2004-10-21 / Caribbean Corner

carter pledges to lobby u.s. to grant debt relief

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada (AP) – Former President Jimmy Carter urged the United States and other international lenders to forgive part of Gre-nada’s debt, saying the Caribbean country needs the money to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Ivan.

Carter, wrapping up a two-day visit, said he would lobby the United States, Britain, Kuwait, Taiwan, the Interna-tional Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other lenders to grant debt relief to Grenada.

“One of the wonderful things that could be done to help Grenada is to get some relief from your international debt,’’ Carter told a news conference. “And of course my voice and others can make appeals to those who hold these mortgages on you.’’

The island’s debt of $450 million was amassed partly through the recent construction of roads, a pier, a stadium and a hospital – some of which were heavily damaged when Hurricane Ivan struck Sept. 7.

Carter also met Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, whose home was ruin-ed by Ivan along with 90 percent of Grenada’s houses and buildings. Thirty- nine people were killed, and half the population was left homeless.

Many people still live in shelters or makeshift homes made of tarpaulins and sheets of galvanized zinc. Others live at home under tarpaulin roofs and get wet when it rains.

Carter cautioned that countries of-fering aid to Grenada would need as-surances that there would be “no corruption and money is not wasted.’’

The 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner suggested the country set up a committee to oversee how aid is spent, including members of both political parties. Before the hurricane, the former Bri-tish colony’s debt nearly equaled its gross domestic product.

The prime minister accompanied Carter on a tour of a rain forest where Ivan felled many trees, threatening the habitat of monkeys, parrots and other exotic animals. Mitchell thanked Carter for his visit, saying it would give “a tremendous moral boost to the psyche of the Grenadian’’ people.

Carter, 80, also visited a nutmeg plantation where he said not a single tree survived Ivan’s winds, which reached up to 130 mph. Grenada lost 60 percent of its nutmeg crop in the hurricane, threatening its biggest in-come earner and the livelihood of one-third of its 100,000 residents, though officials say it has enough in stock to satisfy world markets for at least three years.

The “Spice Island’’ is the world’s No. 2 nutmeg producer after Indonesia.

Total losses on the island due to destruction and lost tourist business was estimated at $900 million.

On Wednesday, President Bush sign-ed a disaster bill clearing the way for $100 million in aid to help Grenada, Jamaica, Haiti and other Caribbean countries trying to recover from four major hurricanes.

During a visit to Grenada last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Grenada would receive the largest portion of the Caribbean aid.

U.S. aid to Grenada has dropped sharply since U.S. troops invaded in 1983 following a coup. Nineteen Ame-ricans died in the invasion, along with some 45 Grenadians and 24 Cubans.

LA BREA, Trinidad (AP) – A stone’s throw from the spot where British ex-plorer Sir Walter Raleigh happened upon a vast lake of tar in 1595, workers now build the first offshore natural gas drilling platform designed and con-structed in a Caribbean country.

Raleigh used the tar to cork the leaks in his ships, while the nation of Tri-nidad and Tobago is using the liquid natural gas to fuel an economic boom.

The drilling platform being built for bp Trinidad and Tobago LLC – the Trinidad branch of London-based BP Amoco PLC – is scheduled to be completed in March and be fully operational in January 2006, officials say.

Several other platforms already are extracting natural gas off the former British colony, but the one under construction in the southern town of La Brea is the first to be built in the country instead of along the U.S. Gulf coast.

When the 900-ton, four-level platform is complete, it will be lifted with cranes and installed 30 miles off Tri-nidad’s southeast coast.

The platform will extract some crude oil, but its primary purpose is to extract natural gas for plants operated by At-lantic LNG in the southern town of Point Fortin, about 45 miles south of the capital, Port-of-Spain.

In recent years, Trinidad has become the leading supplier of liquid natural gas to the United States, supplying 75 percent of imports last year. Liquid natural gas comprised only 3 percent of the total natural gas used in the United States in 2003, but that share is expected to grow to 15 percent by 2025.

Trinidad, which has proven natural gas reserves of 30 trillion cubic feet, reported economic growth of 12.8 percent in the fiscal year ending this month – much of it due to liquid natural gas. The nation of 1.3 million people relies on oil and gas for more than 25 percent of gross domestic product.

Officials say about 120 people are employed in the latest project, working in a yard where the hulking metal platform lies on its side, more than half finished.

The Cannonball Platform – named after a local tree that bears balls of multicolored flowers _ is projected to extract and process 700 million cubic feet of natural gas a day. Production could contribute an estimated $300 million in tax revenues per year, said Robert Riley, president of bpTT.

“Cannonball is not just about building a platform, it’s about giving this country the potential to provide the world with goods and first-class services,’’ Riley said during a recent tour of the construction site.

Trinidad’s government is negotiating deals with bpTT and several other companies to build two more liquid natural gas plants. Last year it also signed a memorandum of understanding with neighboring Venezuela to process its large natural gas reserves.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) – CARICOM countries that fail to put legislation in place supporting the CARICOM Single Market and Econo-my (CSME) by January 2005 may be found in breach of their obligations under the Revised Treaty of Chagaura-mas by the Caribbean Court of Justice.

While the majority of CARICOM countries have until December 31, 2005 to implement the legislation, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago have pledged to do so one year earlier. This was revealed at a workshop on Op-portunities and Commitments for Es-tablishment, Services and Capital in the CSME, which was held at the Sher-bourne Conference Center on Monday and Tuesday.

Ida Everseley of the CARICOM Legislative Drafting Facility (CLDF) presented an overview and discussion of the community and national legislative agenda for the CSME. She said that the CLDF was preparing the legislation and now it was up to the parliaments of the various member states to implement it. It is very important, be-cause what it (the legislation) seeks to do is to give effect to the treaty provisions. So we are drafting it to assist member states to have a regional harmonized piece of legislation that they can implement in their own parliaments that will give effect to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, so its quite important at this point, she said.

She was unsure about whether the countries would meet the deadline. What the CLDF does is prepare the legislation. It is now incumbent, once the legislation has been passed on to the national territory, for them to get the legislation passed in their Parlia-ment, she explained.

Because the CCJ has the mandate of interpreting the treaty, Everseley said that the failure to implement legislation in time could result in being found in breach. However, she was unsure what the penalty would be, and ex-plained this up to the CCJ.

Well you have obligations under the Treaty, so if you have not put the things that are in place you would be in breach of your Treaty obligations. And the CCJ is a court that will be looking at interpreting and implying the treaty. So the state can certainly be brought before the CCJ in any matter in which they have not implemented, Everseley stated.

She continued, I understand that the inauguration of the court has been pushed back. Once its inaugurated the court will be in full effect. I guess during this period they would look at the rules and ensure that what has been prepared meets the requirements and ensure that they have their full compliment of judges, and make sure that everything is in place for them to be up and running.

Several pieces of legislation were being given the top priority by the CLDF, such as the Caribbean Commu-nity Movement of Factors Bill, the Com-petition Bill, the Consumer Protection Bill, the Countervailing and Anti-Dump-ing Measures Bill, the Regional Accre-ditation Agreement, and the Caribbean Community Bill. Everseley explained that the CLDF was set up to draft model legislation to effect the CSME, create legislation with respect to justice and security, and to HIV/ AIDS.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – Olym-pic great Herb McKenley and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who helped jump-start Bob Marley’s career, headed a list of 100 awardees at the National Honors and Awards ceremony in Jamaica on Monday.

The 82-year-old McKenley was conferred with the Order of Merit, Jamaica’s third-highest honor for his contribution to sports.

A member of Jamaica’s first Olym-pic team to the London Games in 1948, McKenley is the winner of two individual silver medals and was part of Jamaica’s 4x400 meters relay team that won the gold medal at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.

Blackwell, 67, received the Order of Jamaica, the country’s fourth-highest honor, for his contribution to the de-velopment of Jamaican music. Born in London to an Irish father and Jamaican mother, Blackwell grew up in rural St. Mary parish and started Island Records in Kingston in 1958.

In 1972, Blackwell signed an obscure reggae band named The Wailers to Island and launched Marley to international stardom later that decade. Through Island, Blackwell helped mold the careers of other reggae acts including Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear and Black Uhuru.

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