Caribbean Round-Up

Grenada

Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism organization (CTO), Senator Richard Skerritt said local politicians must put aside their own interests to ensure that the region’s tourism sector survives these times.

Speaking at a tourism seminar in Grenada, Skerritt warned the region not to allow local political partisan interests to undermine the Caribbean’s main income earner.

“Our tourism must be protected from the partisan tribalism that often divides us in these islands. We don’t have to like each other to work together in the national interest,” he explained.

The St. Kitts and Nevis tourism minister said the common national interest of preserving the crucial tourism sector must trump all other considerations.

Skerritt also warned about the eagerness to cut back spending on market competitiveness because of the crisis. He said what the industry needs now in a time of crisis are wise investments.

Guyana

Guyana has dropped lower on the latest report of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

From being ranked 116 a year ago out of a total of 178 countries assessed, Guyana has now sunk to 134, according to the report which was recently released.

In the region, faring better than Guyana is Barbados which attainted the highest place in the rankings at 16. Ranked also in the top 50 for the Caribbean are The Bahamas, 21; St. Lucia, 25, and Dominica, 44.

Trinidad and Tobago has been ranked at its lowest in the past five years, achieving a score of 3.2 out of 10, its lowest since 2006 and ranked 91 out of 183 countries surveyed.

Guyana is rated at a lowly 2.5.

Over the past months, the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has come under severe fire over perceived corruption in the award of contracts and difficulty in the media access to information. Two thirds of ranked countries score less than 5.

Guyana

The Guyana government has appointed a team to investigate the deaths of three male secondary school students.

The decomposing bodies of the students, two of whom were 11 years old and the other 12 years, were found in a mining pit recently, police said.

Reports are that the young boys died when a sandpit caved in on them.

They were reported missing from school since Nov. 27.

Police said when they did not return a search was launched resulting in the bodies subsequently being found.

The state-run Government Information Agency said President Donald Ramoutar had sent a team to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the students.

Jamaica

Jamaicans will go to the polls in Dec. 29 to vote for a new government, a year ahead of a constitutional deadline and in the height of the crucial winter season.

Elections were due by December 2012, but Prime Minister Andrew Holness who announced the date for the general elections said the island’s international partners and leaders needed to know before the end of the year if voters will give him a mandate to govern Jamaica for the next five years.

Holness was sworn in as prime minister on Oct. 3 and said after he would root out corruption, reduce debt and bureaucracy, attract foreign investment and fight poverty. He also called for an end to links between politicians and slum bosses in vote-rich ghettos.

His predecessor, Bruce Golding stepped down in October after four years as prime minister, when his popularity sagged due to his nine-month opposition to a U.S. extradition request for a notorious gang leader.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts and Nevis Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Patrick Martin has announced that there was a decline in the number of HIV/AIDS infections on the island for 2011.

He made the disclosure while delivering remarks at the end of a march through Charlestown to primary school pupils, teachers and personnel from the HIV/AIDS Coordinating Unit of Nevis.

He said, “between 2001 and 2005 we had 15 new cases of HIV per year. Between 2006 and 2010 the number dropped from 15 to 10 new cases per year. The drop indicates that the National AIDS Program and the AIDS Program in Nevis are working.”

“This year so far we have 11 new cases of HIV, two in Nevis and nine in St. Kitts,” he said.

Notwithstanding, Martin warned that the decline in the number of new infections was not cause to become weary. Instead, he said the public should continue to support the programs already in place to fight against the disease.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts and Nevis has joined states that have imposed sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

The Denzil Douglas administration announced recently that it has suspended its Economic Citizenship Program for Iranians living at home.

Douglas stated “Our Economic Citizenship Unit of the Ministry of the Office of the Prime Minister has taken a decision to suspend any granting of St. Kitts and Nevis citizenship to Iranians who are living in Iran at the point of their application for investment in the Economic Citizenship Program.”

Several states have imposed sanctions on the Middle Eastern country in recent weeks, including the British government, which closed its embassy in the capital and ordered the closure of the Iranian Embassy in London.

Last month the U.S. imposed penalties on Iran while European Union governments have blacklisted more than 180 Iranian officials and companies.

Trinidad

Hilton Trinidad blanked the one-day CARICOM/Cuba Summit because the U.S. government failed to grant permission for the US-operator to host the conference. The Trinidad and Tobago government was forced to shift the summit to the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), which was attended by Cuban President Raul Castro.

The hotel is owned by the T&T government but is managed by the US-owned Hilton Hotel.

The summit brought together regional heads for the summit, which was attended by 12 of the 14 Caribbean leaders.

It was Castro’s first visit to T&T since he assumed the presidency in 2008, succeeding his brother, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago government recently signed three loan agreements worth US$1.5 billion with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to help sustainable energy and waste water projects as well as improving the delivery of services in the social sector between 2011 and 2015.

The agreements include US$ 100 million for policy based lending and an additional facility of US$14 million for a housing upgrading program.

Finance Minister Winston Dookeran at the signing ceremony at the Diplomatic Center, Port of Spain said government was able to negotiate agreements in the past with the IDB.

IDB representative Iwan Sewerath Misser said the greatest challenge for Trinidad and Tobago was transitioning to a post hydro carbon economic model while it continues to improve its standard of living.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago is moving to strengthen economic and technical ties with Panama, with plans to supply propane, butane, diesel, gasoline and bitumen, as well as industry knowledge to Panama as that country’s demand for energy grows.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Panama is looking to Trinidad and Tobago for expertise and supplies of energy.

She was speaking at a media briefing at the Diplomatic Center, Port of Spain after she and Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine met with a Panamanian delegation headed by Panama’s Energy Minister Juan Manuel Urriola Tam.

Other items on the agenda included the supply of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to Panama, and the acquisition of a bunkering license for Petrotrin in the Panama Canal free zone, which will give access to bunkering ships and additive market, were also discussed.

Persad-Bissessar said with increased competition from American discoveries of shale gas, Trinidad and Tobago needs to expand its markets.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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