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Antigua wins WTO case against the US
The mouse roared again. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has ruled again that the US ban on offshore Internet gambling payments is illegal, upholding a previous decision that allowed for possible sanctions.
Antigua and Barbuda, a Caribbean nation of merely 80,000 people, has challenged Bush administration efforts to close the estimated $12 billion global business to US residents, who account for half of the market. The US banned credit card companies from processing payments to betting sites such as SportingBet Plc and Empire Online Ltd., which then ceased US operations or sold them for nominal amounts.
Antigua may seek sanctions in the form of withdrawing intellectual
property protection for US trademarks or copyright. Known as
"cross-retaliation," such sanctions are legal at the WTO when an
economy can't afford to impose sanctions in the form of higher customs
duties on goods.
Former T&T PMís conviction overturned on appeal
Former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, has won his
appeal against conviction and sentence of a two-year jail term and a
TT$60,000 fine. The former Prime Minister was tried and found guilty in
April 2006 of failing to declare monies in a London bank account in
contravention of the country's Integrity in Public Life Act.
IMF says shutdown Air Jamaica
Despite recent restructuring plans, the IMF have advised the Government to sell Air Jamaica and discontinue the big subsidy at taxpayers expense. In a decade under private sector ownership, up to the end of 2004, Air Jamaica has lost nearly US$800 million. Since its re-nationalisation, it racked up a loss of US$120 million in 2005 and perhaps the similar amount last year. Although the Government had promised to cap its subsidy at US$30 million annually, a new financing package has been agreed to pump liquidity into the ailing carrier. The IMF has consistently advocated the jettisoning of the airline, most recently in its previous Article IV Consultation document a year ago.
However the Government says no deal. The administration has defended Air J as a strategic asset, critical to the island's important tourism industry. Officials believe that in its absence foreign carriers would not adequately provide air seats to the island, limiting tourism traffic or causing a steep hike in fares and thus undermine the thriving tourist industry not just in Jamaica but in other Caribbean isles.
Consequently the administration recently approved Air Jamaica's most recent restructuring plan: one that will include converting its fleet of Airbus planes to Boeing aircraft and require an injection of US$165 million over two years.
Mike Conway, Air Jamaica's CEO says the fleet conversion will save Air Jamaica about US$38 million a year between the cost of maintenance and leases and help drive revenues by 10 per cent, to around US$440 million. The net gain, on these assumptions, plus other areas of savings, would be around US$80 million, which would apparently be sufficient for the airline to break even by 2009.
Editorís Note: The airline is needed but, break even? Not in my lifetime! In the last years, airlines have been dropping like flies. Even now airline giants right here in the US such as United, Northwest and Delta have filed for bankruptcy protection. Now the IMF, that famous group, that brought us structural adjustment, wants Jamaica to privatize it. Been there. Done that!
Soybean ship sails unloaded from Guyana
On march 10, 2007 the Myra sailed into Guyana port loaded with 900 tons of soybean and there it stayed unloaded until about the end of march. The soybean was never unloaded because the soybean believed to be contaminated with salmonella typhimurium. Guyanese authorities said that France had ordered the vessel returned so that the soybean could be destroyed. They had also ordered that the hatch containing the soybean remain sealed, since the bacteria was considered even more potent in the tropics.
The importer, a local poultry producer, fought all the way securing three court orders to have the soybean shipment unloaded. The Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), moved to the Appeal Court as part of a necessary process to protect the CARICOM nation from any adverse effects of releasing the shipment, even for testing. The importer claimed possession of documents showing tests on the soybean to be out ok, but the Guyana claimed the documents were forged. So back to France the ship finally went with its controversial cargo untouched.
Trinidad reneges on LNG agreement with Jamaica
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices are soaring especially in Europe and Asia. The prices are so high that T&T has reneged on a promise to supply Jamaica at an agreed upon price. Jamaica was depending on this for a US$1.6 billion expansion of the Alcoa alumina refinery. The Jamaica Manufacturersí Association (JMA) has reacted angrily charging that the LNG issue is only the latest in a string of actions by Trinidad and Tobago to frustrate a penetration of its market by Jamaican firms, even as Port-of-Spain enjoys a US$500 million trade surplus with Jamaica.
Ironically, T&Tís PM Manning proposed that the shortage be made up by Venezuela, after he himself had been critical of the PetroCaribe agreement. This agreement provided cheap oil to Jamaica and other Caribbean countries compliments of Venezuelaís President Hugo Chavez and Manning feared it would cut into T&Tís profits.
China winning friends in the Caribbean
The hosting of the 7-week ICC Cricket World Cup by the West Indies is expected to pay big tourism dividends. However preparations for it has been very expensive. China to the rescue. China has contributed about US$132 million for facilities. And not just money, but workers too who were essential in completing the new stadium in Antigua on time. Living in temporary plastic huts and taking a single day off each month, about 1,000 employees of state-owned Chinese companies have sweated away the past year on the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Antigua and Grenada to help prepare to host the Cricket World Cup, the game's premier international event.
China, the world's fastest-growing economy, is spreading its global influence by stepping up donations to developing countries. Aid is disbursed through China's Commerce Ministry, which says it doesn't disclose assistance figures. China hands out about US$2.7 billion a year in Africa alone, up from US$100 million a decade ago.
The Caribbean has become a focal point for China because it contains four of the 24 states that still recognize Taiwan. Stepped up Chinese investment has already persuaded two nations in the region to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Controversy also surrounded the official handover of Grenada National
Stadium last month. As the Chinese ambassador and scores of blue-uniformed
laborers entered the arena, the Royal Grenadan Police Band greeted them
with the Taiwanese national anthem, prompting an apology from Prime
Minister Keith Mitchell.
China has plans for playing cricket too. Plans are underway for them to have 150,000 players, a league and a "credible" national team by 2020, said Calvin Leung, a spokesman for the Chinese Cricket Association. Athletics officials are introducing a training program in schools to meet those aims.
T&T broadcaster freed on terrorist charge
Finally he is free! Trinidadian Broadcaster Inshan Ishmael had hosted a television program entitled "Breaking All Barriers", which met with strong objections from the local cable feed provider and the Telecommunications Authority. Ishmael was accused of disseminating distasteful information and was subsequently arrested under the country's Terrorism Act. He was arrested by armed police on January 24, the night before a planned nation-wide business shut down he had been promoting.
Ishmael was detained overnight by police and charged the following day
with distributing a handbill without the name and address of the printer
and publisher. According to local law it was an offence under the Summary
Offences Act. He was however later charged under the Terrorism Act.
Police in Jamaica face deplorable working conditions
Police in Jamaica work under the worst possible conditions in the world. They are up against a crime wave perpetuated by the most vicious of criminals. The majority of the public that they serve view them as corrupt, a reputation which will be hard to shake regardless of what amends they make. It seems that when they are not pursuing criminals they are busy defending themselves against angry mobs charging police brutality. Now out of police stations in Buff and Hope Bay in Portland comes reports that these stations were in such a deplorable living conditions that they were closed buy the health department. For example 17 crimefighters, 14 men and 3 women had to share just 1 bathroom.
Because of shortage of police vehicles, officers often have to transport prisoners to court some 20 bad-road-miles away in their personal cars.
Of the 11 police stations in Portland, there are 12 functioning service vehicles, nine of which, officers say, are over 12 years old. Three of these police stations are without any service vehicles at all.
Maybe they will soon have to hitchhike.
Barbados top Latin American and Caribbean tourist destination
In a survey of 124 countries by the World Economic Forum first ever Travel and Tourism index, Barbados, like Abou ben Aben, "led all the rest". The index measures the factors that make it attractive to develop the travel and tourism industry of individual countries. The report goes on to note that Barbados was ranked 29th overall on the list but second with regard to national tourism perception and the Government's prioritising the sector to a very high degree. Only five other Caribbean countries made the ranking. Jamaica came in at 48, the Dominican Republic at 50, Trinidad and Tobago at 85, Guyana at 100, and Suriname at 108.
Water privatization fails in Guyana
The Guyanese government was forced to cancel a five-year water management contract with UK company Severn Trent Water International because the company failure to meet five out of the seven objectives in the contract. The private Birmingham, UK-based company was reportedly being paid its fees for this contract by UK tax-payers out of the UK aid budget, while the privatisation plan was developed by consultants, also paid for by UK aid money. Now millions of UK taxpayer money is wasted. The people in Guyana have not received the services they were promised. Severn Trent international will have a chance to waste even more money as they have won a water privatization contract in Nepal.
Columbia union leaders face death
In America unions are constantly under attack especially by the ruling Republican Party, the media, and big corporations like Wal-Mart. But in Columbia, union organizing is a deadly job. More than 800 trade unionists have been killed in Colombia over the past six years, by government count, yet the number of those murders solved can be counted on one hand.
Decades of political violence and lawlessness compel some unscrupulous employers to hire assassins to murder union organizers. The Columbia Labor Ministry says 43 trade unionists were killed in 2005, and 58 the previous year. None of those murders have been solved. Some human right activists have branded Cocoa Cola, "Killer Coke", charging them with murders, kidnappings and torture of union leaders in bottling plants there and are calling for a boycott of the world-popular soda.
Remittances to Haiti top US $1.6 billion
According to a report by the Inter-American Development Bank, Haitians living abroad sent more than $1.65 billion to their homeland in 2006. These remittances sent by members of the 1.5 million-strong Haitian diaspora represent the equivalent of more than one-third of Haitiís gross national product.
Around $1.17 billion of the total was sent from the United States, which has large Haitian communities in Miami, Boston and New York. Other sources of money transfers to Haiti were Canada (about $230 million in 2006), France ($130 million), the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas (around $33 million) each. About 1.1 million adults in Haiti receive remittances, typically 10 times a year, at an average of $150 at a time. About half the families that receive money from abroad have incomes of less than $500 a year.
Appleton blamed for massive fish kill in jamaica
The Black River in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, was the recent scene of hundreds of dead fish floating on it. Angry residents blame nearby Appleton Sugar Estates, the makers of Jamaicaís most popular rum, for causing it. They accused Appleton of dumping dunder in the river. Dunder, which is a by product in the making of rum, is harmful to marine life. the release of this harmful substance into the Black River not only affects the marine life but may reflect badly on the South Coast tourism. Appleton denies responsibility but what else could it be. In the meantime representatives from the National Environmental Planning Agency (NEPA) are at the Black River collecting samples.
Chavez visit Jamaica, St. Vincent and Dominica
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez paid visits to Jamaica, St. Vincent
and Dominica recently. He is also President Chavez is scheduled to meet
with Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago later. In
Jamaica , he announced plans to provide Jamaica with billions of dollars
in loan funds for highway construction and other development projects.
Fiery protest at Hotel Fiesta site in Jamaica
About 2,000 construction workers staged a massive protest at the Hotel Fiesta construction site after news spread that one of their colleagues had been shot allegedly by the police. The 1,600 room hotel is being built by the Spanish at a cost of US$150 million (J$10 billion) in the little Jamaican district of Point in Hanover. Enraged workers set several buildings ablaze and about 11 vehicles reportedly belonging to the Fiesta Hotel were damaged or destroyed. Fire was set to at least four of the vehicles. Protestors even hauled a group of men from a jeep while they were travelling along the main road, and then set it on fire.
The situation was only brought under control when a contingent of armed police personnel, numbering about 75, was brought in and the workers were addressed by Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Area One. A private helicopter later rescued a group of foreign workers who had locked themselves inside a building under the watchful eyes of the police.
The weapons fired by police personnel, and security guards are to be sent for ballistic testing. the police are moving to establish a continuous presence at the construction site to prevent any further incidents. The site was closed following the incident. Prime Minister has promised a full investigation into the shooting, but the Spanish workers and investors must feel undeservedly victimized.
Montego Bay airport transport operators launch protest
Members of the Jamaica Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) and the Jamaica Cooperative Automobile and Limousine Tours Limited (JCAL) pulled their services to protest against the newly privatized airport's administration.
The operators were protesting against MBJ Airports Limited's decision to reduce their presence at the new arrival hall, which had a soft opening the day before. The newly announced policy reduces the number of persons from 12 to two. The angry operators said the changes are in breach of an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two bodies, and the airport administration and called for it to be reversed. They also accused the administration of implementing policies geared at destroying their livelihood, while treating them like squatters when they pay to work there.
"Normally we have three JUTA and two JCAL operators inside (the arrival hall) with all (eight) of the supervisors and now they say one supervisor and no driver can go in and that cannot work," said JUTA supervisor David Watson. In the last three years the 110 operators of both JUTA and JCAL have paid in excess of $16 million in fees to use the facility at US$47.00 each per month.
However MBJ Airpot Limited claims that the changes were an attempt to streamline the system to provide security for the visitors and less congestion in the airport hall. He said the changes would not affect the income of the operators who are main carriers at the facility as there will be no solicitation in the area.
Editorís Note: Privatisation usually means more profits at the expense of workers.
T&Tís Soca warriors were the darling of the World Cup. T&T is relatively wealthy. So it comes as a shock when THE TRINIDAD and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) announced that it was immediately suspending its national football programs because of inadequate funding. TTFF general secretary Richard Groden confirmed that the only program which will continue is that of the National Under-17 team, preparing for CONCACAF world qualifying matches next month. The TTFF has also informed CONCACAF to be "on standby" to search for a replacement team to the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer. T&T, Digicel Caribbean Cup champions Haiti, Cuba and Guadelope qualified in January - as the top four Digicel Cup teams - to be the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) representatives at the June 6-24 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
US and Brazil ethanol production
Brazil and the United States account for about 70 per cent of world ethanol output. The United States recently displaced Brazil as the world's biggest producer. US produces ethanol primarily from corn. There is severe criticism for any substantial replacement of petroleum with ethanol because they say it is inefficient and would deplete drastically corn supply as food.
Brazil ethanol production from sugarcane is much more efficient. A pioneer in biofuels, Brazil began its sugar cane-based ethanol program 30 years ago when it was importing nearly 90 per cent of its oil needs. It is now self-sufficient. Jamaica is following the Brazilian model and for good reason
Brazil's sugar and ethanol sector is now subsidy free. The U.S. corn-based ethanol industry relies on government support in the form of a tax credit to blend ethanol into gasolene and a tariff on ethanol imports.
Brazilian ethanol yields eight times more energy than is used in its production process, compared to U.S. ethanol that yields between 1.1 and 1.7 times the energy that goes into the production process, a major criticism of U.S. ethanol.
Brazil is the world's largest exporter of ethanol, with the United States accounting for just over half of its 3.5 billion litres shipped abroad in 2006 despite a U.S. 54 cent import tariff on Brazilian ethanol.
Brazil has over 30,000 filling stations that offer pure ethanol fuel and gasoline that is blended with 20-25 per cent ethanol.
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