UK's exit from EU a threat to the Caribbean, warns region's top academic

Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Sir Hilary Beckles has warned the region to brace for the impact of the United Kingdom’s (UK) break with the European Union (EU), as he predicted that every aspect of life in the Caribbean will be negatively affected.

The Brexit (British exit) vote last Thursday has already caused ripples across the world, with the value of the pound falling and stock markets dipping among the immediate effects.

And Sir Hilary says the region’s fragile economic recovery is now under threat and Britain’s exit should trigger immediate strategic regional reactions, even before Heads of Government meet in Guyana for their July 4 to 6 Summit.

“The predictable, highly individualistic action poses both a short-term as well as a long-term threat to the performance of CARICOM economies,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.

“From trade relations to immigration, tourism to financial relations, and cultural engagements to foreign policy, there will be a significant redefinition and reshaping of CARICOM-United Kingdom engagements,” Sir Hilary further warned, as he urged CARICOM to use the development to deepen and strengthen its internal operations and external relations with the wider world.

“It’s a moment for CARICOM to come closer together rather than drift apart. The region should not be seen as mirroring this mentality of cultural and political insularity, but should reaffirm the importance of regionalism within the global context for the future.”

Sir Hilary said the UWI will host a symposium this week to discuss the implications for the Caribbean, with a view to facilitating regional action ahead of the meeting in Guyana.

“This UK development should not be taken lightly. It should be fully researched as it constitutes an obvious structural threat to the sustainability of economic institutions in the region,” he said.

The top UWI official argued that on reaching the limits of emotional despair over how to manage its post-imperial, ethnic nationalism, and challenged to participate in the global world as an equal partner, the English have retreated to their traditional identity base at the expense of every other consideration.

“It has taken this strategic step in order to go forward as old England versus the world. This is a desperate attempt to reinvent a still idealized past in which Englishness is celebrated as a distinct standard not to be entangled or diminished by deep association,” he said.

“Those driving the ‘Leave’ agenda knew very well the likelihood of broad-based negative global effects of their option, but chose to jettison external obligations, a critical feature of hyper-conservative, extreme nationalism.”

On the heels of the referendum, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he would step down in October.

He had urged the country to vote “remain”, but that campaign was defeated 52 per cent to 48 per cent, although London, Scotland and Northern Ireland backed staying in.

However, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested the Scottish Parliament could be able to keep Britain from enacting the referendum decision if it withholds legislative consent.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

Jamaica prepares to tap into climate change fund

Jamaica is preparing to tap into US$10.3 billion available to fund climate change adaptation and mitigation projects.

The country is joining 200 other developing states in formulating viable proposals to access financing from the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Based in South Korea, the GCF was founded as a mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

Jamaica has, so far, submitted a proposal to the GCF for readiness financing amounting to US$300,000.

According to Principal Director of the Climate Change Division in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Albert Daley, this will assist with financing “to help to put in place the system and the procedures to enable the country to access funding, training, public awareness, and setting up the work programme.”

“We are hoping to get word from the GCF before the end of the month and if that happens, we will be well on our way with some funds to start put in place what we need to do to prepare ourselves to get proposals out, hopefully by early next year and thereafter,” he added.

Daley explained that “this is the preliminary funding necessary to help us get our house in order”.

The principal director said that while there are no time restrictions for submitting proposals, “those who are in the line first are most likely to get the funding that they need”, so Jamaica has to move swiftly to put the appropriate measures in place in order to access the funds available.

“So, we want to get in line very quickly and that is why we are very keen on having this workshop to sensitise our government agencies as to how they can contribute to the process of developing good projects,” he said.

Daley said it is expected that more funds will be made available over time to the GCF. It is anticipated that by 2020, at least US$100 billion will be available each year for climate financing.

“We want to be prepared to be able to access funding that’s available, not just from GCF but any other entity that has funding,” he said.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

St Maarten to host CaribNOG 12

WILLEMSTAD, Curacao -- St Maarten will host the twelfth meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) from October 24 to 26. CaribNOG is the Caribbean’s first volunteer-based community of network engineers, computer security experts and tech aficionados.

The three-day gathering is part of a larger event called Internet Week SX, which continues until October 28.

The Internet Week is organised by CaribNOG, the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Registry (LACNIC), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the St Maarten telecommunications regulator (BTP).

The event dates were announced at the second Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum, held at the Renaissance Resort and Casino, Willemstad, Curacao from June 7 to 10.

“At the twelfth regional gathering of CaribNOG, we’re expecting a large turnout of network operators, telecommunications regulators, academics, Internet service providers, engineering and computer science students, special interest groups and government representatives, drawn from across the region and around the world,” said Bevil Wooding, one of founders of CaribNOG.

Wooding is also the Caribbean Outreach Manager of Packet Clearing House, a US-based non-profit firm that has worked closely with CaribNOG and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, an inter-governmental organisation, to actively promote and support the growth of critical internet infrastructure across the Caribbean.

“CaribNOG 12 is being hosted in conjunction with a two-day event by LACNIC and ISOC, and that’s deliberate,” said Stephen Lee, CaribNOG’s program director. “The ongoing collaboration between regional Internet organisations is critical to increase regional awareness of Internet policy and related global developments.”

Kevon Swift, head of strategic relations and integration at LACNIC, said the collaboration between LACNIC and CaribNOG played a key role in enhancing the technical capacity of the region: “These types of meetings are important forums to tackle the technology issues affecting Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

IDB: Regional growth hampered by savings crisis

Latin America and the Caribbean faces a savings crisis, with fiscal and demographic realities making the outlook worse in the coming years, according to a new study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) released here today.

The region faces major fiscal challenges in the years ahead and the report argues that more savings is a key element to ensure both economic growth and resilience.

The gross national saving rate in Latin America and the Caribbean was just 17.5 percent of GDP between 1980 and 2014, far below the 33.7 percent for Emerging Asia and 22.8 percent for advanced economies. Only sub-Saharan Africa saved less, at 13.8 percent.

The report analyzes the reasons behind the region’s chronically low savings by households and governments, and its economic impacts, from behavioural biases among individuals to structural inadequacies in financial systems and fiscal budgets. It also looks at inefficiencies in savings by firms, which invest too little.

On the upside, the book provides a roadmap for policymakers and other key actors to reverse the situation to bring savings rates more in line with successful economies. The IDB said even small gains in savings could have big impacts.

For instance, for every percentage point increase in national saving, domestic investment in the region increased by almost 0.4 percent. This means US$20 billion in more money available to finance vital infrastructure projects, the IDB said.

“We can’t just shrug off our poor savings rates by saying we are bad at putting money away,” said IDB Chief Economist José Juan Ruiz. “This book shows governments, businesses and even families have it within their power to ensure we have the resources we need during the bad times and the good times, and to care for an aging population.”

The book, Saving for Development: How Latin America and the Caribbean Can Save More and Better, is part of the IDB’s flagship Development In the Americas series. It lays out the big gaps in the savings system in the region.

It noted that pension systems are another savings constraint. Less than half the population in Latin America and the Caribbean saves for retirement through a contributory pension system, a problem that, unless corrected, will get worse as the population ages.

“The savings crisis means the region is struggling to find the resources needed to finance new and much-needed airports, ports, roads and other infrastructure that can boost future growth. The region must increase investment by between 2 and 4 percentage points of GDP per year (depending on the country) for decades to loosen this binding constraint to growth, or by between US$100 billion and US$200 billion a year,” the IDB said.

It added that fiscal policy has also impacted savings, noting that governments spend too much on current expenditures such as subsidies, and too little on capital investments. The IDB said that recent economic downturns have made this worse as governments have opted to cut investment spending.

“The agenda to get countries to save more can seem overwhelming, requiring us to act on many fronts,” said IDB lead economist Eduardo Cavallo, one of the book’s coordinators and editors. “It may seem more convenient to rely on foreigners to provide us with their surplus savings. The book shows this is not a viable option anymore. Saving more and better will allow us to stand on our own two feet, and provide resources for people to achieve their aspirations.”

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

Regional rum industry endorses call for action on cover-over subsidies

Representatives of the rum industry meeting in Jamaica recently have endorsed a call to action by Guyana’s President David Granger, for the region to use its diplomatic strength to help resolve the danger posed to the survival of the industry through the tax rebates passed on to rum producers in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands (USVI).

The US government makes annual payments to the two territories out of federal excise taxes. So, when rum is produced in either the USVI or Puerto Rico and then sold in the US, the federal excise tax on that rum is returned to its place of production.

According to President Granger, these cover-over subsidies pose an immediate threat to the long term viability of the rum industry, a sector of tremendous social and economic importance to Caribbean economies.

He said Caribbean countries stand to lose US$700 million per annum in export earnings and taxes, with up to 15,000 jobs being affected unless the situation is addressed. In the case of Guyana, he said, it was in the national interest to ensure survival and sustainability of the industry noting that the industry must be protected and preserved in the face of this peril.

Granger was speaking at the launch of the Demerara Distillers 50th Anniversary Edition Rum in Georgetown.

Speaking after the meeting, Chairman of the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association (WIRSPA), Frank Ward, said producers “were very encouraged by the President’s statement”.

“The group is extremely concerned about the situation in the US market where some of our producers have already experienced significant losses,” he said.

“We believe this is the most significant threat ever faced by our industry and one most likely to impact on profitability and our ability to earn foreign exchange and maintain employment. Not only are we seeing the effects in the US market, but in other markets as well as the product moves around, which means that our producers will also face new disadvantages in these markets.”

Following discussions among producers in Jamaica, he said, WIRSPA hoped that the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) would address the matter again during their next meeting later in the year. He said WIRSPA stood ready to apprise them of the latest developments in the markets and to seek their continuing support.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

Cuba-EU human rights dialogue moves forward despite differences

HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) -- A round of talks on human rights between Cuba and the European Union (EU) was held in Havana on Sunday, June 6, when, despite profound differences, both parties agreed they had made advances.

According to the ministry of foreign affairs of Cuba (MINREX), the discussions were presided over by Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union's special representative for human rights, and Ambassador Pedro Núñez Mosquera, general director of multilateral affairs and international law of MINREX.

The dialogue was aimed at creating areas of debate, expanding knowledge on the respective realities and exploring possibilities of cooperation in the fields where there were points of coincidence.

The delegations tackled specific issues of human rights as defined previously by the parties, both in the fields of civic and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural ones.

The Cuban ministry release stated there were profound differences in positions and points of view in several issues, but the talks were held in a respectful manner and they maintained a willingness to address any issue with full respect to sovereignty, independence, non-interference on the internal affairs of the parties and the reciprocal character of the talks.

Cuba expressed its interest in this dialogue to contribute to an efficient, constructive and non discriminatory human rights process, and to move forward in the process of having better relations between the Caribbean nation and the European bloc.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

Opposition wins St. Lucia election

By Caribbean News Now contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia -- The opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has won the general election in Saint Lucia, beating the ruling St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) 11 seats to six, effectively reversing the result of the last election in 2011.

According to the Electoral Office, 160,465 voters were eligible to cast ballots at the 430 polling stations across the island, choosing from among 39 candidates vying for the 17 seats in the country’s parliament.

The SLP of outgoing prime minister Dr Kenny Anthony and the UWP of businessman and former tourism minister Allen Chastanet both fielded full slates of 17 candidates.

Based on preliminary published figures, voter turnout was a modest 52.85 percent.

In his concession message, Anthony said he does not intend to serve as the leader of the opposition or as political leader of the SLP.

“I will, however, continue to serve my constituents of Vieux-Fort South and support my other Parliamentary colleagues in their various constituencies as they seek to protect the interests of their constituents,” he said.

The full constituency results are as follows:

Castries East – Philip J. Pierre
Castries South – Ernest Hilaire
Dennery North – Shawn Edward
Laborie SLP – Alva Baptiste
Vieux-Fort South – Dr Kenny Anthony
Vieux-Fort North – Moses Jn Baptiste

Anse La Raye-Canaries – Dominic Fedee
Babonneau – Ezekiel Joseph
Castries Central – Sarah Flood-Beaubrun
Castries North – Stephenson King
Castries South East – Guy Joseph
Choiseul-Saltibus – Bradley John Felix
Dennery South – Edmund Estephane
Gros Islet – Lenard ‘Spider’ Montoute
Micoud North – Dr Gale Rigobert
Micoud South – Allen Chastanet
Soufriere-Fond St Jacques – Herold Stanislas

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

Cuba says it won't rejoin OAS while Venezuela threatened with suspension

In a show of solidarity with long-time ally Venezuela, Cuban President Raul Castro says his country will not return to the Organization of American States (OAS), which he recently called “an instrument of imperialist domination.”

Cuba was expelled from the OAS in 1962, but following a recent thaw in relations with the US it was suggested that the Caribbean communist country might return.

Castro nevertheless appeared to rule that out, offering instead “our most firm solidarity to our brothers the Venezuelan people, to the legitimate government of President Nicolas Maduro.”

Maduro is currently locked in a dispute with the OAS over opposition demands in Venezuela for a recall referendum.

OAS Secretary-General Luis Almargo said last week that “the institutional crisis in Venezuela demands immediate changes in the actions of the executive branch.”

He has called an emergency meeting of the OAS at which member states will decide whether to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which could lead to Venezuela’s suspension from the regional group.

The OAS head wants members to evaluate whether Venezuela has suffered an “unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order.”

Venezuelan opposition politicians urged the OAS to call the meeting.

Maduro reacted angrily, accusing the OAS of “foreign intervention” and ordering it to leave Venezuela and the Americas.

He also said he would bring charges against the leaders of Congress who had requested the OAS to intervene, saying they had betrayed the nation.

The Maduro administration has been coming under increasing pressure to work with the opposition-controlled National Assembly to ease the political and economic tension in the South American country.

The two sides have been engaged in a stand-off since the opposition coalition won control of the National Assembly in parliamentary elections in December.

Opposition politicians say their every move is thwarted by the Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council, bodies they allege have been stacked with Maduro supporters.

They say there is no separation of powers and that under Maduro’s leadership and that of his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, the judiciary has become an enforcer of the executive branch.

They point to the fact that the Supreme Court blocked key legislation, such as an amnesty law which would have freed jailed opposition politicians, as evidence of what they say is a misuse of power by Maduro.

Opposition politicians also accuse the president of trying to block a key recall referendum which could see Venezuelans vote on whether they want Maduro to finish his term or be removed from office.

A National Assembly delegation met recently with OAS head Almagro to ask him to invoke the Inter-American democratic charter.

Under the charter, the OAS secretary-general can call a meeting of the OAS Permanent Council to address situations where he or she considers that a member state’s democratic order is at risk.

If two thirds of OAS members consider that Venezuela’s government has undermined democracy, the country will be suspended from the OAS.

The meeting is expected to coincide with the meeting of the OAS General Assembly in the Dominican Republic between 13 and 15 June.

Relations between the OAS and Venezuela have been strained for years but worsened in recent months as Maduro and Almagro traded insults.

Maduro accused the OAS head of being a CIA agent, while Almagro said that preventing the recall referendum from going ahead made Maduro “another petty dictator.”

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

Caribbean states need to work harder on unity, says ACS Secretary General

HAVANA, Cuba (ACN) -- The secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Alfonso Múnera said that, despite advances in unity by the member states of the bloc, they are not enough to overcome the great challenges the region faces today.

During his opening speech at the seventh ACS summit in Havana on Saturday, Múnera said the Greater Caribbean must deal with decisive moments in the face of huge challenges, since the island nations are at a disadvantage in world markets competing against international multinationals.

He pointed out that a new factor jeopardizes the fate of the region, climate change, because it has a terrible impact on all countries in the Caribbean Sea basin. He mentioned the growing ferocity of hurricanes that wreak havoc in the region, and the loss of useful land to the rising sea levels.

“Only together we will be able to face successfully the problems we have,” he said.

Achieving unity is hard, he acknowledged, and though we have made progress, it is not enough still. He said it was important to create a sense of unity amidst diversity and to build a Caribbean identity that doesn't exclude others, but encourages them.

He ascribed great importance to the ACS to reduce the rising disparity, to reaffirm commitments to peace and to achieve better societies.

Múnera thanked Cuba and especially President Raul Castro for organizing this summit, and the permanent support to the organization

The Colombian diplomat has led the ACS for four years, and will pass the job next August to St Lucia’s Ambassador June Soomer.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

CARICOM Competition Commission probes CWC takeover of Columbus

CARICOM’s Competition Commission (CCC) has launched an investigation into the acquisition of by Cable and Wireless Communications Plc (CWC) to acquire Columbus International.

“The investigation will focus on the impact of the Agreement on competition in the telecommunications sector of members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) which comprise the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL),” it said in a statement.

“The Commission has appointed an investigating panel…to coordinate the investigation into this matter…The Commission expects to complete the investigation within 120 working days with the cooperation of all stakeholders.”

The Suriname-based CCC said the investigation follows the findings of a preliminary examination of the acquisition agreement.

Following the merger announcement, which saw CWC – at the time trading in the Caribbean as LIME– subsuming the regional operations of Columbus, the parent company of FLOW, ECTEL had expressed concerns about the impact it would have on the telecoms market in the Eastern Caribbean.

In March, it said that negotiations with Cable & Wireless regarding the company’s proposed merger with Columbus Communications International have ended without the parties coming to an amicable agreement.

While existing legislation does not give ECTEL the power to stop or put conditions on mergers and acquisitions in the telecommunications sector, the Authority had been working along with the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRCs) to reach agreement on several issues, ever since the merger was announced in November 2014.

Those issues included: the minimum speed and price for entry level broadband packages; maintaining an open Internet; sharing of telecommunications infrastructure for existing and new entrants to provide new services; and protection provisions to ensure customers are not disadvantaged by new services and pricing to be implemented following the merger.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

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