year over previous years.  This is according to CEO of the Trinidad Hotels, Restaurants and Tourism Association (THRTA) Brian Frontin who says a lack of destination marketing is to blame.  Frontin said hotel bookings for Carnival have been steadily decreasing over the past few years and visitors are booking rooms for shorter periods.

Trinidad and Tobago’s national security authorities obtained vital intelligence from international partners, warning of a terror threat aimed at disrupting Carnival celebrations next Monday and Tuesday, which led to an emergency news conference being called to alert the population about the threat.  Sources confirmed a recent jailbreak plot, which was pre-empted, was part of this national security threat.  Sources said the activities and plans of a local terrorist cell were uncovered and local law enforcement moved to detain a number of people in a raid that started at 3.00 a.m. yesterday.

And finally, this story from Nassau, in THE BAHAMAS:

Speaker of the Bahamas House of Assembly, Halson Moutrie asserted on Wednesday that he is “a real man”, not a “soft, powder puff man” and accused Opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader, Phillip Brave Davis of allowing “reprobates and perverts who deny and hate women” to insert “ludicrous” allegations into his Press statements.  Moutrie, who delivered a blistering rebuke of Davis in a rear 40-minute long communication during the morning sitting of the House, said Davis provoked him.  The Speaker suggested that his marriage was stronger than Davis’, that Davis was involved in gutter politics and that he undermined the office of the Speaker of the House of Assembly and brought the institution of the Parliament of The Bahamas into disrepute.

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