Dr. Wendy Crawford-Daniel: End political victimisation in RGPF

Dr. Wendy Crawford-Daniel – advocates independence of the RGPF

Dr. Wendy Crawford-Daniel – advocates independence of the RGPF

Sociologist, Dr. Wendy Crawford-Daniel has called on Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. Keith Mitchell, as well as Acting Commissioner of Police, Winston James to ensure that there is no victimisation of Police Officers because of differing political views.

Dr. Crawford-Daniel who was the Guest speaker at the Annual Police Awards and Retirement Ceremony last week Saturday said too many times Police Officers are relieved from the service or arbitrarily moved around from station to station because of their political opinions or affiliations.

“We have to put an end to political victimisation of Police Officers. It isn’t serving us well,” she told the gathering.

Since his return to power following the February general elections, Prime Minister Mitchell has moved to sideline Willan Thompson, the Commissioner of Police who was appointed to the post by the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration.

Two other senior police officers, Assistant Commissioners of Police Smith Roberts and Dowlin Bartholomew have been forced on leave and since then allegedly received letters seeking to remove them from their positions within the force.

Speculation is rife that the new rulers in St. George’s are bent on promoting officers known to be aligned to Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP) as replacements for Roberts and Bartholomew.

One of the officers named has been accused by a retired Woman Police Constable of sexual abuse before she quit the police force.

Acting Commissioner James has announced a criminal probe into the allegations including one of rape against a Superintendent of Police following graphic description carried about the incident by this newspaper.

No public statement has been made on the progress of the investigation being spearheaded by Head of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Superintendent Trevor Modeste.

The former police officer who made the accusation of sexual abuse against the three senior police officers is yet to be contacted as part of the promised investigation.

In her address to police officers, Dr. Crawford-Daniel implored Police Officers to refrain from abusing their power, and to stamp out any corruption within their midst.

A former supporter of the 1979-83 left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), the university lecturer, said that politics has historically been the source of much corruption and abuse of law enforcement power in Grenada.

She argued that attitude towards the police is often influenced by people’s attitude towards the political system.

Dr. Crawford-Daniel also addressed the issue of equity in the system, pointing out that there should not be a culture where female Officers perceive that in order to advance in their careers the only sure route is to sleep with other Officers who can facilitate that promotion.

The Guest Speaker also admonished the Police Officers to pay attention to their personal development.

She encouraged them to focus on their softer skills, which, according to her, distinguish them and are the skills upon which the people they serve evaluate their activity.

“It is not how many arrests you have made, traffic violators you have caught, or persons you have accused to be convicted. Respect for self, human dignity and basic human rights are not just buzz words, but strongly imply your Mission Statement: “To Protect And Serve” through the delivery of professional service to ensure a safe society,” she said.

Dr. Crawford-Daniel admonished the men and women in uniform to take pride in their job and their uniform.

She appealed to Acting Commissioner James to ensure that there is continued education and training for all members of RGPF.

She spoke of being heartened to see the number of Police Officers who are advancing academically and professionally at various educational institutions locally and regionally in specialised training.

“I urge the Royal Grenada Police Force to continue to encourage and to ensure the professional development of your current Officers. Let it be a policy you embark upon, seek to elevate the profession further by attracting more and more qualified people, and do not be threatened by qualification and youthfulness. They can only serve to lift the profile of the Force and make the profession a very attractive option,” she said.

Dr. Crawford-Daniel implored the Police Officers to be aware that professionalism does not mean hostility and insensitivity.

 

 

Ambassador praise Grenada-China relations

Ambassador Ou Boqian at the ceremony

Ambassador Ou Boqian at the ceremony

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is relishing the bilateral relations it has existing with Grenada.

Resident Chinese Ambassador Ou Boqian spoke in glowing terms of the relations during an engagement she had with members of the media last week at her residence at True Blue, St. George’s.

Ambassador Boqian highlighted the assistance Beijing has been providing to St. George’s since the two countries resumed diplomatic relations after Hurricane Ivan ravaged the spice Isle in September 2004.

She made specific reference to the Cricket Stadium at Queen’s Park that had to be rebuilt in time for the Cricket World Cup in 2007 after Ivan destroyed it.

The female Ambassador said she is now looking forward to the refurbishment work on the Athletics and Football Stadium that is due to commence during this month.

In light of all of the assistance given to Grenada by the PRC, Ambassador Boqian was delighted with the success rate of the educational support to Grenadian Nationals.

She said each year 80 training opportunities in various fields are given to Grenada.

The female Chinese ambassador gave the local media a breakdown of the number of people who have benefited thus far from the help given by Beijing.

According to her, 70 people who have been trained in China are now back in Grenada, sixteen people were sent this year to study in China, six of whom are pursuing undergraduate studies, while the other ten are post-graduate students at universities in China.

Ambassador Boqian disclosed that as a result of the “excellent performance” of the local students, there will be an increase in the scholarships being made available to Grenada by Mainland China.

A previous Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government took the decision to break off diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan in favour of a lucrative package offered by Beijing including the building of the cricket stadium.

A disappointed ROC government hit back by demanding that St. George’s repay all loans contracted with its state-owned Exim Bank and took legal action in a New York court to recover an estimated EC$76 million owed to the financial institution.

Move to create a Spice and Herb Development Research Centre

Grenada may soon establish a regional Spice and Herb Development Research Centre, according to Minister for Education, Anthony Boatswain.

Speaking at the post-Cabinet press briefing held last week Tuesday, Minister Boatswain said that Grenada has a wide range of natural herbs and spices but is lacking in research capabilities and government is now moving to address this problem.

“That is to say, Grenada will be the Centre for research and development in spice and herbs,” he told reporters.

The senior government minister said that this initiative is extremely important to Grenada since the island has an abundance of natural spices and herbs but unfortunately does not have the research capabilities to commercialise or add value to these products.

He stated that the products remain under-utilised or exported in a raw state without any value being added to them.

“This project will transform the scenario and make Grenada a focal point or the lead country in our region for research and development of herb and spice”, he added.

Minister Boatswain stressed that Grenada has had similar initiatives in the past especially with the nutmeg product and expects this trend to continue but the time has come to look at a wider range of spices and herbs for research and development purposes.

He said that developing the country’s natural products has the capacity to transform the local economy through the development of a very defined agro-processing sector.

The minister disclosed that Cabinet has appointed a high-level technical committee to spearhead this initiative with Ronald O’Neale, an Agronomist by profession, to serve as Chairman.

The committee will also be comprised of persons drawn from the Ministry of Agriculture, Spice Project Unit, a representative each from the Grenada Produce Chemist Laboratory, St George’s University (SGU), the University of the West Indies (UWI) Open Campus, Natural Herbarium of Trinidad and Tobago, the Natural Products Institute and the UN International Trade Centre.

Minister Boatswain disclosed that once established, the Centre would serve a wide variety of purposes, as private companies in the region which need to do research into new ideas and develop new products as well as the testing of products can access this facility to realise their dreams.

He said the new entity can also be used by government organisations that has statutory functions to perform such as criminal lab investigations, the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), and by foreign private concerns that wish to buy publications, engage in online courses about Caribbean spices and natural products, and overseas private companies wishing to commission work on consultancy services among others.

The senior government minister stressed that the benefits to be derived from establishing this Centre in Grenada could be tremendous.

The estimated cost of the start-up of the research centre is US$1.55 million.

According to Minister Boatswain, the feasibility study for the Research Centre has been completed and it can take three years to ensure its establishment.

The estimated Capital Cost for the project is $750,000.00 to install equipment.

A preliminary survey done showed that it will cost $32,000.00 per month to run the centre and that in the first year, it can generate sales of around $248,500.00 during the initial phase of its operation.

The minister said that government is looking at donor agencies such as the International Trade Centre and Compete Caribbean for financing of the project.

The Spice Laboratory at Tanteen has been identified as a possible location for the project but government is looking at other areas in the country.

 

Nimrod and Humphrey for South Africa

TAWU’s President General Chester Humphrey – was part of the meeting

Chester Humphrey – formed part of the delegation

Grenada is to be represented by a two-member delegation at this week’s official funeral of Nelson Mandela, the first Black President of the Republic of South Africa.

Heading the delegation will be deputy Prime Minister, Elvin Nimrod with the other member being trade unionist, Chester Humphrey, the President-General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU).

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell made the disclosure to journalists attending Sunday night’s annual awards ceremony of the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG).

The inclusion of Humphrey in the Grenada delegation raised eyebrows in certain quarters in the country.

An official of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) sees the selection as Humphrey as a reward by the ruling New National Party (NNP) for the role played by the trade unionist and a group of other Congress rebels in the internal feuding that affected the Tillman Thomas-led government and contributed to its humiliating 15-0 defeat at the polls in February.

Nimrod and Humphrey flew out of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) on Sunday night for Trinidad and Tobago to board a Caribbean Airlines flight, chartered by the Government in Port-of-Spain for the journey into Pretoria.

Elvin Nimrod – attended the funeral

Elvin Nimrod – attended the funeral

The two will join several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders who left the region on Monday for South Africa to attend the funeral of the anti-apartheid icon.

Before flying out of Port-of-Spain, the country’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the regional leaders will not use the traditional route to fly into South Africa due to the weather pattern in Europe.

She said the route will take them into Brazil and then fly straight into South Africa in order to facilitate easier access due to time constraints.

“If we had passed through the UK, we would have had further constraints. We will fly to Rio De Janeiro (Brazil) to refuel and then pursue over the Atlantic to come back”, she said.

Asked about the cost of the trip, the TNT Prime Minister said: “Not at this point in time we are having it worked out. In terms of the commitment, we have to honour the great work of Mandela. The cost will not be exorbitant. I have nothing to hide. It would have cost more to fly so many of us down to South Africa.” Mandela, 95, died last Thursday, following a prolonged illness. He will be buried on Sunday, December 15.

CARICOM chairman and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad Bissessar, as well as her Jamaican counterpart, Portia Simpson-Miller are expected in Johannesburg in time for the funeral.

President Donald Ramotar of Guyana and Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie are also attending the meeting.

A Bahamas government statement said that the delegation will first travel to Trinidad where it will “join other CARICOM Heads of Government for the direct flight to Johannesburg via private charter courtesy of the government of Trinidad and Tobago”.

The statement said that Nassau had played a prominent role in the release of Mandela after 27 years in jail for his fight to overthrow the apartheid system.

“Once released from prison, Mr Mandela came almost immediately to visit The Bahamas to personally thank former Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling for his leadership in securing the release. In fact, Mr Mandela made two trips to the Bahamas,” the statement said, noting that “Sir Lynden Pindling was chairman of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1985 which issued the “Nassau Accords” that led to Mr Mandela’s release.

“As a result of this close relationship, Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela as the second president of a democratic South Africa, made an official state visit to The Bahamas during his tenure as president in 2002, the statement said.

RGPF engages in property crime safety

Display of a small house used by the RGPF

Display of a small house used by the RGPF

The Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) is leaving no stone unturned in its fight against criminal activities on the island.

The Community Relations Department (CRD) along with the Special Services Unit (SSU) of RGPF last week Friday staged a demonstration in the vicinity of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) building on Melville Street, St. George’s sensitising people about the various ways of protecting their homes.

Head of the CRD, Inspector Rebekah Jones indicated that the force will continue in its drive to be of assistance to the people they serve since it is the duty of the police to manage crime by helping people to reduce the opportunities given to criminal elements to attack their properties.

She said although, in recent times, the RGPF has been enjoying a very good success rate in crime solving in relation to housebreaking, burglary and stealing, it would be much more enjoyable for the police and the rest of the nation to avoid these crimes.

The female Inspector of Police pointed out that housebreaking is not just losing one’s property, but also cultivates the fear of crime and infringes on one’s private life.

However, the Police are reporting a decline this year in this type of crime when compared to the corresponding period last year.

Between January and September last year there were 3,155 property crimes reported, in comparison to 2,808 in the corresponding period for 2013.

The team from the SSU shared some useful tips with the General Public on how to protect their homes and properties.

Sergeant Patterson Andrew who is part of the SSU Artisan Squad gave a thorough explanation on how homeowners can do their part in protecting their property.

Sgt Andrew displayed some of the simplest tools carried by law-breakers to engage in housebreaking. These include a putty knife, chisel, screwdriver, hacksaw and hammer.

The police officer also suggested that homeowners should invest in better locks on their doors in order to protect their homes from the criminal elements.

“We would recommend to persons using locks that they use a montese lock or a double cylinder dead bolt lock. The montese lock serves two purposes. It can open with the entrance lever and it can lock with the dead bolt lever. It is more expensive, it is more difficult to install, but it’s a hundred percent safer than an entrance lock”, he said.

“The double cylinder dead bolt… uses the key on both inside and outside to have it open, unlike the single cylinder which only uses key on the outside,” he added.

The Police Sergeant also indicated that the burglary proof being installed on the inside of the house makes it more difficult for an intruder to damage it and gain entry into the building.

 

Cultural artistes to pay tribute to Mandela at Spice Basket

The Spice Basket comes alive this Friday evening December 13, as cultural artistes come together to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Cultural ambassador, Francis Urias Peters has extended an invitation to cultural artistes and the Grenadian community to meet at the Spice Basket in Beaulieu to honour and celebrate the life of the greatest leader and icon of our times.

There will be no cover charge, “just bring your voice, your musical instrument, your song, your drum, your dance and a candle and let’s have a great time of reflection, praise and communion”, says Peters.

This will be a wonderful opportunity for both artistes and the community to come together in unity and celebration in one space.

Peters states that since Spice Basket’s motto is, “Home of Grenadian Culture”, he sees it fitting for the event to be staged at that venue; “on the deck’; in an open and informal setting.

The Cultural tributes begin at 7:00 p.m and admission is free.

Every one is asked to walk with a candle.

Constitutional amendment aimed at public officers

Richard Duncan Benefited from the Constitution

Richard Duncan Benefited from the Constitution

The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government in St. George’s could he heading for a major showdown with public sector unions in the new year.

THE NEW TODAY has obtained a document prepared by the Ministry of Finance, headed by Prime Minister Mitchell and in which top civil servant, Timothy Antoine serves as the Permanent Secretary and which seeks to affect the status of civil servants.

According to the document, it is proposed that the Grenada Constitution be amended to strike out that section which guarantees public officers a full pension by the state in cases of arbitrary removal from their posts.

The documents states, “The Government will ….seek to amend article 84.8 of the Constitution in its upcoming 2014 review, which is the main impediment to public sector retrenchment due to the guarantee of a full pension to retrenched employees regardless of their time in service”.

One of the persons who benefitted from this section in the Constitution is former Accountant-General in the Ministry of Finance, Richard Duncan, the current General Manager of the Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited.

Apart from his salary at Co-op Bank, Duncan receives a monthly pension from government running into thousands of dollars after he was unceremoniously removed from his post at the ministry of finance by a previous Mitchell government.

A veteran trade union leader told this newspaper that any such move by government to amend the constitution to do away with guarantees to public officers would be “seriously resisted” since it could lead to massive retrenchment of civil servants by government as part of the so-called home-grown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).

The Mitchell government has complained that 70 percent of government review is going to pay the salaries of public officers and the remaining 30% on servicing the national debt estimated at EC$2.4 billion and with little less for spending on other areas in the economy.

Following are excerpts from the document that was prepared for possible consideration by the NNP regime:

Debt Restructuring

The second pillar of the fiscal program is addressing the debt overhang through a comprehensive debt restructuring.

While the fiscal consolidation (as) outlined would set debt on a firmly downward path, it will not be sufficient to bring a lasting solution to the negative effects of debt overhang that continues to stifle government finances and the economy.

Accordingly, we announced on March 8, 2013 that we will undertake a “comprehensive and collaborative” restructuring of the public debt. With the assistance of our debt advisors, the Government will engage its creditors in a debt exchange aimed at both reducing the level of debt and achieving cash flow relief; this will supplement the fiscal consolidation in attaining the ECCU-wide debt targets.

The debt exchange will be comprehensive, with all public and publicly guaranteed debt eligible for restructuring with the exception of loans from multilateral institutions and Treasury bills issued on the regional government securities market (RGSM) to limit the impact on the regional economy.

We will seek Paris Club and non-Paris Club bilateral creditors for relief on terms comparable to those provided under the debt exchange. We expect to make a debt exchange offer by end-2013, and to finalise the exchange in the first quarter of 2014.

Consistent with the financing envelope of the program, making satisfactory progress in the negotiations with the creditors will be a prior action.

Fiscal Structural Reforms

The third pillar of the fiscal program will focus on structural fiscal reforms to ensure fiscal discipline going forward. They will be aimed at imposing meaningful constraints on the conduct of fiscal policies and to provide a fiscal anchor to guide policy decisions.

Reforms will focus on strengthening five areas:

(i) the fiscal policy framework, through the introduction of a rule-based framework and stronger fiscal risk management;

(ii) public financial management;

(iii) improved management of parastatal entities;

(iv) pension reform; and

(v) debt management:

 

Fiscal policy framework:

The Government intends to transition to a rule-based fiscal framework that will provide guidance on how fiscal policies would be steered to the medium-term debt target, as well as after its achievement.

The rule will cap real spending at potential GDP growth, while allowing revenues to absorb cyclical fluctuations; this will ensure that- once the desired fiscal balance is achieved – it is broadly maintained over the cycle.

The fiscal policy framework will also be amended to improve the analysis and management of fiscal risks through:

(i) strengthening control over the finances of the rest of the public sector (local governments and parastatal entities);

(ii) widening the scope of public financial management legislation to the general government and producing consolidated public sector accounts; and

(iii) strengthening capacity to monitor fiscal risks by creating a (fiscal risk/public investment) unit to monitor and manage risks associated with parastatal entities, PPPs, and other risks.

The introduction of umbrella legislation for the fiscal framework in line with these reforms will be a structural benchmark for end-June 2014. To implement this framework, we will approve relevant regulations by end-2014.

Public financial management (PFM) legislation:

*To strengthen the budget process, financial discipline, and accountability, the Government will revise the public financial management legislation to:

(i) limit the use of executive orders to spend above budget;

(ii) approve all extra-budgetary spending through mid-year budget reviews in parliament;

(iii) introduce meaningful contingency funds within the budget;

(iv) strengthen control over expenditure commitments, including through the introduction of strict personal and institutional penalties; and

(v) prohibit implementation of changes to the tax system without parliamentary approval.

The revised legislation will also strengthen the capital budgeting process, including through institutional reforms, value-for-money and sustainability criteria in the selection of investment projects, move to multi-year budgeting process and the development of a medium-term strategy plan that will help prioritise government investment projects and guide the multi-year budgeting process.

We have sought IMF technical assistance on the revision of the PFM legislation, and intend to obtain parliamentary approval of the revised legislation by end-June 2014 (structural benchmark), with relevant regulations to be approved by end-2014

Statutory Bodies:

*Improving the financial performance of the statutory bodies will be an integral part of reforms to secure lasting fiscal discipline, as they represent an important source of contingent liabilities for the Government.

After initial diagnosis of the financial situation in the statutory bodies undertaken with technical assistance from CARTAC, the Government will undertake a strategic review of the functions and the rationale of the existing statutory bodies, as well as new statutory bodies being considered (the Printery and Statistics Grenada), and develop a strategic plan for the sector.

The plan will:

(i) provide up-to-date information on the financial viability of each statutory body, including the sustainability of any long-term pension arrangements;

(ii) classify each as being in line for liquidation, privatisation, or retention, and provide a time schedule for such action; and

(iii) lay out concrete plans to restructure financially weak statutory bodies that have been retained.

We will seek technical assistance for this review from the World Bank (and the approval of the strategic plan by the Cabinet will be a structural benchmark for end-September 2014).

Financial control over the statutory bodies, including strengthened reporting requirements and a unit to monitor their performance, will be dealt with in the context of the revised PFM legislation.

Public sector modernization:

*In addition to the planned reduction in public sector employment through attrition, the Government will undertake a strategic review of the public sector with a view to ultimately reducing the size of the public sector and making it more efficient.

This review will include government functions, public hiring (with a particular attention on refocusing the Department of Public Administration and reforming the Public Service Commission), as well as that of civil service size, composition and remuneration structure.

We will seek assistance from the World Bank in undertaking such a review, and will develop a strategic action plan on its basis by end-September 2014 (structural benchmark).

Parliamentary approval of revised legislation on government functions, civil service, and public compensation (including the 1969 Public Service Law and the constitutional provisions with regard to the Public Service Commission) will be a (structural benchmark for end-March 2015).

The Government will also seek to amend article 84.8 of the Constitution in its upcoming 2014 review, which is the main impediment to public sector retrenchment due to the guarantee of a full pension to retrenched employees regardless of their time in service.

• Tax incentive regime:

The Government plans to overhaul its process for granting tax incentives in order to prevent the erosion of the tax base and maximise the economic impact of incentives granted.

The reforms will aim at revising the relevant legislation to require that all new tax exemptions are codified in legislation, no discretionary exemptions are permitted, and that the beneficiaries of all exemptions file appropriate tax returns (structural benchmark for end-May 2014); technical assistance for these reforms will be sought from the IMF. Information on the amount of revenue foregone under all statutory and discretionary tax exemptions will be published annually in the budget presentation to parliament.

Pension reform:

The Government intends to reform the current public pension system with a view to consolidating the two different schemes, ensuring more equitable outcomes among different types of beneficiaries, and providing a competitive return to allow the public sector to retain qualify staff.

The Government has already formed a working group on pension reform and will also seek technical assistance from the CARTAC to assess the fiscal implications of the various pension reform proposals.

The Government aims at submitting reform legislation to parliament by March 2015.

Treasury Single Account:

To ensure an adequate management of its financial resources and save on interest costs, the Government will aim to transition to an effective treasury single account.

We will seek technical assistance from CARTAC to undertake an assessment of the cost effectiveness of the Government’s banking arrangements, facilitate a full audit of the bank accounts, and to develop a strategy for closing bank accounts and moving to a treasury single account (either within the commercial banking system or at the ECCB).

We will seek Cabinet approval of the strategy by end-February 2014 and aim to fully implement it by end-October 2014.

Strengthening debt management will also be important in managing and monitoring portfolio risks, as well as in ensuring that future financing needs are met at reasonable cost.

The Government will seek technical assistance on strengthening debt management, including on guarantee fees, from the IMF and the World Bank.

Strengthening public procurement:

The Government will also seek parliamentary approval for revised public procurement legislation, aimed at making public procurement more efficient and more transparent, by end-March 2014.

Financial Sector Policies

The Government will take a proactive approach to ensuring the continued stability of the financial system.

We will focus on assessing the impact of the debt restructuring on the financial sector capitalisation needs and on strengthening the non-banking sector regulatory frameworks and financial position:

*We will work with the ECCB to gauge – through stress tests – the potential impact of the debt restructuring on income and capitalisation of financial institutions to assess the possible need for a preemptive capitalisation.

We will also assess the potential impact of the debt restructuring on the long run solvency of the NIS.

The Government has significantly strengthened the regulation and supervision of the non-banking sector over the past few years, and is proactively tackling identified weaknesses.

To further strengthen the regulatory framework for the credit unions, we intend to enhance the supervisor’s toolkit by adding a prompt corrective action regime (“ladder of compliance”) to ensure clear supervisory repercussions; developing crisis management procedures for the credit unions, including options for providing liquidity support to them; establishing a temporary regulation requiring that profits be retained as capital; requiring credit unions to increase capital to assure adequate capitalization over the next three years, based on the stress tests for the debt exchange impact.

In the banking sector, the Government will reach understanding with the ECCB to institute, before March 2014, similar requirements for retaining profits and for preemptively recapitalising banks based on the findings of the Financial Sector Task Force, the stress test results and the findings of the recent onsite examination of the indigenous bank.

 

 

 

 

Tourism minister reacts to increases in APD

Grenada’s Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, Alexandra Otway-Noel, has expressed her disappointment, following British Chancellor of Exchequer, George Osborne’s Autumn Statement regarding increases of the Air Passenger Duty (APD) for passengers flying from Britain.

This comes at a time when, generally, UK arrivals into the Caribbean are in decline.

In addressing the rise in APD, Osborne’s statement said that the rise, which is expected to take effect from April 1, 2014, will increase the cost of medium and long-haul flights from Great Britain.

According to estimates, this essentially means that a family of four travelling economy to the United States will pay £276, up from £268, while the APD would move from £332 to £340 if they were travelling to the Caribbean. Moreover, those opting for premium economy, business- or first-class cabins, will be required to pay double the sum.

It serves to note that this is the sixth time in several years that the British APD has risen.

The Grenada Tourism Minister said that she is disappointed that the decision to follow through with the tax increases was carried out in spite of the lobbying done by Caribbean tourism officials for the British to halt the APD augmentation.

She said that the increases will continue to have serious implications on the tourism sector. Persons in the Diaspora will continue to find it difficult to travel to the Caribbean to visit their family and friends.

“This tax is keeping families apart,” the tourism official said.

Otway-Noel lamented the unfairness of the banding structure, as the taxation imposed on travel to Hawaii is less than that to the Caribbean, because of the capital city of Washington being closer than the Caribbean, for example.

“We understand that the British government has a right to tax its citizens but all the Caribbean region is asking for is a level playing field, so that we can compete. The APD tax was originally implemented as an environmental levy and the banding structure is based on that. All we ask is that the tax be standardised,” the tourism official said.

The proposed rise of the APD will impact negatively on the Caribbean tourism industry and is a cause for concern for every Caribbean destination, as tourism is the number one income earner and employer in the region and traditionally the UK has been one of the strongest markets.

The female government minister anticipates this increase will further negatively impact the Caribbean’s current difficult economic situation and sees the need to reach into new markets to offset this unfortunate situation.

Otway-Noel was recently part of a delegation that met with the Treasury Ministry in Britain while on her recent trip to the World Travel Market.

Several ministers and Caribbean tourism officials have lobbied the British government over the tax that, for several years has been on the rise.

Stuck in classic debt trap

By Tony Best

 

Pray!

That’s what people in Barbados and the rest of Caribbean may have to do now that some of them are saddled with a mountain of debt that places them on the list of the world’s most highly indebted countries.

That’s according to The Economist, a leading weekly news publication which is widely circulated in North America, Canada, Europe, Africa, Britain, the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada and Belize are among the prime examples of the debt problems confronting the Caribbean, the publication indicated.

“Investors’ appetite for more Caribbean debt is uncertain: Barbados recently shelved an attempt to raise some $500 million in international markets,” it said in its latest edition.

“There is much to pray for.”

The publication, whose comprehensive global coverage makes it a leading source of information and analysis, described the finances of Caribbean nations as being in a mess, warning that many of Grenada’s neighbours may have to follow the Eastern Caribbean state by having their church leaders use “the ungodly phrase” of debt restructuring.

“The reason why debt relief has risen so high up the heavenly agenda is that like many islands in the Caribbean, Grenada’s finances are in an unholy mess and threaten to push up poverty,” The Economist said in a report drawing international attention to The Caribbean Debt Crisis: God vs bondholders. The assessment had the sub-headline Small Debt-Ridden Countries Could Benefit From Divine Intervention After Praying Mightily For Debt Relief.

“Most countries in the region were hit by a collapse of tourism after the financial crisis in 2008-9,” it explained.

“Governments tried to spend their way out of stagnation, causing deficits to rise. The [International Monetary Fund] calculates public debt in the region averaged 70 per cent of [gross domestic product] in 2012 and current account deficits were a staggering 23 per cent.”

As The Economist sees it, the financial picture of the Caribbean looks something like this:

Grenada’s economy shrank by 1.2 per cent a year on average between 2008-2012. A strong default on debt has plagued the Caribbean in the past three years. Jamaica, Grenada, Belize and St Kitts-Nevis are the notable examples.

“Despite debt restructuring, Jamaica and St Kitts-Nevis still have government debt of more than 1.4 times GDP.”

The Eastern Caribbean countries have a currency union and can’t devalue their EC dollar “to boost exports and tourism”.

Barbados had to take the highly unusual step of recently withdrawing an attempt to raise $500 million on the financial markets.

What church leaders in Grenada are praying for by using the term “jubilee” is a one-off forgiveness of sins.

The situation is so dire in Grenada that Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell thanked the priests and other religious ministers for their support while quoting from the Book of Matthew in the Bible to explain the need for austerity measures.

Little wonder, then, that Carl Ross of Oppenheimer, a prominent securities firm, warned that a “lot of the Caribbean countries are stuck in a classic debt trap” from which they must extricate themselves.

“They need to cut government spending but that further reduces already low levels of GDP growth, Ross added.

But the Oppenheimer analyst isn’t alone. Both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, two of Wall Street’s leading credit rating firms have cited the need for Barbados, The Bahamas, Grenada and Belize to trim their spending and reduce their debt while striving to boost economic growth.

Some of the world’s most heavily indebted countries are in the Caribbean. Among them are Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Barbados and Grenada. Because of their relatively high per capita incomes, they wouldn’t qualify for the heavily indebted poor country initiative of debt forgiveness launched by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Eastern Caribbean states that make the list are considered highly indebted but not poor. Indeed, Barbados and The Bahamas are considered “high income” states while Jamaica, Grenada and St Kitts-Nevis are upper middle income nations, according to the World Bank.

First Draw of the LIME Share the Cheer Promotion

Corporate Communications Manager, Zoe Hagley, Marketing Manager, Rawlston Mitchell and representatives from Sissons Paint and Country Cold Store pose with the winners and loyal customers.

Corporate Communications Manager, Zoe Hagley, Marketing Manager, Rawlston Mitchell and representatives from Sissons Paint and Country Cold Store pose with the winners and loyal customers.

Six LIME customers were awarded for their support this season compliments LIME.

On Friday, December 6th, Rawle Noel, Lisa Rapier, Raphael LaBarrie, Andre Mitchell, James Lewis and Sharne and Chilean Chase were selected as the first batch of winners for the Share the Cheer promotion.

The customers were invited to the company’s retail store at Spiceland Mall to randomly dip for their chance to win a Samsung Galaxy Tablet or Christmas ham.

Under the Share the Cheer promotion, customers are automatically entered in the competition by paying their bill in full and on time or toping up $15 or more.

Apart from the Christmas winners, LIME again showed its appreciation to four customers who have exhibited continuous support to the company.

Merle Wade, Ian Noel, Carol Purcell and Jeffrey Cyrus were all presented with items from some of LIME’s Christmas partners – Sissons Paint, Renwick and Thompson and Country Cold Store.

Marketing Manager, Rawlston Mitchell expressed his satisfaction with the company’s first draw of the Christmas Promotion.

“At LIME we mean Value Every Moment! We rewarded our customers in our Share the Cheer Christmas promotion and we are happy to say thanks to our corporate partners who came on board to add variety to our prizes. Customers can look forward to winning high value prizes from LIME such as Samsung Galaxy Tablets and other attractive prizes including hams, wine, shopping vouchers and more. When we say ‘share’ we mean Share the Cheer in every way of life!”, he said.

The company also engaged in round two of their free karaoke competition. The competition was held outside the Spiceland Mall last Friday.

Fifteen individuals competed for their chance to win Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, as well as other LIME branded items. At the end of the competition, Francine Beckles was voted as the winner by crowd response.

The karaoke competition will continue on December 13th at LIME’s Grenville retail store.

The second batch of Christmas winners will also receive their prizes on December 13th.