Canadian Government offering financial assistance to social groups

The Government of Canada is this year pumping CAD $80,000 in a number of projects in Grenada which address social issues of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, and violence against women and children through its flagship programme, “Canada Fund for Local Initiatives” (CFLI).

Lima Frederick – touched on the use of the funds

The Canadian High Commission will be collaborating with the Ministry of Social Development and Housing, Cedar’s Home in St. Patrick’s, Grenada National Organisation of Women (GNOW), and the Sweet Water Foundation of Grenada on the projects.

High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Marie Legault got a first-hand appraisal of the projects being undertaken by the various bodies during a meeting at the Radisson Beach Resort at Grand Anse, St. George’s while on a courtesy call to the country last week.

Cedar’s Home is a shelter for abused children and women, and CFLI funding will assist in providing technical training, and much needed refurbishments to the facility.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development and Housing Lima Frederick provided the High Commissioner with an update of the use of the funds.
GNOW which advocates for gender equity will benefit from CFLI funding to support training activities for women and children, focus on sexual violence, and empowering children to identify and report sexual abuse.

Grenada Sweet Water Foundation specialises in the prevention and treatment of adult victims and predators of abuse.

Canada is this year marking its 150th anniversary, and as part of the events, the country will be highlighting the importance of gender equality on March 8th, which marks International Women’s Day by having a competition called, “Become High Commissioner for a Day.”

Young people between the ages of 16 and 19 years from seven countries in the region including Grenada are encouraged to submit a 60-90 seconds video to the High Commissioner’s office in Barbados addressing how they can become a champion for women’s equality in the region.

High Commissioner Legault announced that the winner of the competition will act as the Canadian High Commissioner for one day at the Barbados Office.

That person will have the honour of meeting with the staff, manage a staff meeting, and will also meet the Barbadian President of the Senate and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The winner will also be the host of a dinner at the official residence of the Canadian High Commissioner.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood!

I heard the woman saying to two Jehovah’s Witness (JWs) ladies who were preaching in her area, “You all go your way because if I want blood to live, you all won’t give me!”

The Witness ladies were willing to explain their stand on blood and why but the woman was not willing to converse. Personally, I believe that if an accusation is made against someone, that person should be given the opportunity to defend himself/herself.

Acts 28:22 reveals that it is wise to find out from the source itself, why they do or not do something, as I have done. The main reason why JWs do not accept or give blood for surgery is that they believe the Bible condemns such at Acts 15:20, 28, 29 and Acts 21:25, along with some other Scriptures.

Since these Scriptures say to abstain or keep themselves from blood, JWs do not take blood into their bodies at all, neither by eating, drinking, or transfusion. Now that’s their belief, which we should all respect even if we may disagree.

We should not criticise JWs for their stand. None of us want anyone to disrespect his/her own beliefs. Let’s be fair. Therefore, it is false when people say that JWs hate their family members, friends, or themselves because they do not donate or accept blood for surgical purposes.

If JWs hated their sick family members, would they have taken them to the hospitals in the first place, seeking medical help for them? I certainly don’t think so! JWs are willing to accept medical treatment that does not contain blood.

At their website, jw.org, anyone can view the video entitled, “No Blood-Medicine Meets the Challenge!” This video reveals medical treatment and surgical procedures that JWs accept that do not contain or involve the use of blood.

JWs respect other people’s right to use blood in surgery if they so desire. They do not force their views on others. So too, they are glad when others are fair-minded and are willing to respect their rights to choose not to use blood according to how they understand the aforementioned Scriptures.

Let us respect each other’s rights and refrain from being critical. Matthew 7:12.

Simeon James

Government is unmoved by Rex’s Trip Advisor award

A Trip Advisor award is not enough to change government’s mind about acquiring the Grenadian by Rex Resort.

This was told to reporters on Tuesday by Minister of Health, Social Security and International Business, Nickolas Steele who addressed the weekly post-Cabinet Briefing at the Ministerial Complex.

According to the senior government minister, despite the fact that the Grenadian by Rex Resort has received an award for excellence in services from Trip Advisor, government will not change its mind about acquiring the property.

The award reflects the excellent services that are provided by the staff of the resort and the government is saying that the problem with Rex is infrastructure and not the service it provides.

Steele said previous reviews indicated that guests are not pleased with the infrastructure of the resort and this is what should be considered in the acquisition move by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government.

“If you look at Trip Advisor…Trip Advisor records throughout…October, November. Look at some of the reviews on Trip Advisor – words like awful, words like run down, words like needs to be repaired and if you look at the Trip Advisor now there is quite a bit but it’s talking about the staff, the Grenadian people that are there, that I am proud of, that I have no problem with”, he told reporters.

According to Minister Steele, the staff at the Resort  are the ones who should be employed at a five star resort and “not a run down three-star.”

“Those are the people that our tourists are recognising and speaking about on Trip Advisor – it’s the treatment that our Grenadian people give to our tourists that we as a government respect and want to give more of a chance.

“…When a hotel moves from a three star hotel or a two star hotel to a five star hotel one of the first things they must do is increase the guest to employee ratio – that is what we want to see, that is what we have been begging and trying to work with the Rex to do since we came into government. That is what they have not wanted to do and that is why they have left us with no choice.

Minister Steele charged that a hotel the size of Rex should be performing much better than it has done over the years that it has been in operation.

He told reporters: “It took three years of us begging and asking and pleading and then we have seen within those three years other hotels of similar size open with a five star rating; high occupancy. Look at Sandals, 95% occupancy – one of the best in the region, not just for staff satisfaction and politeness of the staff but in terms of accommodations, in terms of rooms, facilities, food and the staff…look at Calabash, they close every year for maintenance rebuilding – that is why they are number one, not just like what Rex is trying to show off their staff alone.

“…They (Calabash) are number one in facilities, they’re number one with their staff, they are number one with returning visitors as well, no body uses value for money as their excuse when they staying at Calabash or so…they say it’s the number one hotel,” Minister Steele said.

Government was given the go ahead by a local high court to proceed with the acquisition of the Rex Resort but has not revealed who will be taking over the operations of the hotel.

Steele told reporters this cannot be done at the moment because the issue is in the hands of the judiciary.

“We will take pleasure in announcing the progress of the Rex as the Rex progresses in terms of the investment, in terms of investor, in terms of stages.

“The reason that I have been silent simply is because I respect the Judicial System and this government respects the Judicial System and it is still in the process of completion.

“Once completed, I guarantee you, we would be here in front of you and the nation as a whole to announce why we have taken the risk to be questioned and why we think it is worthwhile.

Keithism has to come to an end!!!

A transparent and unbiased analysis of Grenada will reveal that the country is in a state of hopelessness. And given that we are a resilient and warm people, we suppress the frustrations formed as a result of this hopelessness.

The people I speak of are the people who I have labeled as Grenada’s ‘rejectables’ – those who are not affiliated with the NNP or any other political party and those who are politically involved with the NDC.

These people are sidelined for job opportunities by the government and even the private sector as they are weeded out of the social safety nets and they are rejected for scholarships, roadwork, among others.

In 2008 when the NDC won the general elections, many were pleased and ecstatic. Grenada got a chance to breathe again after being stifled by what appeared to be the dictatorship style ruling of Dr. Keith Mitchell.

However, the country did not enjoy this new refreshed atmosphere for long as the apparent neglect by the NDC coupled with some of its members own egotistical demeanors were the main contributing factors for Congress losing the 2013 general election.

Politics does change people but people should change the nature of politics when they are given the chance to do so.  The NDC failed to be the change they championed to be for the people. Some MPs were constantly missing in action and so they were oblivious to the needs of the people and their respective constituencies.

There was an obvious disconnect with the MPs and the constituents. A vivid example is the St. Patrick’s West constituency whose MP at the time turned out to be one of the rebels who helped destroy the brand and network of the NDC.

He was considered a ‘big stone’ in the area because of his lethargic attitude. There is nothing positive to highlight from this useless MP’s tenure. He did nothing!

The NDC now stands once again as the alternative to the ruthless NNP.
From all indications the party stands united to erase Keithism from Grenada’s political landscape. This is no easy task as some Grenadians thinking abilities have been eroded with serious symptoms of Keithism and from their standpoint, the PM could do no wrong.

As human beings we are all fallible but for some peculiar reason NNPites think members of the NNP hierarchy are perfect. Their attitude regarding the recent development exposed by THE NEW TODAY newspaper relating to Grenada’s Citizen by Investment Program confirms this.

Hats off to THE NEW TODAY for its diligent investigation, which threw shade on the CBI program, it was necessary! Some NNP watchmen pointed out that there are other important issues worthy of investigation, which they believe the newspaper, should have focused on.

Those watchmen are out of line because they are so used to dictating to other media outlets what, when and how things should be reported that they expect people to roll over when they speak.

I commend THE NEW TODAY for its stand to report the wrongs of the NNP. On the said CBI program, with a pugnacious attitude in one of the ‘candy-like’ NNP press conferences, Mr. Steele noted that due diligence was done on the government’s part and that there are no grounds to reject that investor.

Mr. Steele seems to be willing to welcome investors providing that they are financially sound regardless of how they may have accumulated their wealth. If this is a fact, it is grave and disturbing.

Whenever a discovery like the last have surfaced, the NNP refuses to give any form of explanation to the public. They engulf themselves in an unconcerned manner and rather than apologise for their hiccups they chastise the sources for bringing the stories to the public domain.

The NNP is under the impression that it does not have to account for anything it does in this country. The PM and his followers appear to have authoritative characters and would scold anyone who criticize them or contradict their ideas.

Let me remind them that this is not Russia or China – this is a democratic country and we have the right to demand answers from the leaders elected in office. If only the media will do their job and ask the tough questions to this government, change will be realised.

I blame the NDC for where we are and the state of hopelessness we are forced to endure under this Keithism governed country. The blame does not mean they are responsible for the PM and his government’s terrible actions and choices but the blame is because the NDC was given a chance to help Grenada heal from wounds created by the NNP and as a government the NDC failed.

NNP is here now not because it deserves to be and not because it is better than the NDC but because the NDC handed the victory over. The NNP is notorious for using rigorous, manipulative and propaganda strategies to win elections.

I am calling on the NDC to cease with its religious and subtle campaign strategies. Fight back, champion the causes that matter, defend the fake adverts when they come out and be equally rigorous in its campaign. If the NDC wants to win the populace, it has to be forthcoming with compelling and honest messages addressing the bread and butter issues affecting the majority of Grenadians.

I for one, do not want to hear the wrong doings of the PM and his gang because I know them. I am keen to know the NDC’s plans to fix the wrongs in our country. Tell me how high unemployment will be curbed and how the health care sector will be improved.

I want to know how the CBI program will be altered and what plans are there to develop the nation’s youth, educational system, infrastructure, tourism and agriculture. Those are the issues that are of paramount importance to me and if I can be a bit bold here, those are the issues that should matter to all Grenadians.

Keithism has to come to an end, Grenadians have suffered enough, and I am confident that the NDC can be the cure.

The Graduate

Health Minister not in support of Dangerous Dog Act

Minister of Health, Nickolas Steele has denied reports circulating in the country that he has handed back to a number of dog owners in some of the well-to-do areas of the island their animals that were seized by the Ministry of Health under the Dangerous Dog Act.

Minister of Health, Nickolas Steele – is seeking to find a way around the Dangerous Dog Act

The minister made the denials as he expressed reservations about some aspects of the Dangerous Dog Act.

Speaking at Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister Steele told reporters that he took a decision to remove some of the Pitbull dogs from the Vector Control Department of Ministry of Health at Queen’s Park to a more humane environment.

The Ministry of Environment had impounded several Pitbull dogs after a series of recent attacks on persons including Government Senator, Peter David.

The Pitbull has been deemed as a dangerous dog according to the Dangerous Dog Act of 2002.

According to Minister Steele, he visited the area and being a dog owner himself, felt that the place was not ideal to house the dogs.

Saying that he is not a fan of the Dangerous Dog Act, the senior government minister indicated that after consulting with some of the dog owners, he teamed up with the Grenada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) to have the dogs housed with them on Lowther’s Lane.

“No dogs have been given back to owners yet. What I did do is when I inspected the location where the Ministry was keeping the dogs, as a dog owner myself I was not comfortable with keeping the dogs there.

“So we made arrangements with specific owners for them to have their dogs kept at the GSPCA in a more humane surrounding until a determination is made by the Ministry i.e. by myself in consultation with the Attorney General and Environment and the Police as to release or not.

“As a dog owner myself, I believe that the dogs should have been kept in a more humane surroundings, so we allowed those arrangements to be made.

Stressing that he was against the law, Minister Steele said he is working with a number of stakeholders to have a more acceptable way of handling situations like these with those impounded dangerous dogs.

“We are working with the GSPCA and Veterinary Clinic and the police to find a more acceptable way forward; finding the balance between the fact that we have to enforce where there are dogs that are creating a menace to society and  jeopardising our population and then we also have to recognise that there are individuals who have dogs as pets and should be allowed to keep those dogs as pets”, he said.

“So it is (important) to find that balance but in the interim there have been certain dogs that have been identified to be extremely dangerous and was dealt with accordingly and then I believe that there are other dogs that based on temperament and so could be deemed not to be so and they be dealt with accordingly also,” he added.

The Future of Financial Services in the Caribbean: International Tax Competition, Globalization and Fiscal Sovereignty

A presentation by Sir Ronald Sanders on Friday 17 February 2017 at a Conference organised by Goethals Consulting Corp in Panama on “Widening the Pathways to Open Societies”

I have been asked to speak on “The Future of Financial Services in the Caribbean” in the context of “International Tax Competition, Globalisation and Fiscal Sovereignty”.

As I speak, that future is bleak. Globalisation has been a one-way street of impositions by powerful countries; fiscal sovereignty has been violated by the strong; and tax competition remains under threat from the mighty.

Indeed, if the current pattern of incursions, restrictions and false labelling of Caribbean jurisdictions as ‘tax havens’, and the Caribbean as a region of ‘high risk’, is not halted soon and swiftly, not only will financial services have no future, but the Caribbean region as a whole could be relegated to the backwater of global existence.

The evidence of the last 30 years speaks for itself.

OECD CAMPAIGN

It is clear that the major member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have been embarked upon a campaign to eliminate competition in financial services from Caribbean countries and other developing states, since the 1990s.

That campaign has never waned. It has gained validation in the international community by seducing or coercing some developing countries into participation in groups, created at the behest of G7 countries, ostensibly to establish globally acceptable rules on tax information exchange, transparency, common reporting standards, anti-money laundering, counter terrorism financing and tax evasion.

One such group is the OECD Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax purposes which claims 139 members and in which the countries of the European Union are over represented since they participate as individual nations and as a collective body.

At the end of the day, the seemingly broad membership of the OECD Forum is window-dressing for the menacing objectives of the more powerful countries.
The high number of members, masks the fact that no small nation can resist the candy-coated but bitters pills with which they are presented.

In the end, sanctions hang like the sword of Damocles over the heads of those who participate.

The entire process remains one of pushing the agenda of automatic access to tax information and ending tax competition in keeping with the prevailing ideology of European Union countries especially.

SOVEREIGN RIGHTS IGNORED

Despite all the rhetoric of ‘level playing fields’ and respect for sovereign rights, the world remains one in which might parades in the armour of right, and power camouflages itself in the clothes of justice.

In this matter, there has been – and continues to be – the most blatant disregard for the rules of international law; rules that have been spelled out by the UN and upheld by the International Court of Justice.

Those rules specify quite clearly that States cannot intervene in areas solely within the jurisdiction of other States, and international organisations are restricted from intervention within the domestic jurisdiction of states.

Yet, the powerful nations of the world – clustered in the OECD – do precisely the opposite. And, weak and vulnerable nations are powerless to respond.

In fear of sanctions, such as blacklisting by OECD countries and the European Union Commission, and penalties from the United States, they acquiesce; surrendering their sovereignty.

At the conception of the United Nations, world leaders committed themselves to a world “governed by justice and moral law”, one in which they asserted the “pre-eminence of right over might and the general good against sectoral claims”.

If, in the history of the UN, that commitment was ever respected, it has certainly been disregarded if not reversed in relation to fiscal sovereignty and globalisation.

‘DOGS OF WAR’ RELEASED

And, in all this, the powerful nations have seduced the international media into becoming participants in their campaign.

As far back as 1834, a US Senator described this with prescient clarity. He said “power marks its victim; denounces it; and then excites public hatred and odium to conceal its own abuses and encroachments”.

So, as one commentator put it: “The dogs of war have been released on Caribbean off-shore centres”.

In the wake of the so-called “Panama Papers”, Panama has had its share of the snarling and bites of the war-dogs.

The truth that dares not speak its name is that “automatic exchange of tax information”; false branding of countries as “tax havens “while the real tax havens continue to thrive and prosper; and sanctions against what is described as “uncooperative jurisdictions”, is a form of neo-colonialism.

It is a campaign to dictate the tax systems and structures of other nations for the benefit of OECD member-states, curbing the rights of sovereign but weak states and autonomous jurisdictions.

This campaign has been continuous and unrelenting, reaching an apex 17 years ago, when the OECD launched its so-called ‘harmful tax competition’ in 1999.

NO UNIFIED RESPONSE FROM VICTIM COUNTRIES

The campaign has persisted and has been successful not only because of the coercive might of the powerful States, but also because there has been no unified response from the countries and jurisdictions which are their victims. Indeed, there is still no unified response.

The victim-nations lack the cohesion, the coherence and the capacity to formulate a common position and to stand-up for themselves.

Instead, there is a scramble by individual powerless nations to salvage what they can of their financial services sector, and to avoid, at all costs, the sanctions and penalties of the powerful countries.

So, they play the game as best they can, with their feet hobbled and their hands tied behind their backs.

The upheaval against the discriminatory political order that we have seen within the affairs of nations has not yet taken root in the affairs between nations.

There is as yet no leader ready to trump the abuse of the last three decades.

In fact, the absence of cohesion and coherence by developing countries might be obvious in a recent decision by the government of Ecuador, as Chair of the G77& China at the UN, to work for an independent UN body that will eliminate tax havens and illicit financial flows.

There had been no prior discussion with other developing countries on this effort, and no clear indication of which jurisdictions Ecuador regards as tax havens.

The initiative might get the support of developing nations if the real tax havens are identified.

As it is, more than a little suspicion now attaches to its motivation and its initiators, and that is unfortunate.

But, in any event the OECD countries, including the US, would hardly support a UN body over which they would have no control.

They are far more comfortable with the OECD Global Forum on Taxation that they dominate and with their own unilateral actions such as the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the blacklists of countries they issue from time to time.

CARIBBEAN NOT A TAX HAVEN

It is well-known that Caribbean jurisdictions have been labelled as ‘tax havens’.

There is this belief that we are rum and Coca-Cola societies that deliberately hide the ill-gotten gains of foreigners; help people to shield their taxable revenues from tax authorities; and have off-shore centres in furtherance of the Hollywood image of swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean.

Nothing could be farther from reality.

A ‘tax haven’ is an area or jurisdiction where payable tax is hidden, and where countries, in which such payable tax originates, are prohibited from receiving information on the such taxable assets.

That is not the Caribbean; it is other countries – some in the OECD; but not in the Caribbean.

Low tax or no tax jurisdictions are not ‘tax havens’. Low tax or no tax is not a measure of a ‘tax haven’.

Countries pitch their tax levels in accordance with the imperatives of their economic and social development.

For instance, with a corporate tax rate of 22%, Ecuador is 7% lower than the average of the Americas and considerably less than Europe. But Ecuador would not consider itself a tax haven.

In the case of my own country, Antigua and Barbuda, we are a low tax jurisdiction; indeed, we abolished income tax completely last year on the strong belief in two things: first, that the costs of pursuing such taxes outweigh the benefits, and second that money left in people’s pay packet will promote economic growth through spending and saving.

With growth of 4.3% last year, Antigua and Barbuda was the fastest growing economy in the Caribbean and the fourth fastest growing economy in Latin America and the Caribbean.

But, Antigua and Barbuda, like most Caribbean countries, is not a tax haven.

CARIBBEAN COUNTRIES COMPLY WITH RULES

All Caribbean countries have had to make themselves compliant with the demands of the countries of the OECD as a group and individually.

In this regard, every Caribbean country is compliant with the rules of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on money laundering and counter terrorism financing.

They are also subject to regular reviews. In fact, they are more compliant than the US, which the FATF found to be non-compliant with ‘entity transparency’ and ‘gatekeeper rules’ in 2006, and which the FATF has chosen not to evaluate since.

And, as far as the OECD Global Forum rules on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes are concerned, the majority of Caribbean countries are on their way to full compliance.

Notably, my own small country, Antigua and Barbuda, is fully compliant with the requirement for Common Reporting Standards (CRS), while the US has not signed-up to it.

And the US has been the beneficiary as Trust structures move there to avoid disclosure.

States in the United States, such as Delaware, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Colorado and Arizona, disregard OECD rules – and are practical tax havens, demonstrating why the US has not signed-up to the CRS.

But, it is clear that the doctrine of ‘might is right’ continues; the principle of transparency applies only to the weak; and the notion of a level playing field for competition is a myth.

US NOT ENFORCING TIEA’s IN THE US

Incidentally, it is worth pointing out that, in 2015, a number of individual States of the US adopted legislation naming Caribbean countries, including my own, as ‘tax havens’.

When, as Ambassador of my country to the US, I pointed out to the Commissioner of the US Inland Revenue Service that under the Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) which my country signed with the US in 2000, the US – and all its States – had access to automatic tax information and, therefore, the legislation adopted by Maine, Montana, Oregon and the District of Columbia was ill-informed and wrong, and that he should so advise them, the reply I received in writing was that “the IRS plays no role in the legislative process” of these States.

Nothing was done.

It makes one wonder what is the point of a TIEA with the Federal Government of the US, and whether, instead, we should have negotiated individually with all 50 States of the United States.

What is clear is that, though the IRS won’t enforce the terms of the TIEA with its own States, it demands enforcement, upon pain of penalties, by Caribbean countries.

Added to all this, over the last two years, Caribbean countries have been facing a huge new threat not only to their financial services, but to their sustainable development and their ability to participate in the global financial and trading system.

THE NEW THREAT – WITHDRAWL OF CBR’s

This new threat comes from a decision by banks in the US and the UK to withdraw correspondent banking relations from respondent banks in the Caribbean.

As Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the IMF, points out: “Correspondent banking is like the blood that delivers nutrients to different parts of the body. It is core to the business of over 3,700 banking groups in 200 countries”.

Without correspondent banking relations, Caribbean countries cannot pay for the goods and services that they buy from the US and the UK, including medical and education services.

They also cannot receive payments for tourism or remittances from their diaspora that sustain the well-being of the poorest and most vulnerable in their societies.

The consequences of this should be obvious, since the US and the UK are the Caribbean’s biggest trading partners.

As I speak, the majority of banks across the Caribbean have lost their correspondent banking relations with US and UK banks.

They have had to find expensive alternatives that have pushed up the price of bank transactions and the cost of doing business.

Already heavily-burdened, open economies in the Caribbean are now faced with additional costs to import goods and services from the US and UK, and to receive payments for their own goods and services.

It is not clear how long these alternative arrangements will last before US and UK banks shut them down under the present dispensation.

And what is the present dispensation? Frightened by the huge fines and forfeitures with which they are threatened, particularly by regulators in the US, and conscious of the branding of the Caribbean as a ‘high risk area’ for financial services, banks that have done business and made profits in the region for over a century, are taking the view that the risk is not worth the rewards of the business.

But what is the risk? No bank or other financial institution in the Caribbean has been a party in any of the cases of money laundering or tax evasion prosecuted in the US or the UK.

It should be patently clear that the withdrawal of correspondent banking relations from the Caribbean is not due to any lack of compliance with the anti-money laundering, counter terrorism financing or tax evasion rules of the OECD countries, including the US.

One is left to speculate, therefore, as to the real reason.

An incongruous side note to this is that the World Bank has warned that around 50% of adults in the world’s poorest households are unbanked – in other words, they have no access to financial institutions.

The World Bank says that it is “scaling up support to reach an additional billion people”.

But, while it is doing that, 15 million people in the Caribbean are at risk of being unbanked by the withdrawal of correspondent banking relations.

And, the response of the pre-Donald Trump administration to what should be an obvious wrong was that the Caribbean – already more compliant than the US with FATF and OECD rules – must strengthen their anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing regimes.

That response demonstrates that the playing field is anything but level, and redress for injustice is not a matter of morality; it is a matter of might.

 LOOKING TO TRUMP

It would be helpful if, committed as it says it is to less regulation, the Donald Trump government will be more open to the Caribbean’s argument that US regulators and correspondent banks should mitigate rather than avoid risk, and that, therefore, US banks should only terminate correspondent banking relations where money laundering and terrorism financing risks cannot be mitigated.

But that is a mere hope; it is not an expectation.

Nonetheless, it is a proposition that Caribbean countries collectively should explore with the Trump administration as soon as they are able to do so at all levels.

So, what the future holds for correspondent banking relations for the Caribbean is very uncertain.

What is clear is that if the present trends continue, the region will be in danger of losing even more sovereignty over its fiscal and banking affairs.

If the indigenous onshore banks and offshore banks of the Caribbean are all deprived of correspondent banking relations, the region will be left with only the foreign-owned banks (mainly Canadian) that may be prepared to remain because they have their own headquarters correspondent relations.

A NEW COLONIALISM

But those banks can then form cartels that control the means of exchange in the Caribbean and determine interest rates, lending policies, and sectoral investment.

The region will be gripped by a new form of colonialism and control – this time by foreign banks.

A responsible international community should help the Caribbean to resist this growing cancer; other developing countries should be in the forefront of support, for the cancer can spread to them, as it has already started in Central America, including Panama, and Africa.

Incidentally, nothing that I have said here should imply or suggest that Caribbean countries ought not to comply with the rules against money laundering, counter terrorism financing and tax evasion that are being set – albeit not by globally-represented bodies.

They have to do so, and are doing so, at very high cost.

For instance, in my own country, here is a list of the obligations that we have to finance:

•The FATF’s rules on anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing;

•The OECD’s common reporting standards;

•The US FATCA

•Operation of Tax Information Exchange Agreements with over 25 countries;

•Operation of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties with almost 90 countries.

In the case of the US FATCA, small countries in the Caribbean are paying for the dubious privilege of being policemen for the US Inland Revenue Service.

And, incidentally, the US has only promised to provide reciprocal information; it has not done so and shows no sign of doing so.

But Caribbean nations – and all other affected countries – should strengthen their advocacy worldwide, enhance such representation as they have in the OECD Global Forum and at the FATF, and demand that every OECD country implements the same rules they impose on others.

SUMMARY

So, to summarise the themes of this presentation.

In relation to Globalisation, the only global rules are those set by powerful countries in their own interest.

Fiscal sovereignty as a right of individual States is largely ignored and up-ended by the doctrine of might is right.

Tax competition has survived in part so far; but the OECD countries are unrelenting in their efforts to coerce other nations into mirroring the areas of their taxation, even though the economic imperatives of nations are vastly different.

WHAT SHOULD CARIBBEAN NATIONS DO?

What then for the future of Financial Services in the Caribbean?

The prospects would be best served by the formation of alliances in every global forum to wrest control of financial services matters from the OECD which represents only a handful of nations in the world community.

In the late 1990s, it was an alliance of Caribbean nations with Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Isle of Man and Jersey, that held back the OECD over its so-called ‘harmful tax competition initiative’; and it was the decisive intervention of the new Republican government of George W Bush, before 9/11 and the Patriot Act, that eventually pushed back the OECD.

But, since then, the European jurisdictions retreated into the fold of the OECD, and the Obama administration in the US strengthened the heavy-hand of regulation and extra-territorial laws such as FATCA.

The Caribbean should now look elsewhere – to the countries of South and Central America, including Panama, and to Africa and the Pacific where nations are also subject to coercion, erosion of fiscal sovereignty and loss of competitiveness – to build alliances to counter the domination of global rules on tax matters by a few self-serving nations.

A TRULY REPRESENTATIVE WORLD BODY NEEDED

The Ecuadorian government is right – a UN body is needed.

But not to chase after imaginary windmills of falsely-labelled tax havens.

It is needed to create standards created by representatives of the entire world and not by a handful of elite countries; it is needed to establish rules that tax competition, like all other competition, is good for global growth; it is needed to enshrine the principle that setting levels of taxation is the sovereign right of each nation in the context of its own economic and fiscal imperatives.

Alliances should also be sought with groups within OECD countries that recognise that high taxation and coercion of other nations do not make for a prosperous world or a peaceful one.

That, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, the world will not survive half-free, and half-enslaved.

There would be good reason for other developing nations and groups within OECD countries to join the Caribbean in such an undertaking.

For, the small are the bully’s first victim; they are seldom the last.

Thank you.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS. He has been engaged with the OECD, FATF and the governments of the US and UK on financial services matters, including the OECD Harmful Tax Competition Initiative and TIEA’s since 1998. He has written and spoken extensively on these matters. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed in this presentation are entirely his own.)

The promises made by controversial Oveson to Levera

Less than two months after being introduced as the man to transform the north of the island and especially the Levera area, controversial U.S investor Robert Martin also known as Robert Martin Oveson has disappeared from the Spice Isle.

THE NEW TODAY has been able to report exclusively on the checkered past of Oveson who is accused of fraud in connection with a failed Condo and Housing unit project in Mexico in 2008.

Oveson also has a criminal conviction in the State of Utah in the United States on charges of Assault, Burglary and Domestic Violence in the presence of a child.

With the publication of these damaging reports, Oveson has apparently dropped out of sight with the Levera development project in St. Patrick.

His brother – Randall Oveson – is the person now being billed as the major figure in Levera.

However, THE NEW TODAY was able to obtain the transcript of the speech delivered in November by Robert Martin Oveson in the presence of a host of government officials including Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to sell the Levera project.

Oveson was speaking in his capacity as Managing Director of NTL Trust, the Nevis-based company that is authorised to market the sale of Grenadian passports.

He promised to construct 12 to 16 cottages at Levera within a matter of months.

As a public service, THE NEW TODAY brings highlight of the speech that was delivered by Oveson who has allegedly dropped out of sight from the Levera project.

“This project is here to bring employment and to help bring a strong economic north of the island. So many times we have the jobs to the south, we have the economic opportunities to the south and Levera will be a great opportunity for many individuals to stay and work closer to home, closer to their families.

For those of you that know me and for those of you that will get to know me, I love the beach. My earliest memories are on the beaches of Mexico, walking around as a small child. Since then, I have spent decades of my life searching the world for the best beaches. I have been in Latin America, South America, Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean. I’m always looking for the best beaches. I have found some of the best beaches in the world but when you visit beaches and the ocean is such an integral part of your life, you aren’t amazed by many beaches.

Three and a half years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Grenada for the first time. I was in St George’s and Grand Anse has a wonderful beach; spectacular and I said wow, this island is great, friendly people, everywhere you look was beauty and I said there’s got to be another beach that I need to find. So I got a car and start driving round the island – started on the south, worked up the Atlantic side, going up beach to beach.

It was late in the afternoon and I looked on the map and it was a little bit too far for me to go to Levera but it looks like a good place to go. I drove up a pothole dirt road, walked out to a plank and looked out right before the sun went down – spectacular colours, a sense of magic came over me; this is a very special place and for those who know Levera and the national park it is an incredible environment, unique to the Caribbean, unique to the world, the turtles nesting as some of the most important in all of the Caribbean and in all of the world.

Development is often associated with destruction of nature but we believe that you can conserve through smart development and taking care of the environment here in Levera is the number one priority of the project, of the Levera Beach Resort Project.

Most buildings in Levera will be set back at least 300 ft but the majority of them 700 ft plus; we are going to give plenty of room for the beach to remain a beach. The exterior lighting for the whole resort will be red. This helps the turtles, it doesn’t scare them away but also helps us as humans.

White lights affect our eyes in such a way we can’t see the skies and if you ever had the opportunity to look up at the night skies in Grenada, they’re some of the clearest in the world. With the white lights, the turtles can continue to nest here in the beach and the humans would be able to enjoy the nature and to enjoy the nature and enjoy our surroundings.

Levera Beach Resort looks forward to working with various government agencies to protect the environment.

The pond is a national treasure and building so close to it, we need to be able to protect it so that many generations to come will be able to come to Levera and to see it in its natural state.

We’re lucky to have found investors who also share the same belief…when we’re developing this special place, remember one rule is not to mash it up, conservation through smart development and our goal is to put you on the beach, you will not see construction, you would not see development, and the goal is that in 30 years, 100 years, 300 years, our children, our grand children, our great grand children will be able to come to Levera and enjoy it in its natural state.

I know there is a lot of skepticism to go with the Levera project. I am not going to hide from that – the project has started a few times before.

We have already started the project, we have over 10 workers working close to a year cleaning the project, we have cut new roads, we are already cutting the foundation site pads for the first fourteen cottages.

If it wouldn’t have been for the rainstorm, which is a blessing, we would be having this event on top of a construction foundation pad that we are working on. Construction will move forward once we start.

The plan is to have the first 14 cottages and beach club opened within the next 12 to 16 months.

This first section is fully funded from the investors – although we have structured the project to work with the Citizenship programme, it’s very important to not need the Citizenship programme to get off the ground and to continue construction.

Once we start construction, we are not going to stop. As I said the first plan will be the seaside cottages, which is 14 cottages, overlooking the sea and a beach club – we hope to have that opened in 14 months.

After that will come an 80 room boutique hotel but we are not only structuring this for Citizenship but investment investors but we are also structuring this for lifetime investors.

We believe that the north is one of the richest regions of Grenada; it’s the agricultural breadbasket. We have the Belmont Chocolate factory and farms, we have waterfalls, we have the River’s distillery.

Once people arrive in the north many people don’t want to leave and we believe that Levera will provide a solid anchor for tourism and development to move forward for generations to come.

A little bit about NTL …NTL Nevis Trust Limited has been based in the island of Nevis since 1994. For the last 6 years we have been working almost exclusively with the Citizenship programmes with St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, throughout the region.

Over these past 6 years we have brought over 120 million dollars in equity investment to the region and we hope to bring a very large percentage of the funds moving forward here to Grenada.

The Citizenship By Investment programme is sometimes misunderstood by locals and the international community – people sometimes say that we are selling passports, this is not the case…we are building economies, we are building a solid foundation for moving forward.

Bringing investment from the outside, helps create short-term jobs with construction, initiate long-term jobs with hotels – it creates an awareness where travellers will continue to come back to Grenada, creating a larger tax space and helping the government and the people of Grenada move forward. …in tourism – you had the chicken and the egg – you need hotels so you can get flights but the flights don’t wanna come if you don’t have more hotels.

Citizenship By Investment is a way to stroke the fire, to help us get more development and to improve our current development so that tourism can be a strong base moving forward and I am proud to say that currently the Levera project with very little promotion we have not tried to promote it much until we start construction but with very little promotion, we have close to 7 million American dollars in the box.

These 7 million dollars have been over the last few months and every one of those dollars, every penny will be spent here in Grenada.

The government can be assured that none of the funds that we are raising from the Citizenship By Investment programme will be leaving the country, except (to) buy construction materials to help the progress of the development and the marketing of the project.

In closing I would like to say I love Grenada, I have been travelling up and down the West Indies for years…every island is unique every island has a special flavour… everybody is different but Grenada seems to (have) the friendliest people I have found in the islands.

Through the Levera projects and other projects like this, this is a good way to put our best foot forward, to share Grenada, to let people know what we have and share it with the world because everybody that comes to Grenada, always wants to come back.

We want to benefit the people of Grenada; we want to help the people of St Patrick’s and the Northern provinces”.

Dilapidated wall poses threat to River Road users

At least one concerned motorist has spoken out about the potential dangers posed to pedestrians and motorists travelling along the River Road Main Road by a section of the dilapidated wall that runs along the St. George’s Cemetery in the River Road area.

Sections of the dilapidated wall

The River Road Main Road is a high traffic area providing access to several schools along the route and connections to surrounding communities.

These include Mt. Gay, Mt. Rush, Tempe, Ravine, Boca, Beaulieu, Snug Corner, The Glean, Constantine, Willis/New Hampshire and Vendomme, with access to the Grand Etang Main Road, which leads into the Birchgrove community and the Town of Grenville.

Speaking with THE NEW TODAY newspaper on Monday, a motorist and frequent user of the road expressed concern with the current state of the wall, which she indicated could be at least 50 years old.

“One morning, about a month ago, I was driving to work when the traffic built up in that area and when I looked to my left, I noticed a big crack in a section of the wall, which was tilted over the road…”, she said.

“That was actually the first time I notice that the wall was in that state…it looks as though it has been in that state for a very long time, as if it would fall apart at anytime, she added.

The concerned road user called on the authorities to address the wall before something happens there.

“The wall is very thick (and) if it falls it would do a lot of damage…and you can see that it (the wall) was recently freshly painted…I see it as a disaster waiting to happen. Something has to be done….

“I (am) very concerned because it reminded me of the piece of wall that fell on the woman in Hope killing her instantly.

This is reference to the November 2015 fatality in which 44-year-old Sherma Thomas was killed by a portion of collapsed wall in the village of Hope in St. Andrew.

The female motorist was fearful that the authorities would wait until the wall actually collapses and causes a causality or even a fatality at worst before taking action to refurbish it.

She urged the authorities to “don’t wait until the wall falls and damages somebody before you fix it”.

“Fix it before it falls and damage somebody,” the concerned motorist charged.

Full-blown electoral crisis

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) is sounding the warning that our nation is in a full-blown electoral crisis.

The Government’s firing of seven senior Presiding Officers is the latest in a series of unprecedented moves it has made to gain an unfair electoral advantage in the upcoming elections.

The Governor General, acting upon the instructions of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, has dismissed seven (7) Registration/Returning Officers on Monday, 20th February 2017 with immediate effect from their positions.

The Constituencies affected are the four in St. Andrew, St. Patrick East, St. John and St. George South East.

The NDC condemns this action and calls on all civic minded Organisations to join us in this condemnation as it is a clear case of political victimisation, especially in light of the following context:

(1). Upon assuming office in 2013, the NNP administration immediately begun a systematic campaign to manipulate the Electoral Office with the installation of internet service in each electoral branch office, within the 15 Constituencies.

This Cabinet mandate also prescribed that the internet server to which all these services would be attached, should reside within the Office of the Prime Minister, ostensibly giving the Government access to ALL electoral data. Hence, the capacity to manipulate such data in their favour.

(2). The then Supervisor of Elections Judy Benoit was fired with immediate effect, for pointing out to Cabinet that this arrangement/Cabinet mandate contravened Section 35 of the Constitution, which states, inter alia, “the Supervisor of Elections is to answer to no person or authority.”

This was written in the Constitution to establish the independence of the Supervisor of Elections.

(3). Dr. Keith Mitchell’s Government failed to appoint another Supervisor of Elections, for months, despite the Constitutional requirement that the position must always be filled.

When the Supervisor was eventually appointed it was in response to pressure from the Organisation of American States (OAS), to whom the NDC wrote asking their intervention.

(4). Registration Officers, appointed by the Governor General under the Constitution, automatically become Returning Officers in the Constituency to which they are assigned on Election Day, controlling the entire electoral process. These officers are not removed on the whims and fancy of any administration because they are there to safeguard and protect our democracy from political zealotry.

The integrity of the elections depends on conduct of these officials whilst circumstances like death or prolonged illness may warrant immediate replacement of an officer. Therefore, the action against the seven Registration/Returning Officers is unprecedented; never in the history of this country has seven Registration/Returning Officers been removed in one stroke by the Governor General on the eve of an election.

The National Democratic Congress has therefore written to Her Excellency Dame Cecile La Grenade to explain her extraordinary conduct in the face of this electoral crisis.

Additionally, the party has organised a protest march in defense of the democracy of our country, and a picket of the Electoral Office, in solidarity with the dismissed Registration Officers, on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 from 11:30 am.

The Party, over the course of the coming days, will be writing to international organisations, seeking their intervention in what is a clear attempt to usurp the democratic electoral process in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Moreover, the NDC stands ready to provide assistance to any or all of the affected officers who may require legal advice to determine what if any legal recourse is available to them in the face of this victimisation.

Given the NNP’s history of electoral collusion, underhandedness and electoral malfeasance, the NDC has no other choice but to interpret these latest actions as an attempt to secure an electoral advantage by replacing seven non-partisan, impartial, objective Officials with party operatives who are programmed to act in a partisan manner on behalf of the NNP.

If there was any doubt in the gravity of the situation and its far-reaching impact on our democracy, the immediate resignation of Deputy Supervisor of Elections, Ms. Ada Holder, known for her outstanding professionalism and impartiality, in protest of the Governor General’s actions should speak volumes about the nature of these actions and their implications.

The NDC reiterates its call for an explanation from the Governor General on this matter and calls on all civic minded people to resist the attempts by the Government to improperly influence the outcome of the next general election.

Call for revamp of GSBA

One of Grenada’s best known steel band enthusiasts, Cecil Noel wants to see a revamp of the local steel band movement.

Cecil Noel – GSBA needs to be revamped

Noel who is associated with FLOW Commancheros as its Director told members of the media last week Monday that if the steel band movement has to grow in Grenada it has to first start with the Grenada Steel Band Association (GSBA).

“I am saying this as an individual… it the association) really needs to be revamped,” he said.

Noel who has been involved with the steel band movement for a number of years suggested that GSBA should play a leading role in terms of planning and the execution of its activities.

He said too often he has seen individual steel bands wanting to do what they want by forgetting the bigger picture of working as one unit under the guidance of the association.

The ace pan player and arranger pointed out that rather than seeing just about three steel bands consistently excelling on the local scene, he will be more satisfied in seeing the development of other bands on the island.

“I will be satisfied to see the introduction of steel bands in schools. I will be more satisfied to see that in every or most villages around the area that we have steel bands, and then I will really and truly (be) satisfied and say that the association is moving forward and achieving the way I would like to see it achieve,” he said.

Noel also spoke of the re-occurring problem of Carnival organisers failing to pay prize monies to the competition winners.

Although the senior section of FLOW Commancheros has received its prize money of $48,000 for winning the 2016 National Panorama championship, the band is yet to receive its third-place prize money for the Bomb Tune Competition along with the junior band, which is still awaiting its $12,000 payment for winning the 2016 junior title.

According to Noel, a series of meetings have been held between Commancheros and Spicemas Corporation to have the matter resolved.

“I don’t think it is a situation where we can say much more on it, except to say that a number of the bands are still being owed. When is that going to be settled – (I am) not sure, but the genesis and the history has shown us that these things get settled like in late June, July, just before Spicemas gets going in August again,” he said.

Commancheros is this year staging a series of activities to mark its 50th anniversary as a steel orchestra.