KINGSTON, Jamaica--The Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) will be assessing the impact of torrential flood rains which lashed the island last week to determine whether its inflation forecast needs to be revised.
BELIZE CITY, Belize--A new study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) estimates that 4.2 million people in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean and in the Pacific are living in areas that are prone to flooding due to rising sea levels.
PARAMARIBO--The tens of thousands of people that opposition parties intended to draw to their anti-Government protest on Saturday did not materialise. The crowd of approximately 5,000 people that did descend upon Grun Dyari (Green Field), the headquarters of the National Party Suriname (NPS), nonetheless did bring its message across: “Bouta [Bouterse – Ed.] must go” many wrote on the placards they carried. One placard signified the urgency that was attached to this demand: “Enough is already too much.” The demonstration was peaceful but the participants and the speakers were fired up.
WASHINGTON, United States--The number of students in higher education programmes across Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has nearly doubled in the past decade. But with only half of them graduating on time, there’s still a lot to do in terms of efficiency and quality, according to a new World Bank report, At a Crossroads: Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean, released Wednesday.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados--Caribbean companies are at risk of falling prey to large-scale cyber-attacks similar to the one that interrupted computer systems across the globe last week, unless they take operational risk more seriously, a risk analyst has warned.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados--Taxes on tobacco, alcoholic and sweetened beverages can help reduce consumption of these products and generate income that can be used to improve the health of the Caribbean population, says the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
And it’s encouraging Caribbean authorities to adopt these tax measures, which can contribute to reducing the burden of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and their devastating social and economic consequences.
Implementing taxes on the consumption of unhealthy products requires decisions by health authorities as well as finance authorities who design tax policies. To that end, PAHO/WHO is bringing together health and finance officials from 17 countries and territories for the Caribbean Subregional Workshop on Alcohol, Tobacco and Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in Barbados May 16-18, to discuss the benefits of adopting such measures.
In the Caribbean countries, non-communicable diseases account for three out of four deaths. Tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity are the main causes of these diseases. Compared to other subregions of the Americas, Caribbean populations have the highest probability of dying prematurely, between the ages of 30 and 70 years, from one of these non-communicable diseases.
“Taxes can be a very effective tool for not only reducing deaths in the region because of these diseases, but as a source of funding for public health interventions that are necessary to care for or affect affected people,” said Dr. Jessie Schutt-Aine, Caribbean Subregional Programme Coordinator.
“We all win if these measures are applied and more is invested in healthy interventions.”
Currently, the use of excise taxation of these products in the Caribbean continues to be limited. Of the 14 PAHO member countries in this subregion, 11 have excise taxes on tobacco, 11 on alcohol, and two countries – Barbados and Dominica – recently implemented sugar taxation as a way to deal with the obesity epidemic.
However, of the 11 countries that have taxes on tobacco, none reaches the level recommended by WHO of more than 70 per cent of the final sale price.
Taxation cannot be applied alone, and should be part of a comprehensive policy to reduce consumption of these products, which also involves restrictions on marketing, packaging conditions, sharing appropriate nutrition information to inform consumers, and creating healthy environments, among other means.
At the meeting organised by PAHO, health and financial authorities are evaluating various experiences in the Caribbean and in other parts of the world, as well as paths each country has taken to apply this type of taxation. Delegates of the countries are sharing their experiences and discussing the possibility of implementing taxation proposals, not only from a health perspective, but also from the economic and financial point of view.
In 2013, the countries of the Americas committed themselves to reduce by 25 per cent the premature deaths due to non-communicable diseases by the year 2025. The measures included in the Plan of Action to achieve this objective include implementation of taxes. ~ Caribbean360 ~
KINGSTON, Jamaica--Prime Minister Andrew Holness has ordered that all national emergency systems in the country be activated as heavy rainfall causes extensive flooding in sections of the island. All the agencies, including the National Works Agency (NWA) and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), have been instructed to mobilise their resources to deal with the impact of the extraordinary rain event and to support residents who may need assistance in flooded areas. Extensive flooding has so far been reported in the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, St. Thomas and St. Ann.
BALFATE, Honduras--In Balfate, a rural municipality that includes fishing villages and small farms along Honduras’ Caribbean coast, the effects of climate change are already felt on its famous scenery and beaches. The sea is relentlessly approaching the houses, while the ecosystem is deteriorating.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados--The approximately 1,100 Airbnb hosts in Barbados now have a voice to fight on their behalf for “fair” and “positive” legislation.
Founder of the Barbados Entrepreneurship and Tourism Association (BETA) Neeraj Vensimal said that organisation, which was officially formed at the end of March, would be stepping forward to give its input on any legislation that would impact the home-sharing programme operators here.
Local hotel operators have been calling for tighter controls on the unregistered accommodation sector, including the increasingly lucrative Airbnb, saying they stood to “water down” the Barbados tourism product.
The Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA) has since confirmed that new guidelines are being drafted to include regulation of the short-term rental programmes with a view to ensuring that the entire accommodation sector meets all minimum international standards.
However, as representatives of BETA prepared to meet with BTPA officials on Monday to put the association’s position on the table, Vensimal argued that any new regulation should take into consideration the performance of the overall housing market on the island.
As for the vexed issue of taxation, he said a proper assessment should first be carried out before any new levy was applied.
“Another thing we need to consider, these are private listings with each host earning only about US $5,000 in annual income,” he said, while making it clear that the grouping was not looking for any concessions.
Vensimal said the organisation was seeking to help create an enabling environment for Airbnb and other hosts.
“The reason we represent them is because they don’t have a platform or voice to get their message out. But that is not the main reason we represent them. The main reason we represent them is because we all believe in the slogan, ‘Tourism is our business, let’s play our part’ and in our national motto Pride and Industry,” he said. (Barbados Today) ~ Caribbean360 ~
ST. ELIZABETH, Jamaica--Chairman of the St. Elizabeth Municipal Corporation Derrick Sangster has a picture in his mind of Japanese intern Shingo Oba for an unlikely reason. According to Sangster, who is also mayor of Black River, his sharpest memory of Oba, who volunteered his services in St. Elizabeth in 2014-16, was of a man “who hardly spoke.”
However, during his two years assigned to the Disaster Preparedness Office at the municipal corporation in Black River, Oba – a practising fireman in Japan – didn’t need many words to make a big difference.
Seeing first-hand the catastrophic consequences of bush fires during a period of prolonged drought, especially in arid southern St. Elizabeth, Oba initiated a project for which he will be long remembered.
In collaboration with Disaster Preparedness Coordinator in St. Elizabeth Claudine Forbes and the St. Elizabeth Fire Department, Oba developed a plan which has borne fruit with the donation by Japan of three fire-fighting trucks and a water tanker to the St. Elizabeth Fire Department.
At the formal handover of the four trucks at the Junction Fire Station in south St. Elizabeth on Friday, Sangster hailed Oba, claiming the delivery of the trucks “speaks volumes to his initiative and contribution to the people of Jamaica.”
Sangster wasn’t the only one heaping praise on the Japanese fireman. Japan’s Ambassador to Jamaica Masanori Nakano, who formally presented fire truck keys to local government Minister Desmond McKenzie, hailed the former volunteer for working “assiduously with the Fire Brigade offices to help bring the project from its incubation stage right to the signing ceremony.”
His voluntary assignment at an end, Oba left Jamaica four days before the formal signing in Kingston last March.
Forbes, who played a supervisory role in the writing of the project, paid tribute to Oba as one “who did his work diligently.” She later told the Jamaica Observer that the intern did considerable work in disaster preparedness, creating hazard maps and making educational presentations at schools.
Described by Nakano as a “knowledgeable and experienced” fireman, Oba also conducted training at the St. Elizabeth Fire Department and created a fire-fighting manual for neighbouring Westmoreland.
As explained by Nakano, the four second-hand fire trucks came as part of the Government of Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects through which benefits flow to Jamaica and many other countries. Alongside the vehicles came a donation of US $79,276 (just under J $10 million) which facilitated retrofitting of the vehicles and transportation to Jamaica.
“It is our hope that our contribution will make your communities in St. Elizabeth a safer place for people to live with more ease and comfort, knowing that emergency vehicular resources are within easy reach,” said Nakano.
Acting Commissioner of Fire Raymond Spencer said the trucks will serve not just St. Elizabeth, but will also assist Manchester and Westmoreland in times of need.
McKenzie urged Fire personnel and the people of St. Elizabeth to treat the donated vehicles “as if your lives depend on it.”
The Minister praised Japan for its continuing programme of practical assistance to Jamaica, noting that earlier this year the National Solid Waste Management Authority had received “two brand-new tipper trucks” from Japan for the collection and disposal of garbage.
Several speakers at the function spoke of the danger posed by the practice of many farmers in St. Elizabeth and elsewhere to use fire as a means of clearing land – a method popularly referred to as slash and burn. They said many, if not most bush fires in St. Elizabeth, especially in the typically dry southern half, were triggered by slash and burn.
According to Sangster, over the past five years the St. Elizabeth Fire Department has recorded 2,256 bush fires across the parish.
“Be extremely careful and find other means [other than the use of fire – Ed.] of preparing your land for farming,” Sangster told farmers.
Acting Commissioner of Fire Raymond Spencer told the Sunday Observer he was hopeful that long-awaited amendments to Jamaica’s fire laws would allow meaningful punishment for people found to have caused bush fires.
He noted that based on “what is provided in the law, we [fire fighters – Ed.] will bark but we can’t bite.” As the situation now stands, a person found guilty of setting a bush fire is liable to a fine not exceeding J $2,000 (US $15.41) or a prison term not exceeding three months, a Fire Department source told the Sunday Observer.
Fire Chief in St. Elizabeth, Deputy Superintendent Conroy Ghans said the arrival of the four trucks will make a “significant” difference to fire and emergency relief. Prior to their arrival there were three trucks – one each assigned to Black River, Santa Cruz and Junction.
He will now be able to assign an additional fire truck to each of the stations, he said, adding that the water tanker will go to Santa Cruz because of that town’s “strategic” location at the centre of St. Elizabeth with access to the mountainous north as well as the southern plains.
Ghans conceded that all his problems were not solved. There were still serious material and personnel shortages confronting the St. Elizabeth Fire Department. “[However – Ed.] our response capabilities have improved significantly,” he said. ~ Jamaica Observer ~
NORTH DAKOTA, United States--A federal judge in North Dakota has cleared the way to try the ten defendants who have already been arraigned in a multimillion-dollar Jamaican-based lottery scam case instead of waiting until the other five suspects have been taken into United States (US) custody.
GEORGETOWN, Guyana--Guyana is refining its sugar industry, announcing major changes to operations that include a scale-back on factories and production.
Agriculture Minister Noel Holder disclosed the new plan that would see only three factories continuing operations and the production of 147,000 tonnes of sugar annually to meet the demands of its markets.
KINGSTON, Jamaica--Senior officers from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) are meeting in Jamaica with counterparts from the German Development Bank KfW and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for discussions on a regional Coastal Protection for Climate Change Adaptation (CPCCA) project being implemented in four Caribbean states.
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad--Retired Court of Appeal Justices Roger Hamel-Smith and Humphrey Stollmeyer, who sit on the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC), have found themselves in a legal wrangle over the constitutionality of their appointments.
NEW YORK, USA--For Haiti, American actor Sean Penn is the gift that keeps on giving, and last week Friday night, the Oscar winner (Milk) and some of his Hollywood friends – Dreamworks’ David Geffen and Creative Artists Agency’s Bryan Lourd – hosted the Haiti Takes Root fundraiser at Sotheby’s in New York City.
PARAMARIBO--Judicial authorities in the Netherlands recently arrested and then released a Dutch man who was wanted by Suriname for murder. They have called it a mistake that has since been rectified, but the wanted man – Terrence de Vries – remains at large again.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados--Former Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Delisle Worrell has advised the Barbados Government to seek immediate help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to steer the economy out of its current rut.