2005-04-07 / Caribbean Corner

caribbean roundup

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) – Trinidad & Tobago’s Prime Minister Patrick Manning said that an oil fund facility established by his administration to assist regional states is now growing at an estimated US$4.10 million monthly.

Addressing the opening of the fifth Euromoney/Latin Finance Caribbean Investment Forum here, Manning said that the facility was established to as-sist Caribbean Community (Caricom) states deal with a number of social issues.

“We have established an oil facility to assist Caricom members to treat the poverty challenge within their respective countries. This facility is calculated within a certain ceiling based on the level of petroleum products purchased from Trinidad & Tobago members states who can draw down on the facility to assist with poverty reduction and eradication,” he said.

He said the fund had been growing at $25 million a month. Last September, Manning announced the establishment of the US$62.5 million facility to provide relief to Caricom states in light of persistently high crude prices.

He said Port-of-Spain would provide money for the facility retroactively from 1 July, 2004 for every month that crude prices exceeded US$30. Oil prices have averaged more than US$50 over the past few months.

Since the passage of Hurricane Ivan, which devastated Grenada, that island has received nearly TT$70 in financial and other aid.

Manning said assistance had also been provided to Jamaica, St Vincent, the Bahamas and Cuba to assist with rebuilding exercises following hurricane damage last year.

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – The British Government has temporarily deployed one of its vessels, the HMS Liverpool, to assist Operation King-fish in its continued fight against the illicit drug trade.

Logistics officer aboard the vessel, Bruce Finch, said the ship which was used by British forces in the 2003 American led invasion of Iraq, cruised into the Kingston Harbor three days ago and has been assisting the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) with a number of exercises.

“We have been patrolling areas such as Black River,” Mr. Finch told journalists yesterday, during a brief tour of the ship.

The vessel, which is fully equipped, is expected to patrol Caribbean waters for the next 12 days.

Before coming to Jamaica, the ship visited St. Vincent and the Grenadines and will next sail to Curaçao.

“We are also here to provide security for the British territories,” said Gew-ry Northwood, the commanding officer of the vessel.

The Deputy British High Commis-sioner to Jamaica, Phil Sinkinson, said the presence of the ship in the Carib-bean waters is a manifestation of his country’s commitment to support the Jamaican government in its effort to eradicate the drug trade.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) – Parliament held an emergency session Monday to debate special legislation needed after fires and unrest at Barba-dos’ lone prison forced the evacuation of all 997 inmates, the attorney general said.

Parliament meet to debate numerous changes guiding the former British co-lony’s prison system, including the de-signation of at least two sites holding the inmates as temporary prisons, At-torney General Mia Mottley said. The government was preparing a third temporary site to hold inmates as officials discuss plans to build a new prison, she said.

The 150-year-old prison was built to house about 350 inmates. The U.S. State Department’s 2005 report on human rights said that conditions at Glendairy “remained inadequate.’’

One inmate was killed and at least 25 others including six guards were in-jured in the two days of unrest and fires.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (AP) – The European Union has granted St. Kitts euro3 million (US$3.9 million) in aid for economic reform, following the tiny Caribbean island nation’s decision to stop producing sugar, the government announced recently.

The grant is a supplement to an original allocation of euro3.2 million (US$4.1 million) from the EU and will be “earmarked for information technology education in the context of economic reform away from sugar depen-dency,’’ the government stated, citing an EU press release.

The grant provides for 10 undergraduate and five postgraduate scholarships, teacher training courses, and community-based programs in information technology.

An additional euro220,000 (US $284,-000) was granted for emergencies.

The government decided to shut down its debt-ridden sugar industry earlier this month after 300 years of production, saying this year’s harvest will be its last.

About 2,000 workers began the four-month harvest March 14.

ST JOHN’S, Antigua (AP) – The Antiguan Senate has passed a tax law that paves the way for residents to pay personal income taxes for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The United Progressive Party government said it was forced to reintroduce the tax to deal with the deficit left by the former Antigua Labor Party ad-ministration, which abolished income tax in 1976.

The bill is expected to enter into effect Friday.

The four Labor Party senators walked out in protest before the vote.

The tax rates range from 10 to 25 percent on incomes about a minimum level.

Since 1976, the salaries of Antiguans and Barbudans have gone untaxed, except for medical, social security and education dues.

The opposition argues that the reintroduction of income tax will further hurt the weak economy and create unnecessary hardship for the workers.

But the one year-old government of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer government said because of an EC$300-billion (US$111 billion) debt and a large public sector wage bill, it had to find a source of revenue to fund development projects and other social needs.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) – Guyana’s government wants to improve cellular service by adding at least one more major telecommunications company, the president said, as Digicel Group gave signals of being interested in the South American country’s market.

President Bharrat Jagdeo said the local cellular telephone service is not operating at an acceptable standard and his administration is moving to award a third operating license in the coming months.

“In too many areas you have blind spots and you drop calls,’’ Jagdeo said. “We are going to keep working at this until we have competition in the environment.’’

He spoke a day after Irish-owned Digicel said it was looking at the Guy-ana market, which has been dominated by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company.

Jagdeo said Guyana needs to benefit from greater competition that would bring more attractive features already available to people in other Caribbean nations.

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