Caribbean GIS Community to gather in Barbados

Des Plaines, IL USA (July 26, 2016) -  The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA)  is pleased to present the Eighth Caribbean GIS Conference in Barbados this September 4-8, 2016. The conference is organized by a committee of Caribbean GIS experts, who dedicate considerable time and energy to developing an important educational program. The conference features more than 60 speakers, an exhibition and a number of valuable professional development and networking opportunities. We are particularly pleased to host the UN-GGIM International Forum on Geospatial Information and Services for Disasters during the conference this year.

An abundance of education will be featured during the conference, including a one-day (Tuesday) focused program track, developed in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) that will explore best practices for utilizing GIS and other tools to prepare, respond, and manage disasters:

Improving Caribbean Disaster Preparedness and Response through Geospatial Services : Bringing disaster management specialists and geospatial professionals together under one roof, this is a fantastic opportunity to match mapping and analysis practice against the challenges faced to be more resilient before and after disasters. Through presentations, discussions and hands on experience, this offers practical IM solutions in a one day focused program track and complements strategic issues discussed at the UNGGIM special meeting, all to help the region to use GIS effectively to be better prepared against natural disasters.

A program outline follows, but take time to review the entire conference program, including speaker profiles and session details, online:  

Optional pre-conference courses and meetings begin on Sunday, September 4 and Monday, September 5.

  • From Sensor to Internet: Processing, Analysis, Compression and Distribution in the Geospatial Information Life Cycle - Sponsored by Hexagon Geospatial
  • Modernizing Land Administration Systems - Sponsored by Esri
  • Mobile, Web and Server GIS: Field to Finish (Two-day workshop) - Sponsored by Spatial Innovision
  • Introduction to Smart M.App - Sponsored by Hexagon Geospatial
  • Half-Day Workshop: Intro to Python
  • Half-Day Workshop: Mastering the Spatial Analyst Extension
  • Cartography and Geo-Visualization
  • Mobile, Web and Server GIS: Field to Finish (Day 2 of 2)

The conference is excited to host the  URISA Caribbean GIS Mapathon. This activity will support Missing Maps and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) in mapping vulnerable areas of the Caribbean.

Tuesday's agenda features a keynote address delivered by Chris Sheldrick, Co-Founder and CEO of What3Words. His talk "The World Addressed with 3 Words," will discuss how poor addressing around the world hampers the growth and development of entire nations.
In addition to the Disaster Preparedness and Response all-day track, the conference will showcase these sessions:

  • UAV: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…
  • Marine Mapping and Navigation Technologies
  • Participatory GIS for Better Decision-Making and Communication
  • It All Starts with the Data
  • Trending GIS in 3Ds – Data Capture, Data Storage and Data Visualization
  • Using GIS to More Effectively Manage Today’s Utility Companies
  • Geospatial Technologies – Protecting Our Heritage, Shaping Our World
  • Why is Engaging the Public So Important?
  • Young Professionals: How to Move Forward in a GIS Career (Special note: YPs in the Caribbean are making a distinct impact on the profession. We are pleased to support their discussions in Barbados!)

Wednesday begins with a keynote address from Tyler Radford, Executive Director of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap, on the topic of Crowdsourced Mapping for Disaster Response.
Then, take advantage of breakout sessions including:

  • Current Trends in GIS and GIS for Land Administration
  • Implementation of Enterprise GIS for National Security from Start to Finish
  • Utilizing Geospatial Strategies to Benefit Coastal Resources Management in the Caribbean
  • Enhancing Social and Economic Development Strategies with GIS Technology
  • Geospatial Mapping Tools for Habitat Mapping, Analysis and Decision Support
  • Mapping the Future with a Look from the Past

The day will end with an engaging panel to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities that Funding Agencies face working with local governments and consultants throughout the Caribbean before the always memorable Evening Social Event.

The conference continues on Thursday morning with the Caribbean GIS High Level Forum and more breakout sessions:

  • Addressing the Social Needs: GIS—A Powerful Enabler
  • Applications of Geospatial Technologies in Disaster Management

URISA's 2016 Caribbean GIS Conference will close with a discussion to address strengthening regional collaboration and the always-energetic URISA Caribbean Ignite!

Exhibitors and sponsors are an important part of the conference with enthusiastic conversations about technology solutions. In particular, we appreciate the generous sponsorship of Esri, Spatial Innovision, GeoOrbis, Hexagon Geospatial and GeoTechVision.

The conference is taking place at the Hilton Barbados and discounted sleeping rooms are available until August 15 or until the block sells out, whichever occurs first. Register for the conference and make your travel plans right away!

Click here for complete conference information.

OECS Ministers concerned about impact of de-risking

Finance ministers from the Eastern Caribbean have undertaken a commitment to tackling the “existential threat” of de-risking. The disclosure came on the heels of the just-concluded Eastern Caribbean Central Bank’s Monetary Council meeting here on Friday.

The finance ministers expressed concern about the negative impact that de-risking would have on their respective economies.

De-risking refers to the process of financial institutions closing accounts of clients that are believed to be high risk for money laundering or terrorist financing. A June 2016 International Monetary Fund publication—“The Withdrawal of Correspondent Banking Relationships: A Case for Policy Action”—said at least 16 banks in the region across five countries have lost all or some of their correspondent banking relationships (CBRs) as of May 2016.

According to the IMF, several institutions in Barbados, The Bahamas, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago have had corresponding banking relationships terminated. The document notes that many of these jurisdictions have reportedly been able to find replacement CBRs or have been able to rely on their remaining ones.

“The full extent of the impact has yet to be quantified, but the unmeasured effect has been a loss in business confidence and in the ease of some basic transactions. The main CBR providers in the Caribbean are located in the United States, Canada, and to a lesser extent Europe and the Caribbean,” the document stated.

Antigua & Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who assumed chairmanship of the Council, spoke extensively on the subject during the one-day meeting. He said while several regional banks would have been de-linked from the international payment system, he is not aware that any country has been totally de-linked.

“We’re saying that we cannot sit on our laurels and allow it go get that far,” Browne said. “It is a serious threat to the region and we have to fight it and to make sure that there is no further such de-risking.”

The Antiguan leader told reporters that the ECCB Governor, Timothy Antoine, has written several of the corresponding banks requesting a hold on any further de-risking as the Monetary Council seeks to convene a stakeholder conference later this year. After calling it a “worrying development” during the opening ceremony, he later told reporters that even though member states have not yet seen serious effects of de-risking, the governments are keen on implementing preventative measures to eliminate this “existential threat.”

“It is really an existential threat, but if it continues unabated, then the implications are very clear,” Browne said, adding that there could be implications for remittances and other areas. He noted that there are other serious human consequences including difficulties paying for education, medicines and healthcare in general and even in terms of importing food.

“In Antigua and Barbuda’s case, 90 per cent of what we consume is actually imported and 80 per cent of that comes from the United States. So if we’re unable to settle our bills in US currency, then it has implications even for imports. Again, what we’re doing, we’re fighting the issue before it gets to that stage,” he said at a press conference.

According to a communiqué issued upon the conclusion of the sub-regional meeting, the Council was updated on recent of de-risking by global banks and noted that correspondent banking relationships are critical for enabling key financial and economic transactions like remittances, foreign direct investments and international trade in goods and services. According to the document, such services contribute significantly to the region’s growth and development.

“Council therefore agreed that urgent and ongoing discussions on correspondent banking relations geared towards promoting financial inclusion, trade facilitation in the global market and monetary policy in general is required,” Browne said as he read from the communiqué.

He told reporters the finance ministers approved the ECCB’s assumption of full responsibility for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulation of all institutions under the Banking Act.

They also agreed, where applicable, to recommend to governments within the jurisdiction that necessary regulations be issued to confer authority on the ECCB for AML/CFT regulation. Earlier, during the opening ceremony, outgoing Chairman, Anguillian Chief Minister Victor Banks said —the Council, being aware of de-risking’s potentially negative impact, agreed to a joint approach in addressing the matter.

Such an approach would include advocacy through political and diplomatic channels, use of SWIFT registry by indigenous banks, consolidation of the banking sector and, possibly, the establishment of a Caribbean Bank in United States.


As published in Trinidad Guardian

Brexit impact on UK-Caribbean Trade Relations

The next article in our series on Brexit is by Andrea M. Ewart, Esq. of DevelopTradeLaw, LLC, out of Washington, D.C. The article captures Ms. Ewart's concerns for the Caribbean region regarding the impact of Brexit on the EPA.

Even as Britons woke up to the reality of their vote, the rest of the world also needed to come to terms with the possible impact of Brexit. This is no less true for the Caribbean.

Should the UK act on the vote and formally request to leave the EU, this begins a two-year negotiating process of the terms of a new EU-UK relationship. Britain’s trade relations with the Caribbean region have been shaped through the lens of its EU membership. Regional leaders need to begin to anticipate the possible impact of Brexit on UK-Caribbean trade relations.

Currently, these relations are formed by the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The parties are, on the one hand, CARICOM and the Dominican Republic (CARIFORUM), and on the other, the 27 EU partners (including the UK).

It is true that each country has expressly committed to provide a specific level of access to the region’s goods and services. So, the rate at which a bottle of rum from Barbados, for example, will enter Britain could remain unchanged.

However, the EPA also contains EU-wide provisions for development cooperation and assistance to the region. EU-wide institutions have been created jointly with CARIFORUM to support EPA implementation and delivery of EU assistance.

Here are some questions the region will need to begin to consider and seek answers to:
• Will Britain decide it wants to renegotiate the terms of the EPA?
• Will Britain want to change the terms of its participation in the program for development assistance and cooperation?
• What will the EU position be toward any attempts by Britain to change EPA terms?
• What does the region want and how will it position itself to achieve those goals?

In addition, Britain remains a key market for many of the region’s products and services. The decline in the pound has made these more expensive. One impact we can anticipate is a decrease in exports to Britain.

Observers expect Britain to become very inward-looking in the next couple of years as it shapes its post-EU future. This makes it more imperative for the region to loudly advocate for a united position aimed at minimizing the potential negative impacts of Brexit.

US congress seeks to strengthen embargo against Cuba

WASHINGTON, USA (ACN) -- The US House of Representatives was the scene of a new maneuver by the anti-Cuban lobby that managed to include sanctions against the Caribbean nation in the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill.

Some representatives openly opposed to the rapprochement between Havana and Washington continued their anti-Cuba campaign after managing to obtain the removal last week of amendments that would allow US citizens to travel freely to Cuba and make agricultural trade viable without current conditions of payment in cash and in advance.

In the text that appeared in the House of Representatives, far from eliminating the economic, commercial and financial sanctions against Cuba, the position towards Cuba on issues such as the ban on travel to Cuba for certain educational exchanges in the called people-to-people exchanges is intensified.

Among the amendments adopted as part of the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill is the banning of imports related to nationalizations made by the Cuban government.

The ban on financial transactions involving Cuban military, as well as funds to approve the licensing of trademarks, trade names or names that have been confiscated by the Cuban government without the express consent of the United States, are also among the purposes of anti-Cuban lobby in Washington.

Despite the inclusion of these amendments against Cuba, the result of pressure from Congresspersons Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the Appropriations Committee; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, there is still a long way for the sanctions to become law.

As part of a debate on its own bill of financial services, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment presented by Democrat senators Patrick Leahy and Jerry Moran that seeks to allow US farmers to increase private funding for the export of agricultural products to Cuba.

Another one, presented by the senators and approved by voice vote, proposes to lift the ban on travel to the island.

In reviewing the texts that are formulated in the House of Representatives and the Senate on the 2017 House Financial Services and General Government Bill, differences in the content is acknowledged, so they should be submitted to the Congressional Conference Committee, where Democrats and Republicans will reconcile a final text that then must be voted in both chambers.

The fact that the Senate text has amendments that allow travel by US citizens to Cuba and restrictions are lifted in exports of agricultural products to Cuba, while the House measures intensify the embargo in those areas, will no doubt be used by both parties as reasons for a political fight over the budget legislation.

Diaz-Balart told US media that "there is bipartisan support in the House to strengthen the sanctions and reject the pacifying policy" as evidenced by the adoption of the legislative proposal that "contains multiple clauses to strengthen sanctions."

However, the congressional newspaper The Hill predicted that President Barack Obama would veto the law – if approved with its current text by Congress – not because of travel to Cuba but because several pieces of the bill put a check to important government initiatives.

Cuba is the only country in the world to which US citizens are prohibited to travel as tourists, so only a limited number of them are authorized to travel to the island, under certain licenses.

Cuban authorities have said that the normalization of relations between the two countries will go through the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba, which now the House of Representatives intends to intensify, and the return of the territory occupied by the US in Guantanamo, among other topics.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

Brexit and the Caribbean entrepreneurial environment

By Jessie Dirpaul and Dav-Ernan Kowlessar

Preamble: Most of us have been bombarded with discussions and perspectives on Brexit since the period leading up to the referendum, and of course the post-Brexit decision to leave the European Union. The CAIC Secretariat team is beginning this dialogue to look at the opportunities created by this impending move and offers the following as a baseline discussion platform; which we will be building on over the next few weeks, then facilitating action over the ensuing period…….This is also timely as the CAIC also sits on the Consultative Committee of the Cariforum-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and as Vice Chair of the Cariforum side, we want to build on the synergies you can create as we look at the markets in the Eastern Hemisphere….


On Thursday June 23rd, 2016 the British public voted against remaining in the European Union (EU) by a slim margin of 3.8 per cent. The following day, the pound sterling lost 10 per cent of its value, falling to its lowest since 1985. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who offered the referendum to the public during his 2013 electoral campaign, and who was on the side of “Bremain” announced his intention to resign following the outcome of the vote. Britain, now captained by Theresa May, who remained neutral throughout the referendum, has made it clear that the UK will exit the EU.

While the EU parliament awaits the invoking of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to begin the negotiations of Britain’s exit, and which may take up to two years, the rest of the world is left to make assumptions on the impact that Brexit will have. Given the Caribbean’s history and the preferential access to the EU, this position paper begins with a dialogue on the challenges and opportunities Brexit may have on trade, development and immigration for the Caribbean entrepreneur.

The Caribbean context

The Caribbean has a strong relationship with the EU as evidenced by the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, although there are many challenges on both sides with its implementation. The EPA, which is the only fully comprehensive EPA negotiated to date, was signed in October 2008. It is a trade and development accord between the CARIFORUM States, and the EU and its member states with the reciprocal grant of preferences by both sides.


The Caribbean, has a tumultuous history with Britain, beginning with its colonialization in the 18th Century. While there were Spanish, French, and Dutch influences, the Caribbean has had closer ties with the UK, trading in goods (and services) which later became subsumed when Britain joined the EU in 1973. The CARIFORUM-EU EPA, opened up new trading opportunities for CARICOM states and the Dominican Republic, apart from those that existed with the UK.

The Commonwealth, which is comprised of 53 member states, chiefly former territories of the British Empire, has as one of its objectives; free trade amongst its members. Prior to joining the EU, a Commonwealth multilateral trade agreement was being proposed but due to the weakened state of Britain following World War II, it was abandoned.

For the Caribbean, the export of goods to the UK has always been easier given the historical exports of sugar, rum, and bananas. Over the years, goods have declined as cheaper alternatives were found, particularly for sugar and bananas, with the Caribbean losing ground for its chief exports. Trade in Services on the other hand have had a much rougher landing in the UK, particularly in part due to the immigration restrictions, the lack of mutual recognition agreements and an all too new trading structure that has not stood the test of time.

The main exports from the Caribbean to the EU are in fuel and mining products, bananas, sugar and rum, minerals and fertilisers. In the last three years, exports to the EU have declined marginally while the imports from the EU have increased. While the EU may be one of the largest markets in the world, it is also a declining trade bloc. The Caribbean, though smaller in size, due to its economic, societal and environmental challenges is at the mercy of imports from foreign markets.

The decline in exports from the Caribbean show that commodities are declining while service exports are increasing. Despite this upward trend, movement of services from the Caribbean to the EU encounters challenges to enter the market. We can assume that Brexit will not change what currently exists for entry of services into the UK market given the tight restrictions of the UK Border Control and requirements for a work visa, and the growing anti-immigrant sentiment settling in.

Nevertheless, the Caribbean should not have difficulty with trade in goods as the Caribbean community comprises of five per cent of the UK population, hailing primarily from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Barbados. Goods from the Caribbean would be in demand to at least satisfy this UK minority.

There is a major effect to be felt from foreign exchange derived through tourism. The traditional UVP of the Caribbean is sun, sand, sea, we have moved beyond this to create experiences in our tourism offering as the Mediterranean and outlying regions compete with the Caribbean for majestic beaches, and sunshine.

However, we can posit that, as a bloc, exports to the rest of the EU would decline on the basis of the UK being removed as the chief importer in the EU. This in turn creates an opportunity for the Caribbean to re-engage and renegotiate the UK to increase Caribbean imports to satisfy their market, whilst capitalising on the EU minus Britain market.


The EPA has a development component that would see aid come from the EU to improve the developing countries of CARIFORUM. Again this has been in part due to the UK and their contribution to the EU. Despite the fears surrounding a reduction of aid for development, the Commonwealth objectives once more come to the forefront as it relates to the UK, which is aimed at improving the conditions of the member states of the Commonwealth. While the EPA has a part to play, the collective of the United Nations should not be discounted as a generous portion is doled out to the region in achieving sustainable development, of which countries like Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana have accessed.

While the British brand has taken a knock from Brexit, seeing its currency reach a 31-year low, and their judgement questioned, it is still one of the more developed nations, having been the centre of a vast empire some 200 years ago. Following Brexit, Britain will have to renew confidence in its brand and as for aid in development, it is difficult to determine whether the aid outlined in the EPA will come to pass especially since the agreement was signed in 2008 and eight years later there has not been much progress made, except for signing of multimillion Euro projects that have yet to be implemented.

Whilst waiting for aid to come from the EU and to see what aid can be negotiated from the UK, the Caribbean entrepreneur is meant to utilise the implemented agreements to expand his global brand. Agencies have been created to filter down the funds received from the EU to enhance MSMEs who are at a greater disadvantage. While there are success stories, they are few and far between. If this is the aid we are expecting to develop our businesses and enter new markets, it is best we forge ahead with the aid of our government agencies and private sector organisations.


The relationship with the EU and UK is one where the Caribbean is the beneficiary. The British passport is considered to be one of the more powerful passports in the world, giving the traveller visa-free access to 157 borders. On the other side, travel from the Caribbean into Europe has its restrictions. In 2015 there was a waiver of visa for short-term travel in the Schengen area. Some Caribbean nations require visas to travel to UK, while others have agreements for visa-free travel such as Guyana and Russia.

It is expected that Brexit will not hinder travel to the Schengen area since the UK is not one of the 26 countries in the Schengen area. The stance of pro-Brexit supporters to immigrants, was that Britain should have better control over who they allow into the country. While this was related mostly to the movement of persons between the UK and mainland Europe, approximately 50.5 per cent of immigrants are from outside of the EU. One of the pillars of the EU is the free movement of labour, which is also a fundamental of CARICOM except that it was indeed free movement in the case of the EU. CARICOM on the other hand has many immigration challenges to contend with before free movement of labour can be realised.

As far as immigration between the Caribbean and the UK are concerned, for personal travel the situation will not be greatly affected as strict conditions exist in the points-based system for obtaining a British visa. The Caribbean entrepreneur will also be subjected to utilise the points-based system to access the market for business whether it be trade in goods or services. With a move to more service-oriented businesses attempting to access the European market, conditions will remain the same as the Caribbean region has not been invited to engage in free movement of labour, although the EU did cater in the EPA for movement of natural persons.

While Britain is expected to look to other powers such as the US and Canada, with the Caribbean lower on their agenda whilst establishing relations with the other 27 member states of the EU, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty allows Britain two years in which to hammer out the terms of their departure. This means that the forecasted period in which Britain would pay attention to the Caribbean, is actually shorter. While Britain would now be free to, and would need to establish trade agreements with the rest of the world, the Caribbean perceived value may feature higher than predicted on Britain’s agenda.

The facts already exist, we cannot do much with them; analysis, opinions and predictions will continue to be manufactured but it is time to move beyond that and stop waiting to see what will become fact. Whether Britain does manage to untangle itself and get out of the EU with more than just pride inside is not something we should concern ourselves in the Caribbean with, since history had already cast its future as we quote Winston Churchill "If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea”

The business environment is not the same as the political will, in a recent statement Alphabet Executive Chairman said that it does not mean a change (in job placements at least) for Google in Continental Europe. However, business is as well about predictions on the future, how customers will behave and what are the emerging opportunities for entrepreneurs.



Trinidad, region says goodbye to Patrick Manning

The life of former Trinidad and Tobago prime minister Patrick Manning was honoured yesterday in a State funeral at which hundreds shed tears, but also smiled and even laughed, as family and close friends shared their memories and spoke about his accomplishments.

The tributes that began when Manning died on July 2, just a day after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood and bone marrow cancer, were reiterated and expanded at the three-hour service at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the twin-island republic’s capital.

There were also calls for his legacy to be honoured through the revival of CARICOM and creation of a fund to assist CARICOM Member States.

Delivering the eulogy, his son, Brian Manning, proposed a fund in honour of his “hero”.

“My father lived a life of love and service, not focused on the accumulation of wealth but where the world was left a better place, and no other reason. My father was my hero,” he told the congregation that included local and regional politicians, regional officials, and supporters of the People’s National Movement (PNM) which Manning led up until 2010.

“I would like, with the approval of the government of Trinidad and Tobago, to establish at the International Financial Centre a fund designed to finance the construction of homes for low-income earners region wide, in recognition of my father’s spirit of generosity and support for our Caribbean neighbours.

“This fund will appropriately be called the Patrick Manning Development Fund and would be made accessible to every member of CARICOM and also, include our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and, of course, Cuba,” he added.

President Anthony Carmona added that it would be a “committed gesture to his legacy” if CARICOM leaders resuscitated the integration movement “charted by Mr Manning’s vision of the Caribbean as being a potent force on the world stage”.

For his part, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley described Manning as one of Trinidad and Tobago’s finest sons, who made public service honourable.

“[He] must have heard what John F Kennedy had said – ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’. He answered that question, even to his last,” he said.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who visited Manning in hospital a few days before his death, was one of several regional leaders and dignitaries who travelled for the funeral. Others included St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allan Chastanet, Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell, former prime minister of Grenada, Tillman Thomas, The Bahamas’ former leader Hubert Ingraham, and CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin La Rocque.

Gonsalves, whose friendship with Manning began in the 1960s when they attended the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, spoke of the love he had for his “real tight political buddy” and fellow August-born, and criticized those who had turned on the man who gave decades of service to the twin-island republic and the region.

“I loved him very much,” he said.

Following the service, there was a private ceremony for Manning’s family and his body was cremated at Belgroves Funeral Home in Tacarigua, in the East-West Corridor of the country.

Although Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs, Stuart Young said last Thursday that Manning’s family had requested that his body find its final resting place at the Holy Trinidad Cathedral and government was “in conversation with the Anglican Church”, Anglican Bishop Claude Berkley told reporters yesterday after the funeral service that the request did not come from the Manning family.

“This has come from different persons but is now represented by arms of the State,” he said.

Berkley also noted that there was a section of the church grounds for ashes but none for burial.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

CARICOM to continue robust advocacy against de-risking

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is advancing its efforts to address de-risking and its effects on the region and heads of government have taken the decision to approach the government of the United States directly.

caricom-logo.jpg Prime minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, briefed the media on the subject on Wednesday afternoon, the final day of the two-day 37th regular meeting of the conference of heads of government of CARICOM held in Georgetown, Guyana.

Holness added that the meeting also agreed to increase the region’s voice in various international fora as well as to enlist the support of friendly countries.

At a subsequent press conference at the conclusions of the meeting, president of Guyana, David Granger, pointed to the latest developments with respect to the loss of corresponding banking arrangements that were severely affecting member states. It remained a very serious issue that the region had to find a solution to, given its effect on financial and trading systems in particular, he said.

A communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting pointed out that the heads of government emphasised that correspondent banking was an important global public good and that the current de-risking strategy was discriminatory and counter-intuitive to good public policy. They re-iterated that CARICOM’s trade, economic welfare and the transfer of remittances were gravely affected by the de-risking strategies of foreign banks.

Heads of government agreed that CARICOM would continue its robust and unrelenting advocacy on the issue and that the Committee of Ministers of Finance on Correspondent Banking should maintain the current high level engagement.

The heads also agreed to host a global stakeholder conference on the impact of the withdrawal of correspondent banking on the region, which would include banks and regulators from the region, the United States, Canada and Europe, international development partners and representatives from civil society.

De-risking is international banks’ withdrawal from their relationships with indigenous banks because of fears of money laundering and questionable sources of funds which would cause the international banks to receive heavy fines from their regulators. Regional banking institutions rely on such relationships in order to allow residents to conduct international financial transactions. The issue has been occupying the attention of regional policymakers, following signals by international banks that they are unwilling to continue carrying the business of regional banks.

Transfers of remittances, cheque payments, international trade and the facilitation of credit card settlements for local clients are among the areas that have been affected by de-risking.

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has quoted a November World Bank survey as saying that about 75 percent of international banks have experienced a reduction in correspondent banking services, with the Caribbean being the worst affected.

Reports are that eight financial institutions in Barbados, about seven in Jamaica and five in Belize have been affected by a termination of or restriction in correspondent banking relationship.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

UK may join its Caribbean territories as tax havens after Brexit

LONDON, England -- Once free of European Union strictures following its exit from the EU, European finance ministers and financial experts have expressed concern that Brexit could prompt a “race to the bottom” on tax policy, with the UK joining its Caribbean territories as a tax haven type of economy.

Finance minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, announced that Britain would slash its corporate tax rates to one of the lowest of any major economy, in a bid to avoid what he called a “DIY recession” after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported.

The tax rate would be cut from 20 percent to less than 15 percent by 2020 in a bid to attract continued international investment after the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU.

According to Reuters, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) head of tax, Pascal Saint-Amans, warned in a memo written around the time of the Brexit vote that “the negative impact of the Brexit on UK competitiveness may push the UK to be even more aggressive in its tax offer" and that "a further step in that direction would really turn the UK into a tax haven type of economy."

Even before the vote, Britain was in the process of lowering the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 17 percent to make itself a more attractive destination for multinational corporate headquarters. The still lower rate announced by Osborne is a sure sign that the UK’s exit from the EU will redouble its resolve to maintain London’s status as Europe’s premier financial centre.

“The UK had been fairly aggressive in going after US companies like Starbucks and Google over their tax bills, I think they will be much more friendly to them now,” said Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Experts have long suspected that a British exit could lead to the adoption of tax haven-like policies beyond lower corporate tax rates, particularly in the financial services industry, in a bid to prop up the country’s finances in the wake of a potential post-Brexit economic slump.

Adam Posen, the director of the Peterson Institute, had warned that the UK’s departure from the EU would tempt the British government to adopt similar financial regulatory regimes as its famously opaque overseas territories.

In a Financial Times column written before the vote, Posen said that deregulating Britain's financial services industry would be the “the most obvious parachute” to a post-”Brexit” economic slowdown. “The people in power after a Leave vote would want to be seen to shore up the City and the economy in the face of the recession they had caused,” Posen concluded, “especially given an ideology that says deregulation is the avenue to prosperity.”

Although they are not subject to EU law, Caribbean jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands are British overseas territories and were repeatedly used by Mossack Fonseca, the law firm of Panama Papers fame, to shield the assets and identities of their clients.

But the UK and its overseas territories have adopted the OECD’s new Common Reporting Standard (CRS), which makes disclosure of tax residency information compulsory starting in 2016. Writing in the July issue of Taxes, a specialist publication, Brian D. Burton, an American attorney who has advised high-profile corporate clients in their dealings with the IRS, called 2016 “a landmark year for anti-tax avoidance and financial transparency initiatives,” citing the Panama Papers as an important source of information and political impetus for these efforts.

According to Hufbauer, it’s still clear which direction Britain is heading: “They won’t become more transparent. I don’t think they’ll do anything to make their system more opaque than it already is, but it’s definitely not going to go the other way either.”

However, Nicolas Veron, a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, the Brussels-based economics think-tank, who is also a visiting fellow at Peterson, pointed out that any regulatory changes would not happen overnight, since the decoupling of current financial regulations from EU-era norms would likely be a lengthy process. “Rather than a big bang, you’re going to have more of a gradual divergence,” he said.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

CARICOM to create new Prime Ministerial sub-committee on cricket

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- Effective governance of Caribbean cricket has long been an issue under the radar of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders and incoming CARICOM chairman, prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, told media operatives at a press conference held at the end of the 37th regular meeting of the conference of CARICOM heads on Wednesday evening that, having discussed cricket, a new prime ministerial sub-committee will be created.

“There were two before; one on governance issues and one of the larger issues confronting cricket… this is a new committee on cricket mandated to examine all matters relating to the development of cricket which is a very wide area of concentration,” Skerrit said.

In March, Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell threatened to step down as chairman of CARICOM’s sub-committee on cricket governance, after being at the forefront of spearheading efforts to affect the restructuring of the West Indies Cricket Board. He also endorsed the 2015 Barriteau Report provision, which recommended the immediate dissolution of the WICB.

At the 27th inter-sessional conference of heads of government held in Belize earlier in the year, leaders discussed the problems facing West Indies cricket, which include governance. At that meeting leaders signalled their intention to approach the International Cricket Council.

Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart then stated that heads of government had to intervene to protect the interests of the people in the region, in the face of a stand-off between the WICB and CARICOM heads of government. The stand-off was over the state of West Indies cricket and the issue of cricket governance.

During that summit, leaders also examined recommendations coming out of a report by a special cricket review panel chaired by professor and pro vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Dr Eudine Barriteau.

A final report of the review panel on the governance of cricket, which was issued in April last year, indicated that West Indies cricket had failed to evolve in a manner that accords with the exigencies of the modern game. The report also added that cricket continues to be governed by a structure that is not reflective of the transformation of the game elsewhere.

“This is especially evident in relation to the requirements of the player-coaching community, stakeholder investors, and the expectations of the Caribbean cricketing public. The existing governance structure, in its most essential features, remains closely aligned to its origins in the early 20th century when it was established to coordinate inter-colonial tournaments, select West Indian XIs and touring teams, than with the modern governance, administration and ongoing commercial progress of the industry of cricket in other parts of the world,” the report stated.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

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