Sandals expands in Grenada

The ongoing expansion and upgrading works at Sandals La Source in Grenada has now generated 1,200 jobs and continues to make a significant contribution toward reducing the islandís unemployment figures.

Speaking at a time when the regional and global economy continues to face mounting challenges, Sandals Chairman Gordon Butch Stewart announces that over 1,200 employees are now working on the construction site at Point Salines.

Stewart says that 99% of the employees are Grenadian nationals, an indication that the national work force is very skilled.

“Grenada has been a phenomenon for us in the Caribbean in the field of construction. The quality of workers in Grenada has been nothing but superb. As a result, all of the companies engaged in technical work are 99% Grenadian,” Stewart noted.

The Sandals Chairman states that Sandals La Source upgrading and expansion is progressing very smoothly and will be opened on December 12.

He disclosed that the travel community is responding remarkably to the resort which will boast 225 of the most luxurious suites in three exotic villages.

“We are seeing an extraordinary response from customers who are all excited about spending their winter at our newest creation at Sandals La Source. We are about 75% booked for the 2014 winter and itís just a tremendous start to our first resort in Grenada”, he said.

“We have been working towards expanding our luxury included concept to Grenada for the last twelve years, and so this initial burst is very heartening. It’s an inspiration to us to continue offering more quality inclusions than anyone else on the planet,” the Sandals Chairman added.

Sandals acquired the ailing La Source Grenada resort last November and announced a multi-million dollar expansion and upgrading to what will be Grenada’s largest and leading resort brand.

Its arrival in Grenada has been met with much enthusiasm from the business and tourism community.

Grenadian tourism officials believe that the inclusion of the 32-year old resort brand will result in an upsurge in airlift and marketing exposure for the island.

Their prediction is given credence by the impact the Sandals marketing machinery has become renowned for. Fox Network, CNN and NBC are just some of the major US networks, through which the company channels its promotion of various Caribbean destinations to all corners of the globe.

In recent times, the company began to make inroads in South America and the far-east as it innovatively seeks to diversify its markets.

Imagery of its latest creation will soon beam into the living rooms of many potential tourists to Grenada as the soon to be opened Sandals La Source promises to excite the world.

Its three broad themes are centered around; the Italian, Pink Gin and South Seas Villages.

According to Stewart the new Sandals masterpiece will in many ways create history for the company.

“Pink Gin is a very modern Caribbean feel with historic levels of luxury. The Italian village is a work of art with sky pool suites from the third story, being the first of its kind. The South Seas village also continues to get response from travelers online,” discloses the Sandals Chairman.

Meanwhile, the resort-chain has selected its Grenadian management team which has been deployed for further training throughout the Caribbean where Sandals resorts operate.

According to the Sandals Chairman, the interview process reaffirmed the view that the Grenadian workforce is very exemplary.

“The people of Grenada are ideal for hospitality. It’s in their blood and it’s who they are, so this marries very nicely with what Sandals is all about, and what we sell to our customers. We believe in hiring attitude first and then refining it. We have found them to be truly outstanding,” Stewart remarked.

The Sandals Chairman also unveiled plans to build a call-center in Grenada that will accommodate bookings worldwide for Sandals, Beaches and Grande Pineapple resorts.

The call center which comes on the heels of similar investments in Jamaica and St. Lucia, will feature the latest of modern technologies, linking Grenada to booking hubs located in the two other Caribbean sister islands.

He went on to add, “our operations across the region have played a tremendous role in bringing professionals in the Caribbean in touch with each other. Some of the best tourism professionals in the world are from the Caribbean and they continue to add tremendous value to our product and we are committed to creating opportunities for their careers to advance.”

The world travel awards travel-man of the millennium believes that his company’s social corporate responsibility finds expression through the Sandals Foundation which continues to impact lives throughout the Caribbean.

Its portfolio of projects include: the development of schools, hospitals, sports academies and a myriad of environmental and social initiatives.

“We are from the Caribbean and understand the Caribbean better than anyone else in the travel business. We are therefore committed to the region and the development of the islands that shape it. We feel obligated to showcase the enormous beauty of the islands of the Caribbean to the world,” remarks the Jamaican-born Stewart.

The Caribbean hotel tycoon asserts that the same values of partnership and community enhancement which inspires the Sandals Foundation, is the same spirit which defines the working relationship between Sandals Resorts International and the regional travel industry.

Sandals, which was conceptualized in the Caribbean continues to set innovative models and standards of excellence, bringing the region of mostly island nations to the forefront of the world.

Oil deal heavily in favour of the Russians

If the Texas-based Dynamic Global Advisory Company had its way the former Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration would have had to renegotiate with a group of Russian oil investors a 2008 Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) agreement that was signed with former Energy Minister, Gregory Bowen of the New National Party (NNP).

A report that was presented by Dynamic Global to Congress concluded that the Russian outfit, Global Petroleum Group (GPG) was at such an advantage in the agreement that the royalty that it was called upon to pay to Grenada for any oil discovery was “incredibly low” and not in keeping with standard oil deals.

The American oil consultancy stopped short of calling it a “sweet heart” deal between the former Energy Minister and the Russian group that is headed by Eduard Vasilev.

Dynamic Global made specific reference to the agreement which allowed the Russians to freely export its share of Petroleum that was found in Grenadian waters “free of all taxes”.

The agreement was described as “highly” questionable and not in Grenada’s best interest.

Since the return to office of the NNP following the February 19 general elections, the Russians are back and in active pursuit of their desire to find oil and gas resources in Grenadian waters.

This week the NEW TODAY brings for public attention Part III of the report that was done at the behest of the Congress government by Dynamic Global to review the controversial agreement.

 

The most important provisions of the typical international production sharing contract are contained in Article 12 on Royalty, Cost Recovery and Production Sharing. The amount of royalty to be paid by GPG is set in Article 12.1(1) at 6%, which is incredibly low and one-half to one-third of the standard royalty rate in the industry.

In addition, the royalty paid to the Treasury of the GOG was to be cost recoverable, which is also unprecedented in our experience. The payment of royalties traditionally occurs first, that is, prior to the calculation of the production splits and, consequently, they are not cost recoverable.

Crude Oil Production Sharing is described in Article 12.2(1), and, inexplicably, it provides that the Production Sharing mechanism would only begin to apply “as of the first fiscal year in which the Company obtains positive Gross Profits.

In all other production sharing contracts with which we are familiar, the production sharing concept is based on the occurrence of first production, at which time the government and the contractor begin to split the amount of production based on the percentage splits agreed in the contract.

This kind of structure is totally lacking in the PSA, and represents another instance in which the GOG must not have been aware of, or chose to ignore, the industry’s conventional structure.

Article 12.2(3) sets out the initial and subsequent splits of Gross Profits for Crude Oil, which are unusually high in favor of GPG, i.e., 75% for GPG and 25% for the GOG/Treasury for the first 5 years. After the first 5 years and every 5 years thereafter, the split for the GOG/Treasury would be increased by 5%, which is extremely low.

As a general rule, production sharing splits in international production sharing contracts are divided into the two categories of cost recovery oil and profit oil, both of which are established based on a scale that is linked to either the level of production or the internal rate of return of the project.

This provision is so unusual that it reveals the probability that GPG intended to abuse its superior negotiating position vis-à-vis the GOG.

Article 12.3(c) contains another unprecedented provision in which the GOG is given the option to trade the cash payments it would otherwise be entitled to in sub-paragraphs (a) on “royalties and production sharing” and (b) on “petroleum exchange” for shares in GPG.

This is simply unheard of in international production sharing contracts, and raises some questions about potential conflicts of interest and other improprieties.

Article 12.5 sets out the split of Gross Profits for non-associated Natural Gas, which are similar to the split for Crude Oil in Article 12.2(1), except that GPG would receive 70% and the GOG 30%. The same problems exist with this provision as is described above.

Valuation of Crude Oil excludes the following types of sales from the definition of Third Party Sales: sales of any seller to any affiliate, crude oil exchanges, barter deals or distress transactions and transactions that are not motivated by the usual economic incentives.

These are not standard exclusions, and they could lead to an abuse of the valuation process, such as transfer pricing that can occur when sales are made to affiliates.

Article 14 on Taxation provides that no taxes, duties or fees would apply to GPG with respect to the income derived by GPG from Petroleum Operations. Although the levels of taxation vary from one international production sharing contract to another, no taxation at all is extremely unusual in the modern era of such contracts.

Ordinarily, there is at least a separate petroleum tax that would apply to a contractor’s profits. Since GPG is a company organised and existing in Grenada, it would most likely be subject to the applicable income tax laws in existence in Grenada in the event GPG eventually realized a profit through its Petroleum Operations under the PSA, unless, of course, the income tax laws specifically provided that the GOG’s contractual obligations serve as an exception to the applicability of such laws to Grenadian companies.

(Please note that we are not providing tax advice in this evaluation report, and our sole purpose in raising this issue is to make the GOG aware of it.)

What was viewed as the “pure” production sharing contract form in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s provided that the host government would pay the applicable income taxes on behalf of the contractor, but that type of arrangement is rarely used these days.

Article 17.1 on the Ownership and Use of Assets does not reflect the normal method of determining the ownership of assets. The standard approach is for the government to acquire title to the assets either immediately after purchase and importation into the host country, or at the time when the contractor has fully recovered its costs under the cost recovery methodology that is part of the production sharing concept. In either event, the contractor retains the right to use the assets until the end of the term of the contract.

The Abandonment of assets provisions under Article 17.2 would require the GOG at the end of the term of the PSA to reimburse GPG at an agreed price for the assets that are needed for continued production.

This would lead to “double dipping” on GPG’s part because it would most likely have recovered its costs for such assets by that time. As written, the concept is not clear, inadequate, and would have been detrimental to the GOG.

Article 20 on Insurance does not adequately cover the basic requirements even though it refers to Section 27 of the Petroleum Act as the authority for the provision. The clause refers to insurance or a bond with one or more sureties, either of which is to be approved by the Minister.

 

The Advisory Committee Minutes reveal that it was agreed that GPG only needed to obtain insurance in the amount of US$50,000 for each category of loss based on Mr. Vasiliev’s claim that no major risks would be involved during the first two years of the Initial Exploration Period since marine seismic acquisition and interpretation would be the only activities undertaken.

 

This was a mistake on the part of the GOG representatives because there are substantial risks associated with offshore seismic operations in which personal injuries and loss of equipment and property are fairly common.

 

Consistent with the provisions of Article 14, Article 23.2 on Petroleum Export gave GPG the right to freely export its share of petroleum “free of all Taxes.” It is unusual under production sharing contracts worldwide for a contractor like GPG to be able to export petroleum free of export taxes.

 

Article 27 on Early Termination for Breach of Contract contains an interesting clause in Article 27.1(a), which provides for a termination scenario that the GOG could argue has already occurred.

 

Therein, it is stated, “This Agreement shall continue in full force and effect for such period as the Company continues to carry out its obligations to which this Agreement relates and shall be deemed to have terminated, if for any reason the Company ceases to carry out such obligations.”

 

The clause goes on to list the types of obligations that apply, which includes “Non fulfillment of the minimum work expenditure or programme,” which obviously is applicable with respect to GPG. In connection with deeming the PSA to have terminated, there is no associated requirement for the GOG to give notice in writing, whereas in Article 27.1(b) notice in writing is required in the event of termination if GPG was liquidated.

 

Therefore, it appears that the GOG could argue that the PSA was terminated two years ago due to GPG’s failure to perform its work program and expenditure obligations. However, GPG might counter that argument by claiming it was prevented from carrying out its obligations by the GOG.

 

Article 30 on Applicable Law and Arbitration is incomplete as written because it leaves out some common industry concepts. For instance, a clause on the procedure for appointing an independent expert and the expert’s authority should have been included since the use of an independent expert is contemplated elsewhere in the PSA, such as in Article 5, which is discussed in paragraph A4 above.

 

The arbitration clause in Article 30.3 is insufficient because it covers less than one fourth of the issues that should be addressed in order to initiate an arbitration proceeding.

 

According to the Table of Contents, Annex 1 to the PSA is supposed to contain a copy of the Exploration License, but a map of the Exploration Licensed Area has been inserted instead. The map itself is inadequate. Cartographic conventions such as the map’s projection, spheroid, coordinate system, and units of measurement are absent or undefined. Four west-to-east rows of mostly rectangular blocks are drawn on the map and 11 of these blocks are emphasized by hand-drawn diagonal lines.

 

A group of three parallel lines lies along the southern and southeastern margins of the map. These lines are also undefined. Annex 2 “Description of Licenced Area” is an unsatisfactory and inadequate attempt to describe the 11 blocks with a Letter-Number system (B6, for example), Block coordinates, and their Sea Depth.

 

The Block coordinate system is undefined and confusing. Inclusion of Sea Depths serves no purpose in clarifying the description of each block. The industry norm of detailed descriptions of the boundaries and surface areas of each block are absent.

 

Annex 2 ends with the sentence “All the blocks are disposed on the shelf of Grenada to the south and south-east from it”, whereas the 11 blocks highlighted in Annex 1 lie to the east, south and southwest of Grenada.

 

The definition of the term “Exploration Licensed Area” in the PSA is the area “to which the Exploration License of the Company relates and which is described in Annex 1 and shown on the map contained in Annex 2.”

 

Nowhere in the PSA is it stated that the PSA covers 11 blocks, and there is no differentiation among the blocks in terms of either GPG’s work program obligations or the cost recovery procedure among the blocks.

 

This is unusual because the customary approach by host countries to granting of rights to one company for multiple blocks is to (1) require that each block be covered by a separate production sharing contract, and (2) utilize the so-called “ring-fencing” approach that prohibits costs from being recovered across the borders of the blocks and requires that the accounting for production sharing, tax, and all other purposes be carried out separately for each block, i.e., consolidation is not permitted for any accounting purposes.

 

A block is ring-fenced when all costs associated with one block must be recovered from production revenues from that one block. Some countries even go so far as to require that each production sharing contract for each block be administered by a separate company.

 

In the GPG case, the GOG would have suffered a significant loss of revenue if GPG had made a petroleum discovery in, for example, 1 of the 11 blocks and then been able to recover its costs incurred in the other 10 blocks against the production from the 1 block in which a discovery and subsequent development project was achieved.

 

Annex 3 to the PSA sets out the so-called Grenada Exploration Work Program, but it does not refer to Article 6.2 of the PSA on Work Obligations during the Initial Exploration Period, nor does Article 6.2 have a reference to Annex 3.

 

The listing of activities in Annex 3 is not outlined according to the various time frames in the Exploration Period of the PSA. The same text of Annex 3 is also contained in the Exploration License as Schedule II. Paragraph (a) of the Exploration License refers directly to Schedule II, stating, “During the said period the Company shall execute such work programme which is contained and exhibited in Schedule II of this Licence”.

 

Annex 4, the Accounting Procedure and Profit Sharing Mechanism, is insufficient in many ways, such as the Gross Profits determination in Section 2 of the Annex that is mentioned in paragraph A8 above.

 

The standard accounting procedure that is attached to an international production sharing contract emphasizes the determination of cost recoverable and non-cost recoverable expenditures and accounting issues and does not deal with a concept like gross profits.

Clouden calls for debate on decriminalising marijuana

Local Attorney Anselm Clouden has joined the regional debate calling for the decriminalisation of Marijuana.

Marijuana which is considered as being an illegal drug in the Caribbean is primarily used by the Rastafarian Community as part of their religious practice.

At the opening of the 2013-2014 Law Year in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Chief Justice Ivor Archie called for the decriminalising of small portions of the illegal drug.

Prior to that, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines had written to his Trinidadian counterpart, Kamla Persad-Bissessar who is the Chair of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) asking for the subject of “medical marijuana” to come up for discussion.

At last week’s Caricom Bureau Meeting that took place in Trinidad, regional leaders took the decision to have the Caricom Secretariat put a document together on medical marijuana along with some of the legislative issues in decriminalising small amounts of the illegal drug for the Intercessional Meeting that is due to take place in St. Vincent next February.

Addressing members of the media at his Grenlaw Chambers on Lucas Street, St. George’s on Monday, Clouden gave support to Justice Archie’s call for decriminalising marijuana, and has also endorsed Dr. Gonsalves call for Heads of Government to look at the issue.

Clouden believes that decriminalising small portions of marijuana on the island will clear up a number of problems in the court system.

The seasoned criminal attorney spoke of the local criminal justice system being plagued with a bottleneck for offenses of simple possession.

He said this is a complete waste of the State’s resources which he said could be deployed in more worthy causes.

According to the City Barrister, simple possession of a marijuana spliff wastes the resources and the court’s time and ultimately clogs the criminal justice system.

Clouden said by decriminalising the use of marijuana it can be taken out of the Criminal Code and be put into the Food and Drug Act as a means of avoiding a custodial sentence.

“For one spliff (of marijuana) you can be imprisoned for five years, up to a maximum, or you could be fined$250,000.00,” he indicated.

He said the sentence ruins the entire prospects of young men who are caught to be in possession of the illegal drug.

Clouden pointed out that he would like to see the discussion on the issue taken to the people through a task force that is set up by the government to determine what the country’s position will be when Caricom meets next February.

The City Barrister also touched on the economic benefits that can be derived if steps are taken to have herbal experimentation of marijuana for medicinal use as was the case now taking place in the United States.

He said Grenada can get to the stage where under government’s supervision, marijuana is cultivated for export to pharmaceutical companies.

With Grenada now being in an economic crisis, Clouden believes that using marijuana as an export crop can be the country’s economic salvation.

“Now that we are all struggling, we are all suffering, if we come together at this crucial time in our history… I think it is about time that the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) get together and solidify a draft memorandum for federation,” he said.

Cash-strapped Grenada is on the verge of signing an agreement with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) which has recently declared the island bankrupt and uncreditworthy.

Hundred-year old church saved from fire

The troubled waywardness and careless behaviour of a group of homeless people in the city have almost lead to the destruction of the Evangelistic Centre on Market Hill, St. George’s.

Two weeks ago the church was saved from fire that was started by one of the homeless men who was described as a vagrant.

Resident pastor of the church, Christopher Baker told THE NEW TODAY Newspaper that the fire was lit under the church building.

He said the church recently spent a lot of money to put in a studio to house Good News FM Radio 96.3.

The facility was also fitted with an air conditioned unit and equipment for the radio station

“We did at least $50,000.00 worth of work on that area there,” said Pastor Baker who added that with the current economic crisis facing the country, it will be extremely difficult for them to get back on their feet with a devastating fire.

The Pentecostal religious minister related a series of discomforts his church has had to undergo by vagrants over the past three years, which he said have been frustrating to members.

Pastor Baker said even if the gate is locked the vagrants will somehow make their way onto the church premises.

He said they would use the front and the side of the church close to the Maitland’s building as their washroom.

“Somebody will have to come early (on Sunday mornings) and make sure that the place is washed down,” he remarked.

According to Pastor Baker, the vagrants who are mainly men will take large quantities of the garbage in the town and carry them onto the steps of the church and leave them there.

He referred in particular to a male vagrant who often times sleep close to the church office and put the garbage on the side, which he would light afire on top of the wall.

He said during those encounters he called the Police on two occasions to report what was taking place, and on one instance he was informed by the lawmen that there is nothing they can do about it.

The Pastor’s frustration lead him to write then Commissioner of Police Willan Thompson to officially inform him about what has been happening, and the dangers that can come out of the men’s ruthless behaviour.

The Pentecostal religious figure said that one-week before the fire the entire plumbing system in the men’s toilet was destroyed by the vagrants who also tampered with the air condition units, which cost them a lot of money in repairs.

He said this caused a major flooding of the mall in the nearby Maitland building which cost the church dearly.

“This caused some headaches for the people down there as well as for us,” he added.

Pastor Baker described the recent fire as “the culmination of events with the vagrants who have invaded the grounds of the church.

The pastor said that as a Community of Believers they welcome anyone seeking refuge at the church facility, but at the same time no one should seek to disturb what they meet there.

“If somebody is homeless and they feel that they can get a night rest in a safe place or dry place under the church, under one of the buildings or even in the foyer we don’t mind that. But when it becomes a harassment and a hazard to us where they would use it as a toilet, where they would light fire it is just unacceptable,” he remarked.

Bishop Baker said he suspects that there are other people in St. George’s who are experiencing the same frustration with the vagrants.

He spoke of the vagrants becoming a danger to the normalcy of life in the Town, and is urging the authorities to find a suitable place to house them.

“I really do believe that the authorities need to look seriously at finding some home, some place where they can take these folks from off the streets from harassing people, from being a danger to society and put them in a safe place, safe for them and safe for the society,” he said.

Just last week Prime Minster Dr. Keith Mitchell announced that his seven-month old government will be looking at ways to address vagrancy in the Town in time for the start of the tourism season next month.

 

Is tourism our business?

Brian FrancisHere in Grenada we have become used to the expression “tourism is our business.” I have absolutely no doubt that tourism should indeed be our business. But is it? The answer to that question would quite easily depend on who you ask. The government and other tourism stakeholders may very well answer in the affirmative, but many independent observers may wish to differ.

I do not intend to be pessimistic in my outlook especially when dealing with a vital issue like tourism and its importance to the economy of Grenada. But, having made several trips to Grenada in the past few years, recounting my own personal experiences at the MBIA, and after listening to so many complaints from visitors from different walks of life, it is quite logical for me to question whether in fact tourism is really our business here in Grenada.

You see, it is often said that first impressions are lasting. Equally, I submit that when it comes to a strategic industry like tourism, last impressions are also lasting. So what precisely am I referring to in this piece?

When a visitor lands in Grenada, he/she first encounters the immigration officers and then proceeds to the Customs and Excise Section for screening in relation to the goods brought into the country. For the most parts, the officers attached to those two arms of government do their jobs in a professional manner which suggests to me that whatever training those officers received is being put to effective use to ensure that visitors to our beautiful country do end up with positive and lasting impressions of Grenada – an attribute that could only redound to the overall benefit of our tourism industry and by extension economy.

Having participated in various activities in the country, it is now time to depart. First stop, the various airlines. Typically, that experience goes well, except at times when there is turmoil within a particular airline and the passengers are made to suffer undue delays in check-in and departure of their flights. Second stop, immigration. And I am sure most visitors to Grenada would admit that the officers who attend to them are often very polite and professional in their outlook and handling of passengers.

Finally, here comes airport security and all of the good works put in by our immigration and customs’ officers to create that lasting first impression, goes a begging! And I say this without any apologies!

People always ask me what exactly academics like me do. My simple answer is: We ask questions! Well, I will simple follow that tradition in addressing the issue of the behaviour and attitude of some of our airport security personnel. So, here goes: (1) What is the required qualification for an airport security guard? (2) What sort of screening does the Airport Authority utilise in its hiring process for these guards? (3) How long is the period of training for these guards? (4) Who conducts the training? (5) Where is the training done? (6) How often are these guards put through a refresher course? (7) How contemporary and urbane are the machines used at the airport to screen both checked-in and hand luggage?

Undoubtedly, honest answers to these questions would go a long way in helping those in authority at the MBIA to identify areas for improvement in airport security as well as enhancing the mannerisms, competences and professionalisms of all of its security personnel.

If tourism is our business in Grenada, the country certainly cannot afford to function with any overzealous, unmannerly airport security guard who behaves like a pure nincompoop because he/she wears a uniform and has certain authority under the Law.

Shame on all those airport security guards who now care to wear the proverbial hat only because it fits them as a result of my plucky exposure of their insalubrious behaviour! A word to the wise is sufficient!

 

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)

LIME honours long-standing athlete

One of the country’s star athletes of yesteryear, Alister Clouden has been honoured by telecommunication provider LIME for his contribution to local sports.

Clouden along with three organisations were honoured through a limited edition of mobile cards.

The retired athlete and former business operator in St. George’s still holds the record for the 220-yard race on the island.

Cards were also done in honour of The Paradise Heritage Committee which lead the celebration of the 200th year anniversary of the Paradise Bridge in St. Andrew’s, as well as for the boat building heritage by manual labour in Petite Martinique, and the Conference of Regional Insurance Companies in Grenada.

General Manager of LIME, Angus Steele who unveiled the cards during his quarterly Press Conference with local journalists said that the recognition given to Clouden is based on the fact that his record will not be broken as there is no longer a 220-yard race any more.

LIME reached out to the Paradise Heritage Committee, which undertook to have the bridge, refurbished last July for its 200th year anniversary. The bridge was constructed on July 13, 1813.

The telecom provider decided to recognise the boat building industry in Petite Martinique as a means of keeping that heritage alive.

The card featured the boat “Exodus” which participated in the Antigua Regatta last month.

In support of a regional Insurance conference that is being held in Grenada next month, LIME also launched a commemorative card.

Steele who used his quarterly Press Conference to update the media on what has been happening at the company indicated that once again the telecommunication provider will be celebrating Customer Service Week next month from October 7-11.

He said that as part of the celebration LIME will be recognising some of its “royal, loyal customers.”

The LIME General Manager also announced that since the one rate of $0.40 to call any network was launched the company continues to be in dialogue with the National Telecoms Regulatory Commission (NTRC) on a number of issues, one of which is having the telecommunication providers come to an agreement to reduce interconnectivity rate to about $0.12 from its current $0.25.1.

“If we are able to get the other providers to agree to that under the guidance of the NTRC… there would be quite a lot of pasture in that reduction onto consumers,” he said.

Steele also disclosed that his company is in the process of rebuilding the Airport Taxi Association Headquarters as part of its partnership with the association.

The headquarters that is located at Point Salines was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan nine years ago.

 

The Rose Garden!!!

The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government has apparently done a complete 360 degree turn-around in its approach to dealing with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the current economic and financial crisis facing the country.

As Minister of Finance, Dr. Mitchell had earlier told the nation that he was going to the IMF for a programme to deal with the problems facing the country and called on the people to be prepared to make sacrifices since there would be some pain.

The Ministry of Finance has now issued a statement which pointed out clearly that the NNP would instead be embarking upon its own “home grown programme” of fiscal adjustment and structural reforms.

Why the sudden about turn by the Mitchell government from going to the IMF for a programme to be administered by the IMF itself?

Is it that the situation is not that really bad and the government is confident about its own ability to handle the problem?

Back in the 1990-95 period, the Congress government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite and George Brizan introduced a home-grown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to deal with a bad fiscal situation then plaguing the country and which was inherited from the previous NNP government of late PM Herbert Blaize.

Brizan did not want to go down in history as the person who took Grenada into an IMF programme given the fears about the kinds of “bitter medicine” that had to be administered to a country like Jamaica that had a severe fiscal situation.

The late former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance turned to a battery of regional experts to help devise Grenada’s SAP and within three years the island had once again become creditworthy and was able to borrow loans from the international community.

It should be recalled that Dr. Mitchell then in opposition scoffed and laughed at the NDC with its programme but 20 years later he is forced to walk the same road of Structural Adjustment or the name that it is now referred to by the Ministry of Finance under his watch, “Fiscal adjustment and structural reforms”.

As calypsonian Black Wizard wrote a few years ago, a rose called by any other name is still a rose”.

It was almost 25 years ago that Grenada was virtually declared a bankrupt and uncreditworthy country by the international community.

However, the situation today is much worst. In 1989, the national debt was less than 400 million E.C dollars, unlike the current situation in which it is at a staggering EC$2.3 billion.

Time is certainly not on the side of the current government in light of its campaign promise of, “We will deliver” and its commitment to building “A New Economy” because investors were lined up and ready to come in after the February 19 poll.

The Prime Minister at the appropriate time will have to meet face-to-face with the island’s major creditors who have stated quite clearly that they would not engage the government on the critical issue of debt restructuring without the involvement of the fund.

This newspaper interprets this as a clear message from the Creditors that they do not trust Grenada and would like the fund to be on top of the situation.

In addition, the current government might be cautious in arriving at an agreement with the creditors due to its own fears that if it gives another commitment and fails to honour it then that will spell more trouble for the island.

How will the international financial community view Grenada and a third default on payments to creditors?

The first restructuring of the debts took place in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 when the island’s economy was severely wrecked.

There is a lot that Prime Minister Mitchell will need to inform the nation about especially on the “sacrifices” that each and every Grenadian will have to make as part of his now self-styled, “home grown programme” of fiscal adjustment and structural reforms.

Dr. Mitchell will have to come to each and every Grenadian and not only his NNP supporters to discuss “the programme”. The Nation must be fully informed and consulted before any agreement is signed in Washington with the IMF.

Finally, THE NEW TODAY would like to revisit the issue of allegations of sexual impropriety levelled against three senior police officers by a female Woman Police Constable who resigned from the force in May and left for the United States.

It is now public knowledge that the WPC accused one Police Officer in particular of rape and that Acting Commissioner of Police, Winston James announced that he had launched a criminal investigation into the allegations.

This newspaper is very suspicious of the manner in which the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Royal Grenada Police force (RGPF) is proceeding with the matter of the investigation.

It is time for the Minister of National Security who is Prime Minister Mitchell to urge Mr. James to see the wisdom in allowing the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to take charge of the investigations in the interest of fair-play and decency.

The type of investigation that is needed is way beyond the capacity of the Head of the CID who is not even entitled to question any of the three senior officers because all of them are more high-ranking in the force than him.

Mr. Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, as well as Acting Commissioner James, it will be a travesty of justice if the police force by its attitude is attempting to engage in a cover-up of the damning allegations.

Let the Office of the DPP take charge of the proceedings and allow the chips to fall where it should.

Dr. Francis: NNP is “bankrupt of ideas”

Former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Brian Francis says the seven-month old government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell seems to be “bankrupt of ideas” in dealing with the economic and financial problems plaguing the country.

Dr. Francis, a senior Lecturer in Economics at the Cave Hall Campus in Barbados of the University of the West Indies (UWI) made the charge against the backdrop of reports that the island is bankrupt and uncreditworthy.

Economist with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF), Aliona Cebotari told members of the Social Partners at a meeting that the Grenada government cannot pay its bills nor borrow money and the fund had come to its rescue by lending it money.

According to Francis, there is need for a complete reconfiguration of the Ministry of Finance in order to put the island in a better position to grapple with the myriad of problems confronting the economy.

He believes that some of the important departments in the ministry have to be revamped in order to respond to the urgency of the “crisis” that the country faces.

Francis who appeared on the weekly “Sundays With George Grant Programme” said it is clear that there is a problem in the Ministry of Finance.

“That ministry has no leadership, there is no management taking place in that ministry,” he told the programme host.

The UWI Lecturer cited the need for skilled people in economics, finance, taxation and managerial accounting to be urgently brought into the Ministry of Finance.

Francis said the authorities have failed miserably to tap into the skills of qualified and experienced Economists and other technical people since some public servants are more interested in “kingdom-building.”

He cited the case of the government’s own Chief Policy Advisor, Dr. Patrick Antoine who is believed to be slighted by current Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine.

He believes that Dr. Antoine has a major role to play in bringing a level of stability in the economy but noted that the Policy Advisor who promoted the so-called “New Economy” on the NNP Platform for the February campaign for the elections has gone silent.

Antoine is said to be unhappy with his contract that mandates him to report to the PS Finance since he considers himself to be more technically equipped to handle the island’s economic problems than the Permanent Secretary.

Francis spoke of having a good working relationship with Antoine over the years and is adamant that “Dr. Antoine does have solutions” to deal with the problems plaguing the island’s economy.

“…So to get the problems that we have in Grenada resolved, to get us out of this mess, we need people with the technical capacity to do so and he (Dr. Antoine) has that capacity,” he said.

Francis claimed that the Ministry of Finance does not have the technical capacity to carry the country through the economic nightmare that it now faced with an IMF austerity package on the cards.

He said it hurts him when Dr. Antoine is available with his expertise and is now being marginalised.

The former Permanent Secretary also took a look at the current economic malaise in which Grenada has found itself.

He recalled that on assuming Office in 1995, the then Government of the New National Party (NNP) of Dr. Mitchell went on a “borrowing and spending spree,” and 13 years later the country was left with an economy in total shambles – low economic growth rate, lofty and unsustainable fiscal deficits and public debt, relatively high inflation and soaring unemployment.

The current unemployment rate is placed at just over 40 percent.

Dr. Francis believes that Grenada is facing a major economic crisis and said he would be very surprised if the Washington-based IMF does not call for retrenchment of public servants as part of its austerity measures.

“With unemployment already in excess of 40 percent, it is virtually inconceivable to imagine a government agreeing to put more and more people on the breadline, but if you are going to beg you should beg with something in your hand. If you are begging with an empty hand then chances are you will be forced to accept pills that you probably know will eventually kill you. Given the huge level of public expenditure… retrenchment becomes a viable economic option,” he said.

The former public servant also blamed the NNP Government for creating “a mentality of handout” and suggested that people have to be prepared to work hard.

Francis described his stint at the Ministry of Finance as being “very rocky.”

He gave the host of the programme a brief account of his experience under Dr. Mitchell who was the Finance Minister at the time.

The former Permanent Secretary said Dr. Mitchell brought him into Grenada on the basis that he was coming there to assist him in reconfiguring the Grenada economy.

He said a problem surfaced between himself and the Prime Minister when he refused to sign off on some questionable bonds and promissory notes in the sum of US $100M involving some Germans.

According to him, he decided not to get involved in that matter as there was no Cabinet Conclusion nor Parliamentary approval for the then Mitchell government to engage in the deal.

“I told Dr. Mitchell quite clearly I would not sign any such document. Based on my experienced it seemed clear to me he brought me there (Ministry of Finance) to do his bidding and I was not prepared for that,” the Fontenoy resident said.

“I could never have allowed Dr. Mitchell to get me into anything that was unsavory, anything that was illegal, anything that was unethical,” he added.

Dr. Francis said as far as he is concerned the main role of a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance is to “protect the public purse” at all times.

 

Sauteurs Fishermen Facing Drug Charges

The recovery of 26 pounds of marijuana at a beach in Sauterus, St. Patrick’s by the Police has lead to the arrest and charge of two men of the Parish.

Jude Jones of Mt. Carven, St. Patrick’s, and Craig Calliste of Main Street, Sauteurs are jointly charged with possession and trafficking of the illegal drugs that has a street value of $58,968.00.

The lawmen moved in on the 35-year old Jones and the 32-year old Calliste who are both fishermen after discovering the marijuana and a speedboat last week Thursday on the beach.

The suspects turned themselves into the Sauteurs Police Station after a bulletin was put out by the Royal Grenada Police Station (RGPF) that sought the assistance of the public about their whereabouts.

In related drug news, two residents of Woburn were due to appear before the St. George’s Magistrate’s court on Monday to answer charges of illegal possession of ganja.

Officers attached to the Drug Squad Unit of the police force on August 25 charged Edith CHARLES, 42 years old and Isa CHARLES, 20 years old, both unemployed residents of Woburn for the offences of

Possession of a Controlled Drug and Trafficking of a Controlled Drug.

The two suspects were charged after an operation conducted at their home, led to the discovery of twenty-four and a quarter pounds of Cannabis.

The estimated street value of the drugs is fifty-five thousand three hundred and thirty-nine dollars and twenty cents ($55,339.20) ECC.

Edith and Isa CHARLES were granted bail in the sum of $20,000.00 with two sureties each.