Saint Martin/Sint Maarten Wins Big At Caribbean Readers’ Choice Awards

(BROOKLYN, New York) – St. Maarten received seven distinctions in USA Today’s 2019 10Best Caribbean Readers’ Choice Awards. The Friendly Island and several of its stakeholders were acknowledged across six categories, including “Best Island for Romance,” “Best Caribbean Restaurant” (Bistrot Caraïbes and Emilio’s), and “Best Caribbean Attraction” (Rainforest Adventures). The island was nominated for each list by Melanie Reffes and Chelle Walton, two journalists who specialize in the Caribbean.

 

“These awards truly highlight the diverse array of fantastic activities, restaurants and opportunities that our island provides,” stated St. Maarten’s Director Tourism, Ms. May-Ling Chun. “We are incredibly thankful for these honors and hope that these distinctions will prompt even more people to visit St. Maarten and experience everything our island has to offer.”

 

St. Maarten’s Topper’s Rhum Distillery received the first-place honor on this year’s “Best Caribbean Rum Distillery” list, beating out some of the world’s most famous rum brands such as Bacardi, Brugal, Appleton Estate, Angostura, Cruzan, Mount Gay and Barbancourt. In other food and beverage-related honors, two of St. Maarten’s restaurants, Bistrot Caraïbes and Emilio’s, placed fourth and fifth respectively on this year’s “Best Caribbean Restaurant” list, making it the only destination to receive two acknowledgments in the category and furthering the island’s reputation as a gastronomic powerhouse.

 

“These awards are a testament to the people of St. Maarten, whose determination and hard work continue to yield recognition and results,” stated St. Maarten’s Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunications, Stuart Johnson. “We often have the privilege of welcoming back visitors for decades in a row, and this array of acknowledgments truly speaks to that. The public, including those who have visited our island year after year, gave us these honors, and we are so thankful for their enduring support. Many thanks to everyone who voted for us.”

 

About The 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards:

The 10Best Readers’ Choice Award contest is promoted across USA TODAY Today Travel Media Group’s digital and mobile products, as well as via social media and through Gannett media outlets. 10Best.com provides users with original, unbiased, and experiential travel content of top attractions, things to see and do, and restaurants for top destinations in the U.S. and around the world, averaging 5 million visitors per month. Follow along on social media including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram on at @10Best.

About St. Maarten:

St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations – Kingdom of the Netherlands and France – creating a destination with European charm and Caribbean flair. Located at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, the island’s 37 square miles has 37 breathtaking beaches and is home to many historical and family-oriented attractions. Direct air service is available to Princess Juliana International Airport from major U.S. and Canadian cities. For additional information on St. Maarten, visit the official site of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau atwww.VacationStMaarten.com.

 

GILMAN “Gil” FIGARO WINS 2019 DISTINGUISHED CARIBBEAN CITIZEN

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): – The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) will present its “Distinguished Caribbean Citizen Award” to Gilman Figaro, founder and chairman of the SUNSHINE Awards, for promoting the Caribbean’s culture around the globe by gripping audiences with exciting and entertaining art forms, including dance, music and poetry.

Figaro will be honored during the Caribbean Tourism Industry Awards program which recognizes excellence in promoting the Caribbean and honors individuals whose outstanding, passionate and dedicated work has contributed to the development of the region. The esteemed awards dinner takes place on Thursday, 6 June,2019 during Caribbean Week New York, when the Big Apple is captivated with Caribbean flair, pulsating energy and colorful sounds.

 

“The Caribbean Tourism Organization recognizes Gilman Figaro’s drive for promoting Caribbean culture through the creative arts,” said Sylma Brown, Director, CTO-USA. “His untiring hard work, dedication and commitment to positioning the Caribbean as an important region for all art forms are praiseworthy and for that reason we will honor him with the Distinguished Caribbean Citizen Award.”

 

Figaro was born in Trinidad and migrated to the United States two years after graduating high school. His determination to enhance the integrity and global awareness of Caribbean art forms led him to create the SUNSHINE Awards. This organization recognizes excellence in the performing arts, education, science and sports of the various Caribbean countries.

 

Always placing a great emphasis on education, Figaro established the SUNSHINE Awards Student Recognition Program which, annually, recognizes and applauds the scholastic achievements of the top students from selected Caribbean island.  

 

Figaro also co-authored “Song for Montserrat”, which brought together an ensemble of 119 top performing artistes from across the Caribbean in a fundraising concert for families in Montserrat who had lost their homes during the volcanic eruption of 1995.  Figaro also scripted and composed the First Annual Indo-Caribbean Music Awards for Jamaica Me Crazy Records for which he adopted a format comparable to the Grammy Awards. He produced and penned the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College’s First Annual Steelband Festival titled “The Pride of the Caribbean,” leading Figaro to subsequently create four shows for well-known pianists, as well as other successful musical endeavors.

 

Driven by his passion for the Caribbean and its art forms, Figaro has received multiple awards highlighting his dedication to the performing arts, music and Caribbean communities.

 

About Caribbean Week New York:

Organized by CTO-USA, Inc., the Caribbean Week New York program takes place throughout New York City. The week is designed to raise awareness of the Caribbean’s diverse tourism industry by providing a platform for all CTO member countries to promote their product.  Combining exciting consumer-oriented and informative business sessions with Caribbean-inspired cuisine, lively entertainment, authentic cultural experiences and networking opportunities, Caribbean Week New York is the largest regional tourism activity in the city. With vibrant colors, the tastes and excitement of the Caribbean and a showcase of the region’s rich heritage, Caribbean Week New York is a must for the Caribbean tourism industry, the Caribbean diaspora, travel consumers as well as businesses interested in forming relationships focused on developing the region.  

Caribbean Week is supported by: Academy Engraving, Barbados, Bedessee Imports, Inc., Cholula, Cititech Solutions, Cool Tech Air Conditioning and Refrigeration LLC, Grenada, JetBlue, The Wyndham New Yorker Hotel.

About the Caribbean Tourism Organization

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), with headquarters in Barbados, offices in New York and London and representation in Canada, is the Caribbean’s tourism development agency comprising membership of the region’s finest countries and territories including Dutch, English, French and Spanish-speaking, as well as a myriad of private sector allied members. The CTO’s vision is to position the Caribbean as the most desirable, year-round, warm weather destination, and its purpose is Leading Sustainable Tourism – One Sea, One Voice, One Caribbean. Among the benefits to its members the organization provides specialized support and technical assistance in sustainable tourism development, marketing, communications, advocacy, human resource development, event planning & execution and research & information technology.

 The CTO’s Headquarters is located at Baobab Tower, Warrens, St. Michael, Barbados BB 22026; Tel: (246) 427-5242; Fax: (246) 429-3065; E-mail:CTObarbados@caribtourism.com;

The CTO’s New York office is located at 80 Broad St., Suite 3302, New York, NY 10004, USA: Tel: (212) 635-9530; Fax: (212) 635-9511; E-mail:CTOny@caribtourism.com;

 

 

 

AMERICAN AIRLINES RESUMES SERVICE TO ANTIGUA

(BROOKLYN, New York): – The Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Tourism and Investment along with the country’s Tourism Authority has announced the resumption of service by American Airlines to and from Miami following the temporary grounding of flights by the US Government of airlines using the 737 Max 8 aircraft.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Tourism & Investment, Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez, noted that this is welcome news for local tourism officials and hoteliers. “We thank the visitors for their patience and understanding as we worked with the local civil aviation authority and the local American Airlines office, to ensure that those currently in Antigua and Barbuda were provided with alternative routes for comfortably returning to their home countries following their vacation,” stated Fernandez.

During the disruption in service on American Airlines, tourism officials held discussions with the local American Airlines operations along with Caribbean Airlines, Seaborne and LIAT to examine all options to facilitate the rerouting of passengers via Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and St. Kitts.

The Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Tourism and Investment along with the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority remain committed to the safety of visitors traveling to the destination. The resumption of service to the country’s vital Miami gateway is critical to continue the strong growth in US air arrivals, that Antigua and Barbuda has been experiencing for the first two months of 2019.

ABOUT ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA

Antigua (pronounced An-tee’ga) and Barbuda (Bar-byew’da) is located in the heart of the Caribbean Sea. Voted the World Travel Awards  Caribbean’s Most Romantic Destination, the twin-island paradise offers visitors two uniquely distinct experiences, ideal temperatures year-round, a rich history, vibrant culture, exhilarating excursions, award-winning resorts, mouth-watering cuisine and 365 stunning pink and white-sand beaches – one for every day of the year. The largest of the Leeward Islands, Antigua comprises 108-square miles with rich history and spectacular topography that provides a variety of popular sightseeing opportunities. Nelson’s Dockyard, the only remaining example of a Georgian fort a listed UNESCO World Heritage site, is perhaps the most renowned landmark. Antigua’s tourism events calendar includes the prestigious Antigua Sailing Week, Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, and the annual Antigua Carnival; known as the Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival.

Barbuda, Antigua’s smaller sister island, is the ultimate celebrity hideaway. The island lies 27 miles north-east of Antigua and is just a 15-minute plane ride away. Barbuda is known for its untouched 17 mile stretch of pink sand beach and as the home of the largest Frigate Bird Sanctuary in the Western Hemisphere.  Find information on Antigua & Barbuda at:www.visitantiguabarbuda.com and follow us on Twitter. http://twitter.com/antiguabarbuda  Facebookwww.facebook.com/antiguabarbuda

Haitian Ambassador seeks help on Wall Street

(BROOKLYN, New York): In a plea to help the Haiti crisis, that is presently engulfing that Caribbean country, Haiti’s Ambassador Gandy Thomas came to Wall Street to ask the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce founder and CEO Duvi Honig, for his help to create international awareness to help stimulate the Haitian economy.

At the recent 44 Wall street meeting Ambassador Gandy Thomas said “Haiti has always been a friend of Israel and that Haiti helped to form the state of Israel for the Jewish people and now is asking the Jewish state to be there for Haiti in its moment of crisis.”

“Now is the time that Haiti must be empowered, and we need the help of the Jewish community and the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of commerce to create awareness and be there for us”, the ambassador went on to say. And, all of this rings true, since it was Haiti’s vote that helped to make Israel a state.

Now, 70 year later, Israel returns this help to the Haitian people to enable them to establish infrastructure in getting jobs for the 60 per cent of Haiti’s millennial population, take control of the 48 products that Haiti presents in the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), including the 80% of its rum, seafood, coffee, and textiles.

The government and people of Haiti have supported the Orthodox Chamber of Commerce since its inception and continues to count on the Chamber to deliver value, and further build on this relationship to create awareness and to co-ordinate and link businesses in Haiti to the Orthodox Chamber of Commerce.

“Haiti is not asking for a hand-out” the Ambassador said adding “Humanitarian help will not solve the problems of Haiti. Haiti is asking for philanthropy and for the establishment of structures that can create jobs.”

In response, Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce President, Duvi Honig, lamented on the BDS movement (boycott, divestments and sanctions) that continues to hurt Palestinians in the Israel economy.

“It is the business of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce to show that 70 years later, the Jewish community can show interest to a country that stood for us,” President Honig said. “We will continue to demonstrate the benefits of effective partnerships in empowering and building relations with countries like Haiti.”

The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of commerce is a global umbrella of businesses of all sizes, bridging the highest echelons of the business and governmental worlds together. The Chamber brings the unique dynamic of the Jewish community economy to the attention of world leaders, and helps them devise policies that would be beneficial to developing states like Haiti.

Guyana’s President To Elections Body: Get ready For Polls  

(BROOKLYN, New York): – President David Granger has written to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) advising it to submit a work program to help determine its readiness to administer polls that will soon be constitutionally due. His letter to GECOM Chairman, retired Justice James Patterson, was sent less than a week before the expiry of the 90-day deadline prescribed by the Guyana Constitution, following the no-confidence motion passed against the coalition government on December 21, last year.

Even as the government appeals the High Court ruling that declared the no-confidence vote valid and ordered general and regional elections be held, GECOM has indicated that it cannot be ready to host the polls by the March 19 deadline. In his correspondence, Granger said it is essential that he is informed of the Commission’s readiness to deliver credible elections in Guyana.

“I urge you to present your plans, programs and financial needs which will guide my proclamation of a suitable date for elections,” the Head of State wrote. Since the passage of the no-confidence motion, President Granger has consulted twice with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo. He has also consulted the Chairman and Commissioners of GECOM. He has emphasized that the government will not interfere or intrude in the work of the Commission.

Barbados Gov’t to Confiscate Money from Criminals

(BROOKLYN, New York): – The Barbados government will be introducing legislation to allow it to confiscate the property of criminals who commit a wide range of offences, not just those convicted of drug or terrorism-related crimes. And a portion of the monies confiscated from such proceedings will go towards a regional account to help the Caribbean’s fight against crime, while the rest would help fund law enforcement in Barbados.

The disclosure was made recently in Parliament by Attorney General Dale Marshall who said the new Proceeds and Instrumentalities of Crime Bill 2019 will also make way for the prosecution of offenders who got rich off ill-gotten gains within the last 20 years. He explained that the legislation is intended to “strike at essentially those assets that are in the possession of the criminal element of our country, where those assets are either themselves the proceeds of crime or are intended or have been used in the commission of crime or in unlawful conduct”.

A Proceeds of Crime Act, enacted in 1990 and amended in 1998 and 2002, remains in effect. But Marshall said it has deficiencies that the new legislation will address. “The Proceeds of Crime legislation that we have today in Barbados and that has been here for the past 29 years, was focused solely on proceeds from drug crime or terrorism-related crime….If you put terrorism associated issues aside, effectively we look only at proceeds of drug-related crime. Now that is a glaring deficiency,” he said.

The Attorney General said that beyond drug and terrorism-related activities, the Proceeds and Instrumentalities of Crime Bill 2019 will cover proceeds from corruption, money laundering, racketeering, and other crimes.

Caribbean Court of Justice Unveils New Five-year Strategic Plan

(BROOKLYN, New York):– The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has unveiled its Strategic Plan 2019-2024, under the theme ‘Unlocking Potential’, which will chart the Court’s direction over the next five years.  President of the CCJ and Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee, Justice Adrian Saunders, said the implementation of the strategic plan will help to move the CCJ forward.  

“Our intention is to take bolder strides and to be more innovative; to better empower decision makers; to communicate more effectively both internally and with all our stakeholders; to work more meaningfully with partners and justice sector bodies in the region; to strengthen our bonds with the Caribbean people and to advance the rule of law,” he said.

The CCJ said in a statement that lessons learned from the Trinidad-based Court’s first strategic plan period, which ran from 2012 – 2017, served it well in the design and execution of its new strategic agenda.The CCJ’s Strategic Plan 2019-2024 contains six strategic issues, which are further broken down into 14 goals and 41 strategies that will be used to effectively fulfil the CCJ’s aim of unlocking the potential of the organization. 

The six strategic issues include: communication; independence and accountability; high performance environment; equality, fairness and integrity in promoting the rule of law, organizational capacity for caseload growth and enhanced regional system capacity and performance. The plan also includes a new mission, vision and values for the Court, which was developed by the judges and staff.

The CCJ said the plan is already guiding its operations as each of the units of the Court has used it to develop their work plans for 2019. Each unit will assess the results of their efforts on an ongoing basis and will adjust their work plans to ensure that results are aligned with the stated goals.

The development of the strategic plan, the second in the organization’s history, was made possible with support from the JURIST Project, a judicial reform initiative funded by the Government of Canada, and being implemented by the CCJ. Dr. Daniel Straub, Dean of the Fellows Program of the Institute of Court Managers (ICM) of the National Centre for State Courts, helped to steer the process which will direct how the Court will assess its performance and direct its resources over the next five years.

The strategic plan was developed using a collaborative process with input from representatives of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Regional Judicial and Legal Services Commission (RJLSC), the CCJ Trust Fund, regional judiciaries, bar associations, law schools and faculties of law. The judges and the staff of the Court were also integral in identifying issues and providing recommendations that informed the plan.

Jacqueline Graham, Registrar and Chief Marshal of the CCJ, stated in the plan’s opening statement that the theme of “unlocking potential through the implementation of this Strategic Plan will also encourage a more streamlined monitoring and review of our systems. These systems must, at all times, be characterized by high levels of accountability, transparency, efficiency and fairness, and they must be harnessed by the Court’s governance principles.”

Bahamas Disney Deal to Develop Cruise Port and Entertainment Facility

(BROOKLYN, New York):– Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has announced that his government has signed a Heads of Agreement with Disney Island Development Ltd for a proposed Cruise Port and entertainment facility in South Eleuthera. The development has a projected investment of between US$250 million and US$400 million.

Disney completed acquisition of the property at Lighthouse Point, Bannerman Town from the private seller. Approximately 190 acres of the land purchased, including the southernmost point of the property, will be conveyed to the government for conservation and a national park. The appraised value of the land donation is US$6.29 million.

Under the Heads of Agreement, Disney Cruise Line (DCL) will ensure a minimum of 120 Bahamians are directly employed during the construction of the project. Disney has also committed to aim for an overall ratio of 80 per cent Bahamian workers to 20 per cent non-Bahamian workers during the life of the construction phase of the project. This is subject to qualified labor being available and the need to ensure the highest level of technical compliance with international standards.

Once construction is completed, DCL says it will create as many as 150 permanent, sustainable jobs with health benefits in a range of positions for Bahamians. Under the agreement, space must be provided for Bahamian vendors on the property for the sale of authentic, high quality Bahamian retail goods, services, souvenirs, arts and crafts, Bahamian T-shirts and other merchandise.

Disney must also give priority to Bahamian owners and operators to provide port adventures for DCL guests while its ships are in port, and will seek to use Bahamian entertainers. Other elements of the project include the integration of Bahamian cultural and artistic expression into the design of the site and experiences offered.

Disney also will provide all citizens and residents of The Bahamas with access to the property for non-commercial purposes and will collaborate with Government and local communities to meaningfully contribute to initiatives that meet community needs, with a special focus on children and families. This includes assisting with local schools, assisting with identifying and enhancing tourist heritage sites in South Eleuthera and exploring opportunities to improve medical facilities that serve the residents of south and central Eleuthera.

Prime Minister Minnis said construction of the project will not begin until the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan are reviewed and approved. “The Government of The Bahamas is satisfied that it made the best decision in the interest of the Bahamian people, a sustainable future for the people of Central and South Eleuthera and the economic development of the country,” he said.

“The implementation of this project supports the government’s plan of expanding the economy of our country and economic opportunities for our people by promoting development in the Family Islands.” In a statement issued yesterday, after the opposition accused the government of lack of transparency in the agreement with Disney, Prime Minister Minnis said the Heads of Agreement will be tabled at the earliest meeting of the House of Assembly, next Wednesday, March 20.

 

 

 

Barbadian company’s 316th anniversary of making rum

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): Mount Gay has marked its 316th anniversary as the world’s oldest operating rum distillery by showing appreciation to its valuable staff members, clients and customers. The company celebrated in fine style with a series of events including visits to clients and customers at bars and rum shops, a staff appreciation event and a massive product sale for the public.

Speaking at the staff appreciation, Managing Director Raphael Grison said that 316 years was a great accomplishment and explained that the company wanted to say a huge ‘thank-you’ to all who made it possible to mark the significant milestone. “The rum shop crawl gave us the opportunity to meet with our customers one-on-one to thank them for pushing our brand and to also get a better insight into what is happening in the trade,” he said.

“The sale at our distribution center was our way to say thanks and give-back to our loyal customers and clients, by providing the opportunity for them to purchase their favorite products at a reduced price.” Stressing that the celebrations could not be complete without acknowledging Mount Gay’s dedicated staff members for their contribution throughout the years, Grisoni told them, “I want to sincerely thank each of you for your input and commitment. It is truly appreciated. Three hundred and sixteen years are significant and cause for celebration. Each of you has played a very important role in getting us to this milestone and we should all be very proud.”

He added, “There is a pioneer mindset at Mount Gay and we intend to keep that going. Yes, we are the oldest but we do not intend to rest on our laurels. We intend to continue to be innovative, engage our customers and keep our brand visible as we look forward to celebrating many more years.” 

SK&N: Timothy Harris re-elected PLP Leader

(BROOKLYN, New York); Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris has been re-elected unopposed as the leader of the ruling People’s Labor Party (PLP), one of the parties in the coalition government. A PLP statement said that Harris was re-elected during the private session of the party’s third annual national convention attended by at least 300 people.

The statement said that Harris reminded supporters of the strides and progress being made in the twin-island Federation under his leadership of the Team Unity government, making particular reference to the Government Employees Mortgage Program, the Poverty Alleviation Program and the Hurricane Roof Repair Program.

“This has never happened before Team Unity. And when you see things like these happening, you say for that alone this government has done something good in every community.” The statement said that the public session of the party’s annual convention, will take place on Saturday under the theme “Improving our communities with PLP in Unity.” The PLP was formed prior to the 2015 general election with Harris being the only successful candidate of the party.

A CARIBBEAN TIMES SPECIAL NEW ANALYSIS

The Venezuela Conundrum

Today, in the midst of Venezuela’s political crisis is this undeniably fact: Venezuela boasts the largest oil reserves of any country in the world. Yet it is facing the worst economic crisis in its history. So why? a good starting point is arguably the election of former Socialist president Hugo Chávez in 1998. With the poor people oriented Chavez in power and bucking the country’s elites the money coming in from oil in the late 1990s, allowed the charismatic Venezuelan president to establish a number of social programs called the “Misiones” (Missions). These programs sought to attack historical and endemic crippling poverty and inequality and included clinics and other organizations to provide free health care; free educational opportunities; and training for individuals to become teachers – for the very first time in Vemnezuela’s history. 

For example, Chávez brought in several thousand Cuban doctors to run these health clinics in the countryside. So in effect, oil money was being used  by the government to support those nations that were either sympathetic to his ideology or who he could trade with for things that Venezuela did not have. This of course, just stoked the ire of the ruling elites and their foreign enablers and supporters all looking for an opportunity and excuse to topple Chavez and put his “Chavezistas” in their place.

But then petroleum prices significantly decreased and Venezuela didn’t have the money to meet its spending commitments. In the 2000s, as petroleum prices were bouncing back and forth, the Chavez government was spending an exorbitant amount of money on things like the Misiones. Meanwhile, it had committed to selling Venezuela’s petroleum to allies at extremely reduced rates including the members of CARICOM. So in essence, not only was the revenue that should have theoretically been generated by the volume of petroleum that Venezuela was exporting not coming back in, but what was coming in was simply being spent away. In other words, it wasn’t being put back into the nation in terms of infrastructure.

All of this has laid the foundation for the present Venezuelan political and economic crisis. In fact, it was the culmination of these crises that set the stage for the eventual intervention of the west with the arrival of Juan Guido as the implacable challenger to the rule of Nicolas Maduro.  Today, the ongoing economic crisis may very well result in a combination of a number of possible outcomes: One, a possible United States military intervention, two, the emergence of another more Maduro-like strongman, three, perhaps the re-emergence of some kind of functional tepid democracy, or even a civil uprising, worse yet, a civil war or military coup. Nobody knows just how this will play out and how it will end.

The Venezuala conundrum will continue for a while yet as the situation continues to spiral out of control aggravated with the belligerent posture of the United States and its allies against the Maduro regime. So whether it’s going to be the military that finally says, “Enough” and topples Maduro, or whether some political action will spark a sharp and decisive change – perhaps demonstrations or an uprising that gets significantly large enough that the number of deaths occurring is enough to give the United States cover for its military/punitive actions or force the international community to act more forcefully – is still not yet clear, but one thing is certain – something is going to have to happen. 

So until something happens that changes the present situation, there is a rapid exodus of Venezuelans out of the country. For example, during the last four years or so, it is estimated that at least two million Venezuelans have fled the country creating one of the largest brain drain and flight of human capital in the region’s history. The Venezuelan government’s in an eerie hilarious quixotic flux with competing legislative groups claiming legitimacy, power and authority. The National Assembly, which was set up by the 1999 constitution was taken over last year – in terms of gaining a majority – by the opposition.

As soon as that happened, President Nicolas Maduro created a new constituent assembly that was supposed to be writing a new constitution to solve all of the ills going on. But that assembly still hasn’t worked towards a new constitution, and now both assemblies are claiming to be the country’s legitimate legislative body with two competing presidents – one elected the other ordained by a rival assembly. Rarely has the region witnessed such an undiluted political fiasco. In Venezuela stagecraft has replaced statecraft.

Guyana is world’s best ecotourism destination

(BROOKLYN, New York): Guyana has been named the number one “Best of Ecotourism” destination in the world. The award was presented to Guyana at the ITB global travel trade fair in Berlin, Germany. The second annual “Best of Top 100” Awards is a selection of the finest top 100 destinations selected by a panel of experts who reviewed sustainability success stories submitted by destinations worldwide.

The newly created “Best of Ecotourism” category was added in 2019 and put Guyana up against very well-known and experienced ecotourism destinations like Sierra Gorda in Mexico, Tmatboey in Cambodia and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. The announcement was made at Berlin’s Messe Berlin exhibition grounds by Albert Salman, President of Green Destinations Foundation. Brian T. Mullis, Director of the Guyana Tourism Authority was in attendance to accept the award on behalf of Guyana.

“Guyana has expended considerable effort in recent years not only to develop new and innovative eco-friendly tourism products as a part of the national Green State Development Strategy, but also to incorporate sustainable tourism best practice into all aspects of its strategy, planning and  programming while educating the world about its deep commitment to maximizing the positive socio-economic and conservation outcomes from tourism,” said Mullis.

“It is a tremendous honor for us to be recognized globally alongside our fellow leaders in eco- and sustainable tourism.” Guyana is positioned as the next must-see destination for travelers. With daily non-stop flights already available from New York, Miami and Toronto and direct routes available from Europe through sister Caribbean countries, and it being the only English-speaking country in South America, travelers can experience vibrant indigenous culture, rich history, and hospitable and friendly people in the language both parties know best. Guyana has also recently become the first country to adopt the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s International Adventure Travel Guide Qualification & Performance Standards.

When asked about Guyana’s selection Salman said “The Top 100 Awards Jury was impressed by the dossier prepared by Guyana Tourism Authority for the Top100-nomination and by the success stories submitted of Surama and Rewa. Both these eco lodges have ambitious and admirable goals and successes, are community-owned and led, and aim at preserving Guyana’s ecosystems and indigenous traditions. The Jury also liked that Guyana has a policy of a ‘Green, Inclusive and Prosperous Guyana’ that provides a good quality of life for all its citizens based on a sound education and social protection, low-carbon resilient development, green and decent jobs, economic opportunities, individual equality, justice, and political empowerment.’

T&T paint company penetrates Cuban market

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): Trinidad and Tobago paint manufacturers, ANSA Coatings Limited, on Wednesday loaded a container with over €500,000 worth of product bound for Cuba, the company’s newest export market. Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon who witnessed the event stated that the Government was pleased with the company’s penetration of the additional market.

This, she added, would create jobs, increase exports and generate foreign exchange. “The Cuban market is significant for us with 11 million people and another three million in tourists.  Cuba as a trading partner remains important to Trinidad and Tobago. Eighty percent of the goods from the region entering Cuba originates in Trinidad and Tobago.”

The Government, she stated, intends to continue to pursue opportunities for local businesses in that jurisdiction. Tania Diego Olite, the Cuban Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago who was also present, said it was an important step in strengthening economic and diplomatic relations between the two Caribbean countries. She also anticipated an increase in these interchanges in the future.

Minister Gopee-Scoon concurred citing the need for increased two-way trade. Local companies involved in Information Communication Technology, surveying, recycling and energy, petroleum and gas, construction products, electricity and design, transport and shipping and Printing and Packaging, ice cream and paints are on the cusp of entering  Cuba ably supported by exporTT’s Trade Facilitation Office in that country.

ANSA Coatings commenced activities to enter Cuba over two years ago. Construction Sector Head of the ANSA McAl Group, Adam Sabga, indicated that access to this new market attests to the quality of its products which was developed in Trinidad and Tobago with local expertise. Christian Llanos, Managing Director of ANSA Coatings Limited, thanked the Government for the support provided. This expansion, he said, would earn foreign exchange which is beneficial to both the country and the company.

CAPTION: Trade and Industry Minister flanked by Her Excellency, Tania Diego Olite, Cuban Ambassador and Mr. Christian Llanos, Managing Director, Ansa Coatings Ltd and other Executives following the loading of the first shipment of paint to Cuba.

 

Jamaicans turn to Airbnb In Tight Economy

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): Despite the Jamaican economy having grown by 1.5% in the third quarter of 2015, many Jamaicans are still feeling the pangs of an overall weak economy. To cope Jamaicans are turning to the online marketplace, in particular, Airbnb.

With over 330 plus listings in Kingston alone, Jamaicans are using the website to pay off mortgages, help with utilities and in general earn much needed foreign exchange. Airbnb is an online marketplace that connects people wanting to rent their homes and spaces with people needing affordable accommodations.

From renting an entire home, to renting a space on someone’s couch for the night (couch surfing), Airbnb allows individuals willing to share their space an opportunity to earn an income. One criticism of the vibrant Jamaican tourism product has always been the abundance of all inclusive hotels and holiday packages, which tend to benefit hotels and large establishments while neglecting the local community.

However, according to Jamaicans, online tools like Airbnb are helping more people in the local communities to benefit from the spoils of tourism, particularly those outside of resort areas. One corporate area woman who has been a member of Airbnb for the past two years has lauded the website as being great for “sharing the wealth”, as she has successfully used the website to earn enough to sustain her mortgage.

The 47-year-old woman, who lists her Duhaney Park home on the website, renting every room and even her couch, told Loop News that she turned to the website after her husband died and she was on the brink of losing her mortgage.

“It is not just tourists, it is local people from the countryside and all over Jamaica that are visiting Kingston for the day and can’t afford a hotel. I have been able to connect with them and earn,” said the woman who goes by the name ‘Miss Elise’. Miss Elise is just one of the many Jamaicans, who are logging on to the website to share their space and earn an income, with listings for places in Jamaica being added daily.

Despite the success stories of people like Miss Elise, who have benefited from what some have deemed the new “sharing economy”; there is already a brewing debate in the United States and in some Jamaican circles about the social and economic impact of businesses like Airbnb – with many saying such online marketplaces undermine the established economy.

Phillips: JA Budget ‘out of touch’ with ordinary Jamaicans

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): The recent budget presented by Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke during which he announced $14 billion in tax cuts, has been dismissed as being out of touch with the ordinary Jamaican and rather skewed in favor of a privileged few. That assertion was made by the Opposition Leader Dr. Peter Phillips when he made his contribution to the 2019-2020 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives.

Clarke, in announcing the tax cuts, $12 billion of which will come from significant reductions in ad valorem stamp duty, said the country was in the best shape it has been in 50 years with the macro-economic numbers pointing in the right direction. However, Dr. Phillips, who himself served as Finance Minister in the previous People’s National Party administration poured cold water on that assertion. He likened Clarke’s maiden budget presentation to a Charles Dickens novel.

“The budget presented by the minister of finance brought to mind the first lines of the famous novel by Charles Dickens, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ in which he said ‘It was the best of times. And it was the worst of times,” said Phillips.

“The official narrative given by the minister would say in effect that this is the best of times but at best that story is an incomplete story and at worst that story, the official narrative, is a distortion of the reality experienced by far too many of our people,” Phillips added. He charged that the tax cuts were a mere “discount for friends and family” and were not of benefit to the vast majority of Jamaicans.

“Not only is your official narrative out of touch with the people’s reality, it is also woefully out of touch with your own growth projections. No matter how you want to nice it up,” Phillips stated while addressing Clarke.

According to Dr. Phillips, “it is a travesty of justice that those who have borne the brunt of the economic reform program got the least from the tax give back.” He said “we must now examine whether the budget presented will use these increased revenues to improve the quality of life for the majority of Jamaicans.”

But, he seemed to provide a ready answer, declaring that “a careful reading of the budget shows a lack of understanding of the workings of the economy and even more painful, a lack of appreciation for the day-to-day realities faced by ordinary Jamaicans.” The opposition leader stated that while the unemployment rate is at record low numbers, over 700,000 of the employed are at, or below the minimum wage. He said there was another 474,000 Jamaicans between 15 and 55 years old who are not actively looking for work.  

Phillips said that too many Jamaicans in the security, tourism and other industries were employed as contract workers which denies them of certain benefits.  He said a future PNP Government would reverse that trend. Phillips noted that despite Clarke’s boasts, many Jamaicans were struggling because of the Special Consumption Tax (SCT) on gasoline that has served to push up the price of the fuel. He appealed to Prime Minister Andrew Holness to lower both the SCT and the General Consumption Tax when he makes his budget presentation on Tuesday.

Future PNP Gov’t to abolish guarantor for student loans

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): A future People’s National party (PNP) Government will abolish the requirement of a guarantor for persons seeking a student loan. At the same time, graduates from tertiary institutions who receive loans from the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) will not be required to begin servicing their loans until after they have gained employment.

Those were recent commitments by Opposition Leader and PNP President, Dr. Peter Phillips, during his contribution to the 2019-2020 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives. While welcoming the move by the Government to lower by two per cent, the interest on loans granted by the SLB, Phillips argued that the move does not go far enough.

“We’re going to abandon the requirement of a student loan guarantor,” said Phillips to much applause from Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs). Phillips added that “the repayment of the loan will only begin when the graduates are employed, and the monthly repayment will be capped at a percentage of (their) income.”

On other matters of education, Phillips repeated a promise he made at the PNP’s annual conference last September, when he spoke about a “first in family scholarship program”. This will see the first child in every family who matriculates to university being offered a full scholarship by a future PNP Government. The Opposition leader reminded that when he went to university in the 1960s, he received a bursary from the Ministry of Education, which made it possible for him to complete his studies.

And Phillips also said a future PNP Administration will prioritize investment in the high school system to provide space for the over 20,000 students who are presently enrolled, but are not in satisfactory conditions. He said his party will expand the teacher training program to global standards, and provide a trained teacher in every classroom in the shortest possible time. Phillips also said that to drive productivity, firms that invest in approved training programs for their workers should be able to get some benefit from the state.

Caribbean: 2019 Year Of Monthly Carnivals

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): With Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival in the bag for 2019, some Carnival lovers may be already pining for next year. Good news, turns out you don’t have to wait till next year to wine down low in a fete or parade the streets in a costume. The Caribbean Carnival circuit has just been activated and almost every island in the region will be staging its own version of Carnival from now till the end of the year. So if you are a Carnivalista, pop your vitamins, book your flights and let’s go!

Below is a list of Carnivals in the Caribbean for 2019.

St Thomas

April 6 to May 4

Carnival in St Thomas, British Virgin Islands, is a month-long affair that comprises calypso competitions, cultural show, J’ouvert and children and adults parades.

Jamaica Carnival

April 20 to 28

Starting in Ocho Rios over the Easter weekend and ending in New Kingston on April 28, Carnival in Jamaica has grown to be a popular affair. While you can experience fetes from Trinidadian party brands, be sure to check out the homegrown events as well.

St Maarten Carnival

May 1

Festivities center around the Carnival Village, the only venue of its type in the region. This year, Soca king makes a triumphant return to St Maarten after a 15 years’ absence.

Bahamas Carnival

May 5

Not to be confused with Junkanoo, Bahamas Carnival takes on more elements of the West Indian Carnival with Bahamian flavor.

Cayman Islands CayMas

May 17 to 20

With a Soca Monarch competition, steelpan events, fetes, J’ouvert and a costume parade, CayMas takes place on Discovery Weekend.

Guyana Carnival

May 22 to 27

In its second year, Guyana Carnival is set to be even bigger and better. More emphasis will be placed on Guyanese culture infused with the usual Carnival elements that we have come to expect with each Carnival. 

Vincy Mas

June 28 to July 9

With Skinny Fabulous part of the winning Road March team in T&T, Vincy Mas is expected to take on an added air of exuberance.  From all reports, this is not a Carnival for the faint-hearted cause Vincentians go hard especially for their Soca Monarch competition.

Antigua Carnival

July 25 to August 6

Billed as the Greatest Summer Carnival in the Caribbean, Antigua’s Carnival has all the elements of Carnival: Panorama, J’ouvert, costume parades and fetes along with a Soca Monarch competition and Miss Teen and Miss AB pageants.

St Lucia

July 12 to 16

Saint Lucia’s Carnival forms part of the islands Summer Festival and with the popularity of Dennery Segment the event has seen an increasing influx of revelers. Like T&T, this Carnival has two days of parades with masqueraders parading in full costume on Carnival Monday and in anything they want to on Carnival Tuesday.

Barbados Crop Over

August 5

An event that traditionally celebrated the end of the Sugar Cane harvest, Crop Over is now a major staple on the Carnival calendar. The Carnival includes a market day, art and craft exhibitions and, of course, the occasional sighting of global pop star Rihanna who was born and raised in Barbados.

Grenada Spice Mas

August 12 and 13

With the success of Grenadian artists in T&T’s Carnival this year, Grenada is bracing for an influx of revelers from all over the region especially those who have never experienced the event before. Grenada is home of the Jab Jab and boasts an epic J’ouvert. The Monday night mas, comprising bands in glowing paraphernalia, is a sight to behold.

Tortola, BVI

August

The biggest cultural fete in the BVI is in Tortola in August, the event is known as the Emancipation Festival and also a August Festival. Activities include pageants, food fair, musical shows, horse races and parades, according to the official website.

UberSoca

November 4-8 and November 8-12

In only its fourth year, Uber Soca is now considered an official Carnival. The event takes place aboard a Royal Caribbean ship where soca stars from around the region drive raging non-stop parties while the ship sails to a Caribbean destination for an epic J’ouvert party. In 2019, Uber Soca will be headed to Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos on two sailings.

 St Kitts Sugar Mas

December and January

The last Carnival of the year, St Kitts Carnival takes place in December, culminating on January 2, 2020. The Carnival has its roots in the island’s traditional Christmas Sports and marries elements of that tradition with those of the modern Carnival.

 

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