Bahamas Prime Minister, Philip Davis is marking the second anniversary of his ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) by re-shuffling his cabinet, as well as outlining reforms in immigration. He also reflected on a broad range of gains his administration intends to build as part of the drive towards new change. He said his government faced multiple crises including a national debt that had skyrocketed and an economy battered by a series of lockdowns and curfews. “We had the worst unemployment crisis in our modern history. Our hospitals were overflowing, with some patients receiving treatment in parking lots. Our schools were closed, with no plans in sight to repair and reopen them, and thousands of children had barely been able to participate in remote learning.”
But Prime Minister Davis told the nation that as part of the government’s “aggressive rescue operation” it lifted the curfew, implemented new financial and health measures that they made a priority for the government to pay off significant arrears owed to Bahamian companies.” He said this decision injected US$100 million into the local economy and saved several businesses from bankruptcy.
“Our policies jump-started the economy, and Bahamians, always resourceful, responded with energy and enthusiasm. Many businesses are now thriving. We now have a 15-year low in unemployment. Our fiscal situation is much stronger.” Davis said that the country is in better shape because of the efforts of the Bahamian people, who remain vital partners as we make progress in our national development.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has cautioned against “Haiti fatigue” as Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders prepare to meet virtually to discuss the situation in that country, where security is rapidly deteriorating. “We have to guard against any semblance or any attitudes of Haiti fatigue from various quarters around the world,” Skerrit stated.
Skerrit told reporters that the main agenda item for CARICOM Heads meeting would be Haiti and the situation there, adding that climate change would also be on the agenda.
“For me as chairman of the Conference of Heads, I have indicated very sincerely that the Haitian situation is my number one priority,” the Dominica prime minister said.
“We owe it to the Haitian people and it’s important that the entire Caribbean Community, not only heads of government, but the entire Caribbean Community is engaged and be seized of the issues that are confronting Haiti,” Skerrit stated.
He also spoke of the need for collective moral commitment and support to Haiti.
Bahamas and Jamaica have already said they are willing to provide personnel.
The United States has also indicated a willingness to put forward a Security Council resolution to back a deployment.
Kenya has committed to deploying 1,000 police officers to help train and assist Haiti police in restoring the country’s normalcy and protecting strategic installations.
The Dominica prime minister said his country is willing to provide support, especially regarding translators. St. Lucia and Dominica speak French Creole or Patois, which is widely spoken in Haiti.
The Guyana government says it has withdrawn a total of US$200 million from the Natural Resource Fund (NRF). A statement issued by the Ministry of Finance quoted Senior Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, as saying that the Irfaan Ali government has made its third and fourth draw down this year from the fund in accordance with the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) Act.
It said that in August and September, US$100 million each, representing a further US$200 million, equivalent to GUY41.6 billion has been transferred from the Natural Resource Fund to the Consolidated Fund to finance national development priorities. The statement said that in February and May this year, the government made withdrawals totaling US$400 million equivalent to GUY$83.2 billion, bringing the accumulated withdrawals from the NRF for the year so far to US$600 million, equivalent to GUY$124.8 billion.
The authorities have said that the purpose of the NRF is to ensure there is prudent management of the nation’s oil earnings for the present and future benefit of the people by ensuring that volatility in natural resource revenues does not lead to volatile public spending.
The fund is also intended to ensure Guyana’s natural resource wealth is used to finance national development priorities including any initiative aimed at realizing an inclusive green economy.
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness says he plans to institute performance-based compensation, performance systems, and performance accountability, towards improving productivity.
Holness was at a meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica promising to rectify anomalies stemming from a recent public sector compensation program.
“We must get more out of every hour of work in the day,” Holness said, adding that “I know it is going to set off all kinds of alarm and quarrel and all kinds of things in the society.”
Holness said Jamaicans sometimes had a view that asking for more work was almost like servitude.
He also promised to address the issue of disproportionate salaries of elected officials and public sector workers.
The prime minister said he does not agree with the disparity in salaries and “I understand the complaints, but I am asking for some patience, I am asking for some understanding, and I am saying to you, keep a positive outlook. These matters are going to be addressed.”
According to Holness, the last time elected officials had a pay increase was in 2002 under Prime Minister PJ Patterson.
The St. Lucia government says it remains “dedicated to public safety and the well-being of all citizens,” after it announced the re-appointment of the island’s first female Police Commissioner, Cruscita Descartes-Pelius, for an additional year effective Sept. 1, 2023.
A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said that Descartes-Pelius, who was first appointed in October 2022, has served the Royal St. Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) with distinction for over 30 years until June 2023.
Descartes-Pelius served in several capacities before being appointed top cop last year. She is the holder of a Bachelor of Science in Management Studies and was awarded the National Service Cross of the Order of St. Lucia when the island celebrated independence in 2021. “Her reinstatement as commissioner of police is expected to be accompanied by a comprehensive professional training program for senior officers aimed at cultivating strong leadership and ushering in a new cadre of leadership within the RSLPF.
“The government of St. Lucia looks forward to the support of all officers as it commits to preparing officers for future leadership positions and the strengthening of the police force,” the statement said, thanking also Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ronald Phillip “for his sterling leadership as acting Commissioner of Police for the past 10 weeks.”
Efforts to strengthen this country’s borders are currently underway with the delivery of four new riverine patrol vessels donated by the US Embassy to the Trinidad & Tobago Defence Force.
The vessels are valued at US$1.6 million and were handed over during a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony recently at the T&T Coast Guard Base at Staubles Bay in Chaguaramas, Trinidad.
Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds said the donation would help the Coast Guard monitor all types of traffickers, including narcotics, arms and ammunition and human traffickers. “As for the riverine vessels, thanks to the TTDF Chief of Defence Staff I will frequently be enlightened to the border security arrangements and more particularly, the porosity of that in certain circumstances,” Hinds said.
“The CDS and Commissioner of Police and others involved in the protection of T&T would have indicated to me that we do have some riverine inlets that are used by those who perpetrate these incursions into our space and we are confident that your donation of these vessels put us in a much stronger position to fortify our positions in these inlets.”
He admitted that before the donation, the capabilities to effectively monitor inlets had been constrained.“We do have capacity but I would say limited capacity. This donation would take us one hundred per cent there and make it completely incursion proof but it will certainly put us in a far better position than we are in now for that we are more than grateful,” he added.
US Ambassador Candace Bond said the donations are a sign of growing security cooperation between both countries, “and a symbol that the region is a safer and more prosperous place when the United States and T&T work together to confront shared challenges, which indeed we do share and the challenges that we confront to dismantle illegal networks.” The ambassador added that cooperation between the countries was needed to deal with issues of criminality.
— Compiled by Devika Ragoonanan