Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 14th
By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados
Dateline Georgetown, GUYANA:
More than two dozen former Guyana government officials will soon be facing the law courts for alleged wrongdoing in public office. The Guyana State Assets Recovery Agency has served notice that it has 25 “solid cases” of officials under the former People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration using their high office to unlawfully acquire properties. The agency’s deputy director, Aubrey Heath-Retmeyer said with the Cabinet’s approval of required resources for its work, lawyers would begin proceedings against the accused. He assured that the agency was not on a witch-hunt but simply collecting what belonged to the people of Guyana.”We are not asking anybody for any vendetta. We are simply saying that it’s our money – your money and mine – we want it back” he said. Meanwhile, Attorney-General Basil Williams has said that if President Granger stepped out of line, he would be brought to justice. “As Minister, let me say up front that there is no protection for anyone in our government and under our watch who is involved any corrupt act. No one is above the law so you could rest assured that with Mr. President David Granger, you don’t have any excuse. If you are found purloining state assets, the law will take its course,” said Williams.
Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:
Employees of the state-run Transport Board return to work this morning. The assurance came last night from General Secretary of the Barbados Workers Union, Tony Moore, after hundreds of workers had walked off the job yesterday morning. The decision was taken after the Minister of Transport and Works, Michael Lashley, attended a closed-door meeting with members of the union and some workers of the Transport Board. The bus schedule is expected to return to normal today but outstanding issues remain on the table.
With global oil prices on the rise again, economist Jeremy Stephen is raising fresh alarms that the country’s dwindling foreign reserves are about to take a “nasty hit” putting the stability of the Barbados dollar in further jeopardy. “The reserves are about to take a huge hit, and we have to acknowledge that the hit is coming,” Stephen said in a video on his Facebook page. He explained that while low oil prices had been Barbados’ “saving grace” in recent years, the global market was changing and “the knock on effect would mean a stronger case for devaluation.”
Despite its on-going economic challenges, ex-Central Bank Governor, Dr. Delisle Worrell suggests overseas investors are still eager to invest millions in the Barbados economy. However, writing in his November Newsletter, Worrell said these potential investors were currently holding back due to the unstable economic environment and the threat of a devaluation of the Barbados dollar which is currently pegged two to one against the United States currency. Worrell therefore called on the local authorities to take “decisive action” to close the national budget deficit and improve the performance of the public sector.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has suggested to Barbadians demanding answers from his administration over the country’s rapidly declining foreign reserves, that they should look no further than their own lavish lifestyles. Speaking at a weekend meeting of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), Stuart contended that government could not be blamed for the state of the country’s international reserves, which plummeted further below the 12 weeks benchmark to reach just 8.6 weeks of import cover or $549.7 Million at end September. “When you hear that our foreign reserves are under pressure, it is because of what we import and because if what you all go on the supermarket shelves and see. It is not that anybody in the government is stealing foreign currency and carrying it and putting it under their bed,” he said.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) have set up an emergency post-disaster reconstruction financing initiative to help the Caribbean region recover from recent hurricane events. The arrangement will support investments for infrastructure reconstruction projects in the Caribbean in the wake of the recent hurricanes. The new US$24 million financing package is an addition to the US$120 million climate action framework loan signed in May this year, and which remains the EIB’s biggest loan to the Caribbean.
Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the government of Jamaica have signed a US$40 million loan agreement to finance an energy management and efficiency programme (EMEP). The EMEP financing programme includes $30 million for comprehensive energy efficiency retrofits in 30 government-owned buildings and the installation of LED lighting in another 50 structures. The second programme will be undertaken in schools, hospitals and public agencies and will help cut the government’s electricity bill by US$7 million annually.
Opposition leader, Dr. Peter Phillips has urged the government to act on the findings and recommendations of the entities set up to probe and root out corruption in the public sector, in order to strengthen loss of confidence in the political directorate of the country’s governance systems. Speaking at a certification ceremony for integrity ambassadors, Dr. Phillips pointed out that despite the passage over the past four decades of important pieces of legislation, such as the Contractor General Act, the Corruption Prevention Act and whistleblower legislation, there is a general perception among Jamaicans that corruption persists at all levels of public life, and in the political sphere in particular.
More than 300 officials are expected in Jamaica for the Sixth International Monetary Fund (IMF) High Level Caribbean Forum, slated for this Thursday, November 16 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Kingston. Among these are current and former regional heads of government, finance ministers, central bank governors and private sector representatives as well as senior staff of the IMF and other international organizations. Theme of the conference is “unleashing Growth and Strengthening Resilience in The Caribbean” and it will focus on issues impacting the region and the potential opportunities within the context of an ever-changing global landscape. Prime Minister Andrew Holness and IMF Managing Director, Christine LaGarde are the keynote speakers for the opening ceremony.
Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:
The Bahamas cannot continue to incur reputational damage as result of being continuously labeled a tax haven, Attorney-General, Carl Bethel said recently, adding that “there is a clear and present danger” for the country’s financial services sector if the government does not act to become a compliant jurisdiction. The new financial climate in the country and the world means The Bahamas may have to look at new corporate tax structures as well” he said. Bethel, who was speaking at a seminar, hosted by law firm Higgs & Johnson, added that the country continues to be at risk of losing correspondent bank relationships, should its reputation be besmirched if it is included on a blacklist of non-compliant financial territories by the Organisation For Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and G20 countries.
Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:
The ministry of tourism said Trinidad and Tobago’s participation in World Travel Market 9WTM) continues to bear fruit, with the possibility that more than 100 European tour operators could visit Trinidad next year.