Prospects look good for another signature hotel

Tourism Minister Dr. George Vincent – government is in deep negotiations

The Government of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas is hopeful that it can bring to the fore another signature hotel before the end of the year.

Tourism Minister Dr. George Vincent who made the disclosure said government is in “deep negotiations” with the Mt. Hartman Estate to help facilitate the hotel.

Mt. Hartman was the area targeted for the proposed Four Seasons Hotel under the former Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government.

The financers reportedly failed to raise the millions needed to build the hotel.

According to Dr. Vincent, who was a guest on the weekly “Sundays With George Grant” programme, the current government has been given a commitment of US $115m from the Exim bank of China to construct a multi-million dollar hotel to aid the island’s tourism development.

He said as part of the conditions to secure the financing, government is already working with a developer whom he did not identify to “seal the deal.”

Dr. Vincent disclosed that with a deadline set to seal the deal by the end of 2012, the developer has committed $35m towards the new hotel.

He said the obstacle that is now standing in the way is ownership of the land.

The new signature hotel being worked upon comes on the heels of Sandals taking control of the financially-strapped LaSource Hotel a few months ago.

The Tourism Minister announced a new opening date for the Sandals/La Source of November 2013.

He said the owners of the hotel chain felt that it would be better to push back the opening date so that all of the major construction could be done and to bring the total number of rooms up to 228.

He said that given the increase in the number of rooms, the number of persons to be employed will be approximately 560 at the new resort.

The Call Centre fiasco

Michaele Rose: ‘I refused to sign a fraudulent $3M insurance claim

The controversial Call Centre that was set up by the former New National Party (NNP) government of former Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell was the subject of an investigation under the Tillman Thomas administration.

THE NEW TODAY was able to obtain some of the highlights of the information obtained by the investigators.

See below for details:

 

CALL CENTER GRENADA INC (CCG)

 

2002

June

Tim Antoine memo on application of Cable & Wireless (C&W) dividend used to offset amount owing by CCG to C&W

 

May

CEO is Steve Horsford and CFO is Gerard Crosse. Cash flow very critical, heavy financial loss, C&W owed 5.4M, 20 persons to be laid off

 

August

May to July 2002 loss of $1.8M

 

2003

January

Board discusses payment of GG dividends to C&W for $5M

 

February

Monthly loss is $659,000

 

October

Revenue is only 24% of expenses, august 2002 to October 31, 2003 net loss of $1.8M. Bryan Slinger is in-house accountant

 

November 24, 2003,

Cabinet appointed Lev M. Model as Director of CCG. Lev Model is Russian born, a convicted fraudster, has a US Passport, a New York Driver’s License and at the time his spouse Nina, lived in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York.

 

2004

January 15

CCG Board meeting where Patricia Antoine introduces Lev Model as new director appointed by

Cabinet and holder of 49% shares of CCG. Loss from August 1 to December 31 is $2.4M. Cabinet had given Model a 49% share interest in CCG and a salary of US$6,000 per month.

 

March 18

CCG Board minutes shows unpaid to NIS is $1.7M and unpaid taxes is $107,000, debt has increased to $11.4M due to additional $600,000 received from shareholders.

 

March 29

Cabinet agrees to give Lev Model 49% share interest in CCG. Value of 49% shares by Agostini is deemed to be nil given annual operating losses.

 

May

Lev wants new trainers, more cable, loss for month is $595,000 and net loss from August 2003 to April 2004 is $4.3M. Shareholder loan now $14.2M

 

June 17

Special CCG Board meeting where Lev Model is told to manage CCG as a “private entity”

 

June 21

Cabinet approves use of C&W dividends to repay C&W for CCG debt

 

August

CEO Horsford is terminated and Michele Rose starts work at CCG.

 

During the years 2004 and 2005, CCG was funded primarily by loans from GG and GG guarantees to RBTT for its ECD 2.5 million overdraft. There was minimal operating revenue.

 

2005

February 3

CCG issues a cheque for $55,000.00 for deposit to Lev Model’s ECD account.

 

February 3

CCG issues a payroll cheque for net amount of $16,303.57 for deposit to Lev Model’s ECD account.

 

February 17

Lev Model issues a cheque in the amount of $40,000.00 for deposit to CCG bank account.

 

February

Up to the month of February, the EC$ account was in the name of Lev Model, Westerhall Point, St. David’s Grenada but starting in March the account name becomes Lev Model, Call Centres Grenada Inc., Seamon, St. Andrew’s Grenada. This account name continues until the end of 2005 when the name reverts to the original.

 

March 1

CCG issues a payroll cheque for net amount of $16,303.57 for deposit to Lev Model’s EC$ account. (Gross amount is $18,223.57)

 

March 2

CCG issues a cheque for $19,000.00 for deposit to Lev Model’s EC$ account.

 

March 30

Lev Model issued the following cheque from his ‘Model Call Centre’ EC$ bank account #6300131: Cheque #000148730 for EC$ 200,000.00 issued to CCG

 

March 31

CCG issues a payroll cheque for net amount of $16,303.57 for deposit to Lev Model’s EC$ account.

 

April 29 CCG issues a payroll cheque for net amount of $16,303.57 for deposit to Lev Model’s EC$ account.

 

April 29 Lev Model issued the following cheque from his ‘Model Call Centre’ EC$ bank account #6300131: Cheque #000148743 for EC$ 160,000.00 to CCG:

 

May

Antoine says during recent months operations of CCG had been heavily funded by Lev Model, CCG’s investor

 

July 8

Lev Model issues a cheque in the amount of $10,110.70 for deposit to CCG bank account.

 

August 11

CCG emergency Board meeting is called and Patricia Antoine starts discussion on the next step for CCG as a result of severe financial constraints coupled with two hurricanes and the destroyed equipment. Lev Model regrets that the situation leads to closure of CCG and expressed appreciation for the government efforts. Wildman commended Model who brought about a change in culture and attitude to work among workers and the operation of CCG. The RBTT overdraft will be an additional debt to government. It was resolved to close the company effective August 31, 2005. Since inception, CCG lost ECD 19.8 million according to financial statements prepared by Agostini.

 

 

September 1 An amount of EC$ 65,694.28 is deposited to the Lev Model, Call Centres Grenada Inc., St. Andrew’s Grenada RBTT bank account #6300131 and credit memo states “Part RBTT chq #147793 B/O Call Centres Gda Inc”. The cheque is derived from the gross amount of EC$ 77,481.73 drawn on the CCG bank account #5535420 at RBTT. This cheque represents 4 months (June – September) of pay for Model.

 

September 29 CCG issues a payroll cheque for net amount of $16,423.57 for deposit to Lev Model’s EC$ account.

 

October 6 An amount of EC$ 26,000 is deposited to the Lev Model, Call Centres Grenada Inc., St. Andrew’s Grenada account #6300131 and credit memo states “RBTT chq #142429” drawn on the CCG bank account #5535420 at RBTT.

 

October 27 CCG issues a payroll cheque for net amount of $16,423.57 for deposit to Lev Model’s EC$ account.

 

November 11 CCG issues a payroll cheque for net amount of $16,423.57 for deposit to Lev Model’s EC$ account.

 

December 16 CCG issues a payroll cheque for net amount of $16,423.57 for deposit to Lev Model’s EC$ account.

2006

January 31 CCG financial statements are prepared by Agostini that reports total assets of EC$4.4M and total liabilities of EC$32.2M and a net loss of EC$19.8M. Under long term loans an amount of EC$19.0M is due to the Government of Grenada and EC$3.1M is due to Lev Model (US$1.1M)

2007

November 9 In the matter of RSM et al vs. Fridman, Bowen et al, Michaele Rose made a declaration.

 

She stated that she started to work at CCG in August 2004. She states that Lev Model was the CEO at CCG and that she worked directly for Lev Model as the “number 2” person at CCG. At its peak CCG had over 300 employees. Monthly she appeared before a board of government officials to report on the status of the business. The officials would typically include G. Bowen. “I became aware that Model was paying my salary out of his personal account and not a CCG account”. He told me this was necessary as CCG was losing money. At one time he told me he was paying the college tuition of Bowen’s daughter, and his daughter, who I met confirmed to me that Model was paying for her college.

 

I refused to sign a fraudulent $3M insurance claim. Model implied that he could have me arrested and detailed in Grenada or give me problems with immigration so that I would have difficulty leaving Grenada. I left in June 2005 at midnight after observing practices that my husband and I felt were fraudulent and illegal.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Message from Commissioner of Police, Willan Thompson

Commissioner of Police Willan Thompson – it will be a challenging year for all

Fellow Grenadians, greetings to you in this Yuletide season. Every year at this time, we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ which occurred over 2000 years ago. It is also a time of reflection as we look back at our achievements and failures over the last year.

Additionally, it is a time for us to move forward and make amends for the things that did not turn out the way we expected.

As we in the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) reflect on 2012, we have observed that with the cooperation we have had from you the public, there has been an increase in the number of crimes and offences solved.

We have also observed that there were increases in certain types of crimes committed with the most alarming being Incest where there was a marked increase. This, we regard as very troubling and therefore we entreat mothers to be more careful with their daughters.

Over the last year, there has been an increase in our Community Policing Activities. The RGPF has been involved in the construction of four (4) houses for persons in need. There have also been the refurbishment of houses and special care given to the elderly in some areas. It is expected that these activities will continue in 2013 and will be intensified.

Over the same period, that is January – December, 2012 the RGPF attended four church services. On every occasion we were well received with a request to return.

Every division mounted a series of walk-throughs especially in troubled and depressed areas. The intention was to reassure the community that the RGPF is a part of every community and that there is the need for us to work closer together.

In 2013, we are expected to have additional initiatives that can enhance our relationship with the public with a view of minimising crime and increasing our solving rate, thus improving the whole aspect of community safety and security.

You may recall that earlier in the year, we launched our Strategic Plan to cover the period 2012-2016. There was a significant change to the previous plan in that a sixth pillar was added, that of anti-corruption. In order for the anti-corruption pillar to be fully effective there is the need for some legislative change which we hope will occur in 2013 legislative year.

Currently, we are working on an aid memoire for the RGPF relating to the investigation of serious crimes. This document will become the doctrine by which serious crimes will be investigated in the future.

The RGPF has undertaken a number of other initiatives among them being a new method for practical driving examination. From 2013, the system will be a point system. It is expected that this new system will be more objective than the one that currently obtains.

The RGPF is also embarking on the development of Core Competencies for the various ranks. Once established it is expected that there should be an improvement in the service meted out to the public. Police Officers will then be more aware of their requirements and work towards the level of professionalism expected.

Further, the RGPF is working on a teaching document for our police boys clubs so that we can harmonise what is taught in the several clubs across the island.

Presently, we have seen an increase in the number of offences committed against farmers. Being mindful of the need to minimise crime in this sector of the society as well, a special meeting among senior officers was arranged to strategise and to find ways of dealing with this growing problem.

Consequently, in 2013, stringent steps will be taken to deal with the problem of Praedial Larceny as we work towards a reduction in the number of offences in that area.

The 2012 carnival season was a very successful one and once more I take this opportunity to say thanks to all who contributed to its success. The number of crimes and offences were minimal and going forward we will like to raise the bar further.

The RGPF as an institution worked ceaselessly in 2012 and I take this opportunity to thank every individual member of the Force for their contribution in ensuring the success we have had in 2012. May we continue to improve as we transit in 2013. It is expected that it will be a challenging one for all and as such we need to remain united and work to the best of our ability.

Now that we are into the Christmas Season when citizens eat more and drink more as well, I entreat you to be careful on the road. Every driver should be cautious so as to minimise the likelihood of accidents which can be expensive in both human and material cost. The grief and suffering that go along with such accidents cannot be quantified.

To the general public, I wish you the peace of God over the Christmas Season and a blessed and fruitful 2013. Please handle all your monies carefully and do not carry or keep at home any more money than you need to.

As we end 2012, the Royal Grenada Police Force expresses its profound gratitude to all, who in some way assisted in the success we had in the year.

We also thank the media for the part they played in helping us to sensitise the public on various issues. Though we have had financial constraints we have been able to achieve quite a bit.

MAY GOD BLESS US ALL.

Brother B receives second nomination from Hollywood

Calypsonian Brother B – reaping success

Grenadian soca artiste Brother B received his second nomination from Hollywood at the annual NAACP Image awards in Los Angeles.

Nominations were announced this week at an event in America for the NAACP image awards 2013.

Brother B has been nominated under the ‘Outstanding World Music Album’ category for his album released this year entitled ‘Diversionary’.

The Diversionary album has been a fast selling album since its release on Itunes, iribbeantunes, amazon, spotify and other digital retailers, in August this year.

The album includes collaborations with Grenada’s Road March King 2012, Boyzie, London-based female duo First class, Melz and Grenada’s Soca Monarch King 2011, Terror Kid.

The album has a host of producers from around the world and locally including the UK’s award winning Soca Child who produced ‘Suspension’, award nominated producer SD Productions also from the UK (whinning time & no second love), as well as Jimmi King based in New York, Lyndon Pope from Youngstarz studios based in Grenada, JRE, Doggy Productions (Juicy Fruit) and Mr. Roots productions (Drinking time & Ah Bet).

During the Hamper donation in Grenada last Friday, Brother B’s management presented him with his certificate for his 2012 nomination for his album ‘Carnival Fever’ from the NAACP image awards in Hollywood.

Brother B was booked mid 2011 for an event in London at the same date as the awards in Hollywood.

Brother B who didn’t want to let fans down, turned up to the event in London and his management sent an assistant to attend the event in Hollywood.

Brother B created history with his nomination at the NAACP image awards earlier in 2012.

This second nomination creates history for Soca Music yet again as this is the first time a Soca artiste has been nominated twice in Hollywood. No other artist has been nominated in Hollywood previously. This shows that Soca Music has the potential to reach higher heights.

The Diversionary album is available on Itunes, Amazon, Spotify, Iribbeantunes.com and all major digital retailers and is distributed by King Chero Records.

Brother B and his management will be attending the awards, which will be held in Hollywood on February 1, 2013.

Second Phase of Mardigras Treatment Plant commissioned

NAWASA’s Christopher Husbands and Director Trevor Thompson

Just about five thousand persons are to benefit from the upgrade of the Mardigras water treatment plant.

The plant, which suffered significant deterioration, was commissioned last week Thursday during a brief ceremony held at the Mardigras International Pentecostal Assembly Church.

NAWASA’s General Manager, Christopher Husbands disclosed that the commissioning ceremony marks the completion of the second phase of the four-phase replacement and upgrade programme for the Mardigras system at a cost of just over $1m.

In the first phase that was completed in 2010, $1.5m was spent. It is estimated that $4m would be spent on the overall project improving the water supply in Mardigras.

Husbands said NAWASA is now able to treat the raw water that comes in at the plant to meet the increasing challenges that it has.

He spoke of the “serious challenges” the utility company face at the catchment area above the dam at Apsley Hill.

He said the increases in housing and farming provide increased costs and challenges for NAWASA to treat the water.

“I want to make an appeal… to persons in the Apsley Hill area that are engaged in activities above the dam to continually work along with us, ensuring that there are safe living and farming practices that do not jeopardise the quality of the water that we have to extract to treat, and thereby also increase our continued cost,” he told the gathering.

The upgraded pipelines would serve the communities from Mardigras through to Africa, Back Street and Mt. Parnassus.

The NAWASA boss disclosed that $750,000 is budgeted for further line replacement in the Antoine area for 2013 while a further $750,000 is earmarked for use in 2014 to complete other lines.

Stating that investments in water supply are expensive, Husbands said that estimates show that NAWASA would need approximately $60m over the next five years to meet strategic investments in water and waste water as it keeps pace with increased population.

The Mardigras treatment plant was first commissioned in the early 1980’s.

Member of the Board of Directors of the state-owned utility, Trevor Thompson who also addressed the ceremony said the Mardigras pipeline project is one of the main capital projects that are outlined in NAWASA’s five-year strategic plan.

Thompson indicated that on completion of the projects, there should be a reduction in complaints about water quality from consumers who are served by these systems.

He believes the projects are expected to impact positively on revenue, and would reduce the company’s operating costs that are associated with frequent repairs and maintenance.

“This project is a sign of NAWASA’s commitment to meet its public and social responsibility,” he said.

The Board Member also added his voice to the reckless behaviour of some people at the dams.

Thompson said the quality of water is not only dependent on NAWASA’s treatment plants and new pipelines but also more dependent on what people in the community do and those who use the watersheds on a daily basis.

“Each of us has a stake in our water resources, and each of us has a responsibility to ensure it is managed properly,” he added.

 

Clouden calls for inquiry into RGPF

Sheldon Monah – I congratulate the National Democratic Congress

Seasoned criminal attorney Anselm Clouden has issued a call for an independent Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of Police Officers and the entire Police Force.

His call came at a time when Green Street, St. George’s Resident Sheldon Monah claimed to have been beaten by Police Officers while being in police custody at the South St. George Police Station at Morne Rouge, St. George’s on December 9.

While addressing the issue during a press conference at his Law Office on Lucas Street, St. George’s last week Friday, Clouden said that having regard to the “frequency and regularity” with which citizens are allegedly brutalised while in police custody, he suggested that Prime Minister Tillman Thomas who has responsibility for National Security should take steps to set up an inquiry, as well as adopt the relevant remedial steps that can be taken in the interim to abate “this rampant surge of brutality against suspects.”

The outspoken attorney believes that something has to be done urgently to combat alleged brutality of civilians by members of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF).

“You need to inquire into it intrusively as to what psychology prevails that would cause certain Police Officers to persistently brutalise suspects to the extent where some die at the hands of the police,” he said.

According to the City Barrister, if the alleged incidents of police brutality are allowed to go unpunished, Grenada would be sending the wrong signal to the community at large.

He believes this would give the country a bad name on the international market.

Attorney Anselm Clouden – something has to be done urgently

About a year ago, Grenadian Oscar Bartholomew who resided in Canada died as a result of injuries he sustained while in custody of lawmen at the St. David’s Police Station.

Five Police Officers are charged with manslaughter in connection with Bartholomew’s death. They are currently on bail in the sum of $100,000.00 each.

Clouden identified a Sergeant of Police as being one of the Police Officers who arrested Monah and took him to South St. George Police Station.

Monah was arrested on allegations of disorderly behaviour at a political meeting of the incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) at Morne Rouge Playing field during which four of the St. George’s-based Caretakers were presented.

The City Barrister said while taking pictures of the event Monah was arrested and taken to the nearby police station where he was allegedly brutalised.

Monah was allegedly punched in the right eye and marks of injuries around his neck were visible.

It is suspected that Monah’s shoelace was used around his neck in what is believed to be an attempt to strangle him.

According to Clouden, his client’s shoelace was not returned to him after being released from custody.

He said he would initiate a private criminal prosecution against the Sergeant of Police whom he said is responsible for the injuries that his client sustained.

Monah has to answer a charge of disorderly behaviour on January 2, 2013 at the St. George’s Magistrate’s Court arising out of the incident.

Both Clouden and Monah admitted that this is not the first encounter the young man would have had with the police.

The Green Street resident recounted that in 2008 he was allegedly brutalised at the hands of the police at the Grenada National Stadium.

He stopped short of saying that he is being targeted by the RGPF membership.

Monah said he does not want to venture that far since he believes that every Police Officer is not of the same nature.

The political activist also used the occasion of the press conference to disassociate the NDC for the alleged acts of police brutality that he suffered.

After the September 30 expulsions from Congress of nine senior party members, Monah publicly gave support to dismissed member Peter David, the Member of Parliament for The Town of St. George constituency.

Monah commended Prime Minister Tillman Thomas who is the Political Leader of the NDC for acting swiftly to put out a statement condemning the actions of the police against him.

“If there is any way that the NDC does anything and I think that they deserve blows, I will fairly give them the blows that they deserve but in this incident, I would say… I congratulate the National Democratic Congress for their quick response in that matter,” he said.

Police Commissioner Willan Thompson who arrived back in the country over the weekend is said to have given instructions for a speedy investigation into the Sheldon Monah incident.

 

Language of success

Jill Paterson

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has become the first Grenadian to win an award for outstanding achievement from the Society for Caribbean Linguistics.

Jill Paterson, who is also the first Gates Cambridge Scholar from Grenada, won the John Reinecke Prize for her undergraduate work at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, where she did a BA in English Language and Literature with Education.

The prize is awarded annually to the most outstanding student on each University of West Indies and University of Guyana campus in Linguistics.

It is in honour of the linguistic pioneer in Caribbean Linguistics John E Reinecke, who was a pioneer in the scientific study of contact languages such as pidgins and creoles.

A former teacher, Jill is doing an MPhil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics focusing on a detailed phonological analysis of the main vernacular in Grenada – Grenadian English Creole.

She said: “The joy that comes from dissecting a Creole language is unmatchable. This award is a blessing and I take from it the noble responsibility of contributing to Reinecke’s ision for contact languages through my documentation of Grenadian English Creole.”

Why ignore Cuba’s welcome mat?

Cuba has long been an economic, trade and investment opportunity that has been neglected by the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

This neglect could become a matter of grave regret as Cuba continues to open up its economy to other countries and groups of countries, for by the time businesses in the CARICOM countries wake up to the opportunities Cuba offers, companies from Europe, Canada and Latin America might already have filled the space.

European and Canadian companies are already in Cuba and more are entering the market. Whenever the US embargo is lifted on Cuba, the space for investment and trade will become even smaller and more highly competitive as US companies (especially those owned by Cuban-Americans) enter the fray.

To the government of Cuba’s credit, it has continuously sought to encourage CARICOM governments to establish machinery that would promote trade and other economic relations between them.

In 2000, Cuba and CARICOM signed a Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement, but in the 12 years that have elapsed there has been little investment of any significance by any Caribbean companies, except one hotelier from Jamaica. What is more, despite a request from Cuba to expand the coverage of the Agreement, it has lain dormant.

Under the same 2000 Agreement, CARICOM countries had committed to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Cuba to be brought into effect in 2001, but nothing was done. Since then CARICOM countries have each signed an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union that would make the terms of any FTA they might now conclude with Cuba less advantageous than it could have been.

This situation has not stopped Cuba from contributing meaningfully to CARICOM countries. Scholarships given by Cuba have increased the number of persons trained in a range of areas including health, engineering, agriculture, sports and culture. Additionally, the establishment of clinics and the provision of medical personnel by Cuba have allowed for the delivery of health services many of these countries would not have been able to afford.

As CARICOM’s current Chairman, St Lucia Prime Minister, Kenny Anthony has observed, “what is most striking about the solidarity displayed by Cuba with CARICOM is the quantum and diversity of the assistance that Cuba provides despite the constraints placed on its own economic development by the United States economic, commercial and financial embargo”.

Cuba has continued its assistance to CARICOM countries because the Cuban government recognises the courage it took 40 years ago – on 8 December 1972 – for the newly independent Caribbean countries – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – to defy the wishes of the United States government by establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

When they did so, Cuba was isolated in the Western Hemisphere except for Canada. By risking the wrath of the US, that single act by four small CARICOM countries opened the way for other countries to similarly recognise Cuba.

The Cuban government has continuously pushed for the implementation of trade and investment as set out in the 2000 Economic and Trade Agreement.

Part of its proposals is that the 6 independent countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States would not have to grant preferential duty access to Cuban goods, and Cuba would seek preferential access to the markets of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago for an additional 167 products (over those named in the 2000 Agreement) while, in return, it would give these four countries preferential access to the Cuban market for 227 additional products.

There are of course difficulties in transacting commercial arrangements with Cuba. An important consideration would be the means of being paid and of repatriating profits. But, Canadian and European companies are doing it. Further, at least two Trinidad and Tobago banks are operating in Cuba to facilitate trade between the two countries. So, the means of overcoming these hurdles exist, particularly as Caribbean banks have correspondent relationship with banks in Canada and Europe through which transactions can be handled.

Cuba and CARICOM have had a Joint Commission since 1993 – even before the 2000 Economic and Trade Agreements was signed. It is supposed to meet every year, but it has met infrequently. Nonetheless, if it were to meet, it could iron out any practical difficulties so as to make the terms of the 2000 Agreement work.

One of the clauses of the 2000 Agreement provides for the establishment of a CARICOM-Cuba Business Council to review business opportunities, furnish information and promote trade. So, if it is that the CARICOM business community needs to interact with Cuban companies to explore areas of investment and trade, why not initiate the Business Council to provide that opportunity?

Often when Cuba is discussed in the context of the US government lifting its embargo, it is said that an “opened-up” Cuba will pose a real threat to those CARICOM countries that are dependent on tourism.

There is no doubt that Cuba – without the US embargo – will provide even greater competition than it does now, and in more than just tourism. But, apart from speculating on that competition, very little is being done to counter it even though another article of the 2000 Agreement specifically encourages cooperation in tourism covering multi-destination travel, training, language exchange and passenger transport.

CARICOM’s business community should insist now on the launching of the CARICOM-Cuba Business Council and they should take advantage of a recent Memorandum of Understanding between the agency, Caribbean Export, and the Cuba Chamber of Commerce to do business. If this does not happen soon and meaningfully, the Cuban economy will be occupied by others who are taking advantage of it to the exclusion of CARICOM.

CARICOM businesses could be a real part of a bustling Cuban market of 11 million people in the future, if they and CARICOM governments take advantage of what is on offer by the Cuban government today.

Cuba has laid out a welcome mat for CARICOM trade and investment – why ignore it?

 

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant and former Caribbean diplomat)

 

Convent St George’s wins Culinary Competition

SJC Winners

With a total of 121 points, St Joseph’s Convent St George’s is the winner of the first Dutch Lady Milk Culinary Competition for secondary schools which was held last week Thursday at the Grenville Home Economic Center.

Four of the seven schools made it to the final competition following the semi-final round held last Monday.

Placing second was Boca Secondary with 107 points, third was St Joseph Convent Grenville with 105 points and fourth was MacDonald College with 93 points.

The competition was coordinated by Curriculum Development Officer Home Economics in the Ministry of Education, Pamela Courtney who believes that such a competition will assist students who are preparing for the CXC food and nutrition.

Organised by the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development in partnership with Hubbards Agencies, agents for Dutch Lady Milk, the culinary competition was open to form four and five Food and Nutrition students in all secondary schools

“The objectives of this competition were to enhance students ‘preparedness for the CXC practical food and nutrition examinations and to build self confidence in students and improve their culinary skills,” said Deputy Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Andrea Phillip.

The competition was organised in two rounds – a semifinal round with all schools who have entered the competition, and a final round comprising of the selected schools from the semifinal round.

During each rounds, the school’s team of up to four students were provided with food items in a “mystery” basket which they must use in the preparation of their dishes.

All participants competed in the categories of Dessert, main dish with a starchy accompaniment, and Entrée.

The competition was judged on creative use of ingredients, Hygiene, taste and texture of dishes, technical skills, and presentation.

In each round of competition, participants were given fifty-five minutes to prepare and present two plates to the judges. When the mystery basket was revealed, teachers had five minutes briefing with their students.

With Dutch Lady milk as the main sponsor of this competition, participants had to use Dutch lady milk in all their products.

According to Margaret Roberts of Hubbards Agency, all participants will be awarded certificates of participation and Dutch lady products, and the winning schools will receive attractive prizes.

“The overall winner/School will receive a challenge trophy which will be kept after three wins,” she said while giving the assurance that the event will be an annual activity.

 

A critical year is ending – What next?

We are coming to the end of this Calendar year, 2012 – which has been an era of so many landmarks in our public and political affairs, that it is very doubtful we will be faced with that many, even in these very troublesome Isles ever again.

And to add to the political melee we have been experiencing – during the time span of the current Government in control – unless some January date is announced soon for the next sitting of Parliament, which has been on vacation and convenient prorogation for nearly Six months now – we could be faced with a Constitutional problem after January 12th or thereabouts.

Of course all that could be avoided, if the Government request the Governor General to dissolve the current Parliament, and announce an election date within ninety days thereafter.

How likely that solution maybe – only time and the political pundits will determine, but however long the waiting period maybe, or whatever the eventual outcome will turn out to be – only the passage of time will tell.

But in the meantime, it all looks as though we are a people at a standstill, and waiting on goodness knows what is to happen to move us on to the next stage.

In the last week or two, there were some roadside workers on the Western side – cutting the over-grown bushes and over-hanging trees along the road, but I suspect that was just a passing phase to help ease up the fiscal crisis.

There has been no official statement from the powers-that-be, about where we are heading and how it is hoped to be getting there in the fullness of time.

I would imagine that if the Parliament is dissolved and Election date announced, there would be some more positive vibes coming out of the controllers, and in response also coming from the opposition elements.

Because from the way things are standing still for the past few months – as far as the business of the people are concerned, and the economic activities remain in limbo – something has to happen, and sooner rather than much later, to enable the people to regain some hope and positive action to be up and moving again.

The longer the current “waiting period” is prolonged – the harder it will be for the eventual winners at the polls, to get things moving again; because the stalemate now existing, would increasingly get very much worse with the passage of time, and the absence of positive action.

And it is my considered opinion, that the longer waiting period would be far more beneficial to the present opposition elements, than to those now in control.

There is not much the current controllers can offer to potential investors in the short time remaining before “D” day; and therefore it must be in the party’s interest, and more so in the people’s interest – to get a fresh mandate from the people, to strengthen and consolidate the party’s credibility in the months immediately following such an outcome.

To keep on prolonging the current impasse, can only benefit the opposition elements in the long run – because with nothing positive to offer in the meantime, the people who will continue to be deprived of even occasional employment to support their families, they would certainly not be in the favour of returning the present controllers back into the driving seats.

Those who are occupying the seats of power, have to understand that the issues facing the people are strictly of Bread and Butter origin – and nothing else.

And after all the nice-sounding statements, for example, about the SANDALS Hotel Brand coming to the Spice Isle, and due to open in February or March at the old La Source Hotel location, and to re-hire the old workers and some more later on in 2013 – I am now hearing the re-opening would not be taking place until about October/November 2013.

So all the concessions granted by those now in control – may very well be of no benefit to them in the upcoming Elections in the New Year. So what else is not new, or worth waiting on to happen?

By the time you are reading this commentary in the local paper, we will be just a few days from the New Year of 2013 – and by the way the political wind is blowing now-a-days, as a people existing on grave uncertainties, and at the mercy of a whole lot of individuals, who are striving for nothing more than political power to satisfy their own selfish ambitions, with no trait of country loyalty to serve the people and the tri-Island State – we could be in for some very tense weeks and months ahead.

It will be interesting to see what will take place, if the Government does not summon a sitting of Parliament in January – when the Six months would expire since the last sitting in July – and who will take the necessary action.

The Karl Hood case against the Prime Minister and NDC, about his expulsion from the party, was heard in the High Court last week Wednesday, and the Judge’s decision promised for Thursday 20th December.

He also has a no confidence Motion against the Government pending in Parliament, if that body ever sits again.

Whatever happens in January, in the Court or in Parliament concerning the people’s business – next year promises to be a very historic year in our confused political arena.

But we have to make the most of the season, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour who continues to take care of us.

And I wish all the readers of this column a blessed Xmas, and a peaceful and very much more prosperous New Year in 2013.

This will be my last article for 2012, so until January 4th if all is well – enjoy the Season and the very best of health next year.