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Why does Montserrat need a “breakthrough”?

Contribution – Part 2/2019


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Why has it taken so long for economy transforming projects to begin to roll out?

BRADES, Montserrat, January 17, 2019 –  In his New Year’s message, Premier Romeo announced a list of “breakthrough” projects.[1] As TMR announced,[2] within days, we then saw a rush of activities on the ground.

For example, just after the New year, the “cab” for the new air traffic control tower was trailered up from the port via Davy Hill and the tunnel to the airport. Yes, it got stuck in the tunnel, but that was just a hiccup. The main point is that with a new control tower and proper lighting, the airport can open at night. That improves access for tourism and for medical evacuations by night. Tourism is our biggest hope for economic growth.

If we go down by the MCWL building, we will see solar PV panels being installed for the new 250 kW – 250,000 Watt – power plant, about 10% of our peak electrical load. Ministry officials tell us that a 750 kW plant is to follow shortly. These plants will improve resiliency and provide diversity for our power grid. Officials also informed the public that announcements on geothermal power plant development are to follow shortly. As there may be up to 100 MW – a hundred million Watts – of geothermal energy, we will be able to replace fossil fuel fired electricity, perhaps reducing prices to the consumer (including fuel surcharge) by 50% and opening up room for economic growth and high quality jobs.

Likewise, Stantec of Canada and Barbados is already doing stakeholder and environmental consultations and in coming months is to work with Government to oversee design and construction of the new breakwater and berthing facility for the sea port.

A subsea fibre optic cable is to be laid in coming months also.

Each of these initiatives has good potential to help move our economy on a growth path. That’s not the issue. The problem is, why did it take so long? What are the barriers, obstacles, roadblocks, undermining etc that have been hindering growth? What can we do to make sure barriers go away permanently and do not kill our key development projects?

A good example is a concern that is now making the rounds on the street. It is credibly said that the TC Canadian Economist who helped to push through our Economic Growth Strategy and who has helped us make key connections that opened up possibilities is being pushed out despite the many contributions he obviously could continue to make. This follows the case where an Engineer and Project Management expert who was already setting up a system for training and certifying world class capability for project management here (as well as introducing the famous PRINCE2 practical Project Management system) was frog marched out of Government headquarters, on a “no cause clause” dismissal. Of course, ever since, the Project Management Office has been put in the freezer, undermining our credibility to manage and properly govern projects and programmes. Indeed, a January 2017 Cabinet instruction to proceed with radical reform of the Premier’s Office has also been delayed, roadblocked, stalled for two years now.

Oh is Don fault, ‘e too soft an’ incompetent!

No, such things should never happen, regardless of who is or is not Premier.

We should not “need” a strong man with raised hand holding a whip over us for us to do our work properly and promptly. Slavery was abolished 150 years ago.

Just so, we should not be found undermining, slandering and pushing out people who are helping us by beginning to deliver results. Similarly, we should not throw out the baby with the bath water and we should not kill the goose that is laying the golden eggs.

It is not for nothing that Scripture warns that where we find envy and selfish ambition there will we find disorder and every evil work. It again counsels, let him who is without fault throw the first stone. As a third counsel, it informs us that we should take out the plank in our own eyes then we will see clearly enough to help our brother down in the saw-pit with the sawdust that got in his eyes.

Once we get our spiritual attitude right, we will then able to act wisely enough to come together with godly teamwork and build a sound future for Montserrat.

Where, clearly – even astonishingly, Premier Romeo and his colleagues have in fact begun to deliver on some key, economy transforming initiatives that have been roadblocked for twenty years.  For all their faults – real and imagined – they have to be getting something right. So, it is time for a balanced look to learn lessons going forward.

Perhaps, we can notice: every one of the key projects that are moving forward is externally managed. A clue. The sea port, CDB and Stantec. The Fibre Optic Cable will be laid by a specialist ship. The Control tower “cab” is prefabricated. SALT Energy is building our solar PV plants. DfID has taken over geothermal development. The subtle signal being sent is that we have to drastically improve project governance and project cycle management capability and credibility. That’s why PRINCE2 would have been making a big difference. We must go right back to where we were in July 2017. That includes, fixing the Premier’s Office – including putting in place a capable Chief Executive Officer he is comfortable working with.

Likewise, after hurricanes Irma and Maria gave us two close calls in two weeks, resiliency moved to first priority. Suddenly power brokers in the UN, the UK and other OT’s hit by the hurricanes were listening keenly as Premier Romeo called attention to the acknowledged legal force of the UN Charter’s Article 73 . The UK is legally bound to “ensure . . . advancement”: socially, educationally, politically and economically. It is to “promote constructive measures of development.” Then the Premier  [a] withdrew Premier Meade’s request to take us off the UN’s list of territories that Article 73 applies to AND [b] invited a UN delegation to visit us. That has to go through the UK. Not too long thereafter, we are getting movement on ever so many long-stalled projects. Each of these projects also has a resiliency component. 

Last, but not least: it’s obviously time to stop scoffing at the “first call” principle and to instead use it as a strong negotiating point.

[1] See, TMR

[2] See TMR, addr

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Opposition party dismisses calls made by Venezuelans residing in Trinidad and Tobago

Opposition party dismisses calls made by Venezuelans residing in Trinidad and Tobago

by staff writer February 4, 2019 PoliticsNo Comments 108 views

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Feb 4, CMC – The leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), David Abdulah has dismissed calls by Venezuelan nationals residing here for the Trinidad and Tobago government to recognise Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela.

“Citizens of Venezuela can appeal to the government of Venezuela and the parties in Venezuela but Venezuelans here in Trinidad and Tobago cannot determine what the foreign policy of Trinidad and Tobago ought to be,’ Abdulah told reporters.

David Abdulah

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has already indicated that his administration is adopting the non-interventionist policy with regards to the unfolding situation in Venezuela where President Nicolas Maduro is under pressure to step down.

The main opposition United National Congress (UNC) has openly indicated its support for Guaido.

The United States is leading a campaign to oust Maduro claiming he rigged the elections that brought him to office for a second term last year. Several European countries including the United Kingdom, France and Spain have also said they would recognise Guaido.

But Russia, China, Turkey and Cuba have all said they continue to recognise Maduro and the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping has said that it is willing to mediate in the conflict.

Last week, the Venezuelans resident here wrote to Prime Minister Rowley urging him to change his government’s policy and recognise Guaido.

“We would like you to put your hand on your heart by recognising the crying for freedom f millions of Venezuelans who have been victim of notable and escalating humanitarian crimes against our people in the power of the Nicolas Maduro regime,” the letter noted.

“At this crucial moment we would like you to understand that helping the people of Venezuela, not the Nicolas Maduro regime, is in the best interest of Trinidad and Tobago citizens, as the relationships amongst our new legitimate and constitutional government, chaired by our interim president Juan Guaido, can led to significant benefits to both countries in relation to effective border controls….”.

But Abdulah told reporters that ‘it is for the government of Trinidad and Tobago and the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago ultimately and the governments of CARICOM and the citizens of CARICOM who must determine the foreign policy of Trinidad and Tobago and of CARICOM’.

Abdulah said that the MSJ supports the efforts of CARICOM and was happy that Maduro was open to dialogue and mediation.

“Very regrettably, but not surprising, Guaido has taken the consistent right-wing line of the opposition position rejecting any talks, rejecting any mediation and simply wanting for resolving the thing by force backed, of course, by the United States and some other countries.”

Abdulah said that Madura spoke at a rally over the weekend, much bigger than that of Guaido.

“So it is not as if President Maduro is clinging on to power by himself and so on and the vast majority of the Venezuelans are against him. That is not the case.”

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President Granger urges supporters to re-elect his administration

President Granger urges supporters to re-elect his administration

by staff writer

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Feb 4, CMC – President David Granger has appealed to supporters to re-elect his coalition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) government even as he pledged not to resign despite the December 21, 2018 vote of confidence that tumbled his three and a half year old administration.

Last week, the High Court ruled that the motion of no confidence filed by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo was valid after it received the support of then government back bencher Charrandass Persaud.

President Granger addressing supporters on Sunday

The APNU coalition had previously enjoyed a one –seat majority in the 65 member National Assembly and the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has since called on Granger to announce a date for the polls in keeping with the Guyana Constitution that an election must be held 90 days after the successful motion of no confidence in the government.

But as he addressed he addressed supports at Vreed-en-Hoop in Region 3, Essequibo Island-West Demerara on Sunday, Granger acknowledged that his administration is faced with a challenging situation, albeit, not of its own making.

But he pledged ““we will rise to this challenge again,” telling supporters that while the government cannot reverse what happened in the National Assembly, Guyana must press on.

“The Speaker has spoken, and we respect the Speaker, and we also have spoken. We met with the opposition, and we agreed that that National Assembly has work to do. I have not dissolved Parliament, neither have I resigned.

“There is no such thing as an interim government or caretaker government. According to the Constitution, I remain President, until the next president is sworn in,” Granger said, adding that an estimated 207,200 Guyanese went to polls in May 2015 and registered their support for the coalition.

“The same must be done this time around. The work must be completed. You elected us to do a job, let us finish the job. Give us a chance to finish the job. Put us in the driving seat, and you will see the transformation, the change in every region,” Granger said.

He told the public meeting that his coalition administration remains a legal legitimate government and nothing done so far is outside the rule of law.

He promised that whatever decisions are made in the courts will be followed by due process and that the government will move to every stage until it has exhausted every element and aspect of the law.

President Granger said the actions of Persaud in voting with the PPP in bringing down the government were “undemocratic, cruel and callous” adding that the former government legislator had failed to consult with his constituents.

“You don’t consult with your constituency, you don’t consult with your leaders, you just stab in the back,” he said, adding that voting for a party that stamped on local democracy for 23 years is definitely not the way to go.

“We must not relent. We must ensure that every person in West Demerara is registered. We will support you, we will protect you, and we will guarantee your rights. Bring more persons into our organisation; let them know they have a home.”

Granger said that there had been a definite transformation brought to Guyana in the last three and a half   years.

He said prior to his administration taking up office, pensioners were receiving a mere GUY$7,500 (One Guyana dollar=US$0.004 cents) monthly.

“Today that amount stands at over GUY$20,000. Teachers who were receiving a minimum wage of just GUY$32,000 have seen a stark increase to GUY$60,000 in three short years.

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Governing Montserrat 2019 – 2024

Contribution – Part 1/2019

Is “folly-tricks” and “melee as usual”  good enough for Montserrat, going forward?


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BRADES, Montserrat, January 15, 2019 –  Everything is now under the shadow of the upcoming elections; due by September (or a little later).   So, let us look at how we may best govern Montserrat over the next six years: 2019 – 2024.  Yes, six years – we have to get on with actually governing and building the future even while an election looms. Where, obviously, “folly-tricks” and “melee as usual” cannot solve our serious governance, capacity-building, social stabilisation, resiliency, and economy-rebuilding challenges. Gross exaggerations and one-sided accusations multiplied by unbalanced news coverage only serve to distort, polarise, stir up needless anger, misinform and mislead.

We must first remember:  Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – yes, that is the formal name – is supposed to be an alternative government, ready to take over at need. Fair comment: we are failing that test.

(That’s why a visiting expert has warned some of our more strident political voices that winning an election through attack politics is one thing, but building a sound governance consensus for the future is quite another.)

Obviously, while the current Premier has his failings, “is Don’s fault” cannot be the correct diagnosis for everything that is wrong after nearly twenty-four years of crisis and challenges. Similarly, Montserrat is not “dying.” Given the painful journey we have been on since July 18, 1995, our economy is not “dead,” or “the worst ever,” etc., etc. It is not true that every “foreigner” – fellow Caricom citizens! – just wants to get a UK passport and go off to greener pastures; and many who have done that provided years of service to the country.

Yes, we face many challenges, there are many errors, we have to do better.

But, the politics of polarisation, targetting scapegoats, exaggeration, half-truths, drowning out or silencing the rest of the story and of outright slander are not the way forward. So, those who have insisted on “folly-tricks” and “melee” despite repeated correction here at TMR and elsewhere have no excuse; they know better – or should know better. By insisting on the wrong way because they thought it gave them an advantage or because they were too angry to think straight, they have exposed the sad fact that they are simply not ready to lead Montserrat going forward.

Yes, we clearly have a leadership gap.

No-one is going to ride up as a shining knight on a white horse and single-handedly, magically save us from all of our troubles, not even if the MVO, SAC and Emergency people declare next year, that the eruption is over. (What about the apparent, roughly thirty-year cycle since 1897 – 98? As in 1935 – 37, 1967, 1992 – 97 etc. If it is real, a new disturbance could be due within six or so years. This, too, we have to frankly face.)

Come together should be the buzz phrase. We are the ones who have to come together, find a way to build consensus (despite our differences and disagreements) and actually work together as Team Montserrat. We must realise that the reason why crabs are in a barrel together is to be put in the same hot, boiling pot. 

That’s why “crabs in a barrel,” pulling one another back down as usual cannot work.

For just one example, did we notice that on December 18th last year, while we were debating here in the Assembly, Lord Ahmad was before the UK Foreign Affairs Committee? Did we see that right after the imposition of a public beneficial ownership register was put on the table, the very next issue raised was: similar imposition of “same-sex ‘marriage’ . . .”?[1] (In other words, when our elected members struck a “compromise” with the FCO in 2010 such that the first “rights” to be protected in the 2010 Constitution Order are “sex” and “sexual orientation”[2] while in Section 10 it asserted the “right to marry a person of the opposite sex” and thus to “found a family,” that was just a temporary pause for those pushing the radical sexual agenda.)

How are we going to deal with new colonialism by passing laws in the UK to impose whatever they want on us – on whatever excuse?

Especially, given our post volcano disaster challenges which put independence off the table for a long time to come? And, that even if we get a few seats in the parliament, we would most likely be drowned out amidst 600-plus seats?  (The American Colonists figured that out in the 1770’s.)

The only credible option is something far too many of our politicians, pundits and media voices have derided and mocked time and again: yes, the UK-acknowledged, legally binding force of The UN Charter, Article 73. We are Geographically distant, ethnically distinct and culturally diverse from the UK, and Europe, which is/are therefore duty-bound to respect our own democratic decisions, such as the 2010 Constitution Order compromise.

Where, as a right is a moral claim for respect and support, to properly claim a right, one must plainly first be in the right. For, no-one can have a right to demand that another taints conscience or damns his or her soul before God by supporting and encouraging evil.

(That’s why Jesus taught that one who causes a child to stumble into sin would have done better to have drowned instead. Where, obviously, Jesus did not issue an invitation to hate, vigilantism or violence. It is also why we see in the Revelation, that warning about how a devillish tyrant will one day order that no man could buy or sell save he take the infamous soul-damning mark of disloyalty to God. Caesar cannot demand from us what properly belongs to God alone: the loyalty of our souls.)

One step towards progress would be to humble ourselves and admit that Premier Romeo has been right to focus on the legal force of Article 73 and on the linked first call OT’s have on the UK aid/development budget.

Indeed, that “first call” is precisely why FCO and DfID support our recurrent budget year to year with a 60% grant, and are supporting the new Economic Growth Strategy and the work-in-progress “£30-plus million” five-year capital programme. It is also why sea port and airport developments are being funded and it is why DfID has been funding Geothermal exploration and development. It is why a new standby generator has just been put in place at the new ZJB building above the Carr’s Bay corner.[3] It is why STANTEC consultants have now arrived, to take charge of building the new port breakwater and quay. It is why as the new year dawned, those two trucks carried the new airport control tower “cab” from the sea port up to the airport – and yes, that is how it got stuck in the tunnel until somebody let air out of the tyres of the trailer.  (And, once we have a better control tower and lighting, night flights will be possible – a tourism opportunity. Also, that would allow medical evacuation flights on fixed-wing aircraft. [Attitude check: Why were we so caught up in how “it got stuck in the tunnel” and seemingly overlooked the tourism and improved health services opportunities?])

Article 73 is also why the subsea fibre optic cable is still on the table despite a bad press in the UK tabloids. It is why the new ZJB building and other government facilities have been funded – despite delays and serious project management problems for many years. It is why we are still working together towards a proper hospital and social housing, despite all the delays, confusions and finger-pointing debates. It is why roads, bridges and other civil works are steadily being funded.  And much more.

It is initiatives like these which will open up opportunities for economic growth and sustainable, inclusive livelihoods, high quality jobs and general prosperity.  So, it is time for a new conversation on how we can best move forward together under our national vision. The time for “crabs in a barrel” as usual is over. 

[1] See Q221 vs. Q237:

[2] See Section 2: 

[3] See

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Acting CJ Roxanane George-Wiltshire

Guyana court rules motion of no confidence against government, valid

Acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire

CNS – Feb 1, 2019 –Acting Chief Justice, Roxanne George-Wiltshire, Thursday ruled that the motion of no confidence passed in the National Assembly on December 21 last year that brought down the David Granger led coalition government is valid, paving the way for fresh regional and general elections to be held later this year.

Under the Guyana Constitution elections must be held within 90 days of the motion of no confidence being passed.

Attorney General Basil Williams has since given notice that he intends to appeal the ruling. In a near four-hour ruling,

Justice George-Wiltshire also said that anyone who holds dual citizenship as envisaged by Article 155 of the Guyana Constitution “should not and could not be” a member of the Guyana Parliament.

Justice George-Wiltshire was delivering her ruling in the three matters regarding the validity of the successful opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) motion of no confidence.

She had earlier this month heard the arguments in the cases “Compton Reid vs The Attorney General, Persaud and The Speaker of the National Assembly; Christopher Ram vs The Attorney General and Speaker of the National Assembly and the Attorney General vs The Speaker of the National Assembly and the Opposition Leader.

The matters arose after the then government back bencher, Charrandass Persaud, who holds both Guyana and Canadian citizenship voted with the PPP in the 65-member National Assembly where the coalition government had previously enjoyed a slender one seat majority.

Williams had said there was a miscalculation of the majority of all elected members as required under Article 106 (6) of the Constitution for the government to be defeated on a vote of no confidence.

He had also asked the court to determine whether Resolution 101 is constitutional and effective and passed in accordance Article 106 (6) of the Constitution, arguing that the failure to obtain 34 or more votes breached article 106 (6) of the Constitution and was unlawful and the certification by the speaker by issuing Resolution 101 could not be conclusive.” But in her ruling in which she made the differentiation between a “simple” and “absolute” majority, the Acting Chief Justice said if all 65 members voted, the majority is 33.

“Therefore, in the case for the requirement for a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly, at least 33 votes ought to be obtained to meet that requirement. If 55 members are present, a majority of all members of the National assembly will still be 33. If only 45 members are present, a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly is still 33 and even if 23 members are present, the majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly is still 33.”

She said as a result “the no confidence motion is carried, the requisite majority is obtained by a vote of 33 to 32. The President and the Ministers can’t therefore remain in government beyond the three months within which elections are required to be held in accordance with Article 106 of Article Seven unless that time is enlarged by the National Assembly in accordance with the requirements of said Article 106…”

Justice George-Wiltshire as a result the other questions raised by the applicants “are rendered moot” adding “this court cannot set aside or defy a ruling that was validly made …in (keeping with provisions) of Article 106…of the Constitution, nor can it stay in force a resolution validly declared in accordance with the same provisions of the Constitution”,.

She said while a court can intervene “this can only be done if the National Assembly act unconstitutionally.

“This is not the case here. So therefore, the ruling of the Speaker that the no confidence motion debated in the National Assembly on the 21 December 2018 was carried by a vote of the majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly is thus lawful and valid being in accordance with the requirements of the …Constitution”.

Earlier, the acting Chief Justice ruled that “anyone who holds dual citizenship as envisaged by Article 155 and therefore falls into this category…should not and cannot be a Member of Parliament” and as such the declaration sought in terms of paragraph one and two of the request for leave are granted.

“Therefore I hold and therefore declare that the second respondent is not qualified for election as a member of the National Assembly by virtue of his own act and acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience and adherence to a foreign power to wit, the sovereign state of Canada in contravention of …of the Constitution of Guyana,” she ruled.

The Acting Chief Justice said “it is also declared the second respondent was on the seventh of April 2015 disqualified from being nominated as a member for the National Assembly of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana”.

On the issue of dual citizenship, the Acting Chief Justice said that the provisions in the Constitution seek to preserve for membership of the National Assembly “persons who only hold Guyanese citizenship and who would not have voluntarily taken an oath of allegiance to another country.

“While some may say that this does not permit the fullest participation of diaspora Guyanese in the political leadership of Guyana, this is not for this court to pronounce on. The Constitution is clear,,” she said, adding “as until it is amended to provide otherwise, the Constitutional provision must be adhered to. “Any change to reflect a different view may be undertaken by way of constitutional amendment if the public and their parliamentary representatives so inclined”.

The government had also argued as to whether section 5 of the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2000 (No 17/2000) is constitutional and not inconsistent with article 70 of the Constitution.

The Attorney General had said that the framers of the Constitution in article 70 (3), having guaranteed an elected government, a five years term of office which five years term is protected by entrenchment by the requirement of 2/3 of all the elected members of the National Assembly voting to reduce that 5 years, could not at the same time have intended that a future Parliament were to be permitted to abridge or curtail the enjoyment of that five years, by introducing into the Constitution via a provision that is not entrenched at all a process called a ‘vote of confidence.”

But in her ruling the judge disagreed with the argument. The coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), came to office in 2015.

| Caribbean News Service

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Police investigating the kidnapping of six fishermen allegedly by Venezuelans

Police investigating the kidnapping of six fishermen allegedly by Venezuelans

by staff writer

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan 30, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Wednesday confirmed that it is investigating the kidnapping of six fishermen allegedly by Venezuelan nationals but said it would not comment on whether or not a US$200,000 ransom had been demanded.

Police Commissioner, Gary Griffith, speaking on a radio programme here, said that the situation has been complicated by the fact that the Trinidad and Tobago nationals are believed to be held in the South American country.

“We at the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service are doing all that is required. It is a very difficult situation. Initially reports are that they (those kidnapped) were actually outside of our waters when it is they were actually held by these individuals.

“It does not take away the fact that these are citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and there is a concern. It puts us in a  very difficult position to do much more than we are doing because of the situation where they are not in Trinidad and Tobago waters., Griffith said, adding “I am not saying our hands are tied, there’s a lot that we are doing from our end.

“Hopefully there will be something positive by the end of this,” he added.

Media reports here said that the kidnappers have given the relatives until Friday to pay the ransom or face the prospect of the hands of those detained being chopped off.

A photograph of the six men, identified as Jude Jaikaran,16; brothers Jason, 38, and Jerry O’Brian, 36; Ricky Rambharose, 35; Brandon Arjoon, 29; and Linton Manohar, 36, has been circulating on social media showing them sitting on the floor while being surrounded by men pointing machine-guns at them. The photo was sent to relatives on Monday.

In an audio clip that is also being circulated on social media, the families are warned that the kidnappers intend to make good on their demands.

Griffith was asked to confirm whether a ransom had been demanded.

I am sorry but I will not be able to make any revelations pertaining to this while the investigations are still ongoing,” he told radio listeners.

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President Trump signs measure to reopen the government

President Trump signs measure to reopen the government

The longest ever shutdown of the U.S. government is over.

President Trump tonight signed the continuing resolution that provides funding until Feb. 15. 

The bill was signed in private tonight, without reporters present.20 hr 13 min ago

Where the shutdown stands now

Both the Senate and the House approved a measure to temporarily reopen the federal government. The plan — which President Trump announced earlier today — will fund the government through Feb. 15.

What happens now: The measure is heading to Trump’s desk for his signature. Once it is signed, it will put an end to the longest government shutdown in US history.

You can follow the latest on the government shutdown here.21 hr 15 min ago

Trump insists “this was in no way a concession”

From CNN’s Liz Stark

President Trump tonight is trying to push back on the way today’s agreement to reopen the government is being portrayed.

He tweeted moments ago:I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

House votes to reopen the government

From CNN’s Phil Mattingly

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The House of Representatives just passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until Feb. 15.

The measure was passed by the Senate earlier today. Now, it heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.23 hr 33 min ago

This is the role Nancy Pelosi played in reopening the government

From CNN’s Liz Landers 

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Over the past few days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been in “constant contact” with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer as he had discussions with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell on a path forward, according to a senior Democratic aide. The two regularly consulted as those discussions proceeded.

Throughout this shutdown, Pelosi made clear that the first step would be to reopen government and only then conduct negotiation. This aide says it was “a position the President finally embraced today.”

This aide pointed to the 11 votes to reopen government since the Democrats took control on Jan. 3 as a key part of the strategy by Pelosi. To do so many appropriations votes — starting with the individual Senate Republican bills — ultimately led to “unsustainable pressure on Senate Republicans.”5:25 p.m. ET, January 25, 2019

McConnell told Trump he didn’t know if GOP could keep holding the line

From CNN’s Manu Raju


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke with President Trump twice on Thursday — and Trump made the decision late Thursday that he wanted the shutdown to end, per a person familiar with their conversations

The first call came after a contentious Senate GOP lunch where Republican senators vented frustration at Vice President Mike Pence about the lack of strategy to get out of the shutdown. McConnell told Trump that it was unclear how much longer he could get GOP senators to hold the line — especially if there were another round of votes to end the shutdown.

A few hours later, Trump called McConnell back with a new perspective: Trump made clear he wanted the shutdown to end, which led to the deal that was approved by Congress Friday.

What’s unclear, according to the source, is what exactly got Trump to change his mind in the intervening hours between their two phone calls.

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Washington Post

Zero $$ for the wall – Inside Trump’s shutdown turnaround

President Trump departs the Rose Garden of the White House after announcing the end of the government shutdown on Friday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

By Philip Rucker , Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim

January 25. 2019

His poll numbers were plummeting. His FBI director was decrying the dysfunction. The nation’s air travel was in chaos. Federal workers were lining up at food banks. Economic growth was at risk of flatlining, and even some Republican senators were in open revolt.

So on Friday, the 35th day of a government shutdown that he said he was proud to instigate, President Trump finally folded. After vowing for weeks that he would keep the government closed unless he secured billions in funding for his promised border wall, Trump agreed to reopen it.

He got $0 instead.

Trump’s capitulation to Democrats marked a humiliating low point in a polarizing presidency and sparked an immediate backlash among some conservative allies, who cast him as a wimp.

Elected as a self-proclaimed master dealmaker and business wizard who would bend Washington to his will and stand firm on his campaign promises — chief among them the wall — Trump risks being exposed as ineffective. ‘We have reached a deal’: Trump says shutdown will end

President Trump on Jan. 25 announced that a deal had been reached to reopen the government, ending the longest partial government shutdown in history. (Reuters)

“He was the prisoner of his own impulse and it turned into a catastrophe for him,” said David Axelrod, who was a White House adviser to President Barack Obama. “The House of Representatives has power and authority — and now a speaker who knows how to use it — so that has to become part of his calculation or he’ll get embarrassed again.”

Trump’s quest for at least some portion of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is not over, however. Friday’s agreement only temporarily reopens the government, providing a three-week ­period for Congress to negotiate a longer-term spending agreement. The president said he would continue advocating for his signature campaign promise and threatened to again shut down the government or declare a national emergency to use his unilateral powers to build the wall if Congress does not appropriate funding for it by Feb. 15.

“Let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said Friday. He also tweeted in the evening that his decision “was in no way a concession.”

But when Trump stood alone in a bitter-cold White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon to announce that the government was reopening with no money for the wall, he punctuated five weeks of miscalculation and mismanagement by him and his administration.

This account of Trump’s stymied pursuit of border wall funding is based on interviews with more than a dozen senior administration officials, Trump confidants and others briefed on internal discussions, many of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly.

For weeks, Trump has sought an exit ramp from the shutdown that would still secure wall funding, and for weeks his advisers failed to identify a viable one.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) address the media at the Capitol on Friday. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Trump repeatedly predicted to advisers that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would cave and surmised that she had a problem with the more liberal members of her caucus. But she held firm, and her members stayed united.

“Why are they always so loyal?” Trump asked in one staff meeting, complaining that Democrats so often stick together while Republicans sometimes break apart, according to attendees.

As for their negotiations, Trump and Pelosi had not spoken since their Jan. 9session in which the president stormed out of the White House Situation Room. In a meeting with some columnists on Friday, Pelosi was asked why she thought Trump had not created a more potent nickname for her than “Nancy.” She replied, according to a senior Democratic aide, “Some people think that’s because he understands the power of the speaker.” House Speaker Pelosi signs bill to temporarily end shutdown

The House joined the Senate in passing legislation to end the partial government shutdown by temporarily funding federal agencies on Jan. 25. (Reuters)

Trump and his advisers misunderstood the will of Democrats to oppose wall funding. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, emerged as the most powerful White House adviser during the shutdown and told colleagues that Trump’s plan for $5.7 billion in wall funding would get Democratic votes in the Senate on Thursday, astonishing Capitol Hill leaders and other White House aides.

Kushner, who Trump jokingly says is to the “left,” pitched a broader immigration deal and had faith that he could negotiate a grand bargain in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with his discussions. He pitched a big deal to Latino groups this week and also with members of the Koch network, the people said.

Trump, who fretted about the shutdown’s impact on the economy and his personal popularity, cast about for blame and pointed fingers at his staff — including Kushner — for failing to resolve the impasse, according to aides.

At a meeting Wednesday with conservative groups, the president accused former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) of having “screwed him” by not securing border wall money when Republicans had the majority, according to one attendee, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. He said Ryan should have gotten him money before he left but he had no juice and had “gone fishing,” according to two attendees.

Ryan had warned the president against a shutdown and told him it would be politically disastrous, according to a person familiar with their conversations.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other Cabinet members listen as President Trump announces the end of the government shutdown. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

All the while, Trump vowed he would never capitulate to Democrats. At the Wednesday meeting, “he said there would be no caving,” Krikorian said. “Everybody who spoke up applauded him for not caving, but warned him that any further movement toward the Democrats’ direction would be a problem.”

White House aides had been monitoring Transportation Security Administration data on airport security delays and staffing levels several times a day. Officials said Thursday that the situation was worsening and would probably force the end of the shutdown.

But events at the Capitol on Thursday are largely what triggered Trump to conclude that he had run out of time and that he had to reopen the government, his aides said.

Trump lost control of his party as fissures emerged among exasperated Republican senators. Six of them voted Thursday for a Democratic spending bill, and others privately voiced frustration with Vice President Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) during a closed-door, contentious luncheon.

“Everyone who saw the floor action realized we were basically at the same place where we began and we needed a different solution,” a White House official said of Thursday’s votes.

McConnell called Trump on Thursday to say that the shutdown could not hold because some of his members were in revolt. The president did not commit to ending it in that call, but he phoned McConnell back that evening to say he had concluded the shutdown had to end, according to a person with knowledge of the conversations.

Under attack from some Republican colleagues, McConnell told senators on Friday that Trump had come up with the idea for a three-week deal — and that the president would be announcing it.

When Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) visited the White House on Thursday, he said Trump was in a “pragmatic” mood, mentioning the failed Senate votes and saying he wanted to make a deal.

Pence and Kushner presented the president with several options that would reopen the government, according to a White House official. They included using his executive authority to declare a national emergency and redirect other public funds for the wall, an option Trump said Friday he was holding in reserve. Trump also briefly considered a commission that would study a wall, according to a senior administration official.

On Thursday night, the president grew annoyed at Mick Mulvaney when the acting White House chief of staff talked with him about policy prescriptions for the next three weeks and what an eventual deal might look like, according to one person familiar with the conversation.

Administration officials began immediately on this next phase; Mulvaney and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met privately with a handful of Republican senators at Camp David on Friday evening to start discussing what a border security agreement might look like, according to multiple people familiar with the gathering.

On Thursday night, the president grew annoyed at Mick Mulvaney when the acting White House chief of staff talked with him about policy prescriptions for the next three weeks, according to one person familiar with the conversation. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Ultimately, aides said, Trump was willing to table debate over wall funding because he is convinced he can win support from some Democratic lawmakers over the next three weeks.

Friday’s agreement allows for a conference committee made up of rank-and-file members from each party to negotiate border security funding, which White House aides said they believe will enable more flexibility than existed during Trump’s stalemate with Pelosi.

A senior White House official said the administration’s negotiating team has received “dozens of signals from Democrats that they are willing to give the president wall money,” but declined to name any such lawmakers.

The administration may have been referring to a letter written by freshman Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and signed by more than 30 House Democrats, which merely called for a vote on Trump’s border security proposal once the government reopens.

But “that vote would obviously fail in the House,” one senior Democratic aide pointed out. “This is just pathetic spin.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said, “The poll numbers tell a very stark story, but it’s only part of the more enduring longer-term effect on the president’s credibility. He essentially held America hostage for a vanity project and a campaign applause line that the American people saw clearly was never worth shutting down the government to achieve.”

Trump’s approval ratings have fallen in most public polls, including a Washington Post-ABC News survey released Friday that found 37 percent approve of his presidency and 58 percent disapprove.

Trump risks further angering independent voters who do not agree with the prolonged shutdown and conservatives who disapprove of him caving after 35 days with no win.

[‘Trump caves’ or ‘Genius’: Right wing splits after Trump ends shutdown with no wall funding]

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, whose criticism of Trump in mid-December helped inspire the president to shut the government in protest over wall funding, registered her disapproval of his Friday decision.

“Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States,” Coulter tweeted.

For months, Republican senators had been trying to warn Trump against a shutdown. Last June, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the chamber’s point person on Homeland Security funding, met privately with Trump not only to tout their bipartisan border security spending package but also to nudge him away from a confrontation over the wall.

“I just said, ‘Shutdowns are miserable,’ ” Capito said Friday, recounting that Oval Office conversation. “The last one was miserable. And this one was double miserable, and so, you know, maybe you have to live through it to really get the sense of it.”

King faulted the conservative Freedom Caucus, led by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both Trump confidants, for steering the president in the wrong direction.

“I hope he ignores them for the next three weeks,” King said. “It’s the charge of the light brigade. It’s the valley of death.”

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Elections, Featured, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional0 Comments

PM Browne presents budget, warns tax dodgers, while Oppostion leader calls it a falure

PM Browne presents budget, warns tax dodgers, while Oppostion leader calls it a falure

by staff writer

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Jan 18, CMC – Prime Minister Gaston Browne has presented an EC$1.2 billion (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) budget to Parliament outlining new taxes and warning tax dodgers that his administration that it would not be business as  usual.

Browne told legislators that recurrent expenditure is estimated at just over one billion dollars, comprising EC$914.9 million in recurrent spending and capital spending of EC$130 million, while recurrent revenue has been pegged at $966.2 million including EC$34 million in grants.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne delivering budget

“Additionally, total principal payments amount to EC$360.1 million. This, along with the EC$78.8 million overall deficit and the EC$10 million allocated to reduce arrears to local contractors and suppliers, bring the financing requirement for 2019 to EC$448.9 million.”

Browne said that in order to satisfy this requirement, his administration will raise EC$274.8 million from securities issued on the Regional Government Securities Market, and access loans and advances of EC$174.1 million”.

Browne, who is also Finance Minister, said that a tax would be introduced to fund the University of the West Indies campus at Five Islands.

“One of the options is a 10 per cent tax on net profits of telecommunication companies, financial institutions and insurance companies and the country’s sole petrol distribution company, West Indies Oil Company Limited”.

He said based on analysis of the data “this tax should yield in the region of EC$15 million annually and it will be implemented with effect from this fiscal year for a period of 24 months in the first instance”.

Browne said if the tax measure is to be continued “we will,” adding “the reality is the university must be funded and it will be funded”.

In his address, Browne also indicated that the taxes on sugary beverages would be implemented this year given the fact that too many people were being affected by non-communicable diseases (NCD).

“Our government will be introducing a tax on sugar sweetened beverages and we are doing to so to protect the health of the people of this country,” he said, telling legislators that detractors would regard the measure ‘as a revenue raining initiative, when indeed what we are seeking to do here is to reduce the demand to protect our people.

“We cannot build an economic powerhouse with unhealthy people,” he said.

Browne said last year, tax waivers amounted to an estimated EC$330 million; a significant proportion of which was granted to existing and profitable businesses.

He said this EC$330 million mainly represents waivers of customs duties, ABST, Revenue Recovery Charge, Corporation Tax, Unincorporated Business Tax, and Stamp Duties.

“To secure fiscal balance and stability going forward, these levels of concessions cannot continue.

Taxes incurred must be paid and collected so that government can continue to provide the services and benefits everyone expects.

“Reducing total tax exemptions and strengthening tax administration will be the cornerstone of the Government’s fiscal strategy into the medium term.  With the revocation of the corporate income tax waivers, a new corporate income tax credit regime will be introduced.

“If our country is to become an economic powerhouse, capable of sustainable, inclusive growth and creating opportunities for its citizens and residents to generate wealth, it needs to build fiscal resilience.  “

Prime Minister Browne also warned tax dodgers that his administration would be moving to acquire all funds owed to the state despite the island’s constant economic growth over the past four years.

“Improving revenues to meet our development objectives requires effort by everyone. So, everyone, individuals and companies, must pay our education levy, social security, medical benefits, import duties, RRC, ABST, and corporate income taxes,” he said, warning that any person or company, “who reneges on these payments, evades paying them, or uses corrupt means to deprive the Treasury of revenue, is hurting every other person and company in our nation.

“They should be warned now that our government will not allow this behaviour to continue; it is not fair; it is not just; and it is not acceptable. Our government, as the wardens of the interests of all the people, will clamp down on the excesses of the few,” Prime Minister Browne said.

He said that his administration would implement the “Prime Minister’s Entrepreneurial Development Programme (EDP)” announced last year, which will seek to provide access to funds and training for any citizen who presents a viable business plan.

“In the first quarter of this year, the EDP will be launched with an initial EC$10 million provided by the government. The ultimate aim is a revolving fund endowed with EC$24 million to provide low-interest loans for working capital, machinery, and equipment, leasehold improvements, among other things.” Prime Minister Browne said Global Ports is committed to providing $13.5 million to fund entrepreneurship in the tourism sector as part of their involvement in the country’s economic activity.

“The EDP will be complemented by the Eastern Caribbean Partial Credit Guarantee Corporation, which will also work with banks and other financial institutions to increase the flow of credit to micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the ECCU member territories.”

Browne told legislators that in 2018, Antigua and Barbuda’s economy was the fastest growing in the entire Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region, recording growth of 5.3 per cent.

“In the period, 2014 to 2018, the average growth of our nation’s economy was a remarkable 4.5 per cent annually. This country was recovered from the disaster of five previous years of decline, retrogression, and regression and placed on a firm, solid and steady climb to progress,” Browne said.

“Economic growth brings many benefits, but its seeds must be planted, and its trees nurtured to produce the beneficial fruits a nation needs. This task requires special management and financial acumen. And these are among the key competencies that our government has employed to the benefit of our people.”

In his address on Thursday, Browne praised several countries and institutions, which he said had invested in the country’s development through technical assistance, grants and loans.

“I take this opportunity to thank all who have made contributions of whatever size. Every cent counts. And we are very grateful. Mr. Speaker, it would be wrong of me not to make special mention of three countries that have particularly contributed to our nation’s well-being – namely the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Republic of Cuba and the People’s Republic of China.”

He said that Venezuela had written off 50 per cent the debt owed to PDVSA for fuel imported under the Petro Caribe Initiative, amounting to EC$250 million.

“That is a significant gift to our people, Mr. Speaker, and one that we should acknowledge with great and resounding appreciation. The people of Antigua and Barbuda will remember the assistance of Venezuela and its people well into the future,” he said.

Browne said that Antigua and Barbuda will continue to urge a resolution of the internal differences in Venezuela, and pledge support for whatever his government might be able to do, to set the South American firmly on its feet, in service to all its people.

Browne also praised Cuba for its contribution noting that despite the continued imposition of the inhumane embargo by the United States, continue to provide educational, medical and technical assistance to countless countries in the region and around the globe.

“Antigua and Barbuda has benefitted tremendously from the generosity of the Republic of Cuba. Hundreds of our people have received professional qualifications, free of charge, from the Republic of Cuba and are making meaningful contributions to our state. We thank the Republic of Cuba for their continued generosity in the field of healthcare, medicine, infrastructural development and education.”

He also took time to thank China, telling legislators that last year “no other country or institution has contributed more to our development pursuits than the People’s Republic of China.

“China has committed over EC$400 million in grants and concessional loans to fund the development of the St. John’s Port, the Knuckle Block Project, the proposed housing development, two polyclinics, and non-lethal military equipment and supplies. They have also provided technical assistance in many areas, including healthcare, education and agriculture.

“The relationship between the People’s Republic of China and Antigua and Barbuda, demonstrates that, in international relations, countries are well-served by mutual respect and cooperation,” Prime Minister Brown said.

Debate on the budget begins on January 28.

Opposition Leader blasts 2019 budget

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader, Jamale Pringle, having absented himself for the presentation, described as “disappointing” the EC$1.2 billion (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) budget presented to Parliament by Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

The debate on the fiscal package is due to begin on January 28, but Pringle, the lone successful candidate of the main opposition United progressive Party (UPP) in the last general elections, said that the budget failed to address any plans for socio-economic growth for the future.

Jamale Pringle (File Photo)

Speaking on Observer radio, Pringle said that the budget is nothing more than a repetition of the promises made in previous fiscal packages.

“Within 2019 we still hearing a budget what we heard in 2014 as in basically the same way in which the government proposed in 2014 to raise revenue for the country via the certain projects which we have seen still in a standstill mode.

“Those are the same projects they are looking to move this economy forward in 2019,” he told radio listeners.

Pringle said had he stayed home on Thursday when the budget was being presented by Prime Minister Browne, I would have just informed people to “just read the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018” packages.

He said the government had prior to the last general election in March last year, had sought to fool the population by starting some projects, including one in his constituency.

“All they did was to build a few buildings just before the election in terms of offices and nothing further has started…so I think it is a method of fooling the people,” he added.

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

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Commentary: Exit Brexit … stage right?

By Anthony L Hall

January 18, 2019

Anthony Hall

I am on record dismissing Brexit as just a sham sold by shysters, full of lies and presumptions signifying no deal.

I refer you to such commentaries as “EU: Britain Trying to Have Cake and Eat It Too,” January 29, 2013, “Brexit: Forget Leaving, Britain a Greater EU Contagion If It Remains,” June 22, 2016, and “On Brexit Plan, EU to UK, No Way! September 24, 2018.

More to the point, I warned that Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to execute Brexit was a non-starter — not only in the EU but even in the UK. Here is the foreshadowing I offered in “Brexit: Having Cake and Eating It Too,” July 24, 2018.

Her [Chequers] White Paper is just a formal version of the idea May floated earlier this year for a ‘managed divergence’ from EU rules. But it should have been instructive that, according to the March 8 edition of The Economist, the EU dismissed it back then as cherry-picking that would undermine the single market.

To be fair, though, in proposing her managed divergence, May was just doing what her predecessors did. …

I’ve been decrying Britain’s ill-fated efforts to negotiate one-foot-in/one-foot-out deals with the EU for years. Therefore, I see no point in delving too deep into Brexit’s murky waters here.

It should suffice to know that at least half of the Britons who voted for Brexit can’t even name the EU’s four ‘indivisible’ freedoms, namely the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. This, despite the fact that Britain’s attempt to divvy up these freedoms (e.g., by cherry picking to allow goods but restrict people) has been the most animating feature of the Brexit debate.

More to the point, this prevailing ignorance is why so many Britons, across the political spectrum, have been calling for a second referendum (a.k.a. a mulligan) before any UK-EU divorce settlement is executed. …

Britain is fated to end up an island unto itself Cake and marooned in the global sea by the foolish, ignorant pride Brexit reflects. Even worse, as Obama famously warned (and Trump hinted), it will find itself at the back of the line of weak and relatively poor countries trying to strike trade deals with the world’s biggest trading blocs, including the American-led NAFTA, the Chinese-led ACFTA, and yes, ironically enough, the German-led EU.

Given that, this came as no surprise yesterday:

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been rejected by 230 votes — the largest defeat for a sitting government in history.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has now tabled a vote of no confidence in the government, which could trigger a general election.

(BBC, January 15, 2019)

May is now a dead PM walking. The only question is whether a vote to end Brexit (viz. another referendum) passes before a vote to end her career (viz. another leadership challenge or general election).

Mind you, the only honorable thing to do after such a humiliating defeat is to resign. No doubt every previous prime minister would have done just that. Exhibit A is David Cameron, her predecessor who resigned after triggering this Brexit mess with his ill-fated referendum in June 2016.

Therefore, it speaks volumes about how far Brexit-crazed Britain has lost its way that resigning seems to have not even occurred to May. Remarkably, even the members of her own Conservative party — who voted for her historic humiliation — seem perfectly happy to sit and watch her wither away … stage right.

  • Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant – headquartered in Washington DC – who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at


Related commentaries:
EU to UK: no way

* This commentary was originally published at The iPINIONS Journal on Tuesday, January 15

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