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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

09Howard Fergus FB

ANTIGUA REMEMBERS PRINCE RAMSEY

Howard Fergus

The farewell service for the Prince of Antigua

as inspiring to behold and to hear,

as witness after witness testified freely

of his graciousness, greatness and loving care

with hyperboles plenty, without a false note.

They lifted up Dr. Ramsey, heavier and larger

than life, man among men, healer and friend,

and all Antigua lifted up the chorus: Amen.

Versatile and versed in whatever endeavour:

writing calypso, slamming dominoes,

ministering to AIDS, he shunned the mediocre,

only excellence goes.

But for his poignant strain, “man is nothing but dust”,

melodiously mouthed by De Bear,

I did not know him in life, but they washed his wear

and hung then on the line at St. John the Divine

in St. John’s today, and he smelled clean.

In spite of his doleful philosophy of dust,

his sights on glory seem eternally just.

Antigua played him fair with a riot of love,

a forest of flowers decorated the hearse;

as his sun sank in flooding light,

the good and great gave silent cheer

along with the little people, subjects of his care.

The smart of soldiers adorned the ceremony

as becomes a Prince on the highest rung,

a colossus of home-grown royalty

whose deeds deserve a golden song.

Posted in Local, News, Poems, Regional0 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

CARICOM chairman speaks out on corresponding banking

CARICOM chairman speaks out on corresponding banking

This challenge is of particular significance for member territory Montserrat having only one bank enjoying any corresponding banking services, as against the other where exists problems in that sector.

by staff writer

WASHINGTON, May 25, CMC – The chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris says one the biggest economic and financial challenges facing the 15-member grouping is the practice engaged by the large global commercial banks to terminate their corresponding banking services.

Harris, speaking at the National Press Club here, said that the global commercial banks were also offering their services at “unconscionable high rates.

“The practice has a harmful effect on the flow of remittances from those living and working abroad to their loved ones and business associates at home who rely on this source of funds to provide for their sustenance.

P M Dr. Timothy Harris, addressing National Press Club

“The practice has a harmful effect on commercial trading activity that disrupts the flow of payments for services rendered. What was once an overnight bank-wire transfer of funds from the US is now taking as many as three months, or more, for delivery,’ said Harris, who earlier participated in a two-day Caribbean Central Bank forum organised by the World Bank Group on the digital economy in the Eastern Caribbean.

Harris, who is also Prime Minister of St. Kitts-Nevis, told the journalists that the “very damaging practice” by the global commercial banks “has the perverse effect of channeling many of these transactions to an underground black market through unscrupulous carriers with no certainty or guarantee of delivery.

“This is particularly harmful to small island developing states such as St. Kitts and Nevis with a large overseas population in the diaspora. The large banks claim that they are seeking to minimize the risks associated with money laundering and terrorist financing to which they are subject to heavy fines for violating Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regulatory guidelines.”

But he said that the reality is that there is no evidence of significant money laundering activity in St. Kitts and Nevis.

“It is not a major global financial centre. Much of the world’s money laundering transactions take place in the major capitals of the world, such as London, New York, and Delaware. Moreover, every CARICOM country has tax information exchange agreements with the US and major EU countries.”

Harris said that tax information is readily available and is provided through the designated agencies of governments in the United States and Europe.

“There is therefore no sound basis for labeling our small island developing states as “tax havens” or non-cooperating tax jurisdictions,” he said.

CARICOM countries have been critical of Europe in labelling several regional countries as tax havens and earlier this month, the EU announced it had removed Barbados, Bermuda and Aruba from its ts blacklist of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.

In his address to the National Press Club on Friday night, Prime Minister Harris said that over the past two days, Caribbean countries have been focusing on digital technology and how it can transform the lives of Caribbean people for the better.

He said the world took notice in November 2016 when his twin-island Federation, the smallest independent country in the Western Hemisphere, was honoured at the 14th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium with two awards for outstanding improvements in information and communication technology (ICT) development.

He said since then several Caribbean countries, like The Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Jamaica have been ranked within the top 100.

“We understand the importance to our economic growth and development agenda of having a major digital footprint. In this regard, the Digital Economy Moonshot for the Eastern Caribbean hosted by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the World Bank…is a timely and important forum that will help shape our approach and strategies as we seek to build out our digital infrastructure, digital skills, digital financial services, digital platforms and digital entrepreneurship in such a manner to promote digital transformation and economic development.”

Harris said the region aims to transform from mere consumers of technology to innovators and suppliers of digital services” and that the partnership with the World Bank could help the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) to deepen integration through the harmonization of policies and the legislative framework that is critical to the development of the digital economy.

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

Change the idle discourse, there is only one choice going forward

Change the idle discourse, there is only one choice going forward

May 24, 2019

We never understood why a single presentation about the already accepted benefits of ‘medical marijuana’ having been abruptly pulled off the radio station, was not seen by the courts as an infringement on the person’s freedom of expression, but rather as some right to protect from ‘criminal’ activity. The matter is still to be resolved at the Appeal Courts – Privy Council level.

Within months after that not only that the said discussion was hyped up to another level with phrases such as legalising or decriminalising marijuana, indeed some measure of that has been done all around the world, US, UK, the Caribbean, etc.

Jumping forward we hear all kinds of ‘chatter’ about the subject, with the only attempt being done at any discussion on what IS or at least somewhat a fairly complex matter, a mission from CARICOM, or was it OECS that held a one-night forum here.

What is done anywhere else in the world, be it next door or at the farthest end of the world, when it is good, no one shouts or even smell adaptation, yet we seem so ready to accept and jump in the tub with suspect activities without any real discussion, education where necessary and understanding so we can benefit from the good if any in what is taking place.

The ‘idle and deep down baseless, goalless’ chatter surrounding ‘marijuana’ which is is nothing more than political gimmicks, is not worthy of discussion in the Legislative Assembly. All that does is a lack understanding and appreciation for what that the Speaker tried to explain it ought to be a few weeks ago. There was a time when regional discussions looked to Montserrat representation for the guide when all or most of the issues were scattered.

This is an issue that deserves far more than what has been reaching our airwaves. Already every week, nearly every day there is news of the fall-out from what is being perceived as the legalising or decriminalising of the ‘drug’. There is work to be done especially when one discovers that there are pushbacks already on some supposedly carefully thought-out all related matters.

It is not at all funny for that matter we mentioned languishing somehow up to the Privy Council, when all the presenter Claude Gerald wanted to do was to draw attention to what had been already well accepted that there was medicinal benefit to marijuana, not the  mere ‘use of it’, because well-known too, there is danger depending on how used, pretty much like many other ‘legal’ drugs. He was never allowed to get beyond saying or even describing what he was about to say.

This is hardly unlike so many other real, important and serious matters relevant to the well-being, progress and prosperity to this island. Listen to or note the absence of the sensibility of just about anything coming from most, nearly all of our politicians about matters relating to the relevant issues mentioned. And this is of course not just limited to the politicians, but the leadership and management generally. It is now very widespread. And contrary to what some may want to believe there appears on the surface enough to mislead. 

Unfortunately, selfishness and refusal to understand the newness and usefulness of the hyped ‘IT technology’; surface hypocrisies, will continue to be to the detriment to anything worthwhile and good for this country. Secrecy and corruption; blatant bad, made to look good, catching up and being selfishly ‘politically correct’, add the hypocrisy that comes along will all create problems for even or especially ‘spend the monies’. Let’s have some constructive dialogue, the time now is right.

‘Jus wonderin who we can get to moderate that.’

Getting to critical thoughts. When DFID mentioned on two occasions, in 2008 and 2012 about being ready to be serious about the then 13-year volcanic devastation, their interest in growth, supporting the ports ‘sea and air’, both Premiers since 2008 have removed the airport off the table of discussion. Neither of them, one more so than the other, had ever said that DFID had shown no interest in the one equally critical to the other.

It is the ‘chief minister’ in 2008 who we call on – we believe is capable, respected, honest and sincere enough to take Montserrat from here. But listen carefully and know what you hear – or don’t hear. But alas, the future is so uncertain. It is unimaginable, they who say, as their own belief is questionable, they have the know-how. Here is a warning for them. They should be ready to answer the question, “what do you believe you require to be a legislator and potentially, the leader of the country?” Then there is another, but that is for when the time comes.

(See marijuana stories in this issue)

END

Posted in Editorial, Local, News, Politics, 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

Dupigny DSC_7248web

New Port development launched

Concept design – Full to be available by August

The Government of Montserrat through the Ministry of Communication and Works on Friday, May 17, 2019, conducted the Montserrat Port Development Project Launch which has been seriously undertaken when Premier Romeo announced in February last year, that the funds had been sourced for the project.

The event was hosted at the Montserrat Port Authority – Ferry Terminal Building, with an overflow of persons who were outside of the small available space, but with the apparent intention to afford guests the opportunity to tour the site and to ask pertinent questions, especially that there is not yet a design for the actual port.

Port Authority manager Joseph O’Garro chaired the proceedings which began with the singing of the Territorial song and a prayer led by Fr. Carlisle Vyphius of the Anglican church.

Following, were welcome and opening remarks by the port manager, referred to as the Chief Executive Officer – Montserrat Port Authority on the program; H.E. Governor Pearce, CDB Representative Andrew Dupigny, Head of Infrastructure Partnerships, Hon. Paul Lewis, Minister of MCWEL, a feature address by Premier Donaldson Romeo and finally a vote of thanks by MCWEL Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Beverley Mendes.

Seated in the front row l-r, Governor, Premier, Minister, Dupigny and PS with CDB officials in the back row

Mr. O’Garro briefly in his opening and welcome outlined what most or all of the remarks noted, that the project will provide safe, secure and modern port facility for Montserrat, that will provide critical access and reduce down-time especially in times of poor weather.

He, again like others, in addressing the down time noted that about 12% of the vessels calling at Little Bay had not come into, or leave or port.

CEO O’Garro and Governor Pearce

The Governor said about the project. “It works with the grain of our small island community and it sort of aligns with the niche nature of our economy,” preceding that with the observation. “Size is not everything, quality and balance are key – it matches the scale of little Montserrat – we aren’t going to get and we don’t want almost 4000 berth cruise ships, hopefully smaller ones – we can host graciously…

CDB’s Andrew Dupigny, who has been with the project from early 2017, in his remarks, noted that, “…On completion it is expected that the new facility will provide direct and positive impact on the  economy with the potential that would increase employment, improved productivity and overall improvements in the business environment.

Andrew Dupigny

Sounding like coming straight out of a business case, he continued to say: “Over the long term the provision of a reliable access and connectivity to the island, the movement of people goods and services would increase its creativity potential which would ultimately positively impact growth – improve the efficiency effectiveness and resilience of the port facility to provide safety and accessibility.” –

When we say that this project goes way, 12 years, further than the Premier would later recall, Dupigny noted “This actually dovetails very well with the government of Montserrat’s ongoing activities to restore access and connectivity to the island,” which he said, “…was articulated in the Hon Premiers presentation of the budget address in 2017 when he declared ‘access is perhaps our single biggest challenge to growth.’”

He connected this to: “CDB’s strategic plan for the period 2015 to 19 similarly recognises, the positive relationship between infrastructure economic growth and poverty reduction.”

 He offered, “Good transportation is one of the main elements that supports national development. A Key success of any project especially a project such as this which will impact every community across Montserrat is the participation of stakeholders.”

“We are therefore extremely pleased to see the enthusiasm evidenced by your numbers here this morning as well as a high level of participation in the workshop that took place over the past few days.”

This was a workshop that this long-standing stakeholder in all Montserrat progress media house was excluded and knew nothing about. Such could very well be to the detriment to any project, except for dishonest follow-ups which in the end will as we say be detrimental to Montserrat.

Minister Lewis was firm in his presentation as he set out the history of loss and difficulties with a port that far than less served the required needs of Montserrat, but finally, “a solution.”

He spoke to how, “with unreliable sea access for the last 23 years Montserrat lost opportunities for economic growth, our country’s people suffered other losses, including vessels running aground and the destruction of cargo vessels; loss of fishing vessels and yachts unable to come into port; cost of goods have increased after additional charges were placed on shipping given the uncertainty of docking on arrival in Montserrat and having to wait, perhaps even leave before returning a second time to off load,” referring to unsuccessful attempts as they try to dock in rough waters, having to return to Antigua – the road to a solution has not been without challenges.

He spoke of the benefits to be gained as the project progresses, as well as the revealing that, “The project will also provide employment for 72-100 workers over 18 months to two years.

With all other requirements in place and September this year, for a design and build contractor will take place, thereafter, the successful company will be mobilizing to start work by the end of the year

Funding for this project, after a £23 million offer by the UK was turned down (technically) in early 2014, came with a £14.4 million grant to GoM from the UK government via the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF), augmented by another £7 million budgetary support from the European Union.

With the (CDB) making an initial allocation for the project, advised to GoM in July 2016, an application for the grant made in March 2017, the agreement between the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Government of Montserrat for £14,400,000 was signed by Premier Romeo on Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

Premier Romeo and Minister Lewis

The Premier was set to deliver the feature address for the event. He, following what took his Government nearly three years to get to this point, recently accessing the needed additional funds, he was relieved probably more than excited.

“Today, marks one of the first, breakthrough step towards the fulfillment of a twenty four-year old hope for Montserrat; a protected sea port here in the safe zone.  Yes, the first safe harbour in Montserrat’s history,” he began.

He continued by recalling as many of the arguments that had no doubt, like Dupigny recalled, made in the business case that had to be presented for the port. He quoted DFID: “The principal barrier to economic growth and development on the island is poor physical access.. . . Without the development of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, improved access, and reduced costs of doing business, Montserrat will remain uncompetitive in attracting [Foreign Direct Investment].”

So he told an appreciable number of many of whom were invited for the event. “The port development project is therefore one of the strategic keys for unlocking growth and building Montserrat’s future.” 

Concurring that this key we will open up the door for local and foreign investment and for self-sustaining, private sector led growth, he added: “It will create jobs during the construction phase, and it will provide more reliable docking for Cruise ships and for cargo vessels.”

Like other speakers he pointed out that “due to rough seas…out of a total of 478 calls, vessels were unable to berth 58 times…one vessel out of every eight had to turn back. “Yes, that is not sustainable. We had to fix the problem,” he said

That’s why a safe harbour “is of vital importance in providing connectivity to the island of Montserrat and for supporting economic activity.”

He reminded of earlier attempts at building a port, that the Government of the day had envisioned a sea port development in Carrs Bay, and it had actually knocked down part of Gun Hill to facilitate the project.

With no design yet in place for the current project, he noted that in the previous case, a design was made and developed, being presented to the public at 60% and 90% points. “But, alas, it was very costly and suitable private sector partners were hard to secure,” but giving no details of the contrasts.  

He recalled also a statement made by former Chief Minister John Osborne, deceased, in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo on July 30, 1990: “With assistance in developing its infrastructure, including a proper airport and a safe harbour, Montserrat could develop a viable economy and opt for independence.”

Before closing his address, the Premier gave an insight as to how the project will move from this launch. “First, through presentations and workshops that have been going on for a few days, we look at preliminary designs, then adjust towards a preferred option. The preferred option will then be fully developed as a technical design, starting in August. Then, once that design is completed and accepted, construction will begin.

He revealed that “Construction will take considerable time, over a year,” with a caution. “However, we must always recognise that we are dealing with the sea, which has its own power, its own ways and its own voice; which can force changes to our proposed schedules.”

He concludes after thanking several key authorities, Minister Lewis, UK govt and other key personel, and then: “Let us see, how we can work together as a people as we put in place one of the foundation stones for building our future.”

Discussing the possible design

The P:S gave a fairly descriptive and comprehensive vote of thanks, praising the Ministry and staff for the work done so far on the project and hosting the morning’s event which ended with people looking at and discussing the site from the concept drawing.

Related: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/planning-to-begin-for-a-breakwater-facility-at-little-bay/

https://youtu.be/jhkzwryf-2w

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-cZXxLq1fMwTeH0q5kA4vBcaQdyCsAbz?usp=sharing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhkzwryf-2w&feature=youtu.be

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, Environment, Featured, International, Local, News, TOURISM, Videos0 Comments

Expert warns of Caribbean heat season

Expert warns of Caribbean heat season

By Kenton X. Chance

PHILLIPSBURG, St. Maarten, May 24, CMC —  A Caribbean climatologist says that while the Caribbean is best known for having wet, dry and hurricane seasons, a little known fact is that the region also has a distinct heat season.

Cédric Van Meerbeeck, climatologist at the Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) says that since about 1995, the Caribbean has had a distinct heat season which lasts from about May to October and is forecast to be more intense this year that the last two years.

“But the heat season is something that didn’t happen in the past. Yes, people feel more comfortable and sometimes even cold around Christmas time and you know that it gets hotter towards September. But it’s not really common knowledge that there is a six-month period that noticeably warmer than the other part of the year and that is May to October….

“And during that heat season, you find that the levels of heat discomfort and heat stress [increases] so that’s impacting your health, also the health of some animals,” Van Meerbeeck said, adding this has implication for comfort levels as well as major sectors in the region, such as tourism and agriculture.

He told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) on the side-line of the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) that while the heat season peaks in September, the region has its most heat waves between August and October.

“Heat waves might not look as extreme as they are in some desert areas or some part of the United States and other regions. However, they do impact us because mostly that’s also the time of the year when the humidity is high,” Van Meerbeeck explained.

“When humidity is high, your body doesn’t cool as effectively as when the air is quite dry and so you feel more heat stress even though the temperature does not increase immensely,” Van Meerbeeck said, urging people to stay as cool as possible, especially from August onward.

The climatologist said that for the first half of the heat season, the air is still relatively dry, therefore, the temperatures are not necessarily so uncomfortable.

“But it is really that second part of the heat season that we want to warn against. Keep cool; don’t go in the sun in the middle of the day; seek shade, seek ventilation in your homes.

“If you have an AC, make sure you run the AC while you sleep so that your brain and your body can recover better and that you can function normal in the face of the heat,” the climatologist advised.

“Last year, we were quite fortunate that there were not many heat waves. It was not that brutal. A comparable season would have been 2016 when we really had a lot of heat between August and October.”

Van Meerbeeck said the cause of the higher temperature is the rising temperatures of the ocean, which releases heat into the atmosphere during the heat season.

“It doesn’t change the weather much from day to day, but over longer periods of time, it does affect the amount of energy that is in the atmosphere and therefore that is the temperature that you feel,” the climatologist said, adding this is definitely linked to climate change.

“And this is one of the clearest links that we observe in the Caribbean beside sea level rise. The increasing temperature now means that even though we didn’t have a heat season outside of maybe August to October in the past, now you find that heat waves actually occur for a longer period of time every year in the warmer years particularly.

“But now, in the cooler years, you now have heat waves. That didn’t used to be the case up until about 1995. It’s really something recent, where the trend of temperate going up with climate change is really affecting the heat level that we have in the season.”

He said this has implication for agriculture and fisheries, especially the livestock subsector and fish, especially in the northern Caribbean, that are sensitive to the heating of the sea surface.

“But for livestock, it’s important to also provide cooling for them. For us that is important. Maybe ethically that’s one thing but also in terms of our food security, our protein stock really comes from chicken and chicken are amongst the most sensitive animals to excessive heat especially broilers.”

Van Meerbeeck said it is a good practice to keep poultry birds cool “so you can to make sure that your chicken stock does not reduce and does not experience that heat stress which leads to less protein being available at a reasonable cost for us”.

As regard tourism, the climatologist said that heat is not that much of a problem as long as awareness is built with tourists.

“But they should really do their best to keep cool whenever they can, stay hydrated, seek the shade, seek well-ventilated places; if you go in the sun, don’t go in the middle of the day,” Van Meerbeeck said, adding that hotels should also remind tourists to stay cool.

Posted in CARICOM, Climate/Weather, Environment, Local, OECS, Regional, Science/Technology0 Comments

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