Congress getting in election mood

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is getting into an election mood, according to the party’s General Secretary Patrick Simmons.

The NDC leaders headed by Political Leader, Nazim Burke, General Secretary Patrick Simmons and Chairman, Dr. George Vincent

The NDC leaders headed by Political Leader, Nazim Burke, General Secretary Patrick Simmons and Chairman, Dr. George Vincent

In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper after Congress held its General Council last week Sunday at the Concord government school, the former Minister of Sports said the party is re-energised and ready to deal with the issues that confront the nation.

He said it was “probably the best” General council held by Congress since 2008 and it really “epitomised the seriousness of the party” to try and regain power.

According to Simmons, Congress is now in an election mood and the party believes there are many indicators that seem to suggest that General Elections, although constitutionally due in 2018, might be called soon.

NDC currently has no seat in the House of Representatives followings its 15-0 loss at the polls in February 2013 to the New National Party (NNP) of Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Simmons said “things (are) actually really looking up,” in terms of organisation of the organs of the party.

Many of the NDC Caretakers are currently on the ground touching base with the constituents, he said.

“We’re not really where we want to be yet, but you can see great improvement, and that was highlighted in the report coming from the General Secretary which would have reflected what the constituencies would have reported,” he added.

Simmons indicated that one of the issues of major concern to the party is mobilisation of finances and other resources.

He spoke of Congress being hopeful that this can be achieved with the recent restructuring of the New York Chapter, and with efforts now in place to have the Chapters in Toronto, Montreal and Washington DC reactivated.

Election for the Toronto Chapter is scheduled to take place on November 21.

The party leadership including the Political Leader, Senator Nazim Burke recently embarked on a North American Tour, which they deemd to be highly successful.

The General Secretary’s report gave an account of all the working committees within Congress, and also focused heavily on the status of the constituencies.

Eight resolutions were adopted during the closed-door session of the General Council.

An upbeat Simmons indicated that each of the resolutions addressed current affairs that are adversely affecting the growth and development of the country.

The resolutions called for the naming of the Football and Athletics Stadium in recognition of Grenadian lone Gold Olympic Medalist, Kirani James, others focused on healthcare, the burdensome taxes, and the unemployment situation.

Congress delegates also adopted a resolution on the government’s debt restructuring with the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), another on agriculture and agri-business with direct investment for food security, job creation and nutrition, while another resolution addressed party organisation.

The NDC General Secretary said that apart from the “jubilant delegates” coming from each of the 15 constituencies, there were also representatives in attendance from the newly re-organised New York Chapter.

The General Council also used the opportunity to elect its Disciplinary Committee.

Simmons expressed satisfaction with the composition of the committee noting that it comprises representatives from the Youth and Women’s Arm of the party.

Congress also set January 24th 2016 as the date for its annual convention.

The General Council was held under the theme, “We Are In This Together For A Better Grenada.”

NDC has been forced to rebuild after the expulsion in September 2012 of several top members of the party including its General Secretary, Peter David, ex-government ministers Glynis Roberts, Joseph Gilbert and Karl hood, and trade unionist, Chester Humphrey.

David and Gilbert have since taken up membership with the NNP while Hood was given an ambassadorial position and Humphrey landed the top position of President of the Senate under an arrangement named, “Project Grenada”.

Rebranding of NICL General Insurance Company Limited

NICL General Insurance Company Limited is pleased to announce that effective immediately it will be operating under its Corporate brand name, NAGICO Insurance (Grenada Limited) and as a result it is currently in the process of rebranding.

NAGICO Insurances; which is one of the largest privately owned general insurance companies in the Caribbean, entered Grenada in 2012 under the name NICL General Insurance Company Limited.

“We entered Grenada three years ago at a time when residents were still experiencing the devastating effects of a failed insurance company with a name slightly similar to ours.

“To avoid confusion and doubt, we found it prudent to use the NICL Limited name to differentiate our brand until the time was right for us to be accepted without bias”, Executive Manager and COE for NAGICO Windward Islands; Royron Adams explained.

“We have a solid reputation of fast and fair claims service in every territory in which we operate. We are part of these communities so our clients are our families, our friends and our neighbors.”

Adams noted that while NAGICO has been operational in Grenada for merely three years, it has been in service to the Caribbean for over 33 years, during which time the regional entity has been tested and tried by several hurricanes, volcanoes and many other disasters and has maintained loyal clients throughout the islands.

The NAGICO Executive Manager and COE has also assured that existing NCIL policy holders will not be affected by the rebranding operation that is about to unfold.

“This is a simple change to fully adopt our corporate brand – NAGICO Insurances,” he explained.

“It does not affect our clients nor their benefits under their policies in any way, shape or form.”

Operations Manager of the Grenada Branch; Adele Jn Baptiste said, “Grenada is an exciting new market for us and we are happy to bring NAGICO and its tested umbrella of insurance solutions to this island.

‘The Grenadian public can expect both our protection and support for years to come as we remain ready and willing to serve our clients.

NAGICO Insurances is located in 22 Caribbean islands; including French, Dutch and English speaking Caribbean islands, with assets exceeding EC$675Million and Shareholders’ equity exceeding EC$250 Million.

Temporary structure for Hubble Bridge

A temporary structure will be put in place as a replacement for the Hubble Bridge in Gouyave, St. John’s that collapsed two months ago.

Parliamentary Representative for the Constituency of St. John’s, Alvin Da Breo announced on a local radio programme that a temporary bridge is currently being fabricated in a welding shop.

Da Breo told the programme host last week Wednesday that the contract for the temporary facility was awarded to Junior La Touche but due to the high level of water in the river as a result of the heavy rains in Grenada over the past week, machinery is unable to be placed in the river to prepare the foundation.

He said that once machinery can dig the pillars for the foundation then a crane will carry the temporary structure for installation.

The MP for St. John who is also the Minister of State for Agriculture announced that the temporary bridge will only accommodate pedestrians and not vehicles.

The Hubble Bridge was due to be replaced under a World Bank project before it collapsed on September 21.

It serves as a connecting point from one end of the Town of Gouyave to many other neighbouring communities.

Two persons received minor injuries when the bridge collapsed.

The Hubble Bridge, which is used by many children attending the St. Peter’s Roman Catholic School, suffered structural damage during the passage of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

The Tillman Thomas-led Congress administration had closed the bridge to vehicular traffic but it was re-opened within months of the New National Party (NNP) taking office in February 2013.

In July 2015, the Keith Mitchell government was forced to restrict the use of the bridge to only pedestrian traffic.


BrianFrancisI have to admit that it gives me great pleasure in going after economic and financial issues that are presented to the public from time to time by Ministers of Finance, Governors of Central Banks and Regional and International Institutions such as the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Caribbean Development Bank, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The pleasure I derive is not linked to the notion of me wanting to be critical or having some kind of political bias. Everything I write is based on my training as an economist and is consistent with statistical and theoretical evidence!  I do not “drink bush tea for anyone’s fever,” according to the Trinidadian calypsonian, Sugar Aloes.

I do believe that the public has a right to know what is happening in our economies and therefore when the picture painted by others is clearly distorted, as an economics lecturer at one of our leading educational institutions in the region, this writer believes he has an obligation to his students and the public to present an alternative perspective based on the facts!

I am on a different journey in this piece – a journey that may very well suit the whims and fancies of all the critics out there who for whatever reasons love to attack me; not my writing, because they feel glorified in their actions.

I want, in this week’s contribution, to give praise where it is due and deserving to four entities: Grenada Co-operative Bank, Communal Credit Union, NIS and the Security Division of the Maurice Bishop International Airport.

Let me start with the Security Division at our international airport for obvious reasons.  Sometime ago, I wrote a piece on my experience with airport security. I was highly critical of what I considered then to be the unprofessional manner in which some of the security personnel handled an incident involving your humble servant.

Since the said piece was published, there has been a remarkable improvement in the level of professionalism on display at the security check point at the airport.  Have you noticed anything?  Those security officers are now executing the same duties as before that are designed to ensure all passengers using our airport are safe but they are doing so with excellence so much so that I am extremely relaxed and comfortable when going through the usual security screening at the airport.

Thank you, Mr. Alwyn Clarke and all the other security officers at our international airport for such drastic improvements in your attitude towards your job and your level of professionalism.  Keep up the great work!

Now to the Grenada Co-operative Bank, a financial institution with which I am quite familiar. Having dealt with that institution for such a long time, it continues to amaze me how efficient many of the officers remain when it comes to the execution of their duties.  The interesting aspect to me is the fact that several of these officers are relatively young men and women but they nonetheless demonstrate excellence in service delivery.

It seems obvious to this writer that the training these officers receive is top-class and their dedication to the cause is unmatched.  Even though it might not be politically correct to single out individuals, the fearlessness in me whenever I am writing dictates that I identify officers such as Mr. Roger Duncan and Mrs. Nichole Phillip-Walcott as shining examples of the kind of professionalism of which I speak.

In relation to the Communal Credit Union, I have been a member of that financial body for only a few months. I have to admit that my dealings with the officers of the credit union have been nothing short of glorious!  The level of efficiency with which these officers operate is quite illuminating.

To them I say: If you continue to demonstrate excellence in every aspect of your job, that would redound to not only your personal benefits within the institution but also to the credit union’s membership.  The goodwill you gather will guarantee the survival of the credit union even in the toughest of financial and economic times facing the country.  Way to go!

Last but certainly not least is the NIS.  I have been engaged with employees of the NIS over the past few months on a number of matters including the issue of my contributions to ensure that I am able to secure my pension upon reaching the age of sixty, age benefits for one of my relatives, and a study that I have done on the impact of hurricane Ivan on Grenadians’ earnings/incomes.

The moral of the story to be told about my experiences with the staff of the NIS can be summed up in one word: BRILLANCE! If we in Grenada are really serious about efficiency and quality of service in the workplace, then, we can look no further than the NIS.  It is all evident at that important institution.  For making life as comfortable as can be for me, I just wish to place on record my sincerest gratitude to the likes of Mr. Dorset Cromwell, Mrs. Abigail Christopher and Ms. Marsha Lewis of the NIS. You are all great examples to follow for those interested in excellence on the job!

I am sure that there are other entities in Grenada that are deserving of similar praise for the level of efficiency with which they carry out their functions and their overall contribution to the development of our country.  When I come into direct contact with those entities and I am pleased with the quality of the services they offer, then, rest assured that they will be publicly acknowledged as well.
In the meantime, let all of us who have benefited from excellence in service delivery from the various entities operating in Grenada join in celebrating the good that they have done and convey to them all the very best wishes going forward!  Grenada will be a much better country to live and work when good deeds are duly recognised and publicly appreciated!

As a serious people, we must never fall short of giving praise where it is due!

(Dr. Brian Francis, a former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados of the University of the West Indies)

Tax-Havens, the need for action – Part 2

SAUNDERSBy the very criteria set in the United States (US) by the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC), several states in the US are “tax havens”.  But, they have not been named in the legislation passed by the legislatures of Oregon, Montana and others.

Among the MTC criteria for determining a tax haven is that a jurisdiction “during the tax year in question, has no or nominal effective tax on the relevant income”.  On that basis, there are 9 states in the US that are tax havens.  They are: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming where there is no personal income tax, and New Hampshire and Tennessee which also have no taxes on wages; only interest income and dividends are taxed.

There has been no labelling of these US states, although small jurisdictions in the Caribbean and Pacific have been openly branded as tax havens because they have no or low tax for their international financial services sector.  This underscores a double standard and unfairness that small countries are forced to endure to their detriment in the international economy.

Interestingly, while individual US states and the District of Columbia have adopted “tax haven” criteria in laws that harm Caribbean and Pacific countries, at least two Republicans, hopeful of being elected US President, have made it clear that, if elected, they would streamline the US tax code and lower tax rates.   Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky both said they would scrap the current tax code and replace it with a uniform tax on consumption.

An intriguing idea was floated by Senator Cruz.  He proposed abolishing the Internal Revenue Service altogether. It will be interesting to see if he returns to it, and how much traction it gets.

No country tries to dictate to the US Federal Government or to any of its 50 constituent states the level of taxation they set.  Setting taxes is their right, as it is the right of every competent jurisdiction as I have pointed out before in previous columns. Therefore, jurisdictions everywhere in the world have an equal right to object when any other jurisdiction tries to force them into setting taxes that are not in their interest.

The problem for small jurisdictions is that they have few options for objections to such coercion and even fewer for resisting it.  But, the worst decision would be not to object and not to resist.  No wrong anywhere in the world and at any time in history has been corrected by inaction.  However difficult it may be to do so, wrongs have to be confronted at many levels and through every possible avenue.

At the root of the problem that small Caribbean and Pacific countries face in countering the false and harmful label of “tax havens” that has been applied to them, is that none of them have diplomatic or any other relations directly with the individual states of the US that have so branded them.

Further, they have no tax agreements of any kind with the individual US states.  Both their diplomatic relations and tax agreements are quite properly with the federal government of the US, represented in this instance, by the US Department of State and the Department of the Treasury.

When Caribbean and Pacific jurisdictions signed Tax Information Agreements (TIEAs) – and in some cases Double Taxation Agreements – with the US, they did so in good faith and with the understanding that the US federal government acted on behalf of all its constituent parts.
In this regard, the jurisdictions that have been wrongly and harmfully labelled as tax havens are entitled to expect the US Federal Government to act in defence and in preservation of legally binding treaties that it signed on behalf of the US as a nation state. The preposterous alternative – really beyond contemplation – is that the US Federal Government does not act in international matters for its individual states.

In this regard, the US State and Treasury Departments should be telling the individual state governments that Caribbean and Pacific countries have signed TIEAs with the US and that no request for tax information has ever been denied.  They should also be telling them that the Global Forum of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have found Caribbean and Pacific countries no less compliant in tax requirements than the US as whole and more compliant than several states of the US.

And, as for the level of taxation applied by countries, the US Federal Government should also advise individual states of the US that, just as they fought tooth and nail to maintain authority over their own levels of tax to the point where the 9 states named earlier have no personal income tax, so it is the right of other jurisdictions to set their own tax rates at what ever pitch they regard as competitive.

Caribbean and Pacific states should make this case at all levels – in direct discussion with the US Federal Government, in the media in their own countries and in the US, and in international and multilateral bodies such as the United Nations, the Organisation of American States and the Global Forum of the OECD.  To correct the wrong, action is required.

There is a further point to consider in this tax competition debate.  Those in the US and the European Union countries who are complaining about low and no tax jurisdictions want the benefits of globalisation and completely free entry into the markets of other states, but they refuse to address the consequences of their out-dated tax policies and practices which belong only in a protectionist world.

There is need for change in this imposed order in the world’s long-term interest.  Protectionism should not be undesirable and unpalatable except when it suits the powerful.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is the Ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda to the United States. He is a candidate for the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General)

The More the Merrier with Digicel

Digicel kicked off its “The More the Merrier” promotion last week Friday (November 13) at the Digicel store on Melville Street with customer giveaways and a presentation to the media on the exciting elements of the Christmas promotion, which runs through to December 31.

Digicel 1The ceremony was opened by Marketing Executive, Aaron La Grenade, who outlined the details of the promotion including cash and prizes amounting to over $70,000.00.

Digicel would be bringing out its cash vault once per week for 6 weeks, allowing 3 lucky customers the chance to grab up to $5000 cash.

At the end of the cash vault events, there would be one more aspect of the promotion, the DEALightful, DEALicious, DEALirious Grand Prize Bingo.

Customers simply have to top up $12 or more, activate any data plan, or pay their bill in full and on time to be eligible.

Sales and Distribution manager, Jenson Phillip provided details of the Grand Prize Bingo, which is a pathway to determining the grand prizewinner with an exciting and eventful grand finale planned where the mystery prizes will be revealed.

He also gave details of the new line of Digicel DL smartphones being released, some boasting double the speed and capacity, and larger screens all under $400.

The excitement grew in the room as each part of the promotion was revealed, and then there was one more surprise as Digicel staff brought out the cash vault to do a surprise $2000 cash grab for 3 lucky customers.

“At Digicel, we have certainly started off the Christmas season on a high note and we will continue to keep the momentum going as the season progresses”, said Chief Executive Officer, Ciarán Burke

“We are always recreating ways to stay fresh in the minds of our customers, and this new promotion promises to capture as many winners as possible all through the promotion. The More the Merrier with Digicel””, he added.

Abandoned buildings in Town

Another attorney-at-law who is involved in frontline politics with the ruling party is believed to be the owner of this badly run down building on St. John’s Street

Another attorney-at-law who is involved in frontline politics with the ruling party is believed to be the owner of this badly run down building on St. John’s Street

Works Minister, Gregory Bowen has disclosed that Government is challenged to find an appropriate solution to deal with the issue of abandoned buildings in the Town of St. George.

The issue is topical as from time to time, portions of some of the buildings fall apart, threatening the safety of passersby, including school children and motorists.

Several persons on the island have often voiced complains that the old dilapidated buildings have become an eye sore especially to visitors to the island.

Recently, a concerned citizen walked into the office of THE NEW TODAY, complaining about a portion of an abandoned building located on St. John’s Street, St. George’s, which fell on a mini passenger bus plying the Grand Anse route, forcing street vendors to cease from doing business in the immediate area.

In commenting on the amount of abandoned buildings in the city, Minister Bowen told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that addressing the issue is not an easy task.

“You have a certain problem here,” he said, explaining that  “although the buildings are abandoned… it (has) something to do with preservation – so rather than knocking it down (the preference is that) you should restore it.”

The building that was once occupied by a prominent city lawyer on the crossing at the top of St. John’s and Church Streets

The building that was once occupied by a prominent city lawyer on the crossing at the top of St. John’s and Church Streets

Minister Bowen who holds the portfolios for  Communications, Physical Development and Public Utilities indicated that the challenge is with the “issue of how to find the financing or how to make the owners restore it (the buildings) before you knock it (the building) down.”

The Works Minister admitted that while this situation is “not in the purview of (the Ministry of) Physical Development, something has to be done” to address the safety issues in this regard.

“I think this is being given some consideration now,” Minister Bowen said, adding, “it is something that because of safety, you can move to demolish and make the owners pay for the cost of demolition, or at the same time, if you want to preserve then you can encourage them to really spend monies on it.”

According to Minister Bowen, his Ministry is presently looking at alternative measures to assist the building owners on the way forward.

This building at the corner of Halifax and St. John’s Streets was once used as an ice-cream parlour and home to jazz music

This building at the corner of Halifax and St. John’s Streets was once used as an ice-cream parlour and home to jazz music

“They (the owners) are claiming that there are funds out there that you can attract. So we will write up some projects to give them (the owners) an opportunity to bring in some funds so that they could do it (the project). We can give them that first step and then, certainly, we would have to move to demolish,” Minister Bowen added.

One of the major abandoned buildings in the city is York House that once served as the island’s Parliament and main high court.

Hurricane Ivan destroyed the building in September 2004.

China’s Ark Peace offers free medical services

Grenadians are being encouraged to take advantage of medical services provided on board the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) China’s Ark Peace, an all inclusive/fully equipped hospital ship, scheduled to arrive in Grenada on December 5 for a short visit.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) China’s Ark Peace

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) China’s Ark Peace

The Chinese Peace Ark hospital ship, which is known for its successful humanitarian medical missions in many parts of the world, including, Asia, Africa and Haiti, is expected to berth at the Melville Street Cruise Terminal for 7 days.

During the one-week visit, Grenadians would be exposed to a wide range of basic and advanced medical services and procedures, free of charge.

The PLAN Ark Peace is the first purpose-built hospital ship with 300 sickbeds, and a staff of 398 medical and support personnel including neurologists, surgeons, radiologists, dermatologists, biomedical engineers and psychologists.

Other facilities on board the ship include a rescue helicopter, 32 medical departments including Chinese herbal medicine, 5 doctors offices, 2 nursing offices, 8 nursing stations, 8 surgery rooms, 20 nursing wards, 108 in-serious wounds wards, 67 burn wards, 94 in-ordinary wards, 10 isolation wards and a wide range of diagnostic medical equipment, totaling 2414.

Approximately 2 weeks ago, the ship’s top commanders visited the island, where they met with officials from the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs, as well as the Police and Port Authority to plan and finalise the schedule of the ship’s one-week visit.

The crew is hoping to undertake several medical operations, physical examinations, dental check-ups, CT scans among men, women and children.

China has been providing assistance to Grenada in several areas of economic development and co-operation including health care, education, agriculture, sports, housing and culture after the two countries resumed diplomatic ties in 2005.

The Keith Mitchell-led government took the decision after the passage of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 to dump the Republic of China on Taiwan (ROC) in favour of Beijing, which offered it substantial assistance including the rebuilding of the national cricket stadium at Queen’s Park.

Haircut only for commercial debts

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine has given details on a local radio station about government’s debt restructuring with its US bondholders.

According to Antoine, the 50% haircut Grenada has received is only for the commercial debts with “powerful” bondholders, which amounted to about $700M and this group of creditors control most of the country’s bonds.

He said the island’s total debt is about $2.6 billion and of that amount almost 40 percent of the commercial debt was contracted with the bondholders.

The Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s took the decision in early March to default on payments to the bondholders as the island entered into a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that is being closely monitored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Antoine stressed that international financial agencies such as the IMF, World Bank, and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) do not give haircuts on debts owed to them.

He disclosed that the entire 50% percent haircut coming from the bondholders is not coming all at once.

The PS Finance said that Grenada is to immediately receive 25 percent, and the other 25 percent will take effect when the Structural Adjustment Programme ends next year.

However, he noted that the second portion of the haircut will come after the review of the programme takes place in 2017.

“They (the creditors) said to us, we need to make sure you continue to do what you say you’re going to do,” he told the programme host.

Antoine pointed out that Grenada was hard-pressed into agreeing to provide to the creditors a share of the proceeds netted from its passport-selling scheme known as Citizenship By Investment (CBI) Programme.

He said Grenada was able to get an agreement from the creditors that during the SAP there will be no sharing of the proceeds from the CBI Programme.

He added that if Grenada collects more than $40M in any given year from the programme after the SAP ends then the creditors will be provided with a percentage.

The island’s top civil servant noted that Grenada’s debt situation is now regularised with its creditors and the country is no longer in a situation of default and arrears.

Under the deal worked out, government will now have to make two substantial payments per year beginning in May 2016 with the other due in November.

THE NEW TODAY understands that only 94% of the total number of people in possession of the US Dollar Bond requested an exchange of the old bonds, which were due in 2025 for new instruments that are now due in 2030.

In addition, everyone holding EC Bonds that amount to $183M agreed to the debt exchange agreement, which was completed on November 12th.

During the 2008-13 rule of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Tillman Thomas, the administration failed on two occasions to pay the salaries of civil servants on time due to financial commitments with the US bondholders.

The late payment of salaries to civil servants coupled with bitter internal feuding within the Thomas government contributed to its massive 15-0 loss at the polls in February 2013 to the New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.


By Clare Briggs-De Gale

Jericho, oh Jericho, My dear
It’s four years ago you left us here
To the great beyond, you have gone
To none of us, you ever signaled or warned

You were a good son of the soil
You always answered Four Roads people and Grenada’s call
We love you and we will always remember you for this
Your family and friends will reminisce on your hugs and kisses

The people of WEE-FM still recall hearing your voice
You were the reason to listen, you were their best choice
Oh how we miss you so
We wish you were here to thrill us on radio even more

Christmas is on its way
Certainly “Men from the Mainland” wish ” you was dey”
To put humour in the parang music
And expose “dem” politicians with their tricks

Oh my boy, you are gone
Your memory in our minds, will forever linger on
In God’s loving arms you will always be
Since you have left us to reunite with Him and to be free

Sunrise: 13th July 1961
Sunset: 3rd November 2011