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Regional hoteliers says region losing billions of dollars annually

Regional hoteliers says region losing billions of dollars annually

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct31, CMC -The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) says empty hotel rooms are costing the Caribbean billions of dollars in economic opportunity each year.

CHTA Director General, Frank Comito, said with an estimated 84,000 hotel rooms vacant each night, filling just 10 per cent of them would inject nearly two billion US dollars into the region annually.

CHTA Director General, Frank Comito

“We have the room capacity across most of our destinations to further increase the economic impact of tourism. Focused efforts by the public and private sectors to fill the large amount of unused room inventory will yield considerable results,” said Comito, who is also the CHTA chief executive officer.

The CHTA will host Caribbean Travel Marketplace, the Caribbean’s largest tourism marketing event, in Montego Bay, Jamaica from January 29-31 next year and Comito spoke of the importance of attending the event.

Comito said that research has shown that an additional 10 per cent in visitor expenditures would generate US$628 million more in room revenue each year, plus two-thirds of added spend per visitor on food and beverage, attractions, taxis and ground transportation, retail purchases and local services.

“Filling hotel rooms generates the highest spinoff impact on tax revenues, employment and economic activity compared with all other important categories of visitors, including cruise passengers, renters and yachters,” said Comito.

“If you’re looking for business opportunity to expand and grow in the region you should be attending Caribbean Travel Marketplace,” he said, adding that online registration for the CHTA’s annual signature event is already open and participants can take advantage of the special rates which are available until November 6 this year.

Comito said that CHTA and its regional partner, the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)  recently launched “The Rhythm Never Stops”, a marketing campaign which illuminates the Caribbean’s diverse cultures, vibrancies, unmatched natural beauty, and countless attractions and activities all complemented by the incredible hospitality of its people.

““As more people discover all that the Caribbean offers, we’re confident that the region’s popularity will continue to grow.”

CHTA said that Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2019, which is being produced in collaboration with co-hosts Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaica Ministry of Tourism, is expected to attract an estimated 1,000 delegates from 26 Caribbean countries, who will meet with buyers from over 20 markets.

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CCJ President - Justice Saunders

CCJ President disappointed in his fellow Vincentians

TORONTO, Oct 31, CMC – The President of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Adrian Saunders, said he had hoped that his elevation to that post would have united people in his homeland, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in having the institution as the country’s final court.

Addressing a ceremony here to mark the 39th anniversary of political independence for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Justice Saunders said that it is often an embarrassing situation for him to be explaining to his colleagues from around the world, the position of some CARICOM countries’ to the court that was established in 2001 to replace to the London-based Privy Council.

Justice Adrian Saunders

“I had hoped that with my elevation to the presidency of the CCJ, I would be able to get all parties in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to put aside their political differences and to embrace the court in its appellate jurisdiction,” Justice Saunders told the ceremony over the last weekend.

Speaking at the event organised by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organisation of Toronto on the theme “Remembering Our Past – Focussing On Our Future”, the prominent regional jurist said, “if  we are to advance as a people, politics and political tussles are important for a healthy democracy. “But there are eternal core human values that are overarching. Truth, compassion, cooperation, caring, courtesy, empathy, hard honest labour … These are values Opposition and Government alike and indeed, all the people, must promote,” he said.

The Ralph Gonsalves-led Unity Labour Party (ULP) is in support of the CCJ and in July said that the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court had indicated that two-thirds majority support of lawmakers, rather than a referendum is needed to replace the Privy Council.

Gonsalves said he is willing to bring such a law to Parliament but would only do so if he has opposition support.

However, the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), led by Dr. Godwin Friday has made it clear that it would not support a move to the CCJ.

In comments earlier this year, Friday, an attorney, said that the electorate had rejected such a move when given a choice in a referendum in 2009, adding that Parliament should respect voters’ choices.

He, however, said that if another referendum is held on the issue, his party would rally its supporters in an attempt to vote it down.

In his address, Justice Saunders said that there is another value that is paramount and is vital for the citizens of the Caribbean “with our fractured experiences of slavery and colonialism.

“That other value is self-belief. A clear sense of ourselves. An understanding of our worth as human beings; an appreciation that we are not inferior to anyone and that we have the capacity to forge our own destiny,” he said.

Justice Saunders said his heart soars when he hears of Vincentians who excel regionally or internationally.

“Because that becomes for me a re-affirmation of our worth, our capacity,” he said, adding that no one shrieked for joy louder than he did when West Indies cricketer Obed McKoy, a Vincentian, bowled Indian cricketer MS Dhoni last week.

“It is, therefore, for me, a source of profound disappointment, that so many people in the region, including Vincentians who I assumed would know better, contrive to find excuse upon excuse to justify the anomaly that, after 40 years of political independence, we are content to have our laws ultimately interpreted and applied by a British institution, staffed with British judges all of whom reside in Britain.

“History will not be kind to those who argue that such a situation should continue,” said Justice Saunders, the third Caribbean national to head the Trinidad-based CCJ.

He said this is no different than a man today wanting St. Vincent and the Grenadines to return to Associated Statehood status, or wanting to write O Level exams from Britain’s Cambridge University instead of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).

“For me, it is like choosing Major Leith over Chatoyer,” he said, contrasting the Scottish soldier who served in the British Army, to St. Vincent and the Grenadines sole National Hero, who led a years-long guerrilla war in the 18th Century against European attempt to colonise SVG.

Justice Saunders noted that over 15 years ago, CARICOM established its own final court — the CCJ — and spent US$100 million to guarantee the court’s sustainability.

“… the Court has successfully been operating for well over 10 years serving the needs of Barbados, Guyana, Belize and lately, Dominica; and some people still wish to cling to the Privy Council?” he said, mentioning the CARICOM nations that have replaced the Privy Council with the CCJ as their final appellate court.

“If Chatoyer, who put his life on the line, were alive today just imagine, what would he think of this?.

The CCJ President said when he tries to explain to his colleagues from Asia, Africa and Latin America — as he is “sometimes obliged to do at judicial colloquia” — the “anomaly” of CARICOM nations not having replaced the Privy Council with the CCJ, “it ceases to be an anomaly.

“In the face of the disbelief expressed by my colleagues, it becomes an embarrassment because it is linked directly to our perception of ourselves and the level of confidence we have in our capacity to take full responsibility for our own governance.”

Justice Saunders said he addressed a graduating class at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) earlier this month and he remained confident “that the ill-informed would become better informed.

“That the sceptical would become convinced. I look to the future and I remain confident that, as is the case with, for example, The Caribbean Development Bank, the Caribbean Examinations Council, and The University of the West Indies (to name just a few), the time will come when the CCJ also will be recognised as another of those Caribbean institutions whose vital contribution to the region can almost be taken for granted.

“As we focus on the future, it is essential that we appreciate that we can and must rely on ourselves to forge our own destiny. We can and must build a stronger St Vincent and the Grenadines and an equally strong Caribbean Community,” he said.

Two CARICOM nations, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda, will hold referenda on November 6 to decide whether to replace the Privy Council with the CCJ as their highest court.

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Finance Minister stands by earlier statements on “drug fuelled” economy

Finance Minister stands by earlier statements on “drug fuelled” economy

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Oct 31, CMC – Finance Minister Winston Jordan Wednesday maintained that the Guyana economy was partly fuelled by drugs under the previous administration and brushed aside a request by a leading private sector group to provide evidence of the allegation.

Jordan, speaking at a news conference here, made reference to the request from the Private Sector Commission (PSC) for him to provide it with the evidence indicating that the local economy was partly fuelled by drugs money under the last government.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan speaking to reporters

He told reporters that there were two studies presented by Economics Professor Clive Thomas which pointed to the impact of drug money on the Guyanese economy pre-2015.

“I will tell you this much, where the economy is today is proof positive that the economy was being run by drugs, by significant input from drugs”, Jordan said, adding that when he made his statement in a letter to a local newspaper recently, he did not refer to any private sector body.

“Now if as Bob says who the cap fit, then that’s fine,” he said, adding that his statement was specific to some in the private sector who benefited from nefarious activities.

“I was amazed to be quite honest when I got a letter from that gentleman asking me to provide proof to the private sector. I was amazed”.

Jordan said that he is busy preparing the national budget and other activities of his Ministry and therefore does not have the time to waste on the request from the PSC.

Jordan told reporters that with at least US$300 million being projected for the government’s coffers from ExxonMobil’s LIZA One well during the first year, there will many expected improvements.

“There will be improvements in the cultural, social and economic areas,” he said, referring to the expected revenues from initial oil production in 2020.

But he cautioned that funds will be spent carefully and in accordance with proposed legislation intended to govern the use of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

This legislation is being finalized by the Ministry of Legal Affairs, with assistance from stakeholders from Commonwealth, Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Jordon told reporters that the expected funds will be kept in the SWF, then transferred to the Consolidated Fund, before it can be utilized.

He said one area being considered for improvements is the pensions of former managers and other government officials who, as a result of currency devaluations and other factors, receive a basic minimum pension.

Guyana is projecting commercial production of its oil sector by 2020 and according to the government, other areas of priority include infrastructural development, and agriculture, housing and manufacturing sectors.

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PM vows to defend the rights of Dominicans overseas to vote in general elections

ROSEAU, Dominica, Nov 1, CMC – Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit Thursday said he would defend the rights of Dominicans residing overseas to vote in general elections in the country.

“As long as I am prime minister of this country and from what some people are telling me, it will be for a very long time to come, we shall defend your right under the constitution of Dominica, to vote in Dominica’s election,” Prime Minister Skerrit visiting Dominicans who have arrived here to celebrate the island’s 40th anniversary political independence from Britain on Saturday.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit (second from
and members of his Cabinet at the meeting

with overseas Dominicans

The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has in the past been very critical of the decision to allow Dominicans residing abroad to come here days before the polls to cast ballots and has accused the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) of being the main actor behind the move.

But Skerrit told the overseas nationals “we will defend your right because it is a right and there is no institution in this country that has any legal or constitutional authority to remove your name on the voters list unless you are a dead person in Dominica because voting is too much of an important, fundamental right.

“People die to vote, people shed blood to vote and we want to go back to the days when only land own

“We making progress and we have to be progressive in our thinking and we cannot go back to old days. Those who want to go back to the old days, will stay where they are and we’ll continue to move forward,” Skerrit said.

While the two political parties generally agree that there is a need for electoral reform in Dominica, they disagree on major points on how to implement such reforms.

Political observers note that the proposed amendments by the DLP government, for confirmation or registration of Dominicans living overseas, in the Registration of Electors Act have become a sticking point

The amendments of the Act reads, “In order to facilitate confirmation in accordance with this part of persons residing overseas, the office of any mission or embassy of the State or any other place approved by the Commission may be designated as a registration office and the registering, enrolment officer and assistant registering officer shall be appointed under the direction of the Chief Registering Officer for that purpose.”

But the UWP has said it is “uncompromisingly opposed” to the proposed amendments which will allow specially designated voter registration offices overseas.

“The United Workers Party is uncompromisingly opposed to the proposed Amendments to the Registration of Elector’s Act seeking to authorize confirmation of persons on the list of eligible voters at specially designated registration offices overseas,” UWP leader Lennox Linton told a news conference in September.

“The explanation we have heard from a government that such action is necessary to protect the right to vote and thereby prevent this infringement of voters living overseas is seriously flawed and absolutely without merit.”

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Sugar workers to receive remainder of severance payment

Sugar workers to receive remainder of severance payment

GEORGETOWN. Guyana, Nov 1, CMC – Agriculture Minister Noel Holder says payments will be made to former sugar workers “as soon as possible” after the National Assembly Wednesday approved GUY$350 million (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) in supplementary funding.

“The monies going to GUYSUCO (Guyana Sugar Corporation) represents the final payment to be paid in severance to all sugar workers,” Holder told legislators.

Last month, President David Granger, speaking at a public meeting, had indicated that the severance would have been paid in two parts.

“One in the first half of the year and the second part in the second half of the year. You received your first part and you will get your second part in the second half of the year. Sugar workers are going to get their severance and I say so.

“We are not going to deny sugar workers one dollar of their severance pay. We are also going to work with the unions to make sure that the workers who cannot find employment on the estates are given a soft landing, that is, we will try to provide employment opportunities so that nobody has to suffer,” he told the meeting.

In February, GUYSUCO acting chief executive officer, Paul Bhim, said then that 1,400 ex-employees had received their full severance, with the remainder of them awaiting the remaining 50 per cent.

About 3,700 employees were issued with severance letters and the government had approved the partial payment of the severance, but there was an adjustment made, and workers, due GUY$500,000, (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) or less, was paid in full.

The coalition government has said since coming to office in 2015, it has provided GUY$38 billion to the sugar industry mostly to meet wages and debt repayments.

The government has defended its policies towards the survival of the sugar industry, noting that various estates such as Albion in East Berbice Corentyne, Blairmont in West Berbice and Uitvlugt in West Demerara, were left in operation while those estates which were not profitable were closed down.

Holder also told legislators that the GUY$250 million approved for the National Drainage Irrigation Authority (NDIA) will facilitate drainage and irrigation works.

“This move is in keeping with the government’s policy for NDIA to assume responsibility for the drainage and irrigation duties that were once under the purview of GUYSUCO,” he added.

“NDIA has increased operational and maintenance cost of machinery and equipment due to extensive and unplanned works resulting from the prolonged rainy season,” he said.

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Yet another earthquake rattles Trinidad and Tobago

Yet another earthquake rattles Trinidad and Tobago

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Nov 1, CMC – Trinidad and Tobago started the month of November in the same manner as it ended the previous month with an earthquake rattling the twin island republic.

The Seismic Research Centre (SRC) of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said that an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.0 rattled parts of the country on Thursday at 8.40 am (local time).

It is the ninth tremor felt here in as many days and the SRC said that it was located Latitude: 9.85N

Longitude: 60.48W and at a depth of 30 kilometres (km).

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage but the quake was felt 117 km south east of San Fernando, south of here, 124 km south east of the eastern town of Arima and 145 km south east of the capital, Port of Spain.

Seismologist and Acting SRC Director Dr. Joan Latchman, has been warning Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean to be prepared for a major earthquake and that the various tremors in recent days are not nothing new.

On Sunday, Trinidad and Tobago recorded an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.1 but in August, many residents ran into the streets after a quake with a magnitude of 6.8 rocked the country followed by several aftershocks causing damage and but no loss of lives.

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Antigua and Barbuda observing 37th anniversary of independence

Antigua and Barbuda observing 37th anniversary of independence

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Nov 1, CMC – Antigua and Barbuda is celebrating its 37th anniversary of political independence from Britain on Thursday, with Prime Minister Gaston Browne saying that independence would not be complete with London still being in control of the country’s judicial system.

Voters go to the polls on November 6 in a referendum to decide whether to retain the Privy Council or choose instead the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the island’s final court.

Prime Minister Browne in a radio and television broadcast said that it was necessary for the island to remember the history of the trade union movement as well as the right to vote in the country before the attainment of independence.

He said there were those who are still opposed to the move towards the CCJ, which was established in 2001 and also functions as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional integration movement.

“They know, but they refuse to say it that only the wealthy or specially funded persons can access appeals to the British Privy Council even up to today. They know that it costs more than EC$150,000 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) on average to take a case to London and that no poor person in Antigua and Barbuda has ever been able to do so.”

Prime Minister Gaston Browne addressing the nation on
the 37th anniversary of political independence (CMC Photo)

Browne said those opposed to the move know “that by retaining the Privy Council they are depriving the ordinary citizens of our country to justice to which every one of them is rightly entitled.

“They also know that access to justice is affordable with the Caribbean Court of Justice. That is a fully and independent appellate court. It is funded by a trust fund, not directed by any government. No government has a hand in the appointment of judges, they are appointed by an independent Caribbean legal services commission.”

Browne told the nation that in the 13 years since it had been in operation, the CCJ “has handed down more decisions against governments than for them.

“They know that the CCJ is a court for the people, built by Caribbean people for all the people. But it suits them even in this 37th year of our independence to deny our people pride in who we are and what we are, and to make us as inferior by suggesting that we do not have the integrity to preside over our own dispensation of justice”.

Prime Minister Browne said this “type of self-hatred and condemnation of our own has no place in our modern and enlightened society”.

He told the nation that on November 6, they must show the naysayers and others “that we believe in ourselves, that we are the inferior of none, that we have confidence in our capacity and certainly in our own.

“We must show them they are the backward looking ones mired in partisan politics and selfishness,” he added.

In his address, Prime Minister Browne also told citizens that despite the challenges the twin-island nation has accomplished much to be proud of.

“Antigua and Barbudans live in a country where the air of freedom and economic opportunity is breathed by all where no one lives in fear for their opinion being stifled or of their rights being constrained,” Browne said in his independence message.

He said these were not conditions available to the population before independence, adding “there was much inequality based on race and class and of colour”.

Browne said the health sector stands out like a jewel in the list of accomplishment since independence and thanked “those heroes” whom he said had the foresight to ensure that their descendants should have a better future.

“They made it possible for us to be where we are today. Their legacy must never be squandered, nor their struggle wasted. They looked to the future and even as we honour them we must look to the future too,” Browne said in his radio and television broadcast.

He said the future must include a stable financial environment, better education, improved health services as well as full employment among other goals “for all our peoples whatever their background.

“This is not an impossible dream. We are not striving to reach and unreachable star or to fight an unbeatable foe. This is a glorious quest for which we have already begun the resolute march with measurable and evidence success.”.

Browne said that his administration will be spending millions of dollars in developing the infrastructure of the island and ensuring employment opportunities for all nationals.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque has praised the island’s “invaluable contribution” to regional integration.

“Under your leadership as Head of Government responsible for Services within the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet, Antigua and Barbuda has advanced the region’s efforts, as it seeks to build competitiveness, unleash key economic drivers to growth and address the grave challenges to its financial services,” LaRocque said in his congratulatory message to Prime Minister Browne.

He said that Antigua and Barbuda has made great strides in its development since independence.

“Indeed the theme for this year’s Independence celebration, “Antigua and Barbuda: Forward Together” is an apt reflection of the firm determination and steadfastness of the Antiguan and Barbudan people in their efforts to ensure the sustainable development of the nation,” he added.

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Antigua independence

CARICOM congratulates Antigua/Barbuda on its 37th Independence Anniversary

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)     Antigua and Barbuda’s ‘invaluable contribution’ to regional integration and ‘active participation in the Councils’ of the Caribbean Community have been highlighted as CARICOM congratulates the country on 37 years of Independence.
Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in a congratulatory message to Prime Minister Hon. Gaston Browne said:
“Under your leadership as Head of Government responsible for Services within the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet, Antigua and Barbuda has advanced the Region’s efforts, as it seeks to build competitiveness, unleash key economic drivers to growth and address the grave challenges to its financial services.”
The Secretary-General also noted that Antigua and Barbuda has made great strides in its development since independence.
“Indeed the theme for this year’s Independence celebration, “Antigua and Barbuda: Forward Together” is an apt reflection of the firm determination and steadfastness of the Antiguan and Barbudan people in their efforts to ensure the sustainable development of the nation,” he stated.
Antigua and Barbuda observe their Independence Anniversary on Thursday 1 November 2018.



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BVI institutes policy to protect public officers in the workplace

BVI institutes policy to protect public officers in the workplace

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands, Oct. 28, CMC – The Government of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) says a policy is now in place to protect the health, safety and welfare of the Territory’s public officers in the workplace.

On Friday the Government that its cabinet recently approved the Health and Safety Policy and Procedure Manual that outlines the government’s “commitment to ensuring the protection of its officers, clients, contractors, suppliers, visitors, neighbors and the public from hazards and risks associated with its operations, and to the provision of adequate workplace facilities.”

Health and Safety Coordinator in the Department of Human Resources, Dawn Leonard said that the policy’s implementation has already begun, adding that “it is envisioned that it will be fully implemented over a two-year period.

She said the primary goal of the policy is “to protect officers from injuries arising on the job.”

“She also hopes that the Public Service will emerge as a leader in the promotion of healthy, safe and congenial working environments in the Territory and eventually the region,” the statement said, adding that the BVI Government is now compliant with Section 138 (1) a, “which speaks to a workplace having a policy.”

“The policy compliments the information outlined in the Virgin Islands Labor Code, 2010, as it relates to work place safety, and can be used as a guide for other organizations in the Territory,” the statement said.

It said the policy will be enforced in part by a team of public officers from various ministries and departments, who make up a committee called the Joint Workplace Health and Safety Oversight Committee.

“The committee’s responsibilities are to conduct, where necessary, accident investigation, and provide expert advice on health and safety matters to the Deputy Governor and Director of Human Resources,” the statement said.

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CDB to fund energy project in Dominica

CDB to fund energy project in Dominica

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Oct 30, CMC – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) says it is assisting Dominica undertake a project to conduct energy audits on 15 public buildings and facilities.

The CDB said that Dominica will be also getting assistance the European Union and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

It said that the grant of US$127,000 from the Bank’s Sustainable Energy for the Eastern Caribbean (SEEC) Programme will help Roseau conduct the energy audits.

The programme provides blended resources to address energy security issues through renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions, particularly in the public sector.

The project is in line with CDB’s strategic objective of supporting inclusive growth and sustainable development within its Borrowing Member Countries (BMC) as well as the Bank’s corporate priority of strengthening and modernising social and economic infrastructure.

The identified buildings, which include major government complexes such as the Financial Centre, the Douglas-Charles Airport and Dominica State College, currently consume some 4,459, 402 kilowatt hours of energy annually, costing more than four million EC dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) annually.

The CDB said that the audits will analyse the energy performance of the buildings, and identify and recommend cost-effective and feasible energy efficiency measures.

Acting Head of the Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Unit, CDB, Joseph Williams said the project could result in cost and carbon emission savings for Dominica.

“Through this project, the government of Dominica could benefit from a reduction in its annual expenditure on electricity of an estimated two million US dollars.

“Implementing energy efficiency measures could result in a decrease of about 30 percent in energy consumption and savings of 1,929 megawatt hours of electricity per year, equivalent to a reduction of 1,254 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, helping Dominica meet its nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement,” he added.

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