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Regional

Trinidad & Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago to strengthen financial sector Trinidad and Tobago will strengthen its financial sector supervisory and regulatory framework with a US$50 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Top manufacturers in Ju-C battle Two of T&T's biggest manufacturers are squaring up for a legal fight over the use of a trade mark for a back-in-times soft drink called JU-C.

Jamaica

Vendors in downtown Kingston's craft market introduce outdoor shopping on Sundays STRUGGLING TO drum up business in a difficult economic climate, vendors at the craft market in downtown Kingston have introduced a Sunday special." Things slow and many people have said they were not aware that the craft market was still open, so what we are doing is streetside vending on Sundays," Diane Sutherland told The Gleaner. Rebuild downtown Kingston block by block AFTER YEARS of leading a one-man campaign for a makeover of downtown Kingston, architect Al Edwards has welcomed recent moves to achieve a rebirth of the city. But Edwards is concerned that the redevelopment plan lacks the focus and organisation needed to make it a success. Jamaica goes to the polls December 29 Jamaicans will go to the polls on Thursday, December 29, 2011. Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the date for the country's 16th general election on Sunday. Nomination Day is scheduled for Monday, December 12. Visa requirement waived for Colombians visiting Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has revealed that Cabinet has approved an easing of travel restrictions for Colombians visiting Jamaica, in a bid to boost tourist arrivals from that country. Bartlett outlined that "Cabinet has approved the conditional waiver of visas for Colombian nationals on visit to Jamaica for thirty days or less and for tourism purposes."

Barbados

BNB $35m line for Govt Government is seeking a $35 million line of credit from the Barbados NationalBank (BNB) to meet its spending commitments over the next two years. Minister of Finance

Chris Sinckler is down on the Order Paper to pilot a resolution to approve the line of credit from the BNB when the House of Assembly meets today at 10 a.m.

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

St Vincent ranked 36th in 2011 transparency index St Vincent and the Grenadines has been ranked 36th in the world on the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of Transparency International.

Dominica

Dominica launches geothermal exploration Dominica has launched geothermal exploration, a major step to moving away from use of fossil fuel for energy generation, government said. AID Bank gets high praises A top Caribbean banker has rated the Agriculture Industrial and Development Bank as a leading performer in a challenging environment.

St. Kitts and Nevis

Debt Before Dishonour ­ St Kitts Defaults as it Restructures The credit rating of St Kitts and Nevis, the smallest independent state in the hemisphere, took a hit when it defaulted on a bond payment the end of November. The administration of Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, in the midst of developing a debt rescheduling package with the help of London-based consultants, White Oak Advisory,... Parliament to debate OECS Economic Union law The St Kitts and Nevis parliament will begin debating, on Tuesday, legislation giving effect to the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Economic Union. The twin-island Federation signed the revised treaty in June last year and ratified it on January 21 this year. Premier welcomes Cape Air to Nevis Premier and Minister of Tourism, Joseph Parry on Wednesday, November 30, officially welcomed the much anticipated Cape Air Airlines to Nevis. Cape Air, which is headquartered in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, began operations to Nevis on November 11 with a non-stop service from the San Juan, Puerto Rico hub. St Kitts-Nevis and Bahamas exchange groundwater ideas The Basseterre Valley Aquifer and a similar GEF-IWCAM demonstration project will be the subject of groundwater management discussions, when six officials from The Bahamas are hosted by the St Kitts Water Services Department this week.

Anguilla

"Our Island is Under Threat" Chief Minister of Anguilla Says in Address to Island. HON. HUBERT HUGHES Fellow Anguillians, I thank you for paying keen attention to the affairs of Government which are really your affairs which recently took place in London during my attendance at the Overseas Territories Conference.

Bahamas

IMF: Fiscal reform delays may 'jeopardise recovery' A FAILURE to rapidly implement tax reforms "could jeopardise a sustained recovery" in the Bahamas, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warning the Government's plans were "not sufficient" to reverse a rising $4.25 billion national debt and fiscal deficits set to average 4.25 per cent of GDP over the next four years. Project targeting $75- $100m build out value An upscale Abaco real estate development is targeting a $75-$100 million total value when its 46 home sites are fully built out, telling Tribune Business yesterday that the project expects to kick into high gear in the New Year after completing its first sales last month. Scotia invests 'over $1m' in Carmichael Scotiabank (Bahamas) is investing "over $1 million" in expanding its New Providence branch network to the Carmichael area, a move set to create 10 new jobs, as its managing director pledged: "We're here for the long haul." Mortgage company 'was near bankruptcy' THE Bahamas Mortgage Corporation was headed to bankruptcy as a result of "reckless lending habits" under the PLP administration, chairman and FNM Senator Dr Duane Sands said yesterday.

Guyana

Guyana swears in new president who pledges compromise with opposition Guyana's new president was sworn in Saturday, pledging that his minority government will work with an opposition-controlled Parliament in the South American country. Donald Ramotar, a 61-year-old economist, said he would consult with leaders of other political groups and name a Cabinet in 48 hours. Guyana: Fraud Allegations Mar Vote A lag in vote counting by Guyana's electoral board is marring the country's Nov. 28 presidential election, as the opposition accuses the Guyana Electoral Commission of favoring the ruling-party candidate.

Suriname

Suriname to host CARIFESTA in 2013 Suriname will host the 11th staging of CARIFESTA, the Caribbean's premier festival of the creative and performing arts in 2013; this after their first successful hosting in 2003. Dr Hilary Brown, CARICOM Secretariat's programme manager for culture and community development, made this announcement at the 21st meeting of the Regional Cultural Committee (RCC),...

Dominican Republic

Used car sales plunge 50% on higher taxes, dealers say The head of the used auto importers grouped in ASOCIVU on Monday said higher taxes have caused their sales to plummet 50 percent compared with last year. Alexander Genao blamed that reduction on a change in the valuation system since 2010, which in his view noticeably hurts imports. Official announces US$200M, 200 room hotel in the capital Tourism minister Francisco Javier Garcia announced the construction of a hotel in the Dominican capital's metropolitan zone at a cost of around US$200 million on Winston Churchill avenue, by the company Real Hotel.

Haiti

Durandis: Haiti's Aid-Industrial Complex Even before the disastrous earthquake that rocked Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, the country suffered immensely from the symptoms of its Aid Industrial Complex (AIC). The term Republic of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) was synonymous with the country because of the vast number of NGOs doing business there, given its total population and territory size.

International

United States

Obama makes case for extending payroll tax cuts President Barack Obama pressured Republicans in Congress on Monday to extend a payroll tax cut, saying the economic recovery is "still fragile" and middle class families need the money. Shale-Gas Drilling to Add 870,000 U.S. Jobs Producing natural gas from shale will support 870,000 U.S. jobs and add $118 billion to economic growth in the next four years, according to a report from IHS Global Insight.

Europe

S&P Jumps Into Politics Again With EU Outlook Warning Standard & Poor's, rebuked by Warren Buffett in August after downgrading the U.S. over government gridlock, is again injecting itself into the political process, just as European leaders are poised to meet for a summit aimed at ending the region's sovereigndebt crisis.

Other ­ International

High oil prices may threaten growth: BP The fragile economic recovery could be negatively affected by high oil prices, especially in the United States, BP's (LSE:BP.L) chief executive said on Tuesday.

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S&P Jumps Into Politics Again With EU Outlook Warning Tuesday, 6th December, 2011 - Bloomberg Standard & Poor's, rebuked by Warren Buffett in August after downgrading the U.S. over government gridlock, is again injecting itself into the political process, just as European leaders are poised to meet for a summit aimed at ending the region's sovereigndebt crisis. The ratings firm put Germany, France and 13 other euro-area nations on review for a downgrade yesterday, saying "continuing disagreements among European policy makers on how to tackle" the region's debt crisis risk damaging their financial stability. The move came four months after S&P cut the U.S. to AA+, saying "extremely difficult" political discussions over how to reduce America's more than $1 trillion budget deficit tainted the credit quality of the world's largest economy. Bondholders questioned the timing of S&P's move, with European Union leaders planning to meet Dec. 8-9 in Brussels to end a crisis that led to bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and now threatens to engulf Italy. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented a plan earlier in the day to rewrite the EU's governing treaty to allow tighter economic cooperation. "S&P should back off," Anthony Valeri, a market strategist with LPL Financial in San Diego, which oversees $330 billion, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "It complicates the job of the EU leaders to resolve the debt problem." $8.1 Trillion Grades may be lowered by one level for Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Luxembourg, and as many as two steps for the other governments if the summit results don't satisfy S&P's criteria, the firm said. More than $8.1 trillion of government debt would be affected if S&P does downgrade all the nations, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Germany and France are rated AAA. "The upcoming European summit," S&P said in a report, "provides an opportunity for policy makers to break the pattern of what we consider to have been defensive and piecemeal measures to date, overcome individual national interests and preferences, and advance a credible response to the crisis that would go far towards restoring investor confidence." The move to tie ratings to the outcome of the summit drew criticism from European Central Bank Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny of Austria, who said in an interview that it "highlights the problem that rating agencies increasingly are assuming a political role." `Increasingly Problematic'

"There is no doubt that rating agencies have an economically important role to play, but the way in which this is happening at the moment is increasingly problematic as it creates pro-cyclical effects, that means effects that make the crises worse," Nowotny said yesterday in Vienna. S&P said in a statement yesterday that it decided to review the region's ratings before the summit because the risks of a deepening crisis have "risen markedly." "Policy makers appear to have acted only in response to mounting market pressures," S&P said, declining to comment beyond the statement. Finding a solution to Europe's debt crisis took on greater urgency last month as yields on Italy's surged past the 7 percent threshold that led Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek aid. Italy has 500 billion euros ($669 billion) of bonds maturing in the next three years, more than the current size of the EU's rescue fund. U.S. Downgrade The yield on Italy's 10-year bond fell 73 basis points, or 0.73 percentage point, yesterday to 5.95 percent before S&P's announcement, the lowest level since Oct. 27 on a closing basis. In a joint statement, the governments of France and Germany said they "recognize" the move by S&P and "affirm their conviction that the common proposals made today will strengthen coordination of budget and economic policy, and promote stability, competitiveness and growth." New York-based S&P, a unit of McGraw-Hill Cos. (MHP), downgraded the U.S. to AA+ on Aug. 5 from AAA, saying the U.S. government is becoming "less stable, less effective and less predictable." While the S&P 500 Index of U.S. stocks plunged 6.7 percent on the first trading day after the downgrade, Treasuries rallied, sending yields to record lows. Treasuries due in 10 years or more are 2011's best-performing sovereign securities, returning 26 percent as of Nov. 30, according to Bloomberg/EFFAS indexes. `Quadruple-A' The ratings company's decision on the U.S. was flawed by a $2 trillion error, according to the Treasury Department. S&P disputed the Treasury's assertions and said using the department's preferred spending measures in its analysis didn't affect its credit grade. Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and the world's most successful investor, said S&P erred and the U.S. should be rated "quadruple-A." Buffett is also the largest shareholders of Moody's Corp. (MCO), the parent of Moody's Investors Service.

Downgrades of Germany and France would affect the rating of the 780 billion euro European Financial Stability Facility, the bailout fund for struggling euro member countries that has funded rescue packages for Greece, Ireland and Portugal partially through bond sales. If the EFSF has to pay higher interest on its bonds, it may not be able to provide as much funding for indebted nations. Yields on the EFSF's 3.375 percent bonds due in July 2021 rose 2 basis points yesterday to 3.6 percent, according to Bloomberg prices. `Tremendous Pressure' The outlook change is "disastrous for Europe," Mark Grant, a managing director at Southwest Securities Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said in an interview yesterday on Bloomberg Television's "Street Smart" with Lisa Murphy and Adam Johnson. "Every bank now in Europe is also going to be downgraded as the sovereigns are downgraded, many corporations in Europe will be downgraded, the euro is going to come under tremendous pressure worldwide," Grant said. "There's just a whole lot of dominoes that are going to fall because of this report." Regulators have tried and failed to rein in credit-rating companies, which the U.S. Congress has said helped fuel the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression by assigning top grades to subprime mortgage bonds, Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York, said in a telephone interview. Proposed Rules "Why are they pulling the trigger now?" Rupkey said yesterday in a telephone interview. "There's a danger of putting too much power in the hands of these institutions and causing in effect a race to the bottom." The EU proposed rules last month to increase regulation of the credit-rating companies while postponing plans to ban them from giving assessments of countries negotiating international bailouts. S&P also cited "high levels of government and household indebtedness across a large area of the eurozone" and the increased risk of a recession in 2012 as reasons for yesterday's change in outlook. The firm said economic output in Spain, Portugal and Greece will likely fall next year, and that there's now a 40 percent chance of a decline for the entire region. The "negative" outlook on CC rated Greece, which is 10 steps below investment quality, wasn't changed, as its grade "connotes our belief that there is a relatively high near-term probability of default," S&P said. The firm kept its "negative" outlook on Cyprus's longterm rating and placed its short-term rating on "creditwatch with negative implications." `Credible Backstop'

Europe may stem its debt crisis by moving to a "full fiscal union" in which all countries assume responsibility for the euro area's sovereign debt or by "a much larger commitment" by the ECB to support sovereign-debt markets, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Nov. 30 in a research note. The threat of a downgrade may make it more difficult for Merkel to convince the German people that supporting peripheral nations is in their interest, Noel Hebert, a credit strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities USA Inc. in New York, said yesterday in a telephone interview. "If it starts threatening the creditworthiness of the country itself, that's a much harder row to hoe for Germany," Hebert said. "It heightens the internal tensions that Merkel has politically."

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Shale-Gas Drilling to Add 870,000 U.S. Jobs Tuesday, 6th December, 2011 - Bloomberg Producing natural gas from shale will support 870,000 U.S. jobs and add $118 billion to economic growth in the next four years, according to a report from IHS Global Insight. Gas from shale, which accounts for 34 percent of U.S. output, also will contribute $57 billion in federal, state and local taxes by 2035, or $933 billion in the next 25 years, according to today's IHS report, commissioned by America's Natural Gas Alliance, a Washington-based industry group. Shale gas is extracted using hydraulic fracturing, a process in which millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand is forced underground, breaking up the rock to free trapped gas. Industry expansion is adding jobs in an otherwise disappointing economy, said John Larson, a vice president at Lexington, Massachusetts-based IHS, a management consulting company for the energy industry. "Shale gas combines a capital-intensive industry with a broad domestic supply chain," Larson said in an interview. "We think that these jobs through 2015 are net new jobs because of high unemployment." Environmental groups have said the process, also called fracking, has tainted drinking water in states such as Pennsylvania, where almost 4,000 wells have been drilled. About 1,900 people, most opposed to fracking, attended a New York City hearing on Nov. 30 to consider state rules for drilling. Financial forecasts by IHS include direct jobs in the drilling industry plus an "employment multiplier." For every direct job added, more than three indirect and induced jobs are created, according to the report. `Conservative Estimate' The forecast excluded potential drilling in New York, which has placed a moratorium on fracking while it develops drilling regulations, or the impact of U.S. service companies supplying drilling in Canada, Larson said. "Given those sort of factors, we feel that what we've presented here is a very conservative estimate," Larson said. The shale-gas contribution to U.S. gross domestic product will triple to $231 billion in 2036 from $76 billion last year, the report found. Lower natural gas prices as shale boosts supply will cut U.S. electricity costs by an average of 10 percent, the report found. Lower prices will raise industrial production 2.9 percent by 2017 and 4.7 percent by 2035. Environmental groups such as Washington-based Food and Water Watch say fracking has led to groundwater contamination and should be banned. The group found in a November report that projections for the number of shale-industry jobs in states such as

Pennsylvania and New York led to a "gross exaggeration" of the gains, said Emily Wurth, the group's water policy director. A 2011 report by the Public Policy Institute of New York State, an Albany-based research group, found that by 2018, developing 500 shale gas wells a year in five counties would create 62,620 jobs. After correcting the "flawed" job multiplier, the number was closer to 6,656 jobs, Wurth said. "Very few people have analyzed these reports," Wurth said in an interview. "That's unfortunate because a lot of elected officials take these studies as factually based." << Back to news headlines >>

Obama makes case for extending payroll tax cuts Tuesday, 6th December, 2011 - AP President Barack Obama pressured Republicans in Congress on Monday to extend a payroll tax cut, saying the economic recovery is "still fragile" and middle class families need the money. "My message to Congress is this: Keep your word to the American people and don't raise taxes on them right now. Now's not the time to slam on the brakes. Now's the time to step on the gas," Obama said at the White House. He said despite a decline in the unemployment rate to 8.6 percent in November, "our recovery is still fragile" and the nation's economy could be hurt by economic turbulence in Europe. The president has been seeking an extension and expansion to the payroll tax cut that will expire at the end of the year. The White House says taxes on the average family would increase by $1,000 if the cuts are not extended. To make its point, the White House went so far as to put up a countdown clock during spokesman Jay Carney's briefing to show when middle-class taxes would go up "if Congress doesn't act." Some Republicans in Congress support the extension but the parties have been split on how to pay for it. Obama noted that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have expressed support for the extension, adding, "I hope the rest of their Republican colleagues come around." Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman, said there was widespread support for extending the payroll tax cuts but if "the president wants to make progress he should insist that Senate Democrats remove the job-killing small business tax hike from their partisan proposal." Senate Democrats have rolled out a compromise that would drop Obama's proposal to award the tax cut to employers, bringing the cost of the plan down. Obama also said for Congress to end its work this year without extending unemployment insurance would be a "terrible mistake" and leave "1.3 million Americans out in the cold." The White House has called for an extension of benefits that can cover up to 99 weeks for the long-term jobless. State unemployment insurance programs guarantees coverage for six months, but Congress approved additional benefits in 2008. Expiration of those payments would mean an average loss of nearly $300 in weekly income for more than 1 million households in January. << Back to news headlines >>

High oil prices may threaten growth: BP Tuesday, 6th December, 2011 - Reuters The fragile economic recovery could be negatively affected by high oil prices, especially in the United States, BP's (LSE:BP.L) chief executive said on Tuesday. Despite the looming threat of a sharp economic slowdown in Europe affecting demand for oil around the world, oil prices have remained above $100 for most of 2011 thanks largely to strong growth in Asia and instability in producing countries. Stubbornly high oil prices now have the potential to affect economic growth and hit demand for oil, Bob Dudley told executives from the world's largest oil and gas producers gathered in Qatar. "It is important in the current situation of a fragile global economy and I think right now we are probably walking a fine line," Bob Dudley told the World Petroleum Congress in Doha. "It is impossible to say what price exactly will affect the economic recovery but we do know which regions will be affected most," he said, adding that the United States was most vulnerable because of its slim fuel tax buffer to soften the blow of rising oil prices through pump price tax cuts. "There is a risk that in the world's largest economy and largest oil consumer, the United States, could be hit by a lack of supplies and a high price of oil with consequences for the rest of the world," he said, adding that any slowdown in the U.S. economy would inevitably weigh on global growth. Standard & Poor's on Monday warned it may carry out an unprecedented mass downgrade on the credit ratings of euro zone countries if EU leaders fail to reach an agreement on how to solve the region's debt crisis in a summit later this week. {nTOPEURO] Brent crude oil has is on track for its highest average price in 2011 despite growing economic woes in Europe. << Back to news headlines >>

Guyana swears in new president who pledges compromise with opposition Tuesday, 6th December, 2011 - The Washington Post Guyana's new president was sworn in Saturday, pledging that his minority government will work with an opposition-controlled Parliament in the South American country. Donald Ramotar, a 61-year-old economist, said he would consult with leaders of other political groups and name a Cabinet in 48 hours. "The new arrangement in Parliament will test the maturity of our leaders," he said. "Pettiness must be put aside." Ramotar's People's Progressive Party, which is dominated by people of East Indian descent, won 32 seats in Monday's election, four less than it had in the last parliament. The opposition Partnership For National Unity has 26 seats, a gain of four, and the Alliance For Change has seven, a gain of two. It is the first time a minority government will lead Guyana since the country's independence in 1966, and Ramotar said that will force compromises. "This process will not be easy," he said. "It is time for all of us to cast our partisan cloaks and put on our national garb." Guyana's political divisions run largely along ethnic lines, between people of Indian and African descent. Ramotar replaces Bharrat Jagdeo, who served the two-term maximum set by Guyana's constitution. Ramotar has pledged to continue Jagdeo's policies of safeguarding the mining and agricultural sectors and improving education in the nation of roughly 780,000 people on South America's northern shoulder. Its economy depends on the export of commodities such as gold, bauxite, sugar, rice, shrimp and timber. << Back to news headlines >>

Guyana: Fraud Allegations Mar Vote Tuesday, 6th December, 2011 - Eurasiaeview.com By: Latinamerica Press A lag in vote counting by Guyana's electoral board is marring the country's Nov. 28 presidential election, as the opposition accuses the Guyana Electoral Commission of favoring the ruling-party candidate. Three days after the vote, the electoral body had only counted two-thirds of the votes. The partial results showed economist Donald Remotar, of the governing People's Progressive Party, with just over 31 percent of the vote, followed by challenger David Granger, of A Partnership for National Unity, with 24.4 percent. Other parties had less than 7 percent of the votes. The vote brought out the deep ethnic divides in the South American country. The ruling party, which nominated Remotar as a successor to President Bharrat Jagdeo, who has governed since 1999, has been in power for almost two decades, mainly with the support of the East Indian-Guyanese population. The Afro-Guyanese population largely backs the Partnership for National Unity party. Tristan Moharib, of the Washington-based think-tank Council on Hemispheric Affairs, said that: "regardless of who wins the elections, the next Guyanese president must focus on changing the same old story--managing the tide of racial division in the Land of Many Waters." Guyana won independence from Great Britain in 1966, but it still belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations, a 54-member state organization which recognizes the British monarchy as its head. East Indian descendants are the most numerous of Guyana´s 780,000 inhabitants. The 475,000 Guyanese who went to the polls were also voting for 53 of the 65 members of Parliament.

About the author: Latinamerica Press Latinamerica Press is a product of Comunicaciones Aliadas, a non-profit, nongovernmental organization based in Lima, Peru, specializing in the production of information and analysis about events across Latin America and the Caribbean with a focus on rights, while strengthening the communications skills of local social leaders. << Back to news headlines >>

Top manufacturers in Ju-C battle Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ T&T Guardian

Two of T&T's biggest manufacturers are squaring up for a legal fight over the use of a trade mark for a back-in-times soft drink called JU-C. On Friday, Dairy Distributors Ltd, the skim milk manufacturer owned by Richard Azar, applied for and was granted an injunction to restrain Pepsi-Cola Trinidad Bottling Limited, a company whose managing director is Dominic Hadeed, from using the words "Ju-C", "JuCJu" and "JuCJu4u" in relation to any mineral water (beverages), aerated waters and other non-alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic fruit drinks and fruit juices, syrups and other preparations for making beverages. Last Sunday's newspapers carried advertisements for Ju-C, a product of Pepsi Cola Trinidad Bottling Company, and one for Ju-C-Ju, a product of Dairy Distributors. Ju-C comes in five flavours, while Ju-C-Ju advertised a sorrel drink. The injunction was granted by Justice Vasheist Kokaram pending the hearing and determination of three applications by Dairy Distributors before the Controller of Trade Marks "and/or until further order."

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Dominica launches geothermal exploration Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ Dominica News Online

Dominica has launched geothermal exploration, a major step to moving away from use of fossil fuel for energy generation, government said. It has contracted an Icelandic company to assist the island in drilling three test wells in the Roseau Valley. Dominica has long been speaking about its potential in geothermal energy and the need to greater exploit renewable resources for lower energy costs and revenue generation for the economy. "We shall be drilling three test wells in the Valley catchment area. If we are to achieve the objectives that we are looking at, first of all to build a small plant to supply our local demand and secondly, to achieve our long-term objective of building a 120 mega watt power plant to supply the French departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique, we must first of all have a clear sense as to the size and quality of that resource," said Minister for Energy Rayburn Blackmoore Monday at the ceremony to launch geothermal exploration. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit stressed that the geothermal project must be "shared" with Martinique and Guadeloupe, as the Regional Council of Guadeloupe has been at the forefront of it. "At a time, it was as if the geothermal potential resided in Guadeloupe rather than Dominica because of the passion showed to this very important project," Skerrit said. He stated also that the collaboration would auger well for an integration process among the three countries. Government signed a contract worth $17-million earlier this year with an Icelandic company for exploration of geothermal energy sources here.

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AID Bank gets high praises Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ Dominica News Online

A top Caribbean banker has rated the Agriculture Industrial and Development Bank as a leading performer in a challenging environment. President of the Caribbean Development Bank William Smith made these remarks at the 40th Anniversary Awards Dinner of the AID Bank over the weekend. He said the bank has played a crucial role in the economic development of Dominicans. "It has been 40 years of opening up and broadening access to credit by small and medium size businesses. It has been forty years of creating new opportunities and making a difference in the lives of thousands of ordinary Dominicans, of creating new opportunities and making a difference. It has been forty years of making an invaluable contribution to your small nation's economic and social development. These are achievements of which this institutions and all Dominicans can be justifiably proud. From humble beginnings in 1971, AID Bank has morphed into a sound financial institution," he said. According to William, the growth of the AID Banks balance sheet over the past forty years is testimony to the success of the organization. Meantime Acting Prime Minister Ambrose George has called on the AID Bank not to be complacent. He said while the AID Bank must be commended on its achievement. "Please permit me to remind you not to become complacent, but to learn from the lessons of the global financial crisis and to continue to advocate the need for the fundamental principles of cooperate governance, the strengthening of international control and due diligence, the ensuring of ethical management of practices, all of which will construct to the overall performance and transparency of the organization..." he said.

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"Our Island is Under Threat" Chief Minister of Anguilla Says in Address to Island. Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ Anguilla LNT

HON. HUBERT HUGHES Fellow Anguillians, I thank you for paying keen attention to the affairs of Government which are really your affairs which recently took place in London during my attendance at the Overseas Territories Conference. As you know I try to ensure that you are fully apprised of all matters of primary importance and I try to ensure that you are kept abreast. One of the matters which occupied some attention on our trip to London concerned the issue of the movement of the Permanent Secretaries. As you know this has been an issue that I have referred to that is yet an added distraction placed on my administration which wishes to get on with the business of helping our island keep afloat against the tide of a bitter recession. On that issue, I have spoken time and time again as to the fact that what the Governor and Deputy Governor were proposing to do was not in the best interest of Anguilla. You would have heard me refer to the fact that I was never consulted on this issue and that I was informed that the Permanent Secretaries would be transferred after that decision had already been taken. I am fully aware that the movement of the Permanent Secretaries is meant to disrupt particularly my Ministry. It is proposed by the Governor that Mrs Kathleen Rogers who possesses a double masters in both Accounting and Finance and who has worked in the Finance areas in the Civil Service for over 30 years is to be transferred to the Public Administration. It is also proposed that Dr Aidan Harrigan our Economist is to take over the portfolio of Mrs Kathleen Rogers, even though he is not skilled in the area of Finance. It is also proposed that Mr Foster Rogers who has no background in Economics is to replace Dr Aidan Harrigan's position and that Ms Arjul Wilson to take over the position of Foster Rogers. I have explained that this does not make sense since it is a poor use of our precious human resources and does a disservice to you the taxpayer who pays for the salaries of these civil servants. In addition, given that specific timelines were set for us in relation to our Budget, the action of the Governor and Deputy Governor has amounted to a shifting of the goal posts in mid-stream and serve to handicap this administration in our recovery effort on the Budget. What is more troubling however is that despite the expression of my concern over these transfers when Anguilla is in its toughest economic climate the Governor and Deputy

Governor have total disregard for the interests of the People of Anguilla. In London, I raised the issue with my fellow Territory Premiers and Leaders all of whom felt as strongly as I did that what the Governor was attempting to do was out of sync and could not occur in their territories. Not only did they express that that kind of action could never happen in their respective territories, but some even felt that what was attempted to be done amounted to economic terrorism. As a matter of fact together with myself it was raised at a Luncheon organized by Mr Bellingham in which both I and the other Leaders expressed to Mr Bellingham that what was being proposed was unacceptable and that that type of decision should be with the express view of the Chief Minister. Mr Bellingham undertook to communicate to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to have the matter reviewed. I am just informing everyone that I have received a letter from the Governor today 5th December 2011 indicating that Mr Bellingham had asked both him and Mr Stanley Reid to review the matter again. Interestingly, notwithstanding the request of Mr Bellingham, the Governor has informed me that his decision stands. I just wish to indicate to the People of Anguilla that as your representative it is my duty to represent your interests, but that I think at this point our island is under threat by the action of the Governor and Deputy Governor. I feel it my duty to keep you informed. God Bless you and God Bless Anguilla << Back to news headlines >>

IMF: FISCAL REFORM DELAYS MAY 'JEOPARDISE RECOVERY' Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ Bahamas Tribune

A FAILURE to rapidly implement tax reforms "could jeopardise a sustained recovery" in the Bahamas, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warning the Government's plans were "not sufficient" to reverse a rising $4.25 billion national debt and fiscal deficits set to average 4.25 per cent of GDP over the next four years. The Washington-based Fund, in its full 2011 Article IV consultation report on the Bahamian economy, described tackling this nation's debt-to-GDP ratio, and the rate at which it is growing, as "the key policy priority" for the next government, noting this is projected to grow by some 25 percentage points over a seven-year period. The IMF warned that the borrowings associated with the Government's infrastructure upgrades had made the fiscal position more "vulnerable". And it also gave the Ingraham administration a veiled 'rap on the knuckles' for its decision to lift the public sector wage freeze imposed in the 2010-2011 Budget, urging that the Government's wage bill, as a percentage of GDP, to be slashed "to the pre-crisis level". The full Article IV report, while disclosing little that was not known in terms of the IMF's general view of the Bahamian economy, adds further 'meat to the bones' in terms of the urgency with which it wants the Government to tackle its weakened fiscal position. Implying that the Government needed to slow down its increased borrowing to meet infrastructure and social spending needs, the IMF warned that the main problem posed by the growing debt burden was increased servicing (interest) costs. These had the potential to draw resources and spending away from high priority areas, such as education, health and crime fighting. Underscoring the urgency of the situation, the Fund said: "The key policy priority is implementing a sustained fiscal consolidation. The public debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to reach 69 per cent by end of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, from 44 per cent in fiscal year 20080-2009." To tackle a fiscal deficit projected to average 4.25 per cent of GDP between 2011-2012 and 2015-2016, the IMF is urging a balanced approach, combining tax reforms with measures to contain spending and enhance transparency at government-owned corporations. And it warned: "Delays in implementing reforms, (particularly revenue reforms, to curb the debt), could jeopardised a sustained recovery.

"The large borrowing necessary to improve the physical and social infrastructure constitutes a source of vulnerability. A delay in reversing the rising debt trajectory could raise financing costs." While the Bahamas' GDP was expected to grow by 2.5-3 per cent in 2012 and 2013, largely driven by Baha Mar and other foreign direct investments related to the tourism industry, the IMF said its projections indicated this would have little impact on the Government's financial position. "The central government deficits would, however, remain at almost 4.25 per cent of GDP per year during the period [to end-2016], raising the central government debt-to-GDP ratio to close to 56 per cent, and overall public debt to about 69 per cent by 2016." That, as the IMF has previously warned, is dangerous territory for the Bahamas. At the end of its 2010 fiscal year, Bahamian central government debt already stood at 48 per cent of GDP, having increased by 14 percentage points in two years. And total national debt was already at 62 per cent. The IMF's own staff projections showed that, following a 2.1 per cent high this fiscal year, the Government is set to consistently run recurrent fiscal deficits (recurrent revenues minus recurrent spending) equivalent to 1.5 per cent of GDP between the 20122013 and 2015-2016 fiscal years. And the total fiscal deficit for 2011-2012 is expected to grow to 5 per cent, with central government debt hitting 50 per cent of GDP by end-June 2012. For fiscal 2010-2011, without the boost from the one-off transactions involving Baha Mar and BORCO, and the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) sale, government revenues rose by only 0.5 per cent of GDP, with both international trade and property taxes "underperforming". Turning to the Government's fiscal consolidation plans, the Fund said these included "a new procedure to reduce smuggling of tobacco products". Otherwise, it was more of the same: Strengthened tax administration through Customs, and the consolidation of all nonimport taxes under a centralised unit at the Ministry of Finance; improved debt management through better coordination between the Ministry and Central Bank of the Bahamas; and reduced transfers to public corporations. Describing these as "not sufficient", the IMF said it had urged the Ingraham administration "to adopt more comprehensive policies geared at placing the government debt-to-GDP on a declining path over the medium term. "A stronger fiscal effort was needed to create buffers for future shocks, improve physical and social infrastructure and keep borrowing costs low," the Fund added. "Staff also noted that delaying action on fiscal consolidation, particularly with regard to revenue reform, might result in additional risks and pressures.

"It noted that the most dynamic sectors of the economy generate a small share of revenue, and that their spells of growth did not translate proportionately to higher fiscal revenues. "Reforms aimed at broadening the tax base, for example through the adoption of a domestic consumption tax, should therefore be a key priority." The IMF also urged the Government to apply the same action it was taking, with respect to the Industries Encouragement Act, to other tax incentives it provided to the private sector. The Ingraham administration has introduced time limits and transition policies to graduate companies receiving tax concessions/benefits under this Act, ensuring it does not become an open-ended welfare system. Still, the IMF is advocating that the Government take a multi-pronged approach through spending restraint. "Government expenditure is projected to remain at about 20 per cent of GDP over the medium term," the Article IV report said. "The Government's wage bill accounts for over 40 per cent of revenues, and is projected to rise following the lifting of the wage freeze adopted in fiscal year 2010-2011. Transfers to public enterprises are high, and interest costs are rising. "Staff highlighted the need to gradually return the wage bill, as a share of GDP, to the pre-crisis level and keep transfers and other current expenditure under control." And the IMF also called on the Government to "urgently" develop a strategy to "lower the drag" that Bahamasair, the Water & Sewerage Corporation and ZNS had on the public finances. The lack of timely financial information on their contribution to the Government's overall financial position was a "vulnerability". In conclusion, the IMF said: "A strong fiscal consolidation strategy is essential to place the public debt-to-GDP ratio on a sustainable path, and to build buffers, including reserves, that could be used to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and external shocks."

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Project targeting $75- $100m build out value Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ Bahamas Tribune

An upscale Abaco real estate development is targeting a $75-$100 million total value when its 46 home sites are fully built out, telling Tribune Business yesterday that the project expects to kick into high gear in the New Year after completing its first sales last month. Gustaf Hernqvist, Serenity Point's project manager, said increased construction activity at the adjacent Schooner Bay development in south Abaco was helping to create a critical mass that encouraged potential buyers both projects were for real. Telling Tribune Business that construction on Serenity Point's clubhouse was set to begin imminently, and that the first homeowner was anticipated to start building within the next six months, Mr Hernqvist said that reducing the project's real estate prices by up to 35 per cent - in response to market conditions - had also helped to stimulate buyer interest. "We've found Schooner Bay has switched into a new gear, completing the harbour," Mr Hernqvist explained. "Over the last four-five months the pace has been incredible, with all the construction. The construction of the hotel is underway, a restaurant is coming soon, and a harbourmaster's office is open. "These are all considerations for owners at Serenity Point; to be able to get into a golf cart and go to places next door. The difference between us and Schooner Bay is that we're a gated community." Access to Schooner Bay's amenities and facilities is a key selling point for Serenity Point, which is being created as a boutique, upmarket real estate development featuring its own clubhouse, affinity pool, tennis courts and 24-hour security. To make Serenity Point even more attractive and stimulate buyer activity, Mr Hernqvist said the developers had cut their lot prices by up to 35-37 per cent, dropping a beachfront location from an initial $850,000 to $535,000. Beachfront, and hillside sites, start at $300,000 for a half-acre lot. "Since all these activities at Schooner Bay have been taking off, we've had a lot of inquiries," Mr Hernqvist told Tribune Business. "As of last month, we sold two beachfront lots. Another beachfront lot was reserved, and two ridge lots have been reserved with deposits. "We are actually now just in the process of commencing construction for a clubhouse. Our projection is that this is going to be completed in a about a year."

Altogether, some two lots have been reserved, and another six sold, at Serenity Point. "The number one reason for why we're seeing this activity is because of how rapidly Schooner Bay is developing, giving investors and people confidence that it is a place to be," Mr Hernqvist explained. And, with volatility still impacting world stock markets, Mr Hernqvist said real estate represented a secure investment opportunity, especially given that prices were starting to recover following the recession. "Abaco is one of the best markets for second home owners," he added, "meaning you can take your initial investment to generate considerable rental revenue. We also have a very attractive in-house rental programme where we assist homeowners to rent their homes within the community. "With the activity we are seeing right now, we are expecting to, for the first time since we started, to be able to increase prices slightly in the New Year." Serenity Point is being developed by Anco Lands, a company headed by Alexis Nihon II, whose family have been long-time Bahamas residents. He himself represented the Bahamas at wrestling at the 1968 Olympics, and is well-known for his charitable contributions. The Abaco-based project is the first attempt to develop his considerable landholdings on the island. "We are expecting that the first homeowner will commence construction within the next six months," Mr Hernqvist told Tribune Business. "This New Year we expect to see a lot of improvement. "The ultimate vision is to develop a private, boutique community that goes along with the natural development of Abaco, and tied into the architectural designs for what is built on the island and what is known to be appreciated. We want to contribute to growth in a positive and eco-friendly way." The Tampa-based architectural and town planning firm, Cooper Johnson Smith, has been engaged to craft an architecture scheme that incorporates the traditions of this nation, Bermuda and the Caribbean. Dunmore Town, Harbour Island and Hope Town are serving as inspirations. Mr Hernqvist said Serenity Point's properties will feature wrap-around decks, hardwood floors and large open spaces to allow them to breathe. The developers are providing a Builder's Program to aid homeowners with construction, giving them access to selected contractors and architects.

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Scotia invests 'over $1m' in Carmichael Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ Bahamas Tribune Scotiabank (Bahamas) is investing "over $1 million" in expanding its New Providence branch network to the Carmichael area, a move set to create 10 new jobs, as its managing director pledged: "We're here for the long haul." Emphasising that the Canadian-owned financial institution was not a "fair weather banker", Kevin Teslyk said Scotiabank hoped to begin site preparation and have the "proverbial shovel in the ground" this month, with construction completed by June/July 2012. Expressing hope that the Carmichael branch would be open by November/October next year, Mr Teslyk also disclosed that Scotiabank was looking to further expand its New Providence footprint, and take its services closer to consumers, by establishing a presence in the eastern end of the island. And, while Scotiabank is not seeking to do anything about a new location for its busiest branch, Freeport, within the next two-three years, Mr Teslyk said it was looking to use space at the existing location more efficiently and promote use of "alternate delivery systems" such as online banking. Emphasising that New Providence, with its large customer base, was Scotiabank's main focus, Mr Teslyk: "We will be opening a new branch in the Bahamas in 2012 in the Carmichael area. Carmichael is one of the fastest growing, if not the fastest growing, area in the Bahamas. "We will have a presence there. We are very optimistic that the proverbial shovel is in the ground this month, and site preparation is this month...... We are expanding. We are already re-investing." Mr Teslyk said Scotiabank was investing "over $1 million" just in the Carmichael branch's construction, with the expansion set to create 10 permanent jobs at the bank. It was also likely to be a 'six days a week' operation featuring Saturday banking. When asked why Scotiabank (Bahamas) had decided to focus on Carmichael, as opposed to its Freeport operations, Mr Teslyk explained that "all businesses have to evaluate different opportunities. Carmichael was a larger, greater, immediate need for our bank". The Scotiabank managing director said that during his initial visit to Freeport, part of the countrywide assessment he undertook after replacing Barry Malcolm, he was asked by staff there about the prospects for moving to a larger, superior branch location.

Although the large commercial, corporate and private wealth management segments had been concentrated at Scotiabank's main Rawson Square branch in Nassau, Mr Teslyk said: "Freeport is our largest branch operation in the Bahamas. "In terms of customers, the number of transactions, it's bigger than the main branch. It is our largest single branch operation. There are a number of things we want to do in Freeport." While re-location to a "new, traditional branch structure" would not happen "in the next two-three years", Mr Teslyk explained that Scotiabank had engaged two retail specialists to advise on how the "excess and vacant space" at the Freeport branch could be better used to serve customers. He added that Scotiabank also had "to do a better job" when it came to educating customers on online and mobile banking, and non-branch forms of delivering banking products and services to them. Off-site Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) will be another focus for Scotiabank (Bahamas) in 2012, with non-traditional methods of service delivery targeted on an "ongoing basis". "There's different opportunities that exist for us to take a look at, ways to enable us to be more efficient, but also reach the customer," Mr Teslyk said. These included "boutiques" and in-store concessions. He added that Scotiabank (Bahamas) had been happy with the results generated by the 'sales centre' business model employed at its Caves Village location in western New Providence, and indicated the bank was likely to employ a similar set-up - at least initially - at its proposed future eastern branch. "It's gone well," Mr Teslyk said of Caves Village. "It's been a slightly different business model tested at that location. It's not a traditional bank - it's a sales centre. With any new business model, it's had its fair share of growing pains. We've had customers wanting to engage in transactions at the individual level, and have had to educate and familiarise them with it." The Scotiabank (Bahamas) head said the lessons learned from Caves Village would "inform future decisions, as we're looking at a similar kind of business model in the east". "That will be the next priority after Carmichael; to develop a presence in eastern New Providence," Mr Teslyk said. He added that Scotiabank (Bahamas) had "done a lot over the last year" when it came to introducing new products and services, introducing a "suite of deposit products" to respond to changing client demands and needs.

Reiterating that Scotiabank (Bahamas) was seeking to achieve a "balance" between services delivered through the traditional branch, and those delivered electronically, Mr Teslyk said it was seeking to give customers "a choice on how they want to engage the bank for products and services. Scotiabank, he added, had also introduced a new credit card product featuring less restrictions and blackouts, and better opportunities to combine hotel, air and rental car fares for holiday planning.

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Mortgage company 'was near bankruptcy' Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ Bahamas Tribune THE Bahamas Mortgage Corporation was headed to bankruptcy as a result of "reckless lending habits" under the PLP administration, chairman and FNM Senator Dr Duane Sands said yesterday. Dr Sands said that 65 per cent of the corporation's now-delinquent loans were created during the Progressive Liberal Party's five-year tenure and with PLP MP Shane Gibson at the helm. The FNM senator's comments follow claims by the party that Dr Sands, supported by his administration, had ordered the "heartless" eviction of a family of seven. Dr Sands citicised Mr Gibson for "capitalising" on the emotional impact of a family losing their home instead of sharing ownership of the root cause. "A huge number of individuals were placed in a situation where they were granted mortgages that there was no possible chance for them to service the debt," Dr Sands said. "It created a situation whereby millions and millions of taxpayers dollars were squandered." Dr Sands explained that the family - whose story was published in a newspaper - had been in arrears for five years, and, after "every possible effort" had been exhausted, a Supreme court order granted vacant possession to the BMC. Last night, Mr Gibson challenged Dr Sands to produce evidence to support his accusations. He also urged the government to exercise greater care in the eviction process. Mr Gibson said: "I challenge him to bring the proof to show where government ministers instructed staff to give mortgages to Bahamians who didn't qualify. Bring the cases, present the paperwork. Now if a person's circumstances change that's different but the (BMC) staff assess the clients and determine whether they are eligible." While he said he did not have enough information on that particular eviction to determine whether it was a valid exercise, Mr Gibson cried shame on the government for not coordinating with other agencies to provide assistance to the ousted family. "If you're a government senator, and you're about to put people on the streets, wouldn't you coordinate with social services?" Mr Gibson asked. "These are difficult times for individuals. You don't have people who have money and not paying - you have people that do it - but this family don't fall in that category. "The government has taken a business position, but then a humanitarian position should have kicked in and said let's contact social services."

Mr Gibson referred to statements made by Dr Sands and Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham on the sidelines of the Mackey Yard subdivision two weeks ago. At that time, Dr Sands revealed that the BMC faced some $80 million in debt from more than 1,000 defaulted loans. Acknowledging the delinquency rate as "unacceptably high", Mr Ingraham also advised the corporation to seek compensation from the Mortgage Guarantee Fund to cover delinquent mortgages insured by the Ministry of Housing. Also highlighting the presence of such a fund, last night Mr Gibson called Dr Sands' statements an attempt to justify the government's position and said the BMC did not stand to lose as much money as previously stated. The PLP MP maintained that the default percentage rose by more than 10 per cent under the FNM administration's 1992 to 2002 term. "In 1992, the default percentage was less than 20 per cent. In 2002 when (FNM) left it was around 32 per cent and it was unchanged when we left office. It didn't increase," Mr Gibson said.

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Trinidad and Tobago to strengthen financial sector Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ Caribbean News Now Trinidad and Tobago will strengthen its financial sector supervisory and regulatory framework with a US$50 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). "Trinidad and Tobago is considered the regional financial center for the English-speaking Caribbean and the global crisis impacted its financial sector," said IDB financial markets lead specialist and team leader Juan Antonio Ketterer. "The country enjoys a relatively strong external position and in terms of public debt. This program will focus on reinforcing macroeconomic stability to minimize the impact of exposure to any future vulnerability or systemic crisis." "This program will also help to strengthen financial sector regulation, as well as to improve supervision of the sector," added Claudia Stevenson, IDB private sector development senior specialist. "This operation will create the environment for private activities to flourish and will contribute to support regional integration." This financing is the first of a program of two policy-based loans. This first operation has also identified the policies and reforms that will be implemented with the second one. << Back to news headlines >>

St Vincent ranked 36th in 2011 transparency index Tuesday 6th December 2011 ­ Caribbean News Now

St Vincent and the Grenadines has been ranked 36th in the world on the 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of Transparency International. The country has been included in the index for the first time, along with The Bahamas, St Lucia, and Suriname. The index includes 183 countries and territories around the world. According to an article published by the Guardian newspaper in Britain, St Vincent and the Grenadines scored 5.8 on a range of one to ten. The CPI score relates to the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians by business people and country analysts. The Index, which is closely watched by investors, economists, and civil society campaigners, is based on expert assessments and data from 17 surveys from 13 independent institutions, covering issues such as access to information, bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, and the enforcement of anticorruption laws. Afghanistan and Myanmar share second to last place with a score of 1.5, with Somalia and North Korea -- measured for the first time -- coming in last with a score of 1. New Zealand was ranked the least corrupt nation with a score of 9.5. Other Caribbean countries listed on the index included Barbados, which placed 16th, St Lucia 25th, Dominica 44th, Jamaica 86th, Trinidad and Tobago 91st and Haiti 175th.

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Vendors in downtown Kingston's craft market introduce outdoor shopping on Sundays Tuesday 6th December, 2011: The Gleaner STRUGGLING TO drum up business in a difficult economic climate, vendors at the craft market in downtown Kingston have introduced a Sunday special. "Things slow and many people have said they were not aware that the craft market was still open, so what we are doing is streetside vending on Sundays," Diane Sutherland told The Gleaner. "We want to attract more shoppers and they can know that they will get low prices and discounts here," Sutherland added. She was one of the vendors who set up their stalls outside the craft market last Sunday and this will continue for the rest of the year. Other vendors will be on the sidewalk next Sunday with loads of bargain. Vendors in the downtown Kingston craft market near the waterfront have long complained that while they have been managing to survive, business is slow as shoppers are not coming in. The vendors argue there is an easy fix to their problem, "repair the port and let cruise ships start docking there again and we will be fine," one vendor claimed. According to vendors, while Jamaicans do come looking for bargains, they need tourists to push critical volumes of sale. << Back to news headlines >>

Rebuild downtown Kingston block by block Tuesday 6th December, 2011: The Gleaner AFTER YEARS of leading a one-man campaign for a makeover of downtown Kingston, architect Al Edwards has welcomed recent moves to achieve a rebirth of the city. But Edwards is concerned that the redevelopment plan lacks the focus and organisation needed to make it a success. "Downtown has the infrastructure and it is not being utilised. It is ugly and nobody wants to live there, so the powers that be need to take a serious look and do what needs doing," Edwards told The Gleaner in a recent interview. According to Edwards, he has tried to sell his redevelopment plan to every prime minister since P.J. Patterson, with little success. Now, he wants whoever elected to lead the country after the general election to take a serious look at what he has put on the table. "My idea is to inject new people, of a higher socio-economic level, into downtown Kingston. That is the only ingredient through which the city can be redeveloped," said Edwards. "My idea would be to first of all take a core area which has few residential buildings and several derelict buildings and underutilised structures. "We would then select the vacant lands and derelict buildings and knock them down to build multi-storey buildings and attract new people as residents," added Edwards. According to Edwards, the area he would start with is the section of downtown bordered by North Street, East Queen Street, Rum Lane and Johns Lane. That is an area with 16 city blocks and provides a natural link between the downtown core and uptown. "We would build, we would sell and then we would take another block and march our way down to the waterfront." Edwards said his redevelopment plan would include the construction of a shopping plaza, supermarket, park and a day-care facility. "A part of the problem is that the city has no life. Everybody tries to leave downtown once it gets dark. You have a little life on East Queen Street, but I envisage East Queen Street from the St William Grant Park to Hanover Street as a hip strip with restaurants and stuff like that," said Edwards. According to the outspoken architect, the redevelopment plan could be financed by soft loans from European countries which were involved in the transatlantic slave trade.

"Not one dollar out of Government coffers would be spent on the project. We would repay the loan in 20 years because we are building and reselling for a profit," said Edwards.

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Parliament to debate OECS Economic Union law Tuesday 6th December, 2011: The Gleaner The St Kitts and Nevis parliament will begin debating, on Tuesday, legislation giving effect to the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Economic Union. The twin-island Federation signed the revised treaty in June last year and ratified it on January 21 this year. Deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Sam Condor, will pilot the 57-page legislation which describes the Eastern Caribbean countries as "a prime example of what can be achieved when member states of an organisation such as the OECS merge to form a single entity with the express purpose of regional cooperation. It notes that the theory of comparative advantage is the basis for economic integration and that participating countries in an economic integration can mutually benefit from international trade due to an increase in total input and a general increase in productivity. "The goal is to increase competitiveness and total output among the countries involved so as to improve the welfare and quality of life of the people," said the explanatory notes to the legislation. It noted that the global imperatives and challenges of the 21st century as well as domestic, social, economic and political conditions have caused leaders of the OECS to come to the realisation that in order for the subregion to become a meaningful player on the international scene, it is imperative to deepen and strengthen the economic integration process. "OECS heads were convinced that the challenges being faced by vulnerable, heavily indebted, micro states, such as ours, would be better faced together as a stronger and more integrated group than individually. "The process of functional co-operation through economic integration will help to reduce our vulnerabilities and increase our resilience to external impacts. The revised treaty addresses the new circumstances confronting the member states, especially as they relate to the weaknesses in implementing subregion wide policies by instituting legislative and executive procedures," it said. The St Kitts and Nevis government said that economic integration is the process of removing barriers to trade between national markets in goods, services and factors of production, including capital and labour. It notes that one important benefit of the economic union is the institution of free movement of people and labour among the member states.

"It is imperative that in this globalised interconnected economy, nationals of St Kitts and Nevis take advantage of the opportunities created by this further liberalisation of the labour market in the OECS. "Our service providers can now sell their services throughout the OECS without being burdened with having to acquire a work permit. It should be noted that the economic union will give us access to a market of over 500,000 potential customers.

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BNB $35m line for Govt Tuesday 6th December, 2011: Nation News Government is seeking a $35 million line of credit from the Barbados NationalBank (BNB) to meet its spending commitments over the next two years. Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is down on the Order Paper to pilot a resolution to approve the line of credit from the BNB when the House of Assembly meets today at 10 a.m. According to the resolution, the money, being sought under the SpecialLoans Act which caps Government borrowing at $1.5 billion, will be used to provide support for the FreundelStuart Administration's expenditure programme over the next two years and specifically to assist with road infrastructural works. The line of credit will be for a period of two years and will fluctuate within the approved limit inclusive of monthly interest charges, commencing from the date of acceptance of the facility. The principal is to be liquidated on maturity from the Consolidated Fund, with the option to convert any amount drawn at that time to a long-term bond facility with terms to be negotiated in accordance with market conditions at that time.

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Jamaica goes to the polls December 29 Tuesday 6th December, 2011: Caribbean News Now Jamaicans will go to the polls on Thursday, December 29, 2011. Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the date for the country's 16th general election on Sunday. Nomination Day is scheduled for Monday, December 12. Last week the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EoJ) announced that the latest voters' list was published with 1,648,036 voters, of whom 41,607 were new electors. Public education officer at the Electoral Office, Christin Senior, said that the office is currently printing and packaging the identification cards for distribution to the offices. Voter identification cards for the new electors that were added to the November 30 voters' list should be ready for distribution to constituency offices by Wednesday, December 7, 2011. For persons who were on the voters' list prior to the publication of the November 30 list (those who were added on or before May 31, 2011), ID cards are also available for collection. "Several of them have already been printed and they have been sent out by regions to the EOJ constituency offices, but we hope to begin officially distributing them by Wednesday," Senior said. "About a month ago at our last check, we had 300,000 ID cards that were yet to be collected," Senior said. She said that the ID cards "must be collected by the (owner) at the EOJ constituency office where you are registered. You cannot send somebody for it; it is not delivered by mail. You have to sign for it and we will also verify that the information is correct and we will verify your identity." In terms of voting on Election Day, Senior explained that if voters do not have their ID card they will still be allowed to vote once their name is on the voters' list and their identity can be verified.

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Suriname to host CARIFESTA in 2013 Tuesday 6th December, 2011: Caribbean News Now Suriname will host the 11th staging of CARIFESTA, the Caribbean's premier festival of the creative and performing arts in 2013; this after their first successful hosting in 2003. Dr Hilary Brown, CARICOM Secretariat's programme manager for culture and community development, made this announcement at the 21st meeting of the Regional Cultural Committee (RCC), which opened in Paramaribo, Suriname, last Thursday. She explained that the RCC would discuss with Suriname, plans for CARIFESTA XI, starting with logistic and promotional arrangements. "The Caribbean Community welcomes the offer of the government of Suriname to host CARIFESTA XI in 2013 and we are all looking forward to the event with great anticipation, she stated," noting that CARICOM was at a "crossroads in the development of this highly valued regional expose of Caribbean arts and culture." The future of CARIFESTA has been uncertain since Guyana hosted, by default, CARIFESTA X in 2008, after The Bahamas indicated an inability to do so. Although it is their second time around, Suriname will host CARIFESTA XI in accordance with the new model prescribed in the CARIFESTA strategic plan developed by the RCC in 2004. According to Brown, the new and improved CARIFESTA sought to address several weaknesses in the management and promotion of the event, and to ensure that it was a more dynamic, economically viable festival that met the expectations of regional and international audiences. Since 2006, attempts have been made to phase in critical elements of the new model starting with CARIFESTA IX hosted by Trinidad and Tobago. The new approach to CARIFESTA, Brown explained, would provide more opportunities for professional and artistic development for the region's artists. It would also create a permanent management structure for the festival and develop new income streams from the intellectual property value of the festival through better branding and merchandising of the event. The RCC, in its two-day meeting, also reviewed the draft regional development strategy and action plan for the cultural industries in CARICOM. This strategy was fine-tuned in a meeting of the regional task force on cultural industries which preceded the RCC. That task force -- co-chaired by Jamaica and Saint Lucia -- was set up in 2008 in response to a mandate from the joint meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) and the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD), to facilitate the development of a comprehensive regional development strategy and action plan for the region's cultural industries.

Brown told the meeting that the strategy was "innovative and cutting-edge ... with the objectives of growing the regional creative economy by building more globally competitive cultural industries; creating an enabling environment to improve the competitiveness and productivity of the sector; and positioning the region as a cultural Mecca and preferred investment location, while preserving and projecting our cultural diversity, our national and regional identities on the global stage." The RCC will make proposals for the strategy's advancement and implementation at the highest level of the Community. The report and recommendations of the task force will also be discussed and acted upon by COHSOD and COTED as well as by the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP). Several other trade related matters such as the implementation of the culture provisions of the Economic Partnership Agreement; the free movement of artists in the CSME; and the ongoing negotiations for a CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Agreement were also ventilated. In addition, the meeting explored issues of cultural diversity and cultural heritage, as well as relations with a number of regional and international partners. The Regional Cultural Committee was established by CARICOM to advise ministers of culture on issues including cultural heritage, culture and trade, culture and the economy, and cultural policy. It has established itself over the past 22 years as a valuable regional forum where directors of culture meet, deliberate and propose harmonized or coordinated approaches to cultural development initiatives in the context of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

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Premier welcomes Cape Air to Nevis Tuesday 6th December, 2011: Caribbean News Now Premier and Minister of Tourism, Joseph Parry on Wednesday, November 30, officially welcomed the much anticipated Cape Air Airlines to Nevis. Cape Air, which is headquartered in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, began operations to Nevis on November 11 with a non-stop service from the San Juan, Puerto Rico hub. The island has been facing some challenging times with flights into and out of Puerto Rico after American Eagle discontinued its service in early April 2011. Speaking at a brief but symbolic ceremony at Nevis' airport, Parry said, "We are not sure where American Eagle Airlines is today in terms of travel to and from Nevis, but Cape Air is here and we are glad that they are". During the premier's remarks he told the audience that he is pleased with the Cape Air representatives that he met, among them president Dave Bushy and he hopes to continue a very hospitable, welcoming relationship with the airline. "I really believe both sides will make merry music together, as we bring more and more passengers to Nevis," Parry told the audience. He said it is significant that Cape Air is based in New England, and that at one time many of the visitors to Nevis came from that area. He hoped the trend could continue. With Nevis on the route map, Cape Air now flies to seven Caribbean islands. The others are Puerto Rico, Vieques, St Thomas, St Croix, Tortola and Anguilla. The airline has been providing inter-island service in the Caribbean for 14 years. According to a commemorative booklet (Bird's Eye View) launched to coincide with the Nevis launch, travellers can book their entire trip with one click on a number of websites including: Continental.com, Jetblue.com and travel booking sites including Expedia and Travelocity. The premier concluded that he is looking forward to moving out of the present global recession and into witnessing a growth in tourism on Nevis. Cape Air daily flights departs San Juan at 4: 21pm arriving in Nevis at 6pm. The airline departs Nevis at 10am and arrives in San Juan at 11:30am.

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St Kitts-Nevis and Bahamas exchange groundwater ideas Tuesday 6th December, 2011: Caribbean News Now The Basseterre Valley Aquifer and a similar GEF-IWCAM demonstration project will be the subject of groundwater management discussions, when six officials from The Bahamas are hosted by the St Kitts Water Services Department this week. Termed the "Rehabilitation and Management of the Basseterre Valley Aquifer," the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Integrating Watershed and Coastal Areas Management (IWCAM) sponsored project, located in St Kitts, had the objective of investigating the condition of the groundwater and implementing measures aimed at reducing possible negative effects, such as pollution and the removal of too much water. Considering that The Bahamas had a similar groundwater project, the representatives from both countries intend to learn from each other's experiences in the protection of their fresh water sources and natural resources in general. In St Kitts and Nevis, the Basseterre Valley Aquifer is the single largest source of drinking water in St Kitts, providing two and a half million gallons per day, which is 70 percent of the water used in Basseterre, Frigate Bay and the South East Peninsular. One of the critical outcomes of the project is the designation of the Ponds-Needsmust Well-field Area as a protected area with the intention to convert it into a National Park. It consists of 500 acres on either side of the Kim Collins Highway that is vulnerable to pollution. The government of St Kitts and Nevis and GEF-IWCAM saw the importance of protecting the Basseterre Valley Aquifer and in 2008 a Project Management Unit was established. St Kitts and Nevis is among 13 Caribbean countries that have implemented IWCAM projects between 2006 and 2011. GEF has provided US$14 million in grants that have assisted in the implementation of nine demonstration projects in eight countries.

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Visa requirement waived for Colombians visiting Jamaica Tuesday 6th December, 2011: Caribbean News Now Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has revealed that Cabinet has approved an easing of travel restrictions for Colombians visiting Jamaica, in a bid to boost tourist arrivals from that country. Bartlett outlined that "Cabinet has approved the conditional waiver of visas for Colombian nationals on visit to Jamaica for thirty days or less and for tourism purposes." He added, "Under the current regime Jamaicans travelling to Colombia do not need a visa, however outside of diplomats Colombians require visas to travel to Jamaica. Hence this initiative will facilitate reciprocity and easier passage for our Colombian visitors." The tourism minister also emphasized, "This move forms part of our ongoing marketing thrust to attract tourists out of South America and is a key element in our strategy to boost tourist arrivals by tapping into emerging markets, specifically South America, as well as Brazil, Russia, India and China, commonly referred to as the BRIC countries. We are also currently reviewing our arrangements with other countries to determine what additional steps could be taken to facilitate the seamless passage of visitors." In welcoming the waiver, director of tourism and chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board, (JTB) John Lynch said, "This arrangement will certainly enhance our marketing initiative in Colombia and bolster our efforts to increase tourist arrivals from that country. It will also complement steps we have taken to improve airlift and increase the number of new airline seats out of Colombia." Earlier this year Jamaica secured some 10,000 new airline seats out of the burgeoning South America travel market, further brightening the prospects for growing tourist arrivals to Jamaica. In August the JTB and Copa Airlines announced a new flight service between Panama City's Tocumen International Airport and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Copa flights through Panama City into Montego Bay will be available from 58 cities in North, Central and South America.

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Used car sales plunge 50% on higher taxes, dealers say Tuesday 6th December, 2011: Dominican Today The head of the used auto importers grouped in ASOCIVU on Monday said higher taxes have caused their sales to plummet 50 percent compared with last year. Alexander Genao blamed that reduction on a change in the valuation system since 2010, which in his view noticeably hurts imports. He also announced ASOCIVU "Driving Christmas 2011," from the 15th to the 19th this month in the Feria Ganadera fairgrounds. Genao added that 70 used car dealers will have more than 5,000 vehicles for sale, with immediate loan approvals.

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Official announces US$200M, 200 room hotel in the capital Tuesday 6th December, 2011: Dominican Today Tourism minister Francisco Javier Garcia announced the construction of a hotel in the Dominican capital's metropolitan zone at a cost of around US$200 million on Winston Churchill avenue, by the company Real Hotel. The 15 floor structure will feature 200 rooms, parking on two levels and a surface area of 3,866 square meters. "This investment and others which have been announced this week, and which we'll continue announcing in the next few days confirm that investors have confidence, that Dominican Republic has a propitious climate for investment and guarantee that we'll continue being the Caribbean's leaders," the official said.

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Durandis: Haiti's Aid-Industrial Complex Tuesday 6th December, 2011: Caribbean Journal Even before the disastrous earthquake that rocked Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, the country suffered immensely from the symptoms of its Aid Industrial Complex (AIC). The term Republic of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) was synonymous with the country because of the vast number of NGOs doing business there, given its total population and territory size. It has been said that Haiti had more than 10,000 NGOs for its 10 million residents, of which less than 10 percent are legally registered with the Haitian government. Less than two months from now, a tsunami of international media and personnel will embark to Haiti to get a glimpse of what has been done since the earthquake, and where Haiti stands in regard to its own reconstruction. There will be many reports about what has happened to the aid money, or more questions about where it has gone, all in the hope to get a sense of where the country is really going. Since many people have been asking where the aid money is, or, better yet, questioning the lack of spending by some of the biggest NGOs or foundations that received large sum of donations in the name of Haiti, this report will try to elucidate the landscape of aid in Haiti and highlight what some of the major players have been doing since that tragic day almost two years ago. For starters, a basic Google search of "where is the aid money for Haiti" would give plenty of results that anyone could deduce that most of the money has either not yet spent or has not been efficiently used to rebuild the country. According to a National Public Radio (NPR) report in January, the American Red Cross, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam America, Partners in Health, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Save the Children, William J Clinton Foundation were all among the top receivers of donation money to respond to Haiti's earthquake. Almost two years later, many of these organizations and foundations have not been able to efficiently disburse the funds they raised for Haiti's relief and recovery postearthquake. The American Red Cross (ARC), in their June update, published that out of the $484 million dollars raised, they have been able to spend just $295 million dollars on the relief and recovery effort thus far. Most of that money has been spent on temporary housing, food, water, sanitation, and health. The ARC has been working in partnership and sometimes as donors to other large NGOs, such as Habitat for Humanity.

Oxfam America, which focused its efforts on shelter, water sanitation, foods and livelihoods, raised an estimated $98 million, of which 20 percent still remained unspent. More recently, six staff members of the organizations were fired over alleged abuse of power and bullying. Oxfam made it clear these members were not involved in any money corruption scheme, and that all money received for earthquake relief and recovery would continue to be used for the reconstruction of the country. Other major organizations, such as World Vision, Catholic Relief Services, and Save the Children fared no better at the pace they have decided to spend donors' money in Haiti. All these organizations, including the Clinton and Clinton Bush organizations raised more than $1 billion between them in the immediate aftermath of the quake, and as of this writing many of them have scaled down their involvement significantly in Haiti, as they keep promising that every dime will be spent in the country. The issue at hand is not so much about how these organizations failed to disburse their donated fund in a timely manner and adequately, but, more importantly, it is how they have decided to spend the money. For the most part, the Clinton Foundation served as a grant-giver to many of those megaNGOs, which already received tens of millions of dollars post-earthquake ­ a sum they could not seem to find ways to spend fast enough in a country that is in need of almost every basic necessity. The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund has revealed about $32 million committed to organizations working in Haiti (having raised $54 million) where less than $5 million is committed to Haitian-led organizations; organizations like Concern, Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Relief Services, and Partners in Health are among the fund recipients. The aid industrial complex (AIC) in Haiti is essentially applying the marginal utility theory when it comes to how NGOs think of themselves vis-a-vis their dealings with Haitian-led organizations and the people. The theory states that the marginal utility of a good or service is the utility gained or lost from an increase or decrease in the consumption of that good or service. The NGOs which comprised the AIC understand the marginal utility of their services because they believe that, without them, life could become a lot harder for many more Haitians. Thus when it comes to aid and grants, these organizations form a tight group and keep out of most Haitian-led organizations within their circle. The more they apply this theory, the more valuable their services become to the Haitian people, and the more the latter would demand their services.

William Stanley Jevons, the political economist, once put it that value depends entirely on utility. What becomes very obvious in my research is that the way the AIC works is almost counterproductive to progress in Haiti. We have a system where mega-NGOs, such as the ARC, Oxfam and CRS -- to name just a few -- usually dominate the lion's share of the donations, and thus can explicitly decide what projects they will or not support. Working alongside the mega-NGOs are foundations like the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and major international organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which usually support the mega-NGOs work by funding them. Another interesting observation is that mega-NGOs often collaborate among themselves by providing funds or in-kind services to each other. It is interesting because this setup clearly limits the need to go outside the AIC for help or services, and thus every major decision is kept within a limited core organizations and institutions, which more often than not deprive the voice of the Haitian people. What can be seen in Haiti as it tries to rebuild are those projects that the AIC deems valuable and important. The NGOs and those world organizations move at their own pace and do as they please because they control everything -- the relief effort lasted however long they wanted it to last until they moved to a transitional phase, where they were providing people with transition shelters and cash for work. The transitional shelters that organizations like Samaritan's Purse built in Leogane were often made with plywood. In some instances, parts of them would be covered with the famous blue tarps or plastics with name of Samaritan's Purse on them. They were a step up from the tents, but many in Haiti question their usefulness and durability. The cash for work mostly consisted of hiring people to clean the streets, dig in dirty and muddy water to clear canals or clean some of the latrines in the tent cities. One morning in January, just before the first anniversary of the earthquake, I met a woman on Champs-de-Mars, where many internally displaced people have erected their tents. She was sweeping the street in front of the National Palace, as part of a Cash for Work project. I asked her where she lives and how much she was getting paid to do the job. She answered that she resided in Cite Soleil, and that she had to be on a Tap-Tap by 5 AM every morning, in order to make it on site on time. She said that the money she was getting paid was barely enough to cover her transportation expenses. S The woman said that she had no choice but to do this job, because it was still better than nothing. She told me that there used to be issues with the programme not paying on time, or that people in charge were giving preferences to individuals they knew.

As some of the NGOs were getting ready to move from the transitional phase to a more permanent recovery, a cholera outbreak broke out. Immediately, many NGOs shifted their attention to attend to this new emergency. Cholera, a disease which was not present previously in Haiti, caused more than 6,000 deaths, and left hundreds of thousands hospitalized. A lot of money that was supposed to go towards reconstruction, by default went into the response to the cholera outbreak. The American Red Cross was one of the leaders in responding to the outbreak. They set up and operated many Cholera Treatment Center throughout Port-au-Prince and provided financial support to other health organizations outside of the capital city. The massive and swift response to the cholera outbreak serves as a great example as to the importance of NGOs in a country like Haiti, but it also helped to highlight that in order to get the maximum out of these organizations, their goals must be well-defined and resources must be shared to increase efficiency. The bottom line is that having NGOs in Haiti is not the problem, but finding ways to coordinate their efforts and to regulate them is a much more precarious proposition. There are some NGOs that have been and are continuing to do great work in and around the country -- organizations like Partners in Health, Medecins Sans Frontieres, among others. Those NGOs working in healthcare with a specific mission and clear goal tend to do much better with aid money and efficiency of their work, when compared to those that try to do it all. Another default side-effect of the AIC is the weakening of the Haitian government. Since the AIC controls so much capital and can afford to attract some of the country's best mind with more attractive pay; it left the government, for the most part, with an already limited pool of bright and capable minds to serve the best interest of the republic. The AIC economic influence also undermines the government priorities, for they mostly engage in projects that can serve their donors' base, and as a result many members of the AIC tend to the same projects, and sometimes in the same town. This is an inefficient model. Because of past corruption issues, the Haitian government was bypassed by donors after the earthquake, which eventually reconfirmed the weakness and incapacity of the state. With a lack of economic capital, the government could not do much to respond to the immediate needs of its people, and thus a new commission was created called the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) with former President Bill Clinton and then-Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive as its two co-chairmen.

Even this commission could not account for what it was mandated to do -- approving projects that should be receiving funding from major donors. Accountability is seldom demanded of the NGOs. Visiting their websites, the list of projects that they are doing are front and center, but very few NGOs can highlight the outcomes of their projects. Once an organization mentions it is doing a certain project, or that it has given a certain amount of money towards a project, that is usually the end of the story; there are often no real ways to track the outcome. A call to one of those organizations, one of the top ten receivers of aid money for Haiti after the earthquake asking for a simple update on how much they have spent thus far in Haiti could not be answered. There is no secret about the lifestyle that many NGOs' expatriate workers are living in Haiti. They get paid four to six times more than their Haitian counterparts, and often they get allowances for things such as housing, food, transportation and so forth. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Oxfam has spent 10 million dollars on hiring and paying staff in Haiti during the first year responding to the earthquake. Altogether, they spent almost $29 million in staff payments, logistics, transportation, vehicles, office spaces, and to manage, evaluate and run programs in Haiti. That's $29 million of the $69 million they have spent as of January of this year. The blueprint moving forward should not be trusted in the hands of the AIC to do what is best for Haiti, but rather for the big international organizations to find ways to include more Haitian-led community based organizations like Sonje Ayiti, Asosyasyon Peyizan Fondwa (APF), KOFAVIV and many more like them. This is one of many ways to make sure that Haitians get what they want, because leaders of those organizations are integral parts of the communities they serve. Lastly, the Haitian government must enforce its NGO policies. If not already in place, it must limit the number of NGOS that can be providing the same services within a reasonable distance or communal section. There is a lot to do in the reconstruction and revitalization of Haiti. Resources cannot continue to be used inadequately and donors need to demand more accountability, transparency and results from the NGOs.

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Debt Before Dishonour ­ St Kitts Defaults as it Restructures Sunday, 4th December, 2011 - Abengnews.com The credit rating of St Kitts and Nevis, the smallest independent state in the hemisphere, took a hit when it defaulted on a bond payment the end of November. The administration of Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, in the midst of developing a debt rescheduling package with the help of London-based consultants, White Oak Advisory, to meet IMF stringencies, announced Wednesday its "inability to make payments for a bond which became due on November 25". With the current global focus on the possible collapse of the Euro because of the precariousness of the Greek economy within the European Union, watchers of Caribbean regional integration will be concerned about the evolution of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) ­ pop 550,000, which shares a common currency and is deepening economic and financial ties among its eight members that include the federated islands of St Kitts and Nevis (pop 51,300). "As one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world (public debt around 200 per cent of GDP), the credit rating for SKN was pretty low before this credit event took place," said Arjoon Harripaul, head of ratings and research at Caribbean Information and Credit Rating Services Ltd (CariCRIS), the region's credit ratings agency based in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in response to an Abeng News query. "Wednesday's development means that the rating for (the) Government of SKN would now be D ­ Default," he said, explaining that CariCRIS does not have a public rating on the Government of St Kitts and Nevis. "However, as part of our benchmarking and monitoring of developments in the Caribbean, we do maintain a private rating on each Government in the Region," Harripaul added. The government's Financial Update issued in June acknowledged, "St Kitts and Nevis's public debt burden as measured by debt/GDP and interest/revenues is now a multiple of the average for the other countries in the ECCU and for emerging market countries rated single `B' (see Table)." Maybe because there isn't an Occupy movement in Basseterre, or because the people of one of the most indebted nations in the world aren't like Greeks `behaving badly', the news didn't cause a stir in the region.

The Federation's ministry of finance, in a "Creditor Update" on its Web site, said the government was in "advanced discussions" with the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which it owes about $380-million of its nearly EC$2-billion debt, to provide "a possible partial guarantee from the CDB to be attached to the new instruments that will be issued by the Government to participating creditors as part of the comprehensive debt restructuring exercise that is currently underway". Just what this default means for the local and or OECS economy is not clear. White Oak's director David Nagoski, in response to questions about the possible impacts would only say, "at this point in the restructuring, we are only discussing issues with actual holders of the bonds." In July, the IMF Executive Board approved a three-year US$84.5 million stand-by arrangement with St. Kitts and Nevis, bringing to six the number OECS countries in agreements with the Fund. (The others are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincnent and the Grenadines. Anguilla and Montserrat are British dependencies) Accompanying the loss of preferential sugar and banana markets in the EU, their tourism mono-industry economies have taken a battering from the crisis facing Western economies. The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), headquartered in Basseterre, which manages the activities of the East Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), had already set up a Debt, Growth and Development Task Force. The bank's 71st meeting of its Monetary Council, October 21, received the task force's "preliminary findings and views" on: the evolution of debt in the ECCU; the growth/debt nexus; a strategy for achieving debt sustainability; and strategies for attaining sustainable growth.

The Council approved a vision for the financial sector through "the urgent establishment of the single financial space as set out in the new Treaty of Basseterre creating the OECS Economic Union under Article 4.1 (e) which states ­ `to establish the Economic Union as a single economic and financial space'." According to the ECCB's Web site, the monetary arrangements are characterised by: the issuance of a single common currency, the flow of which is unrestricted among its members; a common pool of foreign exchange reserves; and the existence of a Central Monetary Authority which decides on the Union's monetary policy. It has maintained an exchange rate of about 37 US cents to the EC dollar for more than 30 years. In February 2010, the IMF approved a billion dollar agreement with Jamaica (pop 2.6 M), the most populous of the 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, of which the OECS is a subset, after the then prime minister, Bruce Golding, successfully negotiated a restructuring of domestic debt. That restructuring, incorporating lowering interest rates on the principals as the centrepiece, has had limited success overall. Institutional investors who hold government bonds now have a smaller spread to take profits in their on-lending activities but still maintain healthy bottom lines. But the government in Kingston has found it difficult to make the harsh job cutting and service slashes to suit international funders ­ a likely reason Golding recently stepped aside for others to make the politically tough decisions. Basseterre proposes cuts to principal and interest in addition to swapping off Crown lands to reduce its debt. Like Jamaica, the government is the largest employer. But unlike the larger neighbour job cuts are not openly spoken of. But in a world in which high tech communication, information processing and logistics are kings, and in which countries like St Kitts and Nevis and its OECS and CARICOM partners retain their status as clients delivering primary products, whether to OECD or BRIC states, the immediate future is debt, default and economic death before any glorious resurrection. << Back to news headlines >>

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