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Libyan Investments in Caribbean Under Threat
NATO bombs that are falling on Tripoli are also hurting Caribbean natrions. Although located about 6,000 miles from the North African country of Libya, the turmoil there has not left the leaders of some small Caribbean nations unscathed. Member states of the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have adopted their own lines of engagement with Libya. The main concern - what will become of Libyan investment projects in region?
"Whether we like it or not, we’re still very much dependent on oil from the Middle East and most of our economies are driven by that," said Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda. "To the extent that there is instability and war and so on, it has an impact."
As leaders of the OECS member states anxiously await the outcome of several negotiated agreements with Libya - including the opening of a Libyan embassy in St. Lucia and a bank in St. Kitts - Spencer admitted that he is nervously watching developments in the North African country.
Many of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ major development projects in recent years have benefited from Libyan funding. Gonsalves defends his government’s receipt of the aid. According to the prime minister, the 250,000 dollars handed over to the Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC) by Libya’s ambassador to the OECS, Ammat Ali, in February are to aid with rebuilding the country after the damage wrought by Hurricane Tomas last year.
In nearby Dominica, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit reiterated his government’s position that Dominica will not break ties with Libya because of the ongoing political turmoil.
"Why should we terminate relations with Libya," said Skerrit, who also questioned the opposition’s call for him to simply review his existing relationship with Tripoli.
The same stance has been taken by Prime Minister Stephenson King of St. Lucia, who said while his government is monitoring developments in Libya, they were not severing diplomatic relations. St Lucia’s Foreign Minister Rufus Bousquet says the march to democracy in the Middle East and North Africa is likely to impact on investment projects in the OECS sub-region. "St. Lucia was right in the middle, among other countries in the OECS as a sub-regional grouping, and we were well on our way to establishing, certainly with Libya, an investment bank and investment fund both of which were funded to the tune of 100 million dollars from the Libyan Government," Bousquet says.
Grenada has also found itself in a similar position - that of anxiously awaiting financial aid. Last year, the government of Grenada announced that it was expecting a grant of 1.9 million dollars from Libya for public works projects, in addition to expecting Libya to forgive a 6 million dollar debt.
In 2001 some Caribbean leaders visited Libya in search of technical and monetary aid to help modernise their agricultural sectors. That visit was arranged because of a dip in aid from the United States and Britain.
Barbados creates problems for CARICOM
In circumstances now well known and documented, a bitter dispute erupted between Barbados and Jamaica over the treatment by Barbadian immigration officials of a young Jamaican woman on her arrival at Grantley Adams International Airport. Her case subsequently led to similar and worse allegations being made by others, which, apart from their shocking nature, ought to raise questions about just how serious certain Caribbean governments are doing about xenophobia which could undercut popular sentiment about regionalism
So serious has this become that Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding warned that such developments suggest that the movement towards the CSME is at risk from the actions of member countries of Caricom. Golding affirmed that allegations were "not a matter that is new" in Caricom.
"As recently as the Caricom heads of government meeting in Grenada, the prime minister of St Vincent made complaints about the treatment of his nationals when they arrive in Barbados, and at the meeting before that, a similar complaint was made by the president of Guyana," he told Barbados' Starcom radio network.
"The deputy prime minister (of Jamaica) will confirm that at almost every heads of government meeting, the matter is raised," Golding said. He added, "We must be very careful not to allow an incident, no matter how deplorable or despicable it is reported to be, to undermine the regional integration movement."
This is the human side, but in recent months, the dysfunctional nature
of the regional integration process has been matched by developments that
in their own context are just as troubling. Caricom heads have been no
more successful in identifying a new secretary general.
T&T govt. Minister fired
Trindiad and Tobago Attorney General Anand Ramlogan has found that
Minister Mary King had "acted improperly in failing to disclose her
interest and disqualify herself from the entire process" regarding
the award of a $100,000 contract. The attorney general’s findings led to
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar advising President George Maxwell
Richards to revoke the appointments of King as Minister of Planning,
Economic and Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs, as well as a
Government Senator with immediate effect.
Commonwealth risks irrelevance
THE 54-member British Commonwealth is at risk of becoming irrelevant, according to an assessment of the latest meeting of a ten-member Eminent Persons Group (EMG). The subject is expected to be a major agenda issue for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference scheduled for October this year in Australia.
It is reported that significant recommendations for reform have been advanced to help transform the association into one that is fit for a rapidly changing world.
A dozen countries of the Caribbean Community are members of Commonwealth, which held its last summit in November 2009 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. It was hosted by then Prime Minister Patrick Manning and current chairman, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is scheduled to pass the baton to Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard.
'Eat Jamaican' campaign
Jamaica has launched an 'Eat Jamaican' campaign promoting the
message 'Grow what we eat - Eat what we grow'. The campaign
is aimed at increasing local production and encouraging consumers to make
healthy choices by eating local produce, fruits and vegetables. It was
launched by the minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
Minister Dr Christopher Tufton on March 1 and had its first show in
Mandeville, Manchester, on March 30. A series of nine roadshows that have
been scheduled over a three-month period. Partners for the roadshow,
Wisynco, Jamaica Broilers and Trade Winds, ensured that those present had
a chance to sample quality Jamaican products, while there were giveaways
courtesy of National Bakery and Island Grill.
Antigua and Barbuda imposes temporary ban on agri produce
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has imposed a temporary ban on the importation of several agricultural produce because of a glut in local production. According to the government, the ban, which is in place initially for this month, has been imposed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and the Environment as part of efforts to promote and support the purchasing of locally grown products.
The produce on the temporary importation ban include onion, cabbage, carrot, sweet pepper, eggplant, tomato, cucumber, and butternut squash. Importers of these fresh produce have been encouraged to contact Central Marketing Corporation, which is the major marketing agent for these vegetables in Antigua.
The ministry has also repeated its encouragement to Antiguans to buy local as part of a drive to reduce the importation of agricultural goods and services into Antigua and Barbuda.
The high cost of crime in Jamaica
World Development Report 2011 shows Jamaica paying dearly
The criminal violence which has affected Jamaica for decades has again been identified as the primary development challenge facing the country. The World Bank now estimates that crime and violence costs Jamaica more than US$400 million (J$34 billion) each year. In the 2011 World Development Report, dubbed 'Conflict, Security and Development', the bank includes Jamaica among the countries where growth is being stymied by crime. According to the report, while wars between states are less now than in the past and civil wars fewer, insecurity has become the primary development challenge of our time.
"One and a half billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict, or large-scale, organised criminal violence, and no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single United Nations Millennium Development Goal (UN MDG)," the report claimed.
The report also stated that:
The World Bank report also noted that Jamaica's inner cities have been at the center of the country's crime and violence problem which, coupled with growing poverty, has further exacerbated social fragmentation and the weakness of civic organising in inner-city communities. In a general prescription which seems specially tailored for a very ill Jamaica, the World Bank argued that there is a need to break down what is referred to locally as "garrison" communities and put an end to corruption to get broad-based support for change.
IMF ‘help’ obstructing Jamaica
Here we go again. The IMF medicine is hurting the patient. New IMF policies have damaged Jamaica’s recent and current economic prospects. A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research finds that Jamaica’s economic and social progress has suffered considerably from the burden of an unsustainable debt; and that, even after the debt restructuring of 2010, this burden remains unsustainable and very damaging.
"Jamaica is a clear case where the IMF and other international
actors have put the economy in a strait-jacket," said Mark
Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
"Jamaica needs debt cancellation and economic stimulus to get out
of its long slump, and it has not gotten either of these."
The paper notes that Jamaica is one of the most highly indebted countries in the world, with a total public debt of 129.3 percent of GDP at the end of fiscal year 2009/10, and interest payments on the debt over the last five years averaging 13 percent of GDP. This debt burden has crowded out most other public investment, especially in education and infrastructure, which have stagnated over the last 18 years.
Whole Foods markets Haitian mangoes
Kudos to Whole Foods! Haiti's king of fruit – the Francis mango – is taking the throne at Whole Foods Market. For a limited time, shoppers will find this exclusive, organic and Fair Trade Certified fruit under the grocer's Whole Trade program. The Whole Trade Guarantee – which drives meaningful dollars into the struggling Haitian economy – ensures that these rare, delicious mangoes are ethically grown and sourced. Whole Foods Market is the sole buyer of certified organic and Fair Trade Certified mangoes from small Haitian growers, sometimes buying from a family with just one tree. Shoppers can find these mangoes in US stores nationwide under the grocer's Whole Trade program during the varietal's short six-to-eight week season.
Foods Market supports positive change in the developing countries where it
sources products. The program ensures exceptional quality, a safe and
healthy working environment and the peace-of-mind that those foods are
produced using environmental practices that promote biodiversity and
US opens eight gateways to Cuba
Eight airports, including Atlanta and Chicago's O'Hare, have gained federal approval to schedule charter flights to and from Cuba, opening new gateways for Cuban-Americans to visit relatives in the island nation and for other limited travel, authorities announced Tuesday.
United States (US) Customs and Border Protection officials said such charter flights can now be scheduled from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport, as well as Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and international airports in Baltimore, Dallas/Fort Worth, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tampa, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Previously, such flights were only allowed from Los Angeles, Miami and New York.
The decision to add airports comes as part of an expanded effort to reach out to the Cuban people, announced by US President Barack Obama earlier this year.
In Atlanta, airport officials lauded the decision and said it will mean reunions for families and friends who have been separated for years by distance and politics.
Learning center battles illiteracy in Jamaica
Established in May 2009, the Middleton/Redlight/Irish Town (MRI) Learning Centre is the evolution of a plan for social empowerment that started in the mind of Constable Mark Tomlinson many years ago. Fittingly located on the grounds of Irish Town Police Station, the center serves residents well beyond the confines of the three communities after which it is named.
The center's mission is to confront and conquer illiteracy through the use of creative and effective tools, technologies, methods and programs. The literacy program involves one-on-one assistance as well as structured lessons throughout the week. In addition to taking advantage of computer programs, students are allowed access to a library of diverse reading material under the guidance of caring staff who promote not just reading, but also the enjoyment of reading.
Equipped with computers, courtesy of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), which also provided funding for teaching assistants and a center manager, along with complimentary Internet service, courtesy of telecommunications company LIME, the center is open from noon until 7 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. Between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., basic-school students get help with homework and reading, while pre-GSAT students are schooled in math, English and homework assistance.
During this period, adults are also taught to read and given basic computer lessons, leading to knowledge of information technology. It is by design that all lessons are taught on the computer.
The computer literacy program seeks to prepare youth and adults to use computers and the Internet effectively in advancing themselves academically, professionally and beyond.
New US guestworker rules proposed
Every year, thousands of workers come to the United States via the H-2B guestworker (farmworker) visa program. Under this program, a workers' visa is tied to his or her employer, giving their bosses a great deal of control over their lives. All too often, workers in the US on the H-2B visa find themselves in unfair, unsafe, or even illegal work situations, but because their immigration status is tied to their employer, it is very difficult to organize for better working conditions.
On March 17, 2011, the National Guestworker Alliance won a major victory and a vindication of five years of organizing, advocacy, and litigation as the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed new regulations of the H-2B non-agricultural visa program. The proposed regulations would ensure that workers in the U.S. through this program are not trapped in debt to recruiters and do not face retaliation for organizing to become members of workers’ centers or unions. The new regulations would also ensure that employers keep their promises to workers about the type of work, working conditions, and hours they will have, and that if they break the rules they are punished.
However, predictably big businesses are gearing up to fight these new rules that would protect workers’ rights.
Deportees from the US
For the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic received the most US criminal deportees, some 1,066. They were followed by Jamaica which has received 528 since the beginning of Fiscal Year 2011. Trinidad and Tobago was third with 125 followed by Belize with 74, the Bahamas with 65 and Guyana with 64. So far this fiscal year, 50 migrants have been sent back to Aruba and 31 to the earth-quake ravaged Haiti. Other Caribbean nations received far less criminal deportees.
Cuba received 20 in the past six months; Barbados was sent 11; Dominica 10; St. Lucia seven and Antigua five. Bermuda has received four criminal migrants since last October while St. Kitts received 3; Suriname, the British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands, 2 each, and Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos, one each.
Jamaica passenger train roll into Spanish Town for test run
Excited residents of Spanish Town, St Catherine, Jamaica, witnessed the first set of Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC) coaches roll into the Old Capital ahead of this weekend's test run for a return to the passenger train system.
Meanwhile, chairman of the JRC, Barry Bonitto, said the train was coming to assist with the movement of passengers from Spanish Town to Linstead.
"We intend to start operations from Spanish Town to Linstead within a month. We are going to have a test run from May Pen to Linstead on Saturday, with the transport minister and others, " Bonitto said.
He said that a total of 68 passengers can be seated in each of the six coaches.
"A total of 40 people would gain direct employment as brakesmen, ticketing agents and engineers when the train restarts," he also said.
Many persons said they were looking forward to seeing how the train would improve travel for the public. At the same time, however, taxi operators plying the Linstead to Spanish Town route expressed concern about the effects the new development would have on their business.
The train service began in Jamaica in 1845 and underwent several changes until it came to a halt in 1992.
Floods cause big crop losses in Barbados
Farmers have been left with flooded fields, damaged crops and profits
washed down the drain after heavy rains over the past few weeks.
Volunteers flock YUTE scheme in Jamaica
A NUMBER of persons have offered their services to help provide guidance to youths of eight troubled communities across Kingston, Jamaica who are part of the Youth Upliftment Through Employment (YUTE) program. The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica had made several appeals for volunteers in the program so that it could meet the 800 target.
But head of the project management team for YUTE Maureen Webber reported that while the targeted number is not yet reached, the responses are encouraging.
"It is really very heartening to know that Jamaicans are really stepping up and volunteering," she said.
Webber added that some 220 persons have already signed up to help mentor the youths. These persons will first be engaged in training sessions.
There are seven companies in place that Webber said her organisation would be visiting to speak to the staff about becoming part of the mentorship program. Webber added that by the end of April, the YUTE program should have about 400 mentors to assist the youths.
But that is not the only good news for the program as there have been successes in the placement of the youths in suitable jobs, most of who are in long-term positions.
YUTE a private-sector initiative, which currently has 825 participants, was officially launched last month and is aimed at tackling the root causes of crime and unemployment among young people.
Chinese embassy donates agricultural equipment to Grenada
On April 29, 2011, the official hand-over ceremony of farm machinery
and agricultural equipment, donated to Grenada by the Chinese government,
was held in La Sagesse Farm, St David.
Illegal mines shut down in Guyana
The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) has closed
down 14 illegal gold mining operations in the Omai area, Essequibo, in an
ongoing campaign to curb a problem of widespread "raiding"
of gold bearing, unoccupied State lands.
Haitian lawmakers vote to allow dual nationality
Haitians living overseas will now have more rights in their homeland. Haitian lawmakers recently amended an article in the old constitution that will do away with a law that bans dual nationality. That means the 2 million Haitians living in the United States, Canada and elsewhere will have more say in the political affairs of Haiti. They are now able to run for lower levels of office and own land, a senator said.
Cuban tourism up by 14.7 percent in 1st two months of 2011
The number of tourists arriving in Cuba continued its steady growth in
February, 2011, following the trend set in January, when it grew by over
15 percent. The Cuban National Statistics Office announced that over a
million people visited Cuba in the first two months of 2011. In February,
292,332 tourists visited the island, for a 34.2 percent increase over the
2007 figure. Last year, over 2.5 million people travelled to Cuba and the
expectation for 2011 is to surpass the 4 percent growth the sector
experienced in 2010.
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