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Barbados PM announces sale of LIAT shares

Barbados PM announces sale of LIAT shares

by staff writer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun 4, CMC – The Barbados government Tuesday night formally announced plans to sell its shares in the cash strapped regional airline, LIAT, but insisted that it was committed to regional transportation and would continue to hold minimum shares in the Antigua-based carrier.

Barbados along with Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are the main shareholders of the airline that employs over 600 people and operates 491 flights weekly across 15 destinations.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley in a statement to Parliament confirmed reports that Antigua and Barbuda would be seeking to replace Barbados as the largest shareholder government by seeking to acquire the shares Bridgetown would be outing up for sale.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley speaking in Parliament (CMC Photo)

She said that Attorney General Dale Marshall would lead the negotiations.

“There is only so much that Barbados can responsibly do at this time given our current circumstances and our current position on the journey which I referred to just now,” she said, having earlier made reference to the island’s multi-million dollar agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to turn around the ailing economy.

“Therefore…notwithstanding our absolute commitment to regional air travel and notwithstanding the fact and given in fact that the studies have recommended a different module and restructuring for LIAT and given the inability of the government of Barbados to do for LIAT in the next five to 10 years what the government of Barbados did for LIAT in the last five to 10 years when we moved significantly to assume major shareholder responsibilities, we have taken the determination, a decision as a cabinet that it is time for us to step back while at the same time allowing other governments to continue with their proposals to restructure LIAT in the way which they have determined.”

Last month, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he had ieceived communication from his Barbados  indicating that Bridgetown was willing to sell all but 10 per cent of its shares in the airline that serves 15 Caribbean destinations.

Antigua and Barbuda currently holds 34 per cent of the shares and if it succeeds in convincing Bridgetown to part with its LIAT shares, would have 81 per cent of the airline.

The government in a statement last month had said that “an offer was made for Antigua and Barbuda to acquire the LIAT shares owned by Barbados, through a take-over of the liability of Barbados to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).”

The Antigua and Barbuda government chief of staff, Lionel Max Hurst, said that “there are many jobs here in Antigua and Barbuda connected to LIAT and we intend to ensure that those jobs are not lost.

“Many of the route rights that LIAT now possesses would be utilized more fully if Antigua and Barbuda gets its way,’ Hurst said.

Motrley told Parliament that Barbados would not be turning its back on regional transportation or LIAT, adding it would maintain a “minimum shareholding in LIAT should we reach an agreement with our sister governments for them to take over our shareholding with respect to the negotiations.

“We will continue to provide a minimum revenue guarantee, I shouldn’t say continue, we will provide a minimum revenue guarantee on any route that is uncommercial, unprofitable, recognising however that the majority of routes that Barbados is involved in, is in fact profitable with LIAT.

“And it is against this background Mr. Speaker, our commitment continues that such within the last few weeks the government of Barbados would have sent a further one billion dollars (One Barbados dollar=US$0.50 cents) to LIAT and would also have satisfied our commitment to the Caribbean Development Bank with respect to the re-fleeting of LIAT,” she added.

In May, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that the shareholder governments had agreed to give further consideration to a proposal by Prime Minister Browne regarding the future direction of the airline.

Gonsalves said he had hoped that the proposal from Antigua and Barbuda would be discussed by the shareholders “before the end of May is out”.

Grenada recently became the latest shareholder in LIAT and Gonsalves confirmed that St. Kitts-Nevis had responded positively to the call for raising US$5.4 million to help the airline deal with its current financial problems.

St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said that Castries would not contribute any funds unless there’s a significant change to the airline’s structure.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, International, Local, News, OECS, Regional0 Comments

Body of former prime minister returns on Sunday

Body of former prime minister returns on Sunday

by staff writer

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jun 1, CMC – The Jamaica government says the body of the late former prime minister, Edward Seaga, is scheduled to arrive here on Sunday, as the region and international community continues to pay its respect to him.

A government statement said that Seaga’s remains, draped in the national flag, will arrive on a Caribbean Airlines flight at the Norman Manley International Airport, escorted by members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).

Edward Seaga (File Photo)

It said family members, including widow Mrs. Carla Seaga and daughter Gabrielle, will be on the flight and that the body of the country’s fifth prime minister, will be received by the Government with the appropriate honour guard in place.

On hand will be Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen; Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Members of the Cabinet; Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips; Members of Parliament as well as other relatives of the late prime minister, who died in a United States hospital on Tuesday at the age of 89.

The government said that Seaga will be accorded a State funeral and that a period of mourning will be announced.

It said condolence books have opened at locations across the island and people overseas will have the opportunity to sign condolence books, which will be opened in all diplomatic missions.

Meanwhile, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said Seaga was instrumental in reviving the integration movement as host in 1982 to the first heads of government conference after a seven year hiatus.

“The meeting served to reinvigorate the integration process,” LaRocque said, adding that Seaga made an indelible contribution to the development of his country in many spheres.

“Recognised as the longest serving member of the Jamaican Parliament, he was also the youngest ever nominated to the Legislative Council prior to Independence.  His record of service in both the Lower and Upper Houses was marked not only by his passionate oratory but also by his initiation of innovative legislative actions which resulted in significant changes in his country.

“Mr Seaga lent his considerable experience and expertise to the University of the West Indies (UWI), where, upon his retirement from public life, he was appointed as a Distinguished Fellow at the regional institution’s Mona Campus.  The Campus’ Research Institute had earlier been named in his honour.”

LaRocque said that Seaga has done his part and that Jamaica and the region “ have lost a towering figure.”

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, International, Local, News, Obituaries, Politics, Regional0 Comments

JUS WONDERIN

Jus Wonderin

Jus wonderin how some people do not like to promote themselves as far as their achievements and rely on others who understand their importance and relevance to the growth and progress of the island.

Jus wonderin about the coldness or the urgency to do something about electoral reform before the next general election.

Jus wonderin if becars me expect dem tap civil servants fu be loyal to the progress to dis country and do dem work loyally and propuly dat dem jus cut eye so bad dat e cud cut all four me car tyres.

Jus wonderin bout dis wan if a lek Solomon say.

Jus wonderin why so much corruption have to be around.

Jus wonderin it get so bad dat de corruption look so good can’t tell de difference wey the bad actually accepted as good.

Jus wonderin if this is not enough to warrant Impeachment in the USA — CNN’s Amanda Carpenter: “Pelosi is wrong. There was not ‘a cover up.’ There were MANY cover ups. Coverups of Russian talks. Coverups of seedy, extramarital affairs. Cover ups of Trump’s accounting. And, cover ups to hide Trump’s attempts to kill queries about any of it.”

Jus wonderin if there is any coverup in Montserrat in this decade why no one want to admit that government is continuous, be it DFID, FCO or GoM.

Jus wonderin if a tief dem mek awe we run out of goat meat dat awe use to import a Antigua even aftu awe import goats to increase dem population.

Jus wonderin who dat one choice leader going forward.

Posted in Entertainment, International, Jus Wonderin, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Two Caribbean governments defend Citizenship by Investment Programme

Two Caribbean governments defend Citizenship by Investment Programme

by staff writer

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, May 31, CMC – The governments of Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts-Nevis have strongly defended their respective Citizenship by Investment Programs (CBI) that some regional countries use as a means of luring foreign investments.

Several Caribbean countries provide citizenship to those investors in return for making a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of their countries.

The Antigua and Barbuda government said it “strongly rejects” the claims being made “two convicted money launderers” that a Syrian national had been issued a passport.

The Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU) said it “is compelled, once again, to denounce the false information” by the two individuals who have been carrying-out a campaign designed to damage the CBI in the Caribbean

“The CIU advises that it has not approved citizenship or the grant of a passport to a person by the name of Mohamad Ayad Ghazal, nor does it have any record of his applying for citizenship.

“Further, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has recalled all passports and are issuing new e-passports, containing all the biometric data of the holders, with effect from June 1,” the CIU said, noting that its “multi-layered due diligence processes, with leading due diligence service providers and intergovernmental law enforcement agencies, remain resilient.”

Meanwhile, the St. Kitts-Nevis government said that it is disappointed that two members of the European Parliament had sought to tarnish the image of the Federation’s CBI program that has entered its 35th year.

“We are very disappointed that two members of the European Parliament should issue a letter to the EU Commission and the President of the European Council to request scrutiny of our program without a scintilla of evidence of any wrongdoing by anyone in our program,’ Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris said, adding that the European had relied on “misdeeds” of the former government “and the inaccurate claim that a Russian citizen of interest to law enforcement agencies was an economic citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis since 2014.

“It is not a good reflection of the reliability and seriousness of members of the European Parliament that they should seek punitive action against any entity without giving the accused the benefit of due process and natural justice and without regard for the consequences of their ill-informed letter, not just for the viability of the CBI program of St. Kitts and Nevis but also for the wider Caribbean.”

Harris said he was calling on the two European legislators “to recall their letters and to apologize to our people”.

Harris said that the CBI programme “has provided the intellectual underpinnings for subsequent programs and permutations thereof by countries such as the USA, Canada, Malta and Cyprus, all of which have their versions of CBI programmes”.

He said for a second occasion, the twin-island Federation will host the Caribbean Investment Summit during the period, June 19-21 that will allow the country to “build a network for greater cooperation and harmonization of the CBI programs in the region.

Harris said he is satisfied that the significant reforms, which have been made to the CBI have transformed it into an international leader amongst all programmes.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, International, News, Regional0 Comments

The Atlantic may see up to 4 Major Hurricanes this season

By Laura Geggel, Associate Editor 

Scientists are predicting a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year, with two to four major hurricanes reaching at least Category 3 status, with winds of 111 mph (178 km/h) or higher, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today (May 23).

But this “near-normal” description doesn’t mean people in the U.S. Southeast and Eastern Seaboard can rest easy.

“That’s a lot of activity,” Gerry Bell, the lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, told reporters at a news conference today. “You need to start getting ready for the hurricane season now.”

[The 20 Costliest, Most Destructive Hurricanes to Hit the US]

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season — which lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30 — is expected to have between nine and 15 named storms, which means they pack winds of 39 mph (62 kilometers/hour) or higher, NOAA reported. Of those, between four and eight could become hurricanes, meaning their winds reach speeds of 74 mph (119 km/h) or higher.

Although just four of these hurricanes may top Category 3 status, “it only takes one land-falling hurricane to cause great destruction to a community,” Daniel Kaniewski, the acting deputy administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told reporters.

During an average hurricane season, the Atlantic sees about 12 named storms, including six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Last year’s season was above average, with 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes, of which two were major — the destructive hurricanes Michael and Florence.

However, it’s impossible to know whether any of the storms or hurricanes predicted for the 2019 season will make landfall, said Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator.

The officials added that this year marks the first time NOAA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites, including three operational next-generation satellites, were used to gather data for the hurricane forecast models. This data also helped NOAA issue a storm prediction for the eastern and central Pacific basins. According to NOAA, the Pacific should expect an above-normal season with 15 to 22 named storms, of which eight to 13 are expected to become cyclones (the term given to “hurricanes” in these parts of the Pacific). Of these, between four and eight could be major cyclones, NOAA reported.

See full story at : https://www.livescience.com/65551-2019-atlantic-hurricane-season.html?utm_source=notification

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Climate/Weather, Hurricane, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

Digicel defends decision to take court action against government

Digicel defends decision to take court action against government

by staff writer

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, May 31, CMC – The Irish-owned telecommunications company, Digicel, Friday defended its decision to secure a High Court order preventing the Antigua and Barbuda government from confiscating any of the 850 MHz spectrum it has been allocated.

In a statement, Digicel said that it wanted to shield its customers from “significant service disruption and a negative impact on coverage.”

The government is hoping that the High Court will bring about a resolution to the opposition by Digicel and Flow, formerly the British telecommunication giant, Cable and Wireless, to share the island’s spectrum with the state-owned Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA).

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the two foreignbased companies were resisting the move, but insists that his administration would not allow inequality to continue within the industry here.

In the statement, Digicel said it was “forced into this legal challenge to protect its customers and services from being put in jeopardy” as a result of the government’s “anti-competitive and protectionist decision handed down” on May 8.

According to Digicel, it has been compelled to return a significant portion of its 850 MHz spectrum by May 31, “under what the Government misleadingly describes as a move towards “equitable distribution” of the spectrum.”

But Digicel argued that the government’s confiscation of the spectrum to the sole benefit of APUA and the detriment of Digicel’s customers would result in half of its customer base experiencing significant mobile service disruption “not to mention the broader negative impact on emergency services and other essential services like point of sale terminals and home security systems for a period of at least 18 months, since that is the time it would take Digicel to completely rebuild its network at a cost of at least US$25 million.”Digicel claims that APUA has almost twice as much spectrum as either of the other two operators in the market, despite having less than 25 percent.

“APUA is hoarding a scarce and valuable resource,” the statement said, adding “in any other market, this would be a cause for concern for the regulator, but uniquely in Antigua & Barbuda, APUA is also the Regulator”.

The telecommunication company said as a result APUA “holds the roles of both “referee and player” allowing for protectionist and anti-competitive behaviour to run amok.

“In addition, APUA is well able to operate a quality LTE network with the spectrum it already has; a fact Digicel can attest to, since it operate its LTE networks to a high standard in a similar spectrum environment in Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, as do other operators within the Caribbean region,” the statement added.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas speaking to reporters after the weekly Cabinet meeting, said that the government had taken a policy decision “that the frequency spectrum, which must be utilised by all mobile operates to operate and conduct their businesses ought to be shared equitable”.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, International, Local, News, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

image

Mueller undercuts Barr’s narrative that downplayed the impact of DOJ guidelines against charging a sitting president


By Marshall Cohen, CNN

Updated – May 29, 2019

Trump attacks late senator amid tensions over moving USS McCain

WSJ: White House wanted USS John McCain ‘out of sight’

Pelosi: I am ‘gravely disappointed’ with attitude of DOJ

Trump ally: Mueller press conference was ‘political’

Nadler: Mueller clearly demonstrated that Trump is lying

Sanders: We’re ‘always prepared’ for impeachment fight

Mueller says charging Trump was ‘not an option’

Mueller details the parts of the Russia probe report

Differences between Barr and Mueller are telling

Bennet: My cancer diagnosis could have been disastrous

O’Rourke: Call to impeach Trump isn’t a rushed decision

MCLEAN, VA - MARCH 22: U.S. Attorney General William Barr departs his home March 22, 2019 in McLean, Virginia.  It is expected that Robert Mueller will soon complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and release his report. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Barr’s response to treason question called ‘astonishing’

He broke with GOP under Nixon; his advice for them today

Trump: I’m not a John McCain fan, but I didn’t do it

Fact-checking Trump’s Mueller statements

Trump attacks late senator amid tensions over moving USS McCain

WSJ: White House wanted USS John McCain ‘out of sight’

Pelosi: I am ‘gravely disappointed’ with attitude of DOJ

Trump ally: Mueller press conference was ‘political’

Nadler: Mueller clearly demonstrated that Trump is lying

Sanders: We’re ‘always prepared’ for impeachment fight

Mueller says charging Trump was ‘not an option’

Mueller details the parts of the Russia probe report

Differences between Barr and Mueller are telling

Bennet: My cancer diagnosis could have been disastrous

O’Rourke: Call to impeach Trump isn’t a rushed decision

MCLEAN, VA - MARCH 22: U.S. Attorney General William Barr departs his home March 22, 2019 in McLean, Virginia.  It is expected that Robert Mueller will soon complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and release his report. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Barr’s response to treason question called ‘astonishing’

He broke with GOP under Nixon; his advice for them today

Trump: I’m not a John McCain fan, but I didn’t do it

Fact-checking Trump’s Mueller statements

Trump attacks late senator amid tensions over moving USS McCain

Washington (CNN)Special counsel Robert Mueller’s public statement Wednesday presented a stark contrast to the attorney general regarding the significance of the Justice Department guidelines against indicting a president.In his own public comments, Attorney General William Barr has leaned heavily on the idea that Mueller did not feel the guidelines are what prevented him from charging President Donald Trump with obstruction.But Mueller on Wednesday undercut that narrative, making clear in his comments that the guidelines had a significant influence on the investigation, tying his hands from the very start from even considering whether a crime had been committed.Indicting Trump while he was in office was “not an option we could consider,” Mueller said, explicitly citing the official guidance from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Mueller: 'If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so'

Mueller: ‘If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so’His comments largely echoed the explanation in his 448-page report, which was publicly released in April. The report presented substantial evidence that Trump obstructed justice on a few fronts, but didn’t offer a conclusion on whether he had broken the law or whether he should be charged. The Justice Department and the special counsel’s office issued a joint statement Wednesday evening saying “there is no conflict” between Barr’s and Mueller’s comments about the OLC opinion.

Here’s what Mueller said

In his rare public appearance, Mueller said how he was authorized in May 2017 by then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to investigate obstruction of justice, in addition to the core mission of getting to the bottom of Russia’s intervention in the 2016 presidential election. “As set forth in our report, after that investigation, if we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said that,” Mueller said. He then brought up the Office of Legal Counsel guidelines, and later explained how the internal guidelines “informed our handling of the obstruction investigation” in a few different ways. “Under long-standing department policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view — that too is prohibited,” Mueller said.

He continued, “The special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice and, by regulation, it was bound by that department policy. Charging the President with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider.”These comments, plus the extensive explanations put forward in Mueller’s report, make it clear that Trump’s presidential immunity played a major role in the investigation. Mueller knew the rules from the start and they guided the entire outlook of the obstruction inquiry. “So that was Justice Department policy, those were the principles under which we operated,” Mueller said. “And from them, we concluded that we would not reach a determination one way or the other about whether the President committed a crime. That is the office’s final position. And we will not comment on any other conclusions or hypotheticals about the President.”

READ: Robert Mueller's full remarks on the special counsel investigation

READ: Robert Mueller’s full remarks on the special counsel investigation

Here’s what Barr said before

Before Mueller spoke up, much of the public discourse about the conclusions of the probe had been shaped by Barr, through his public statements and closely watched congressional testimony. At times, Barr has cherry-picked Mueller’s report to fit a different narrative that is rosier for Trump.On at least six occasions after Mueller submitted his final report, Barr downplayed the role that the Office of Legal Counsel guidelines had played in the investigation. Examined closely, Barr’s comments may not be technically contradicted by Mueller, because he hedged his words carefully. But these comments were highly misleading and did not broadly align with Mueller’s stated rationale. On the day he released the Mueller report, Barr was asked how Mueller had reached his decision not to offer a formal recommendation whether to charge Trump with obstruction. Barr said he’d defer to the report itself, but then he brought up a meeting he’d had in early March with Mueller, Rosenstein and another top Justice Department official, where the guidelines were discussed.

Nadler on impeachment: 'All options are on the table'

Nadler on impeachment: ‘All options are on the table’“I will say that when we met with (Mueller) … we specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking the position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion,” Barr told reporters. “And he made it very clear several times that that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime.”In written testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee this month, Barr suggested that the investigation should have proceeded like any case against a typical defendant, ignoring the sweeping limitations imposed on Mueller’s team by the Justice Department guidelines. And during the hearing, Barr repeated his comments about the early March meeting with Mueller and continued to downplay the weight of the OLC guidelines on the special counsel’s decision-making. “He reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction,” Barr told the senators. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, then asked the attorney general, “If the special counsel found facts sufficient to constitute obstruction of justice, would he have stated that finding?”Barr’s response: “If he had found that, then I think he would state it, yes.”

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Court, Elections, International, Legal, Local, News, Politics0 Comments

Albert Evans

Who won the European election: the alliances that could shape the future of the EU

Albert Evans

Albert Evans – May 27, 2019

The new European Parliament must approve the next head of the European Commission – who will play a large role in Brexit talks

While European elections in the UK have been dominated by domestic concerns over Brexit, the votes cast by the citizens of the other 27 member states will play a key role in shaping the EU institutions that the British will have to deal with in negotiations.

The decline of the two largest groupings in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialist’s and Democrats (S&D) has meant a coalition between the two parties cannot gain the 376 seats needed to form a majority.

Spitzenkandidat

The European Parliament on May 11, 2016 in Strasbourg, France. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

With the lead candidate, or spitzenkandidat system, whoever can gain a majority in the Parliament must approve the President of European Commission, the bloc’s powerful civil service, who is nominated by the heads’ member states in the European Council.

The European Council is meeting on Tuesday for the first set of talks about who will head up the Commission. A qualified majority of the Council need to approve one candidate, which means 55 percent of member states, or 16 of the 28, that also must represent at least 65 percent of the EU’s population.

Any decision they take will take into account the makeup of the Parliament, which is a very different picture after the results of the election.

With the EPP and S&D grouping – which UK Labour Party is a member of – unable to form their own majority smaller groupings are now in a prime position to play an greater role in the formation of the next Commission, who will be the UK’s counter party in Brexit talks.

Coalition building

European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), bolstered by MEPs from Emmanuel Macron’s Republic En Marche Party and the UK’s Liberal Democrats, who made considerable gains in Thursday’s vote, are well placed to capitalise with 109 MEPs.

The grouping, led by outspoken Belgian MEP Guy Verhoftstadt could help form a grand coalition with the two blocs, which could be further increased by the addition of the Greens-European Free Alliance grouping.

Read more: these are all the new UK MEPs

S&D, ALDE and the Greens also have enough seats to form a majority in the parliament without the EPP that has been the largest party in the Parliament since 1999.

A growing Eurosceptic fringe in the Parliament, which includes Nigel Farage’s triumphant Brexit Party, is unlikely to enter any coalition with other groupings that are all primarily pro-European.

Next European Commission President?

Manfred Weber lead candidate for the post of president of the European Commission on behalf of the European People’s Party. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The EPP’s lead candidate, Jean Claude-Juncker, who has run the Commission since 2014, will make way for the next Commission President but there are suggestions that the institution’s mandate could be extended if talks drag on.

The Parliament will have its first opportunity to approve a new Commission President on 11 July, which with the EPP on 180 MEPs looks likely to be its lead candidate Manfred Weber.

But before that Mr Weber must be nominated by the heads of member states, some of whom do not approve of the spitzenkandidat system, who may try to nominate other candidates, despite his backing from powerful German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr Weber is holding talks with other parties, but will be acutely aware that decisions may be taken at a nation state level that means he is never voted on by the Parliament.

It may be sometime before the UK knows just what type of Commission will be on the other side of the table.

Who won the European election: the alliances that could shape the future of the EU – inews.co.uk


While European elections in the UK have been dominated by domestic concerns over Brexit, the votes cast by the citizens of the other 27 member states will play a key role in shaping the EU institutions that the British will have to deal with in negotiations.

The decline of the two largest groupings in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialist’s and Democrats (S&D) has meant a coalition between the two parties cannot gain the 376 seats needed to form a majority.

Spitzenkandidat

The European Parliament on May 11, 2016 in Strasbourg, France. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

With the lead candidate, or spitzenkandidat system, whoever can gain a majority in the Parliament must approve the President of European Commission, the bloc’s powerful civil service, who is nominated by the heads’ member states in the European Council.

The European Council is meeting on Tuesday for the first set of talks about who will head up the Commission. A qualified majority of the Council need to approve one candidate, which means 55 percent of member states, or 16 of the 28, that also must represent at least 65 percent of the EU’s population.

Any decision they take will take into account the makeup of the Parliament, which is a very different picture after the results of the election.

With the EPP and S&D grouping – which UK Labour Party is a member of – unable to form their own majority smaller groupings are now in a prime position to play an greater role in the formation of the next Commission, who will be the UK’s counter party in Brexit talks.

Coalition building

European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), bolstered by MEPs from Emmanuel Macron’s Republic En Marche Party and the UK’s Liberal Democrats, who made considerable gains in Thursday’s vote, are well placed to capitalise with 109 MEPs.

The grouping, led by outspoken Belgian MEP Guy Verhoftstadt could help form a grand coalition with the two blocs, which could be further increased by the addition of the Greens-European Free Alliance grouping.

Read more: these are all the new UK MEPs

S&D, ALDE and the Greens also have enough seats to form a majority in the parliament without the EPP that has been the largest party in the Parliament since 1999.

A growing Eurosceptic fringe in the Parliament, which includes Nigel Farage’s triumphant Brexit Party, is unlikely to enter any coalition with other groupings that are all primarily pro-European.

Next European Commission President?

Manfred Weber lead candidate for the post of president of the European Commission on behalf of the European People’s Party. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The EPP’s lead candidate, Jean Claude-Juncker, who has run the Commission since 2014, will make way for the next Commission President but there are suggestions that the institution’s mandate could be extended if talks drag on.

The Parliament will have its first opportunity to approve a new Commission President on 11 July, which with the EPP on 180 MEPs looks likely to be its lead candidate Manfred Weber.

But before that Mr Weber must be nominated by the heads of member states, some of whom do not approve of the spitzenkandidat system, who may try to nominate other candidates, despite his backing from powerful German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr Weber is holding talks with other parties, but will be acutely aware that decisions may be taken at a nation state level that means he is never voted on by the Parliament.

It may be sometime before the UK knows just what type of Commission will be on the other side of the table.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

live science logo

The Atlantic may see up to 4 Major Hurricanes this season, New Forecast Says

By Laura Geggel, Associate Editor | May 23, 2019

The Atlantic May See Up to 4 Major Hurricanes This Season, New Forecast Says
Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc in Mexico Beach, Florida, in October 2018, which made landfall there as a Category-4 hurricane.Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images

TMR – It’s that time of year again. Even though this focuses on the USA, just about all the warnings are applicable to us, all the way down here, right here in the Caribbean. Pay attention ALL and BE PREPARED.

Scientists are predicting a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year, with two to four major hurricanes reaching at least Category 3 status, with winds of 111 mph (178 km/h) or higher, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today (May 23).

But this “near-normal” description doesn’t mean people in the U.S. Southeast and Eastern Seaboard can rest easy.

“That’s a lot of activity,” Gerry Bell, the lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, told reporters at a news conference today. “You need to start getting ready for the hurricane season now.” [The 20 Costliest, Most Destructive Hurricanes to Hit the US]

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season — which lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30 — is expected to have between nine and 15 named storms, which means they pack winds of 39 mph (62 kilometers/hour) or higher, NOAA reported. Of those, between four and eight could become hurricanes, meaning their winds reach speeds of 74 mph (119 km/h) or higher. Expect two to four Major Hurricanes in 2019The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to have a near-normal number of hurricanes, with nine to 15 named storms. Credit: NOAA

Although just four of these hurricanes may top Category 3 status, “it only takes one land-falling hurricane to cause great destruction to a community,” Daniel Kaniewski, the acting deputy administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told reporters.

During an average hurricane season, the Atlantic sees about 12 named storms, including six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Last year’s season was above average, with 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes, of which two were major — the destructive hurricanes Michael and Florence.

However, it’s impossible to know whether any of the storms or hurricanes predicted for the 2019 season will make landfall, said Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator.

The officials added that this year marks the first time NOAA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites, including three operational next-generation satellites, were used to gather data for the hurricane forecast models. This data also helped NOAA issue a storm prediction for the eastern and central Pacific basins. According to NOAA, the Pacific should expect an above-normal season with 15 to 22 named storms, of which eight to 13 are expected to become cyclones (the term given to “hurricanes” in these parts of the Pacific). Of these, between four and eight could be major cyclones, NOAA reported.

What forces are involved?

A near-normal Atlantic hurricane season may sound surprising, given that there is an ongoing El Niño this year — a climate phenomenon known for warming waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that can impact weather worldwide. El Niño also acts to increase wind shear in the Atlantic, which disrupts the flow of heat and moisture, ingredients needed for hurricanes to form.

In other words, El Niño often suppresses hurricane activity in the Atlantic, Bell said.

But this year’s El Niño is weak, and it’s competing with the other climate factors. These hurricane-favoring factors are warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea (a pattern seen since 1995) and a strong monsoon in West Africa, Bell said. “They favor more activity,” Bell said.

What to do

People in hurricane-prone areas should make emergency plans now, Kaniewski said. This includes getting enough supplies — such as food, water and medicine — to last at least 72 hours, he said. In the event of a powerful storm or hurricane, people should also expect major communication networks to go down, so they should have a battery-powered radio to stay updated and have an emergency evacuation route in mind, he added.

Kaniewski also encouraged people to have cash on hand, in case the electricity goes out and ATMs and credit card swipe machines fail, as well as homeowners’ and flood insurance. To learn more, download the free FEMA application, which provides a number of services, including weather alerts, lists of open shelters and advice on emergency preparedness.

Originally published on Live Science.

Posted in Climate/Weather, Features, Hurricane, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

size of govt

How big should our “tax” rates be?

Part 5/2019 (Contribution)

What is the right size for our Government?

BRADES, Montserrat, May 23, 2019 –  As a part of our “fresh, serious, public-spirited conversation” we are currently debating a “transformational” budget, which has a focus on key projects intended to spark private sector-led growth: a breakwater and berth for tourism and a fibre optic cable for the digital and technology sector. According to our Economic Growth Strategy, the target is to sustain a rate of 5% GDP growth for enough time to move beyond dependency. However, that is not the whole story, we also need to think about the right balance of government size and tax rates for our economy over the long haul. For instance, that’s part of why DfID regularly pressures us to reduce the size of our Civil Service. (Hint: It’s not because they are being simply tight-fisted.) So, we need to think about how much government and “taxes” are “just right.”

Now, with no “taxes” there is obviously no government.

No defense, no policing or other services. Pirates, bands of robbers and the like would pop up and make it very hard to operate a successful business unless one has his own private army or navy. Government therefore enforces justice and enables the civil peace, allowing business to thrive. Such government requires “taxes” to pay for it, and for its support for roads, schools, courts, regulation of weights and measures, public health, sanitation etc. That improves the climate for business.

For just one example, there is a very good reason why the Caribbean is now a world-famed region of tropical beach paradises rather than a set of disease-riddled tropical death traps. Yes, that’s where our tourist industry came from: over a century of government-driven, tax-funded public health and sanitation efforts.

But beyond a certain point, too high a “tax” rate and/or too big a government will burden the economy, will discourage investors and will drive away creative, inventive people. That’s why, in the 1970’s Arthur Laffer argued that reducing “tax” rates from such overly high levels may actually increase revenues across time due to improved investment, innovation and faster economic growth. Similarly, Richard Rahn argued that growth rates peak at an even lower point, so that governments should target better long run growth rates rather than the “tax” revenue peak. Laffer’s basic logic is hard to deny, and Rahn also makes good sense.

Now too, “tax” is in quote-marks because taxes can come in various fairly invisible forms. Voters often resist high direct taxes, but higher “taxes” can be hidden by using duties and the like that are embedded in the prices we pay. Governments can borrow money, leading to debt burdens and crowding out investors. Likewise, by “printing” excess money in the short term the economy gets a boost but the purchasing power of money falls. Prices then rise and excess demand for foreign exchange will dry up reserves. Pressure to devalue and panic over possible or actual devaluation naturally follow.  In our region, that is more or less how the Jamaican, Guyanese and Trinidad dollars have fallen to where they now are. The Barbados dollar has been under pressure for years now too. Only the Eastern Caribbean dollar – a regionally managed currency issued by the ECCB – has remained fairly stable.

Another question is, where are the Laffer and Rahn peaks? That has led to various statistical studies and then to onward debates as to how to do such studies and apply the results. On balance, though some studies suggested the peak growth rate happens when Government is 30 – 40% of GDP, it is more often argued that the growth peak is 15 – 25%, possibly lower.  Others suggest, it varies with time and varies from one country to another, though most results fall within the given range.

Also, in the 1890’s Adolph Wagner documented that government size tends to grow faster than the economy, which is well supported statistically.

For, as Governments became more democratic and as economies became more prosperous, they could afford the wider range of government services that people desire and will vote for. Also, as a result of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, it was felt that a larger, more active government helps to stabilise the economy and to make life better for the ordinary man and the vulnerable. That’s why all major economies are now welfare states. However, recent evidence suggests that in more developed economies that tendency for government to grow faster than GDP tapers off (likely, due to voters insisting on curbing government growth).

On balance, at first larger government increases economic growth rates and improves living conditions for ordinary people but after reaching maybe 20 – 25% of GDP, it becomes a drag on growth.

Another challenge is, GDP and its growth rates are not familiar numbers to us, so we tend to underestimate the importance of long-term growth for improving prosperity and standards of living in an economy. But, obviously if there is a bigger GDP-pie to go around, we can all get a bigger share – “inclusive growth.” So, let us pause to look at how different growth rates gradually lead to very different sizes of pie:

What $1.00 becomes after 40 years, at various rates of interest

0.5%
1.0% 1.5% 2.0% 3.0% 4.0% 5.0%
7.0%
$1.22 $1.49 $1.81 $2.20 $3.26 $4.80 $7.04 $14.97

Clearly, faster growth makes a big difference across time. However, in recent years, the Caribbean has struggled to get even 1 – 2% growth, and it usually takes major structural changes and big investments that bring in new high growth sectors to get to the highly desirable 5 – 7% range that former ECCB Governor, the late Sir Dwight Venner was talking about some years ago.  Where also, economic growth varies from year to year around a trend-line, and there is a well known business cycle of 8 – 11 years in which booms and recessions – or even “busts” – come along on a fairly regular basis. Some argue for a longer term, 40 – 70 year generation length cycle led by major technology breakthroughs, termed the Kondratiev cycle. 

In recent years, from 2007 – 9, there was a great global recession at about the same time as a financial crisis and a surge in oil prices that went as high as US$ 145 per barrel then hovered near US$100 for years. Likely, such high energy prices have been a drag on the world economy, which naturally leads to lower tourism etc. So, it is unsurprising that in our region and around the world alike, many economies have been struggling ever since to break through to faster growth rates in the 3 – 5% range, much less 5 – 7%. Our local economy’s planners hope to attain 3.2 – 3.5% this year, apparently due to projects that are coming in. Onward, 5% is possible, if we can get the catalytic projects through and follow up by pulling in serious investments in the tourism, digital and technology sectors.

In Montserrat’s case, we were hard hit by a volcano crisis from 1995 on and lost key infrastructure as well as assets that had been built up over decades from the 1960’s – 90’s. As a result, we depend on a UK-funded grant for about 60% of our recurrent budget and for much more of our capital budget. The Civil Service is our biggest employer and the government sector drives the economy.  Such is not a healthy pattern.

On the other hand, until we have a buoyant, growing private sector, sharp cuts in the Civil Service will only feed further economic stagnation, frustration and depopulation as people flee to the UK. Instead, a balanced policy will first prioritise putting in place catalytic infrastructure that can get our economy moving.

That’s why it is such good news to see that the sea port breakwater and berth, the fibre optic project, solar PV power plant are moving forward.  They will help to fertilise tourism, the digital sector, financial services and the like, and until they are clearly coming through, efforts to attract high quality investors will predictably fail.  It is as our private, productive sector grows that our economy can strike a healthier balance between the public and private sectors.

At the same time, we have to be very careful to remember that the UK’s grant support to our economy is temporary. So, as we seek to improve health, education and social services, we have to bear in mind that one day we will have to pay for such services from our own economy’s sustainable tax base.

As always, prudence and balance leading to well judged timing will be the keys to success. END

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, De Ole Dawg, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

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