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St. Kitts-Nevis P M promises no new taxes under current administration

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Aug 15, CMC – Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Timothy Harris has promised that citizens will not have to worry about any new taxes for the time remaining in his administration’s term in office.

Team Unity – an alliance of the Concerned Citizens’ Movement, the People’s Action Movement, and the People’s Labour Party, led by Dr. Harris – assumed power in the February 2015 general elections. With another year and a half left in the current term in office, Dr. Harris said the focus is on alleviating poverty.

“No new taxes are contemplated during the life of this Team Unity administration. We believe that through appropriate management, through the consistent growth of the economy and through the necessary administrative efficiencies in tax collection, we believe in reordering our incentive programme, the government will be able to collect adequate revenues to finance the programmes which are required by the people,” he said on local radio programme ‘Straight Talk’ on Monday.

Prime Minister Harris said it was important to initiate programmes to assist the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. He assured that the government stood ready to help where necessary.

“I would say that, by and large, the programmes in which we are engaged are not frivolous programmes. The fact that people are poor and need help is a matter to which we must respond and we must respond appropriately,” he said. “It is a commitment of this government to do all that we can to alleviate poverty in the country because no one ought to be living demeaning lives and, at the same time, the government through the variety of social and other interventions would want to ensure that people can move from poverty into prosperity.”

The Kittitian leader reminded that alleviating poverty and economically empowering residents form part of the government’s good governance and prosperity agenda.

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Former Attorney General urges country to put aside partisan politics ahead of referendum

Former Attorney General urges country to put aside partisan politics ahead of referendum

ST. JOHN’S, ANTIGUA, Aug. 16, CMC – Former Attorney General Justin Simon QC, has called on the population to put aside partisan politics in the runup to a referendum on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), scheduled for later this year.

During an interview on state media, Simon this is what he will be pushing while on the trail to promote the Trinidad based CCJ.

Justin Simon

“I am not saying that people will not have their political difference, but let us sink them in respect to this particular cause.”

Simon, who served as AG under a previous administration of the United Progressive Party (UPP), made comments following  calls by the UPP – now the main opposition party, for the referendum to include more than one item in the context of constitutional reform.

However, the former Attorney General believes that the referendum should remain a one issue initiative.

“I am of the strong opinion and view that the CCJ should be dealt with on its own by itself. We look at the experience of Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines which placed other issues of constitutional reform on the table and that was rejected,” Simon said.

The London-based Privy Council presently serves as the island’s final court and the referendum on November 6 will allow for the population to indicate whether they intend to join the CCJ that was established in 2001.

While many of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the court that also serves as an international tribunal that interprets the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement.

CMC/kb/2018

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Antigua announces “non-stop” campaign ahead of CCJ referendum0

Antigua announces “non-stop” campaign ahead of CCJ referendum0

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Aug 14, CMC – Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin has announced the start of a “non-stop campaign” ahead of a referendum vote in November on whether or not Antigua and Barbuda should make the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court.

The London-based Privy Council presently serves as the island’s final court and Benjamin said that the referendum on November 6 will allow for the population to indicate whether they intend to join the CCJ that was established in 2001.

Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin

“We want to make sure Antiguans are brought up to date with the real purpose of the CCJ. So we are starting a campaign, a non-stop campaign from now until the day of the elections.

“I just want to talk with my fellow Antiguans and Barbudans today. Search your soul, search your heart. Are you really independent? Are you really a Caribbean person? How can you say you are independent when you don’t control your Court of Appeal,” Benjamin asked.

Benjamin urged nationals to ensure that they are registered to participate in the referendum, saying that the last date for registration is August 31.

“So you could have your challenges, objections etc. But to get on the final list. The list will be published in October you’ve got to register by the 31st of August this year,” Benjamin said.

The referendum will be held on November 6.

While many of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are signatories to the Original Jurisdiction of the CCJ, only Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana have signed on to the Appellate Jurisdiction of the court that also serves as an international tribunal that interprets the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the regional integration movement.

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(Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

FBI Agent Peter Strzok Fired Over Anti-Trump Text Messages

Ryan J. Reilly

HuffPost
 
 
(Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
 
(Joshua Roberts / Reuters)

WASHINGTON ― FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, who was taken off special counsel Robert Mueller’s team after his texts disparaging President Donald Trump were discovered by Justice Department investigators, has been fired from the bureau despite the recommendations of a career FBI official.

Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s attorney, said in a statement that Strzok was fired late Friday afternoon despite a FBI career official’s recommendation that Strzok face a 60-day suspension and a demotion.

Goelman called the decision “a departure from typical Bureau practice” and said it contradicted FBI Director Chris Wray’s guarantee that the bureau would follow its regular process, despite Trump’s disdain for the now-former FBI official.

“This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans. A lengthy investigation and multiple rounds of Congressional testimony failed to produce a shred of evidence that Special Agent Strzok’s personal views ever affected his work,” Goelman said. “In fact, in his decades of service, Special Agent Strzok has proved himself to be one of the country’s top counterintelligence officers, leading to only one conclusion ― the decision to terminate was taken in response to political pressure, and to punish Special Agent Strzok for political speech protected by the First Amendment, not on a fair and independent examination of the facts. It is a decision that produces only one winner ― those who seek to harm our country and weaken our democracy.”

Strzok exchanged texts with former FBI official Lisa Page that disparaged Trump as well as other politicians, including various Democrats. He testified last monthafter the release of an inspector general report on the handling of the FBI’s Hillary Clinton probe that described anti-Trump texts exchanged by bureau officials.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Ryan Reilly is HuffPost’s senior justice reporter covering the Justice Department, federal law enforcement, criminal justice and legal affairs. Have a tip? Reach him at ryan.reilly@huffpost.com or on Signal at 202-527-9261.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
 
 
 

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Brexit and housing crisis combining to cause exodus from London, think tank finds

Brexit and housing crisis combining to cause exodus from London, think tank finds

Information that should be of vital interest particularly to the Montserrat discourse

Caitlin Morrison
 
 

A combination of unaffordable housing and Brexit has led to an “exodus” from London, with an increasing number of young people moving elsewhere to live and work, according to new research.

Analysis by think tank Centre for London showed that job numbers in the capital reached 5.9 million at the end of June this year, up 1.9 per cent compared with the same month in 2017 – and the highest level since records began in 1996.

However, the group warned that this was driven by a “significant growth” in the number of people moving away from London to rest of the UK, and a slowdown in international migration, suggesting that the city is become a less desirable place to live and work.

London recorded the slowest rate of population growth in over a decade, at almost half the rate of the previous year, the research revealed.

A spokesperson for Centre for London said: “The continuing affordability crisis and the prospect of Brexit are dampening the city’s appeal, with the former seen as driving the rise in the number of people in their mid-twenties to thirties leaving the capital.”

In July the average rent for London rose above £1,600 for the first time on record, according to the latest Homelet Rental Index, and while house price growth in London has slowed in recent months, the average price in the second quarter of this year was £468,845 – more than double the national average of £214,578.

Meanwhile, the think tank said there were other factors spurring people on to leave the capital, with quality of life indicators such as crime and pollution worsening over the last year.

Figures showed that a balance of 106,000 people moved away from London in the 12 months to mid-2017, up 14 per cent on the previous year, which “suggests that people are looking for an alternative to London to live and work”, Centre for London said.

Net international migration dropped by 34 per cent year-on-year, to the lowest level since 2013.

The research also showed a 16 per cent decline in the number of foreign nationals registering for national insurance numbers, with a 25 per cent drop among EU citizens.

Vicky Pryce, a board member of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said the news on job creation in the capital was “very welcome” but added: “For London, long believed to be better able to absorb shocks like Brexit due to its diversity, housing affordability and rising living costs in the capital [it is] encouraging an exodus.

“Any loss of EU workers and the likelihood of services not being covered by any Brexit deal would leave the City particularly vulnerable.”

The prospect of a no-deal Brexit has become more likely in the last few weeks, with Bank of England boss Mark Carney last week admitting that the chances of the UK leaving the EU with no agreement in place were “uncomfortably high”, and the pound has fallen to 11 month lows against the dollar and the euro off the back of no-deal concerns.

Meanwhile, Silviya Barrett, research manager at Centre for London, said: “While some might interpret the drop in migration and population growth as easing the pressure on infrastructure and public services, in the longer term it has the potential to threaten their viability and significantly damage our economy.”

She added that although unemployment data was encouraging, falling 0.4 per cent to 255,000 since last year, “declining pay levels and stalling productivity are signs that there could be stumbling blocks on the horizon”.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics last month revealed that UK wage growth had slowed to its weakest pace in six months.

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

Are You Wasting Your Life?

Are You Wasting Your Life?

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RULES TO LIVE BY

RULES TO LIVE BY

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Premier’s Statement on July 18, 2018

Premier’s Statement on July 18, 2018

Following is the full statement he made today, first delivered on radio:

Fellow Citizens, Residents and Friends of Montserrat, wherever you may be, today, 18th July 2018, marks 23 years since the Soufriere Hill volcano erupted and changed the lives of Montserratians forever.

Montserrat has been changed, yes, but thank God, not destroyed; has been down but not out.

Solomon tells us that there is a time for everything under the sun, and I firmly believe that today is a time, not to forget the past, but to let it rest for the moment, a time for me to encourage you with some positive news about the present and the future. Therefore, I shall be focusing on a number of priority projects that my government has been working on to help transform our social and economic conditions.

First of all, is the Little Bay Breakwater and Port Development Project. I am pleased to report that we have now started the procurement process for certain consultancy and supervision contracts. You have already heard the advertisement on Radio Montserrat for a Project Coordinator.  This means that we are well on the way to having our first breakwater and safe harbour, the first ever safe harbour in the history of the island.

What does this mean?

It means having the capability to dock cruise vessels, luxury yachts, cargo vessels and the ferry at the same time. It means no more waiting for cement,  flour or sugar because boats can’t dock. It means no more being stranded on the ferry 100 yards off Montserrat’s shore because of rough seas.

It means jobs for taxi drivers, artists, craftsmen and everyone involved in tourism. It means larger vessels and therefore cheaper freight, which should in turn have a positive impact on prices for everyone.

Then there is the Montserrat Subsea Fibre Project, which is now fully supported by DfID. We are at the stage of finalizing the tender documents with the aim of issuing an Invitation to tender within the next month, completing the evaluation of bids by the end of September and hopefully issuing a contract by the end of October.

And if everything goes according to plan, the system should Go Live by August 2019. The days of phone calls being cut because of the internet being too slow, the frustrations of trying, in vain, to watch a video online – all this will be history.

A high-speed connection will also allow us to make history as we set up the first Digi Beach to encourage tech startups in the Caribbean.  My administration has already started to embrace the future of blockchain and cash being digital as we welcomed BITT to our shores.

Regarding the Geothermal Project, which has the potential to provide Montserrat with abundant, clean, renewable energy at a reasonable cost, two wells have already been dug.  The completion of the third well is under negotiation between DFID and IDC drilling company.  The early market engagement for the surface plant was completed and evaluated and the report is being reviewed.  

We are still in active negotiations with the British Government for the completion of this project, as well as that of the new hospital.

On a smaller scale, just under two million dollars was awarded by the end of June 2018, the first quarter of this financial year, for contracts on small capital projects such as: 

  • the canopy cover works to the ferry terminal expansion & warehouse roof repair project,
  • Margetson Home – design & build contract,
  • supply of base material & aggregate
  • the New Windward Sewage Facility design & build contract,
  • Supply of textbooks for the public schools in Montserrat and
  • the breaking down and removal of the temporary wood & steel buildings on the Government Headquarters compound.

Further, other small capital projects are being prepared for procurement. This will include Major Roof works and railing for Block C at the Brades Primary School, and other maintenance works to include resurfacing of Basketball courts, fencing and painting of school plants, etc.

And let us not overlook the countless small projects that have been completed or are underway, particularly in education, health and the environment. To name just a few…

  • construction of a new toilet block, retaining wall and fencing at the Brades Primary School
  • major sewage system repairs and greenhouse infrastructure at MSS
  • white boards, plumbing and Toilet replacements and other critical repairs at the Look Out Primary School
  • completion of the headquarters of the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Tourism at the Montserrat Community College
  • major roof recovering at the Salem Nursery School.
  • various rehabilitation and retrofit medical storage works at the hospital, including installation of ventilation systems, construction of the X-ray plant room and a central sterilizer to be completed during this quarter.   

I also express appreciation to the FCO and the people and government of the UK for the Heliconia Star.  It has already begun to make a difference for our security, safety and resilience. 

These are all little drops of water that together are contributing to an ocean of positive change for Montserrat. 

On the private sector side, many are taking advantage of the concessions under the Homes Built for Sale or Rental Programme. Those who build a house for rental or sale costing $180,000 US or more will not have to pay duty or consumption tax on building materials imported.  And we are already seeing an increase in construction spending and jobs.

I also recently visited the Montserrat Football Association’s construction site where a 32-bedroom Dormitory is underway; important infrastructure for sports tourism valued at 8 million dollars, and which should be completed by next year. 

In addition, it is anticipated that the Montserrat Football Association will be host to several international matches later this year along with the Leeward Islands Cricket Tournaments.  This to my mind will be a great boost to our enterprising citizens with businesses, just as we saw with the recent conferences for fisheries and for Ministers of the Environment, the Leeward Islands Under 17 and Under 19 Cricket tournaments and as we also will see for the Calabash Festival. 

Not too far from the Montserrat Football Association’s football dormitory development, is the 10-unit Art Housing project which is well on the way.

Plans are also in place for the construction of super villas adjoining the Isles Bay Plantation units.  Other similarly promising project proposals are being discussed and negotiated as I speak. I will personally be following them up closely so as to ensure that this demonstration of Investor confidence in the economy is properly supported and facilitated right through to implementation.

As far as relations with Britain are concerned, a key reason for Lord Ahmad’s recent visit to Montserrat in May/June was for him to see firsthand the work that was being done to prepare for this year’s hurricane season as well as to explore ideas for the development of a stronger and more sustainable private sector economy.

As many of you would have recently heard in the media, we are soon to receive additional and much needed equipment provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, so that, should a hurricane hit, our Government can respond in the most efficient and coordinated way.

While attending JMC (Joint Ministerial Council) meetings in London in June, I met with FCO Minister, Lord Ahmad and DfID Minister, Lord Bates, to continue discussions on the Construction of hurricane-resistant housing. Meanwhile, hurricane Beryl turned out to be only a tropical storm bringing us much-needed rain – and thank God for that.

In my meetings with Lord Ahmad and Lord Bates, we also discussed the completion of a critical section of the, and the Provision of Essential Equipment and Plant to properly install telephone posts and repair or construct asphalt-based roads. 

Following this meeting I can now report that I have in my hands a joint letter from FCO and DfID Ministers Lord Ahmad and Lord Bates.  In this letter they committed the UK to providing physical support for Disaster Resilience. They also mentioned that they have been persuaded of the need for the UK Government to provide additional capital investment in Montserrat.  Discussions to develop proposals for these Capital projects are expected to start within the next few weeks with a view to being finalized before the end of the year.

 Projects to be prioritized, discussed and agreed on for the next five years, include:

 construction of hurricane-resistant housing and a new hospital

  • Improved recreational facilities
  • completion of the geothermal project to result in the production of affordable electricity
  • completion of the A1 road project;
  • night flights at John A Osborne Airport
  • Public Service Reform
  • Private Sector Development (with an emphasis on promoting youth and locally driven entrepreneurial businesses, tourism related infrastructure, etc).
  • Government Accommodation
  • New Secondary School Campus, etc

 In June, I attended a Meeting of the United Nations Committee for Decolonization, where I called on the UN to support a Development Partnership Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of Montserrat and the UK. 

 This MoU would have a list of priority projects with committed funds and a set timeline for their design and implementation.   I also asked the UN Special Committee to appoint a neutral, technical team to monitor closely progress in the negotiations and implementation of said projects.

 Lastly I requested that the UN send a visiting team to Montserrat as well as to Antigua and the UK to meet evacuees so as to grasp the context of where Montserrat is now and where we want to go to get out of economic dependence. 

These requests as you can see, are in keeping with what I have argued for over the past 4 years and what the FCO and DfID Ministers are now offering to do with a five-year capital programme in the recent joint letter to me mentioned before.

As I said in my statement to the UN last month “It is becoming increasingly obvious to many, that, rather than continuing to keep the island for another 23 years or more on an expensive life-support machine, it would cost the UK tax payer much less in the long run, to invest wisely and intensively in Montserrat now.”    

Nationals, non-nationals, residents and friends of Montserrat, there are many ups and downs behind us, and there will be more ahead. That’s life as we know it in an imperfect world. But it seems to me that we can ad0pt to our situation today, and the hope that we have for tomorrow, the words of Joseph to his brothers about the crisis that had erupted in his own life: “God has turned it into good”. (Genesis 50.20) Can it be that the volcano which many expected to wipe Montserrat off the map, is turning out to be a blessing in disguise?

For us to benefit fully from this blessing however, I believe that we need to adopt Joseph’s positive attitude, trusting God whatever happens; to set politicking aside, unite and pull together and seize the many opportunities opening to us all, wherever we may be, God being our helper.

Thank you for listening and may God bless Montserrat.

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U.S. President Trump holds prepared remarks as he speaks about his summit meeting with Russian President Putin at the White House in Washington

Trump claims he misspoke about Russian meddling in Putin press conference

By Kathryn Watson CBS News July 17, 2018,

Last Updated Jul 17, 2018 4:46 PM EDT

President Trump on Tuesday claimed he accepts the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Russians interfered in the 2016 election. He also said he misspoke when he suggested otherwise in a widely criticized press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday in Helsinki, Finland. 

“I will begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies, I always have,” Mr. Trump said at the top of a meeting with members of Congress. “And I have felt very strongly that, while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that, and I have said this many times, I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. It could be other people, also. There are lots of people out there.”

Mr. Trump appeared to be reading from typed notes — with some handwritten additions — during his remarks in which he stated that Russians were behind the meddling. 

U.S. President Trump holds prepared remarks as he speaks about his summit meeting with Russian President Putin at the White House in Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump holds prepared remarks as he speaks about his summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the start of a meeting with members of the U.S. Congress at the White House in Washington, July 17, 2018.

Leah Millis / REUTERS

The president, making what he described as clarifying comments in a meeting with members of Congress at the White House Tuesday, said he meant to say that he had no reason to think Russia “wouldn’t” have interfered in the 2016 election, instead of what he actually said on Monday, which is that he had no reason to think Russia “would” have interfered. Facing backlash over his remarks, Mr. Trump told reporters he reviewed a transcript of what he said, and decided to clarify his comments. 

“The sentence should have been, I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia,” the president added later. “So just to repeat it, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’ and this sentence should have been, and I thought I would maybe be a little bit unclear on the transcripts or unclear on the actual video, but the sentence should have been, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. So sort of a double negative.”

 

Those remarks came after Mr. Trump defended Russia from charges of election interference Monday’s press conference in Helsinki, when Mr. Trump said all he could do is “ask the question” about meddling and said Putin was very strong in his denials. Mr. Trump also cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia did interfere with the election to his benefit. 

After the press conference, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reiterated the findings of multiple intelligence agencies that Russians meddled in the 2016 presidential election. 

“My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia,” Mr. Trump said Monday. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have — I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server.”

Mr. Trump was referring to the hacked server belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Mr. Trump told “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor the DNC “should be ashamed of themselves” for getting hacked. 

Mr. Trump insisted on Tuesday that any actions Russia took had no impact on the presidential election and that there was no collusion between members of his campaign and Russians. He also emphasized the importance of diplomacy, said getting along with Russia is a good thing, and claimed his meeting with Putin was more successful than the NATO meeting in Brussels last week. 

“As successful as NATO was, I think this was our most successful visit,” Mr. Trump said. 

Only a small handful of Republicans, like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, have defended Mr. Trump’s performance at the press conference. 

 

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T&T Prime Minister defends delay in signing CARICOM Protocol on Contingent Rights

T&T Prime Minister defends delay in signing CARICOM Protocol on Contingent Rights

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, July 13, CMC – Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley on Thursday defended his country’s delay in signing on to the protocol that gives rights to the spouses and children of people who move within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) under the free movement of skills regime.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

Jamaica, Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada, Suriname, and Haiti signed CARICOM Protocol on Contingent Rights on the final day of the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in Jamaica last week.

The protocol speaks to, among other things, the right of spouses and dependants to access healthcare and education; and leave and re-enter the host country; and the right of the spouse to work in the host country without a work permit.

Prime Minister Rowley said at a post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday that Trinidad and Tobago is treading cautiously and will sign on to the protocol once it is sure there are no legal issues in the way.

“If an individual accesses Trinidad and Tobago from another territory, that person might have a family and it is the position that the contingent rights of such persons should be acknowledged…without hindrance. The spouse should be able to work and children should be allowed to access school and healthcare. This decision was taken since 2014 but it has not been operationalized by the territories,” he said.

“Once the Attorney General tells me that there is no issue standing in the way of the 2014 decision, Trinidad and Tobago will sign that protocol at the first opportunity and we will then be bound and operationalizing the contingent rights situation.”

Rowley also hit back at comments on social media who criticized Trinidad and Tobago’s position not to immediately sign the protocol.

“I was disappointed to see an attack made…by a person who was completely without any information on this matter. But as is common in Trinidad and Tobago you start by saying you don’t know then you get on your high horse and prance,” he said.

CMC/dp/2018

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