LIME adds 9 more to its Scholarship Award

In its quest to continue being a good corporate citizen, telecommunication provider, LIME has, for yet another year provided a group of students from five Parishes on the island with the opportunity to receive a secondary education for the next five years.

The presentation of five-year scholarships to nine students, which is now into its 22nd year of existence, took place last week Thursday at the Grenada Trade Centre in Grand Anse, St. George’s.

The scholarship programme which to date, has benefited 350 students from since its inception in 1991 has cost the company just about $1.6m.

During the ceremony, the company’s General Manager Angus Steele extolled some words of wisdom to the new batch of students as he urged them to think about their future, the current economic environment, as well as the investment LIME is making in them as they venture into secondary school.

Steele who spoke of education being a pillar of LIME said it is not easy for the company to continue doing programmes like the scholarship fund.

“Please take our investment in you seriously. It is something we will continue to do, but we look forward to you doing your part. We certainly look forward to your parents supporting you and your teachers,” he remarked.

The LIME General manager used the opportunity to once again call on government to remove the Value Added Tax (VAT) on broadband service.

He believes that with the removal of VAT that was introduced in 2010 as a consumption tax on broadband that more families will be able to access Internet service for their children who need it in their studies and research.

He indicated that as a technology company, LIME prides itself in delivering Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and ICT opportunities to the nation, especially to the young persons.

Education and Human Resource Development Minister Anthony Boatswain who assisted in the awards presentation admonished the students to value the purpose of their education.

Minister Boatswain urged the awardees to not just consider the scholarship as a tool for their own personal development, but as an instrument for social and economic change.

The new batch of students receibing LIME support“This is the tool that would help you to transform our economy from being underdeveloped, from being plagued with high levels of unemployment to one where we can have unemployment below ten percent,” he said.

According to Minister Boatswain, the six-month old New National Party (NNP) government believes that education can contribute to the holistic development of the country, and that it must be relevant to the development needs of the island.

He made a clarion call for education to fall in line with a knowledge-based economy, which should be driven by science and technology, in particular ICT.

The senior Government Minister said that as a student of economic development, he has been taught at different levels that the most important factor in the process of economic growth and transformation is not finance nor natural resource, but it is the human resource.

“Unless we focus on the human capital aspect we will have and continue to have high levels of unemployment,” he told the recipients.

The Education Minister pointed out that it pains him when he notices the number of young people who would have spent as much as six years in secondary school having to compete with their peers who were not as fortunate as them for menial road work.

He believes that the education system should ensure that individuals are not just given pure academic subjects that would not permit them to find a job immediately, but should be geared at producing individuals who can get jobs in the emerging areas of ICT and Science and Technology.

“Even if you (the students) have 15 or 16 subjects at the CXC Level, make sure you have a skill because the jobs would not be for those who have purely academics, but those with skills,” he said.

Minister Boatswain commended LIME for recognising the importance of investing in the young people as a means of transforming the local economy.

“I want to applaud LIME for taking the initiative in helping to build our human resource. Twenty-two years of involvement in the process of providing scholarships to our young people is not something we should take idly,” he added.

LIME provides assistance to the students in the form of books, uniform, transportation and exam fees. In some cases students are also provided with lunch, school fees, stationery items, and guidance counseling for both parents and children.

The list of scholarship awardees are from St. George’s – Andelyn Matthew of Springs who previously attended South St, George Government School and will now move on to St. Joseph’s Convent, St. George’s, Chad St. Paul from Melrose, a former student of Beaulieu Roman Catholic School who will be attending Wesley College, Chad Noel of River Road who graduated from St. George’s Methodist School and is now a student of Mac Donald College, and Craig Joseph of Vendome who attended the Roman Catholic School in his village and is now headed for Presentation Brothers College.

The recipients from St. Mark’s are Adonna Paterson from Diamond who attended Bonaire Government School and is now a student of St. Mark’s Secondary, and Jannel Antoine of Resource, formerly attended Samaritan Presbyterian and is now a student of St. Mark’s Secondary.

The rest of awardees are Latisha Jones from River Sallee, St. Patrick’s who attended River Sallee Government School and will now attend Grenada Seventh Day Comprehensive, Rickisha Sylvester from Soubise, St. Andrew’s, a former student of St. Giles Government who now moves onto St. David’s Catholic Secondary, and from Gouyave Estate, St. John’s is Treasher Joseph who attended St. John’s Roman Catholic and is now a student of Happy Hill Secondary School.

Selection of the students was based on academic merit and financial needs.

Nomination of the students was forwarded to the Ministry of Education by principals of the primary schools.

In addition to welcoming the new batch of students, 22 of the existing scholarship awardees received awards for attaining averages ranging from 70 to one hundred percent in their academic performances.

The 11 students who wrote this year’s CXC Exams were also recognized.

They are Desiree Noel, Dwuana Cudjoe, Jeriel Reuben, Jonathan Quashie, Leisha Mark, Louvel Joseph, Marvin Hosten, Nisha Benjamin, Shane Whiteman, Shelisa Alexander and Stephon Simon.

The two females, Mark and Joseph who are from the group of the 2013 graduates have been awarded the LIME TAMCC Extension Scholarship.

Mark who is from Paradise, St. Andrew’s and a student from St. Joseph’s Convent, Grenville received passes in all of the ten CXC Subjects with seven Grade One’s and four distinctions in Integrated Science, Office Administration, Principles of Account and Principles of Business.

Joseph from Belle Vue, St. David’s attended St. Joseph’s Convent, St. George’s and was successful in all of the ten CXC Subject she wrote with five Grade One’s, and distinctions in English A and Information Technology.

Three who went on to further their education at the T. A. Marryshow Community College are Jonathan Ramirez, Lentiria Houston and Rachel Gilbert.

A special sports award was presented to Johann Jeremiah, a medium pace bowler on the Grenada Under-19 Cricket Team.

The young Cricketer who attends the Grenada Boys Secondary School is said to have had “a good school year,” and was awarded by LIME.

Jeremiah placed second in his class with an average of 70.67.

Are the Russians back in looking for the “oil” in Grenada waters?

Minister of Economic Development, Trade, Planning and Cooperatives, Oliver Joseph has admitted that government is aware of activities taking place in Grenadian waters involving a foreign ship.

Speaking to reporters at a press briefing last week, the senior government minister in response to questions posed by members of the local media said that although a ship is out there doing some work, he cannot recall who is really spearheading these activities.

The ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has not issued any public statement on the presence of the ship in local waters.

However, Minister Joseph when pressed by local reporters offered this comment:” Well there is a ship out in Grenadian waters doing some tests, 3D’s tests, that is as far as I know. They are doing some research in Grenada waters, so yes, so you have them doing some research”.

The minister did not seem to be fully brief on the issue.

When the media asked the minister to explain what is taking place regarding the country’s maritime resources and who was granted permission to begin some semblance of work, Joseph said he could not remember.

“I don’t recall the name of the company”, said the elected Member of Parliament for the St. David constituency.

When asked if the Russian outfit, Global Petroleum Group (GPG) is the company undertaking these tests or was involved with these developments in the local waters, Joseph again responded that he could not recall.

A recent publication posted on www.ogj.com website (Oil and Gas Journal) reported that GPG claims to have a contract to drill for oil and gas and that the initial drilling phase is scheduled during 2014.

The July 31 published document reads as follows:

 

GPG claim to have a contract to drill for oil and gas Grenada: Marine 3D seismic survey planned

 

HOUSTON, TEXAS — Global Petroleum Group Ltd. has let a contract to SeaBird Exploration PLC for a marine 3D seismic survey in the Grenada offshore basin.

GPG has revealed that based on its 2D seismic lines recently processed by Tricon Geophysics Inc., Houston, the area to be surveyed “has been characterized as having a high potential for significant hydrocarbon deposits.”

In this context, GPG and Blackwater Subsea LLC, Houston, are in talks on the final design of a development plan and project management for the initial drilling phase scheduled during 2014.

SeaBird is deploying to Grenada its modern equipped eight-streamer 3D vessel Geo Pacific that recently successfully completed another 3D survey in the Caribbean region.

GPG came in the lives of Grenadians under the leadership of Dr Keith Mitchell in his 1995 to 2008 stint as Prime Minister.

As early as September 28th 2005 an indemnifying Agreement was signed between the Government of Grenada and the Global Petroleum Group (GPG) signed by Gregory Bowen, acting in his capacity as Minister for Energy, on behalf of the Government of Grenada and Eduard Vasiliov, Chairman of GPG, signed on behalf of that company.

According to the related Funding Agreement, Lev Model, a Russian national who was Chief Executive Officer of Call Centres for Grenada (CCG), was authorised to act on behalf of GPG in formal matters related to the company.

The alleged terms and conditions of the Agreement is that GPG undertook to cover the costs of all disputes related to the resolution of the matter between the Government of Grenada and RSM Production.

The NNP administration, under the leadership of Dr. Mitchell allegedly entered into a Product Sharing Agreement (PSA) with Global Petroleum Grenada (GPG) for the exploration, development and production of offshore petroleum resources of Grenada, on March 31st 2008.

A report circulated via the Internet reported, “Global Petroleum Group Ltd has confirmed being granted a hydrocarbon exploration and production license for 11 blocks totaling 7,450 sq km off the tiny island nation of Grenada. The license will be for an initial period of four years renewable for two additional periods of two years each. Concurrently, an oil and gas development agreement was executed with the government granting Global Petroleum preferential rights to obtain a development license for 20 years, renewable for 10 more years, and setting the economic terms governing the production period.”

Talks of GPG resurfaced one month before the February 19 General Election after

three Russian nationals, including Eduard Vasiliov, arrived in Grenada under the pretext that they were going to be engaged in meetings with officials from the Ministry of Energy. They checked into a prominent hotel in the south of the island.

Reports circulating after the arrival of the trio at a prominent resort in the south of the island that Bowen, visited the same hotel that evening.

On January 31st the Russians were detained and questioned by the police after it was revealed that the Ministry of Energy had no records of any such request for meetings from the Russians.

Upon being released, the Russians chartered a plane and departed for St Lucia. Bowen allegedly departed aboard a private jet owned by a Trinidadian company, BRIKO, for St. Lucia and returned later that day.

 

Grenada Is Not Argentina

By Rich Samp

 

New York — Some in the financial markets have had mixed reactions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s NML Capital, Ltd. v. Republic of Argentina decision, which required Argentina to treat all of its bondholders equally.

On the one hand, they are happy that the decision prevents solvent debtors like Argentina from making take-it-or-leave-it demands to bondholders and refusing all payments to those who don’t knuckle under.

On the other hand, some Cassandras warn that the decision’s protections for the rights of holdout bondholders will prevent nations facing financial crises from undertaking an orderly restructuring of their debts.

A decision handed down last week by a federal district court in New York, Export-Import Bank of China v. Grenada, should put to rest many of those concerns.

The decision, issued in connection with claims against the island nation of Grenada, makes clear that the NML decision is limited to Argentina’s unique status as a deadbeat debtor willing to thumb its nose at its legitimate creditors.

Mere nonpayment by sovereign nations acting in good faith, the court explained, will not trigger the sort of injunctive relief for bondholders that the Second Circuit upheld in NML.

Earlier this year, the Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China on Taiwan (“Ex-Im Bank”) filed suit against Grenada, seeking to enforce a pari passu clause in its loan agreement with the nation. In 2005, following financial setbacks caused by Hurricanes Ivan and Emily, Grenada sought to restructure its foreign debt.

The Ex-Im Bank did not participate in the restructuring and instead obtained a court judgment on its debt. Since then, Grenada has made some interest payments on its restructured debt but has paid nothing to Ex-Im Bank.

Apparently hoping to piggy-back on the NML decision, Ex-Im sought an injunction against any further interest payments to holders of Grenada’s restructured debt unless payments were also made to Ex-Im Bank.

The district court denied Ex-IM’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, explaining that the NML injunction had been based on a unique set of circumstances.

Argentina did not merely fail to make payments to some bondholders while making interest payments to others; it also took numerous executive and legislative actions designed to ensure that, in direct violation of “equal treatment” promises it made as part of its pari passu clause, the debt held by disfavored bondholders would be effectively subordinated to debt held by other bondholders.

Indeed, Argentina went so far as to adopt a “Lock Law” that prohibited all payments to bondholders who did not accept its take-it-or-leave-it restructuring offer, and to declare those bonds unenforceable in Argentina’s own courts.

The district court held that Ex-Im did not allege any similar conduct by Grenada. While noting that Grenada is alleged to have made occasional payments to other creditors since it stopped making payments to Ex-Im in 2008, the court held that Grenada’s payment history did not demonstrate anything approaching the sort of discriminatory treatment that gave rise to the NML injunction against Argentina.

Indeed, the court noted that earlier this year Grenada announced that it did not have the resources to make even the interest payments on its bonds, and that it would seek once again to restructure its debts.

The Ex-Im Bank will still have an opportunity, following completion of pre-trial discovery, to attempt to prove that Grenada has engaged in the same sort of discriminatory conduct that led the Second Circuit to uphold injunctive relief against Argentina.

But the court decision should put to rest concerns that pari passu litigation may “go viral.” The court said that, even assuming that Ex-Im Bank could show that the pari passu clause agreed to by Grenada is as fulsome as the one at issue in NML – a doubtful assumption, based on my reading of the documents – Ex-Im could not obtain injunctive relief in the absence of a showing, similar to the one made against Argentina, that Grenada took steps to effectively block all prospect of future payment on Ex-Im indebtedness.

The disparate circumstances facing Grenada and Argentina undoubtedly played a role in the district court decision. Grenada is a poor nation which is in arrears on all its foreign debt. Grenada is treating Ex-Im Bank and all other creditors the same; it’s not paying any of them.

Argentina’s economy, on the other hand, is recovering nicely, and the Second Circuit determined that Argentina has more than sufficient foreign reserves to pay all its debts to bondholders.

Argentina is not paying holdout bondholders because it chooses not to; as the district court recognized, Grenada is not paying Ex-Im Bank because, at least in the near term, it can’t.

Finally, one needs to remember that the federal courts did not enter injunctive relief until after having to endure nearly a decade of Argentina’s flat-out refusals to honor its debt obligations.

Argentina’s infamous Lock Law prohibited treasury officials from paying so much as a penny to bondholders who were unwilling to accept the nation’s take-it-or-leave-it proposal of a 70 percent haircut.

The patient approach that federal courts adopted for so many years in response to Argentinian intransigence is a strong indication that they will enforce equitable-treatment obligations imposed by pari passu clauses only after they become convinced that a sovereign debtor has abandoned all pretense of fairness among its creditors.

The court’s decision is one more indication that the federal courts will not allow holdout creditors to disrupt reasonable bond-restructuring efforts.

 

(Rich Samp is chief counsel for litigation at the Washington Legal Foundation)

Sen. Hood not happy with some lewd behaviour

The lewd behaviour of some who participated in Carnival events as well as soca and calypso artistes has come under sharp criticism.

Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for Culture in the Ministry of Tourism Civil Aviation & Culture, Brenda Hood, during a recent sitting of the Senate expressed her disappointment with the behaviour of some individuals.

“The revelers had a wonderful time, but Mr. President, as the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Culture, I had some reservations in terms of the vulgarity that was displayed over the season. I believe that this is something we need to pay attention to”, she told the Senate meeting.

“It is not part of our culture to be vulgar, I believe that you can have a good time, you can enjoy your self, and you don’t have to be vulgar”, she said.

The consumption of alcohol particularly by young females over the past year has also raised eyebrows, and was a source of concern for Minister with responsibility for Youths, Emmalin Pierre prior to Carnival.

Sen. Hood, a carnival reveler herself, reiterated these concerns.

“The use of alcohol in particular among our young women is of concern to me and I’m certain it’s of concern to many people, and I hope that this is something that we can address over the upcoming months so that you can have a good time, but not get yourself involved in too much alcohol so that you can display vulgar behaviour and the vulgar behaviour is not only the women but also the men”, she said.

Sen. Hood charged that “vulgar behaviour” was not only displayed by carnival revelers but by artistes during their performances on stage during shows.

“This is unbecoming and in particular when you have so many visitors visiting our shores and they’re seeing this sought of vulgarity displayed on the stage, because I don’t think this is acceptable and as the person responsible for culture, we would try to engage as many people as possible to make sure that is not acceptable”, she said,

“You can have a good time. I played in a band and I had a good time. It’s not that I’m a prune, the fact is that you can have a good time and not be vulgar”, she added.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Culture noted that the appointment of the new Board of Directors to serve on Spice Mas Corporation (SMC) only three months before the start of Spice Mas 2013 did not provide them with sufficient time for proper planning for the August festival.

However, Sen. Hood pointed out that the build up to Spice Mas was good with an increase in patrons to all shows, which translated in increased gate receipts.

She said that for the first time this year the sale on tickets online was introduced which eliminated leakage experienced in the past, and provided immediate record of sale of tickets and easy calculation at the conclusion of ticket sales.

She stated that as a result the initiative will continue over the next few years and would be used in any activities organized by SMC.

Sen. Hood said that from all indications the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) ensured an incident free Spice Mas 2013 and that the lawmen should be complimented for their vigilance and hard work.

The junior minister also commended the Conference of Churches for the positive messages publicised throughout the season and encouraged them to continue along those lines.

“It is the first time I have seen or heard the Council of Churches doing ads on the radio and I think that a lot of people listened and it did make an impact so I want to encourage them to continue to do this, and I don’t think that it should only be done at Carnival time”, she said.

“I believe that we need to promote positive behaviour throughout the year, throughout the length and breadth of the country,” she added.

Rae Roberts: Fire Peter deSavary

Trade Union Representative in the Senate, Rae Roberts has called on the Keith Mitchell-led administration to fire the multi-millionaire, Peter deSavary who has been serving as an Ambassador of Grenada.

In his contribution to the Grenada Citizenship by Investment Bill, 2013, which makes provisions for persons to purchase residency and citizenship of Grenada,

Roberts pointed an accusing finger at deSavary as one who is already abusing the system even before its passage in Parliament.

“The process of abuse has started already” with the advertisement for sale of Grenada’s passports by deSavary’s business – Mount Cinnamon even before the Bill becomes law”, he told law makers at the last sitting of the Senate.

Sen. Roberts pointed out that a website operated by the English-born Ambassador had published information about the sale of Grenadian passports since March and questioned why government allowed the website to put out the information for the world to see.

“The website gives the impression that we have a banana republic, that is what the website gives. The man (deSavary) already articulated what he thinks and wants to say and the Parliament has not yet approved this document. I doubt that behaviour would have been tolerated in the United Kingdom or Canada or even Barbados.

“Money and Investment must not be the criteria to disrespect a nation and a people and it is a known fact that this gentleman who owns this property (Mount Cinnamon) is one of our ambassadors, the website claims that he is an ambassador … and if he is, I call on the Prime Minister to fire him, cause what he is doing is abus(ing) the country, he is disregarding the whole process of here (Parliament), we are just here and he’s already done his own thing.

“If we are serious and we demand respect for our Parliament and our people, fire this ambassador, if he’s really an ambassador.”

deSavary is suspected in opposition quarters as one who pumped large sums of money into the coffers of Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) to help win the February 19 general elections in Grenada.

Roberts also expressed concern at the involvement of the wife of Foreign Affairs and International Affairs Minister, Nicholas Steele in the publication seen on the website.

He told the Senate meeting that Michelle Emmanuel-Steele of the law firm Veritas Legal is listed on the website as the local lawyer and agent for the programme.

“Mr. President if that is the transparency and accountability that we are in, Mr. President, I am worried … to me it doesn’t smell right, on face value it does not give the right impression”, he said.

The trade union representative stated that based on information seen on the website, deSavary estimates that he can make in excess of US$34 million under this programme.

It is alleged that the publication disclosed that persons can obtain a Grenadian passport by investing one million U.S dollars with a deSavary real estate project.

Roberts recalled that a previous citizenship by investment programme initiated by a former Mitchell government was a disaster 12 years ago and he is seeing similar trends in the draft legislation in a world that is now even more dangerous than back then.

“The Talaban would love this document”, he told the Senate.

Canada had imposed a visa requirement on Grenadians wanting to visit the country out of concerns that it could not determine the legitimate holders of Grenadian passports as opposed to those who purchased their citizenship.

This came on the heels of the terrorist strike in the United States in which two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in Manhattan killing over 2000 persons.

The media was not spared from Sen. Robert’s wrath, as he called on practitioners not to be spoon-fed but engage in investigative journalism to bring out the truth.

“You ought not to be spoon fed … research both programmes, don’t just accept what you heard here this morning from anyone of us, you do your investigation”.

Former Minister for Education in the Congress government, Franka Bernadine also expressed concern with the naming of the wife of the Foreign Affairs Minister as one of the local lawyers involved in the programme once implemented into law.

Sen. Bernadine made it clear that there is nothing wrong with Steele as an individual but is concerned with the principle involved.

“What has happened with the broad slew of lawyers across the board? Why have we tagged this into certain key people? The talk on the street, Mr. President, is that this here looks like a beneficiary package for three or four persons.”

Sen. Bernadine urged the Government to be guided by the island’s history on the sale of passports.

“We hold sacred, our citizenship, our Grenadian citizenship”, she said.

Former Finance Minister, under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) led government, Nazim Burke, said that the New National Party (NNP) administration is trying to ask Parliamentarians to rubber stamp a “scheme” that is already in full gear.

Sen. Burke said that while he supports the implementation of a citizenship by investment programme in principle, he cannot support the draft bill in its present form as it is nothing more than an embarrassment to Parliament and Grenadians.

He believes that the programme was implemented ever since Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Dr Keith Mitchell presented the Budget of Revenue and Expenditure in March.

During its own four-and-a-half year stint in government, the Congress administration was giving serious thought to a Citizenship by Investment Programe with a group of international lawyers.

 

 

Vincy politician labels new act in Grenada as ‘notorious’

Leader of the Democratic Republican Party of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Anesia Baptiste, condemned some sections of a law recently passed in neighboring CARICOM state Grenada.

The law called the Electronic Crimes Act 2013 was passed in the House of Senate in Grenada after its final debate on the afternoon of Wednesday August 21st, 2013.

In a radio interview with Kem Jones, host of Eagle’s Eye Radio program on Spice Capital Radio on Thursday, August 22nd, Baptiste highlighted her concerns and condemnation of the law as against Grenadians inalienable and constitutionally protected freedom of expression and at the same time contrary to Free movement and right to work goals of CARICOM expressed in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

Baptiste, who is a former Senator in the Parliament of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and who just concluded her Bachelor of Laws degree with honors from the University of London, pointed out that sections 6 and 16 of the law criminalise the sending of electronic communication which may be deemed by a person as “grossly offensive”, causing “insult”, “inconvenience” and that which can “annoy” and make such offences punishable by up to 100,000 EC dollars fine or up to 1 year prison term or both.

Baptiste argued that the language in the sections lack legal certainty which is required for the guarantee of the rule of law.

“Citizens must be able to regulate their conduct with certainty and be protected from arbitrary use of state power”, Baptiste said.

“However, there is no interpretation guidance in the law to direct how words such as “grossly offensive”, “annoy”, “insult” and causing “inconvenience” will be interpreted and this is cause for concern.”

Baptiste further argued that words such as “insult”, “annoy”, “inconvenience” and “offense” are subjective since what may be insulting to one person and may not be insulting and annoying to another.

“Even the truth can be seen as annoying and insulting by some. Even the truth may be seen as offensive and inconvenient by some. Will you send a person to jail for speaking the truth or for speaking their opinion because someone deems it insulting, offensive, causing inconvenience or annoying?” questioned the former Senator.

According to Baptiste, lack of interpretation guidance suggests that the innocence or guilt of the individual will be left up to the arbitrary feelings of a judge who will make law in absence of legal certainty in the Act itself.

Also, the workings of the law may result in inequality before the law, since Person A may be sent to jail for offensive electronic communication if a judge finds the claimant’s offense to be established, whereas Person B may go free even though he sent the same information, simply because the person to whom he sent it ignored it or did not find it insulting and worthy of bringing a claim.

Baptiste claims that such a law will encourage citizens to engage the legal system every time they feel offended at some electronic communication including the legitimate free expression of opinions on social media such as Facebook, twitter and other blogs.

“This will be a waste of the court’s time and resources and will foster immaturity and intolerance in the society. It can also be used to instill fear in persons resulting in self-censorship and it will remove the important exercise of criticism which is necessary for the evolving of new and better ideas for development.”, Baptiste said.

“I’m horrified that legislators in Grenada could pass such sections in a law in a modern, free society.” Baptiste opined, as she reflected also on the negative implications for free movement and right to work goals of CARICOM treaty.

According to the former Senator, articles 45 and 46 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which establishes the community and includes the CARICOM single market and economy may be breeched by the application scope of the notorious sections of the Grenada law.

“The application section 3 will touch persons who are “carrying out business in Grenada or visiting Grenada or staying in transit in Grenada” and this could have negative implications for media workers, artistes and other skilled workers whose right to work in CARICOM is established under article 46 of the Treaty, if such persons simply send electronic communication, while in Grenada, which is deemed to ‘insult”, “annoy” or be “grossly offensive” to another person – again all subjective feelings for which there is no true baseline.”, Baptiste argued.

“The message being sent by Grenada is a bad one and it is setting a bad example where sections 6 and 16 of the Electronic Crimes act are concerned. CARICOM should also be concerned.” Baptiste said

“One questions the real intention of such sections. It is not the role of governments to pass legislation, which criminalises insult, offense annoyance and causing inconvenience. They have gone too far and such a state of affairs could easily result in state sponsored persecution of legitimate critics from Grenada and CARICOM, of all kinds, whether political or religious, for example”, she added.

Baptiste, who stressed her political party’s emphasis on government’s role as the protectorate of inalienable rights and freedoms of ALL people, stated, “My party -the Democratic Republican Party strongly condemns sections 6 and 16 of Grenada’s Electronic Crimes Act 2013 and calls upon Heads of State in CARICOM to condemn it likewise”.

“It is a backward move against the ideals of freedom, equality and justice which we cherish and which are necessary for our development going forward. We are disappointed in the Keith Mitchell’s administration with these sections and urge him to amend the Act by repealing the notorious portions of sections 6 and 16 accordingly.”

NNP look to buy back properties for private investors

The six-month-old administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell says that the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Tillman Thomas raked in more than $26 million from the sale of national assets during its four-year term in office.

Addressing the media during the weekly post Cabinet briefing last week Tuesday, Minister of Economic Development, Trade, Planning and Cooperatives, Oliver Joseph, said that the sale of the assets primarily to the state-run National Insurance Scheme (NIS) by the previous Congress government was not “a sustainable decision”.

He said that the New National Party (NNP) which won the elections in February intends to repurchase some of the properties that were sold by Congress to NIS.

According to Minister Joseph, a total of 11 properties were sold by Thomas’ government to pay the salaries of public officers and to meet recurrent expenditure.

“As you know if you are going to sell assets to meet recurrent expenditure that is not a sustainable position. It is the worst position you could reach in where you actually have to sell what you have to pay your bills simple as it is,” he said.

He charged that the NDC administration was forced to turn to the sale of national assets after the Prorogation of Parliament amidst a political squabble between Prime Minister Thomas and a rebel faction led by his former Foreign Affairs Minister Peter David.

Joseph said the prorogation meant that the government could not get authorisation from Parliament to borrow or extend overdraft facilities with local banks to meet monthly commitments.

“The total sale of all the properties amounted to $26, 902,400.00. So the government sold these properties in order to pay wages and salaries,” he added.

The senior government minister stated that his government was surprised to discover that several properties which they believed had remained in the name of the Grenadian Government was sold by the Congress administration.

The properties listed as sold by the senior government minister are: the old St. James Hotel on Grand Etang Road in St. George’s, the former Electoral Office on Woolwich Road, St George, the former TV Station in Morne Jaloux, the former Radio Station on Scott Street, former Doctor House in Maran, St John, former Hamilton Home on Lucas Street, former Doctor’s resident in Thebaide, Drill Yard on Young Street that once served as the office for the Ministry of Works, Sandino Plant, Mt Hartman, Hotel California in Morne Rouge, and the former Doctor’s Quarters in La Digue.

Joseph disclosed that the sale agreement signed with NIS allows government to repurchase the properties within seven years at full market value.

The senior minister said they are looking into the sale of these properties as investors have expressed interest in purchasing them.

He said the NNP’s intention is to seek private investors to develop some of the properties.

“We as a government felt it was not the right policy to pursue the selling assets to meet recurrent expenditure and we found it very strange that the government resorted to that to raise money to meet their recurrent expenditure and so it’s of grave concern…”, he said.

“…The cabinet is currently looking (to) see which of the properties that can be repurchased or the properties that private investors may be interested to (buy) so they can develop it,” he told the media.

In December last year, the then acting Cabinet Secretary, Gemma Bain-Thomas disclosed that as a means of meeting its recurrent expenditure, Cabinet took a strategic decision during the month of September to consider the revenue collection of the State by utilising some State assets.

Bain-Thomas said government had compiled a list of existing State assets with a total value of $10m that could be sold to NIS in order to obtain the necessary revenue.

“These things (government assets) are being transferred to another State entity, and so the people of Grenada are not loosing their assets. They are in another State entity,” she explained.

Bain-Thomas also announced that 4.5 million of the 11 million government shares in Cable and Wireless with a net value of $15m were sold to NIS.

Government shares of less than one million dollars in the Grenada Breweries Limited were also sold in order to raise revenue.

 

China-Taiwan issue trumps Caribbean co-operation

SAUNDERSChina may still be classified as a “developing” country because of its per capita income, but that is as far as the description is pertinent. In almost every other way China is in the league of developed nations.

The World Bank gives China’s per capita income in 2012 as US$6,091. By comparison, with the exception of Haiti (US$771), Guyana (US$3,584), Belize (US4,577) and Jamaica (US$5,472), the per capita incomes of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are greater than China’s. Even so, it is difficult to regard China as a “developing” country in the common understanding of that term.

China continues to define itself as “developing” because of its need for diplomatic support from developing countries for the issues that are important to it in the international community. These are Tibet, human rights, Taiwan and reform of the global economic institutions that would give China a stronger standing.

Over the last three decades, the infrastructure of a great portion of China has been upgraded. Its major sea ports and airports are far superior to those in many industrialised nations, and while the latter are crumbling and in need of major rebuilding, China’s new infrastructure has been constructed for the future.

Further, China’s internal transportation system – its highways, railways and bullet trains are modern and futuristic. Above all else, the Chinese people remain disciplined, hardworking and thrifty, contributing immensely to China’s global competitiveness and to the healthy finances of the Chinese government.

Chinese savings at the end of June this year stood at US$16.3 trillion. China is already a magnet for financial services and Information Technology (IT) businesses. The government has now announced plans to fully connect China to the internet in two years’ time with urban and rural broadband speeds reaching 20 megabytes per second (Mbps) and 4Mbps respectively. Consequently, the value of IT businesses is expected to increase by US$2 trillion.

China is the world’s second largest economy after the United States. Even with the slowing down of its economic growth from a ten per cent average over the last two decades to a projected 7.5 per cent this year, China is expected to become the world’s largest consumer market within the next five years according to a Standard and Poor’s report.

A further indication of the wealth in China is a report by Forbes Magazine in March which puts China as the home of the second largest number of billionaires (122) after the US (442). The China Daily also reports that the number of millionaires in China this year is 1.05 million.

This is not to suggest that all of China has been modernised and is free of poverty. The Western area of China lags behind the development of the East. But this, too, is changing. Since 2000, the Chinese government has embarked on a programme to develop the West covering more than half of the country’s land and almost a third of its population. It has now decided to introduce “differentiated” policies for the region that will include huge spending on infrastructure.

The government has announced that it will move “labour-intensive and environmentally friendly industries from the coastal region to the West”. Already, three Western cities have grown faster than their wealthier counterparts in the East.

All of this is to say that China is a strong economy whose growth may have slowed, but it has slowed to a rate that every other nation fervently wishes it had. China will continue to grow and it will remain an economic powerhouse.

With US$3.4 trillion in foreign reserves, China also has an interest in investing in projects around the world that would not only give it multi-national companies but also a wider and diversified portfolio for a return on its money.

Apart from the mineral and forestry resources that China wants, Caribbean businesses cannot take advantage of the Chinese market. Access to affordable capital, costs of transportation, insurance, labeling in Chinese and marketing are beyond the capacity of the relatively small companies in the region.

Of course, opportunities that are available for companies to integrate their production to penetrate the Chinese market (and others) are not even being considered.

Absent, the capacity of the private sector in many Caribbean countries to export to the Chinese market, China will continue to enjoy a huge balance of payments surplus with CARICOM countries. China had a balance of trade surplus with the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries of US$3 billion in 2012 according to China’s trade figures.

Only Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, which have resources such as forestry and minerals that China wants, could reasonably expect to export meaningfully to China. But, on present form, their exports will hardly compensate for the imports from China that now flood their markets leaving them with balance of payments deficits in 2012 of US$755.4 million, US$173.4 million and US$172.5 million respectively.

And since the balance of trade surplus in China’s favour is not likely to be reduced in any significant way, the sum of US$3 billion, which President Xi announced last June would be made available to Caribbean countries as concessionary loans, is simply not enough compensation. China will undoubtedly enjoy another trade surplus of US$3 billion this year and the next.

In this context, Caribbean countries should develop a strategy for their economic relations with China that would secure aid for trade, concessionary loans for national infrastructure projects and pan-Caribbean projects that would benefit countries nationally and regionally.

The strategy should also pursue investment by Chinese companies in financial services, tourism facilities and manufacturing not necessarily for the Chinese market, with such investment financed by the China Development Bank and the China Export-Import Bank on soft terms and conditions.

But, Taiwan remains the fly in this ointment. In August, in the wake of China’s President Xi’s visit with 9 CARICOM leaders in June, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou toured four of the five CARICOM countries with which diplomatic links continue. He has pledged ongoing economic assistance to each of them, and they have all pledged loyalty to Taiwan.

This suggests that CARICOM should now accept that regional co-operation has been trumped by division on the China-Taiwan issue, and the nine independent countries with links to China should proceed to formalise an economic partnership agreement with China outside of the CARICOM Treaty but with the concurrence of the five member states tied to Taiwan.

The alternative is the present beggar-thy-neighbour practices from which the Caribbean is not a winner.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, Senior Research Fellow at London University and former Caribbean diplomat)

The waiting for action continues

Lloyd NoelThe pledge or promise to have the economy up and running again, and jobs for the unemployed available – from the many foreign Investors who were ready and waiting to come ashore, and start up new businesses in the Spice Isles, at the beck and call of the new controllers all in the first hundred days sweeping the polls, it is still pending after two hundred days or six months.

True enough quite a number of roads maintenance workers have found jobs, and the pot holes and roadsides jungle of bushes have been filled up and cleared away – and the works have been continuing.

But as far as the new Investors are concerned nothing has happened in that area, except that the Government has enacted a New Foreign Investors Citizenship Act, which is intended to grant Grenadian Citizenship to Foreign Investors who are willing to come and invest in the Tri-Island State.

What is not very clear – is whether those Investors have to start up their businesses, before they receive their Citizenship and Grenadian Passports, or these will be given in advance of their coming; as happened under the previous Scheme when all sorts of crooks and con-men received Passports, and our genuine Grenadians were denied entry into Canada especially, unless and until they obtain a Canadian Visas.

There is no denying that our people are undergoing serious economic pressure, because of the lack of employment to earn a living wage – and the current controllers had made very firm promises, of interested Investors who were waiting for those now in charge to take over the reins of power, and they would have been on the Island in days.

Now we have gone through Six months of complete and total control by the new Rulers, and the silence is deafening.

Instead of investment and jobs-creation, for those who fell for the promises and voted Green to replace the Yellow-wearers – we are now hearing of all the debts and loans inherited by the Winners, and even more recently the many Government properties sold by the losers while they were in power, and now the winners want to buy them back for use by Government departments.

The properties are nearly all located in the parish of St. George, and the list of those published show that they need major repairs and have been in disuse for years – so how wise is the decision to re-purchase and repair those buildings only time will tell.

The news from the financial sector of the Government operations recently, have been the receipt, or promise, or loans of millions of dollars from Governments or other Foreign Institutions to the Government of Grenada.

And in the same releases on the question of finance – have been the disclosure that the last Government had not been servicing the huge debts owed by Grenada, but instead had been adding Millions to those debts.

If that state of affairs is as published, it is surprising to hear the same, or other lenders or Donors still ready and willing to make more Millions available to the new guys in the corridors of power.

But then again it could be argued, that no matter what the past conditions may reveal – those with friends and comrades in the right places, can always succeed in getting them to go above and beyond the usual channels.

So now that all those promises are in the pipeline, the talks about the many millions are being bandied about in most news bulletins from the powers-that-be, and the months are moving along with nothing of any consequence taking place, to ease up the hardships and the tension so many people are undergoing – the cries of those in the jobless wilderness, are rising with every passing day – less week, as they wait and keep on hoping, that sooner rather than too much longer the existing hard times will be reduced by the Controllers in Charge.

And now that the carnival is over, the school holidays are nearly also coming to an end, and while all those who have graduated are joining the jobless, with very few lucky ones finding something to occupy their time for a pay cheque at month ends, another set are about to enter Secondary School in early September, and the strain and headaches for their parents to find the means to equip and turn them out are beginning all over again.

I saw and heard the Prime Minister on TV last week, informing the Nation that in the next three Months over Ten Thousand jobs will be provided for the jobless, from the plans and programs now in the pipeline and ready to come on stream in the coming months in the Spice Isle.

If that promise materialises, while it would not solve all the jobless problems, it will surely make a whole lot of difference to those in need and looking to find work to feed themselves and care for their families.

We can only hope and pray that some things do take place to ease the tension and bring some relief – because the situation is rough and the waiting for action is very frustrating, and will only get worse if nothing concrete comes up in the very near future.

 

 

DEMOCRACY AT WORK

Brian FrancisBy Dr. Brian Francis

 

Despite various shortcomings and many frustrations at times, we in Grenada do live in a fairly democratic country. And that was demonstrated most conspicuously merely six months ago when a majority of the people chose the NNP and its promises over the NDC and its mixed performance in office.

The electorate were well within their rights to elect the party or Government of their choice. Equally, each citizen of this country is well within his right to criticise the Government over any matter of relevance without fear or favour.

“Personally, I’m in favour of democracy, which means that the central institutions of society have to be under popular control. Just as I’m opposed to political fascism, I’m opposed to economic fascism. I think that until the major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it’s pointless to talk about democracy.” Sounds like something I would say? Absolutely! However, those are not my words. They are actually very wise words of wisdom ascribed to Noam Chomsky.

By extension, whenever I reflect on the performance of the present Government in Grenada to date, I am continuously reminded of Edmund Burke’s observation that “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have rights that these wants should be provided for.” How, then, given the promises made to Grenadians by the present NNP Administration, that some could take comfort in the idea that the Government is young and needs time to settle down before getting along with the people’s business?

While I accept and do in fact subscribe to the idea of a period of honeymoon in relation to a new Government in office, I also must submit that to the best of my knowledge and understanding husbands and wives do undertake very serious work while on their honeymoons!

Let us imagine for a while scenarios in which individuals have no money to pay a bus to take them from Fontenoy to Gouyave to enjoy Fish Friday; no formal education; no families to look after their affairs; no health insurance or access to adequate health services; and no access to basic food, shelter, and clothing.

Even if we subscribe to William Ellery Channing’s view that “The office of Government is not to confer happiness, but to give men the opportunity to work out happiness for themselves,” from all practical perspectives, can we convince those not so fortunate among us that the Government needs time to settle down before it can address their plights? I think not!

On that score, I have little choice but to continue to be critical of the Government. I am not in the business of attacking Government. However, as a citizen of this beautiful country I have a moral obligation to see the right things being done, for and on behalf of all Grenadians.

Furthermore, as someone who is being paid to help shape and influence the minds of individuals from all across the Caribbean and beyond, and consistent with the idea of Louis Dembitz Brandeis, I have a responsibility to ensure that “we can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” As part of that responsibility, I must maintain pressure on the Government to do the right things at all times to the benefit of the masses!

And, therefore, when I see; for example, prices escalating out of control in Grenada at a time when unemployment is at its highest, I have to sound my voice in despair. And when members of the Cabinet see it fit to travel oversees extensively at a time when the country faces unprecedented economic challenges, I must register my disapproval. And when real efforts to address the massive unemployment situation in the country continue to function on “pause” while our fiscal and debt challenges mount, I have to move to “play”.

In essence, then, I write to prompt change. The present Government of Grenada needs to change its approach to the management of the economy in difficult times. There can be no excuse for the current state of impotence in relation to finding solutions to our most pressing problems being displayed at the top levels of leadership in the country.

Time is not on our side. The Government must act now to help ease the pain and suffering of the citizens of Grenada, particularly the underprivileged; or else, face the consequences of its inaction.

Your humble servant is simply sounding the alarm bell. Please heed this warning!

 

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