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Updated: 33 min 25 sec ago

What the future holds for fitness technology

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:34

Swarms of drones follow you while you run, recording video of your workout. Sensors hidden in your T-shirt track your heart rate and how many calories you’re burning. Your sunglasses log your miles and respond when you ask, “How’s my pace?”

No, you and those sci-fi gadgets aren’t starring in the next action-packed Marvel flick. Rather, those gadgets might be the future of fitness trackers, according to sports technology experts.

As wrist-worn wearables phase out, less invasive and more personalised devices may phase in, said Gina Lee, founder of the Legacy Sports Institute, a health-care facility for professional and amateur athletes slated to open in Alpharetta, Georgia, by the end of the year.

“The future of technology is definitely to develop the most invisible, smallest, least detectable technology for consumers that can track the most biometric data and be consumer-friendly and have accurate outcomes,” Lee said.

Here’s a look at how fitness technology of the future may become more hidden, more like a coach and more personalised than ever before.

Next, Zok said, this personalised element could even be integrated into homes of the future.

“A connected gym or a connected house would be an environment that is able to extract data points from my activity without me having to take any specific actions to do that,” Zok said.

For instance, your home could be programmed to track your sleeping patterns and then automatically adjust the thermostat and lighting to when you wake and when you sleep, he said.

“The connected world is a world that is observing you, that is monitoring you, that is interacting with you, so that you can meet your objectives and your goals in the most effective fashion possible,” Zok said.

“In the future, I want to live in a connected house as an athlete. I want to train in a connected venue. I want to work out in a connected gym,” he said. “As I’m going about my life, let’s

If it is viable for an athlete to afford wearable technology, they will spend the dollar to be able to meet their peak performance.say, spending time with family and friends or just travelling, I want to be wearing connected clothes.”

Yet, there are privacy concerns when it comes to connected devices. Sure, you would want your fitness tracker and your connected house to collect health data for your benefit, but such devices have the potential to be hacked and collect other data, such as by recording private conversations.

“A big limitation is that continuous or periodic data streams bring with them the problems of security, privacy and clutter,” said Chhabra, the research scientist at Georgia Tech. “This is not health-specific but the stakes are much higher in healthcare.”

For technologies to be connected with your daily life, however, how would data be collected to help programme the technologies and make them more personalised? Zok pointed to drones.

“I can have them in my backpack, and as soon as I open up my backpack, I’ll tell my drones to set themselves to running mode and so I would start doing my running, and the drones would be following me and getting the footage from me without me even touching them,” Zok said, describing how drones could collect video data in the future.

“If you want to imagine the athletes of the future, you can imagine maybe each one of them running with a swarm of small drones around them,” he said.

There are drones now on the market that can be programmed to follow you as you move, such as the tech company FlyPro’s XEagle Sport drone, camera company DJI’s Mavic Pro and tech company Ehang’s Ghostdrone 2.0. The newly designed autonomous Staaker drone is expected to hit the market in June.

But as such new fitness devices emerge, they could come with a hefty price tag.

As for the devices already on the market, smart socks and smart rings can cost about US$200 respectively; smart shirts, smart shorts or smart leggings can cost up to US$400 each; a personalised computer coach can range from an US$80 sensor to a US$450 investment; and your own drone might set you back US$500 or more.

For an athlete training to win, the cost can be worth it, said the Legacy Sports Institute’s Lee. It’s just a matter of finding the right device for the right goal.

After all, a 2014 report from the UK-based market research group Juniper Research projected not only that fitness wearables will remain popular but that the use of fitness wearables will increase nearly threefold by next year.

Training for a marathon? “You want to make sure that’s something that can track your heart rate, your work load, your pace, the calories burned so you know you’re getting the right hydration and nutrition,” Lee said.

Need to lose weight? “We want to make sure that you have a trackable device that can calculate the calories burned. That’s the big focus with weight loss: making sure we’re burning enough calories to lose the pounds,” she said.

For professional athletes in particular, “they are always looking for any technology that can help make them be the best athlete they can be,” Lee said. “If it is something that can really enhance the performance level of an athlete, if it is viable for an athlete to be able to afford, they will spend the dollar to be able to meet their peak performance.” (

The Budget and ICT

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:18

There has been some mild muttering about the absence of any major ICT development or projects in the 2018

The acronym doesn’t appear at all in the formal budget statement for 2018 and the only mention of technology appears in a paragraph promising greater efforts in the area of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

That might seem odd, given the oft-stated importance of technology to the diversification agenda, and the government’s responsibility for institutional development.

But that’s only true if you persist in trying to understand the Government as a managerial institution, which it nominally is, rather than a living collective, an organism composed of both unitary and complementary interests.

It’s been 12 years since I had that inadvertently explained to me over lunch in a business meeting in my the last corporate office I worked in.

A very tiny number of folks already know that I served a two-year contract as a communications professional at a state agency in the local energy sector.

I was still in my first year of blissful naiveté, waxing poetic about a computer-based touchscreen installation that would dynamically tell the company’s history when a normally silent member of the exploratory committee cleared his throat.

“Ahmmm...” he said, “I not seeing how this going to get us votes.”

There have only been a few times in my life when I haven’t had a sharp or at least witty rejoinder for an interruption. This time I just watched my conceptual wicket fall, the bails and stumps of thought tumbling away in slow motion.

It was then I came to understand, with a clarity that history, economics and civics had denied me, the cohesiveness of the political animal.

Like any savvy beast, its first need is survival and politicians eat, drink and breathe votes.

That’s why TTConnect, a web-based governance delivery system on which, I am advised, some $600 million was spent, became the most expensive download site in Internet history.

If it had achieved its goal of automating routine government services, it would have cut deeply into public sector employment, thereby reducing salary based payoffs for…votes.

To get an instruction in how this works, observe the process for paying a traffic ticket. There are three people involved in taking your money, one to write a document to process your payment and one to check it before passing it to cashier.

This is a government service that could be implemented online with little effort and probably prompter compliance, but it would reduce the constituency.

From the government’s perspective it is already busy on the ICT front with the Global Services Programme, which it has assisted the IADB in implementing.

Every other major project it might consider implementing has no clear value proposition before another election is due.

The simple truth is that successive governments have chosen to expand their recipient constituencies in the public service and through government work contracts.

When the Finance Minister complains that the private sector is indolent and uncreative, he is chastising a child grown to adulthood in the care of himself and his peers who has come to expect cookies to be readily available in the jar.

Projects designed to create significant diversification of the economy, it is becoming increasingly clear, will demand that politicians separate the vote repayment process from the necessary development of hundreds of nimble, globally focused business efforts that emerge from the ground up.

A 2016 advisory paper on BPO projects in T&T cites successful projects initiated by Direc One and iQor (call centre, customer support), Scotiabank and RBC (backoffice services).

According to the report, these services have added 2,200 jobs to the employment mix.

Despite the T&T advantage of generally solid writing skills and a command of English, the report does not point out that all of the areas in which the country has had success are being aggressively targeted by artificial intelligence driven software development.

The IADB’s Global Services Programme proceeds with a greater awareness of this looming challenge, providing an environment in which skills upgrading can be cost effectively pursued by businesses with significant ICT components.

Technology, in the Government’s collective mind, is summarised by the Public Sector Investment Programme document, which explains in greater detail the implementation of the provisions of the 2018 budget.

According to that document, “The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is viewed by Government as one of the major ways to improve the efficiency, productivity and capability of its services and operations.” “In so doing, the sector plays a critical role in facilitating investment and the ease of doing business.”

In support of those goals, $63.3 million is earmarked for spending under the Public Sector Reform Computerisation Programme, which details spending on hardware and software, but makes no mention of systems design for purpose or any measurable plan to measure the impact of this spending on the customers meant to be served by these initiatives, the public of T&T.

Instead, there is a proliferation of buzzwords, “networking,” “computerisation” and the always reassuring “surveillance,” with no indication of how they will improve lives of the citizens who finance them.

Water going down in Manzanilla

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:05

Some parts of Manzanilla Road remained under flood water yesterday, making it impossible for small vehicular access. In fact, only trucks were once again able to traverse the roadway with caution.

There were dire consequences for some motorists in smaller vehicles who attempted to go through the floods, as they quickly got into difficulty, their vehicles stalled and they had to wait to be pulled to higher ground by passing trucks.

Backhoes from the Sangre Grande Regional Corporations were also busy clearing clogged drains along the road to ensure a faster run-off of water to the sea.

Many taxis operating the Mayaro/Sangre Grande route have also told passengers they will not be operating until the flood waters recede.

At Mafeking, villagers told the T&T Guardian many of them were still marooned in their homes as flood waters were still high. But come of them of them could not wait and utilised pumps to drains their properties of water so they could remove damage furniture and appliances. Residents in areas were the flood waters had receded were meanwhile seen power washing their yards.

Mafeking resident Jimmy Dhunda told T&T Guardian workers from the Mayaro/Rio Claro Corporation and CEPEP came to the village but focused on clearing debris from the roads. He said soldiers also visited the community last evening, but only took some information and left.

He said the one positive was that the water level in the Ortoire River had dropped so they were hopeful there would be no more flooding.

Couva womanfound dead

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:05

Homicide officers were up to late last night at Balmain, Couva, investigating the murder of Chandroutie Harrylal.

According to a police report, at about 5 pm a male relative arrived at her Cameron Street home to find her dead. She was found lying on the floor of her bedroom.

Police said the woman said the house was ransacked and they believe robbery may have been the motive.

An autopsy is expected to be conducted on the body today at the Forensic Science Centre, St James, to determine the cause of death. — RD

Ministry warnsof fake floodrelief drive

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:03

Even while the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), regional corporations and other state agencies are battling to bring normalcy back to the lives of thousands of citizens affected by the flooding, there are those up to no good.

In a release yesterday, the Ministry of Health advised that there were people who were pretending to be collecting flood relief aid on ministries’ behalf. The ministry said no entity has been authorised to embark on any donation drive on its behalf or that of the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government.

It said although the individuals conducting the unscrupulous act appear to have an authentic document, which is laminated and bears the stamps of the Ministry of Health and a Regional Corporation, it is not legit.

The ministry asked anyone with information about the person(s) conducting this activity to contact the Arouca Police Station at 640-6138/7647 or your nearest police station.

ODPM, regional bodies in b

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:03

As the criticism over why there was slow, poor or no response in some cases to the recent nationwide flooding continued yesterday, the Office of Disaster Preparedness Management (ODPM) attempted to distribute some of the responsibility by pointing fingers at the regional corporations.

In attempting to explain why there may have been no response to some calls for help, ODPM second in command, Capt Neville Wint, told the T&T Guardian that affected people were lodging complaints with them because phones were ringing with no answer at regional corporations. He, however, noted that at the ODPM there are no issues with their call centre lines—800 ODPM, 511 or 999.

“Our emergency numbers, the people are getting through with but there are some issues with the regional corporations’ numbers. I am being told that they are not being answered…the phones are said to be ringing but on our end (ODPM) the calls are cued and answered,” Wint said.

He added: “When we receive the information we now have to have it transmitted to the regional corporations for assessment and action.”

Meanwhile, information via the ODPM’s social media platforms picked up from Sunday, with citizens receiving frequent updates and information regarding flooding and relief efforts.

Contacted on this claim, however, Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein questioned if Wint was sure what he was talking about. Hosein countered that he was getting good reports on an hourly basis from the ministry’s disaster relief management co-ordinator Rishi Siew.

“Up to today (yesterday) I have been collecting relief items from the corporate citizens to give out to affected people and Rishi has been giving me updates from all 14 regional corporations because he is in constant contact with them,” Hosein said.

Siew, who was with Hosein at the time of the T&T Guardian’s call, also denied Wint’s statement.

“All the emergency numbers at the regional corporations are fully functional. In fact just today (yesterday) I contacted six regional corporations via their 800 numbers and all were answered and I got all the necessary information I needed for my report. In fact, furthermore, I myself use the numbers everyday to contact officers.”

Hosein expressed full confidence in Siew and the regional corporations’ relief efforts.

“Since after Tropical Storm Bret and now, I have found Siew very efficient and I have full confidence in him than anybody else…I’m sure you can read between the lines.”

Meanwhile, with an active tropical wave approaching the southern Windward Islands, T&T is expected to experience light to moderate showers with a 30 to 40 per cent chance of heavy showers or thunder showers in a few areas.

According to meteorologist Bagwandeen Ramdatt, the main area of activity is forecast to remain north and east of T&T. Street/flash flooding is also likely in areas of heavy or prolonged downpours and gusty winds may accompany thunder showers.

In preparation for this continued weather activity, Wint yesterday assured the ODPM is well prepared.

“We have been in contact with the DMUs in the regional corporations and they have been briefed in keeping with the Met Office bulletin. On taking the necessary preventative measures to warn people and activate their systems, we are asking people to be vigilant and go with the advice issued and given in responding to possible flooding,” he said.

Asked about the pending shake-up of the ODPM announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Wint said he had no comment.

“The PM and the Minister of National Security has expressed their position on what is to be taken and I am subject to that statement,” Wint said.

Following a tour of Sangre Grande and Mayaro on Sunday, Rowley came down on the ODPM’s deputy chief executive officer Dave Williams for the failure of the body’s disaster response mechanism last Wednesday, when floods first began affecting citizens.

2,000 emergency calls received

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:02

After seven days since adverse flooding throughout several communities in Central, North and South Trinidad, landslides and fallen power lines, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) says it has so far received just under 2,000 reports of affected people.

In a release yesterday, the ODPM said regional co-ordinators took the reports from six regional corporations’ disaster management units. The regional corporations included: Penal/Debe, Siparia, Mayaro/Rio Claro, Sangre Grande, Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo and Princes Town.

The T&T Defence Force teams have also been deployed to do Damage And Needs Assessments (DANA) in the affected communities.

According to the ODPM, the following activities have been recorded in impacted regional corporations:

Penal/Debe Regional Corporation: 265 reports received.

Siparia RC: 250 reports.

Mayaro/Rio Claro RC: 800 reports.

Sangre Grande RC: 76 reports.

Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo RC: 248 reports.

Princes Town RC: 350 reports.

New floods hamper South clean-up efforts

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 22:01

[email protected]

Thunderstorms yesterday hindered clean-up operations in parts of South and East Trinidad, bringing with it more flood waters.

A Meteorological Service bulletin that warned of an active tropical wave east of the islands also caused more fear for citizens, especially those living in Woodland, Mayaro and Manzanilla where water levels were still between four and six-feet high.

Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government senior disaster coordinator Rishi Siew said while flood levels in most affected areas had subsided, water levels were still rising in Barrackpore and Penal, while there were flash floods in Claxton Bay and San Fernando. He said all 14 regional corporations were feverishly cleaning up but the approaching tropical wave will pose a challenge.

“As long as the corporations keep with the process we’ve put in place we will get through as quickly as possible. The tropical wave will delay us a bit in terms of cleaning as the water levels rises again,” Siew told the T&T Guardian.

Siparia Regional Corporation chairman Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh said just as Woodland residents were optimistic when water levels dropped, the reports of more rains to come was frightening. He said residents still have to depend on charity groups and the corporation to supply them with meals daily as many, especially the elderly, have been trapped in their homes since last Thursday.

Shelters have been set up in the various communities, but Siew said people prefer to stay in their homes.

Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said crews have also been deployed to clear watercourses, but noted the work is dependant on the weather conditions.

At Mosquito Creek, South Oropouche, where additional pumps were sent to clear the Southern Main Road, water accumulated again. Sinanan said the massive flooding over the weekend was due to a blocked channel, which has since been cleared.

He said there were no measures that could have been implemented to mitigate the flooding over the past week, noting the amount of rainfall from Divali into the weekend was equivalent to a month’s worth of rain. He said all the ministry could do now was ensure all watercourses remain clear, which must be an ongoing process.

Going forward, he said previous studies on floods and drainage will be reviewed. However, he said it was known for decades that certain low lying areas would always flood. He explained that many of the areas where water would settle in years gone by were replaced with houses, shopping malls and businesses, resulting in the water having to find new areas to flow.

“If you look at Woodland, that area would have usually retained water in heavy downpours. Now, these areas are developed and this is the challenge we face throughout Trinidad. With the volume of water we got in the last few days, the channels just could not handle it and there were spillovers,” Sinanan said.

PM for disaster talks in Belize

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley leaves today for a Caricom-Mexico Summit on natural disasters in Belize.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said the main theme of the summit will be co-operation for prevention of and treatment of natural disasters, an area in which Mexico has experience and institutional capacity.

Foreign Service Officer Akilah Seale will represent the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs. An earlier statement stated that Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dennis Moses will accompany Rowley to the meeting but was later amended to exclude the minister.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow will co-chair the one-day summit which aims to consolidate the progress of the III Caricom-Mexico Summit (Merida, Yucatan, April 2014).

The talks further endorse the importance Mexico places on co-operation with the Caribbean in matters of security, migration, climate change mitigation and the prevention of natural disasters.

The Government of Mexico will provide air transport for T&T and other Caricom delegations to and from Belize, City.

Rowley returns to T&T on Thursday. In his absence, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert will act as Prime Minister.

Five hurt in two shooting cases

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

Five men were shot in separate incidents in Moruga and San Fernando on Sunday night.

Police said Lorenzo Rostant, 22, Kevin Morgan 22, Jonathon Alphious 22 and Matthew Toussaint, 20 were near Rampersad’s Bar in Basseterre when gunshots rang out.

Patrons scampered for safety and later found the four men with gunshot injuries to their hands and legs. They were taken to the Princes Town District Health Facility where they were treated then transferred to the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) where they remained warded in stable condition yesterday.

Investigators said they have not been able to get information about the incident as no one reported seeing anything.

Meanwhile, two men are in police custody following a drive-by shooting along Mount Moriah Road, San Fernando. Up to yesterday, the victim’s name was not revealed, but police said he is warded at hospital.

At around 5 pm, the victim was walking near his home when the vehicle passed and an occupant opened fire. Police on patrol spotted the suspects and held them after they crashed while attempting to escape. Three guns were recovered, including two loaded, high-powered automatic rifles, were recovered.

Man killed while holding baby

A man who ignored a feeling of “bad vibes” and went to visit the mother of his children was shot dead on Sunday at Maracas, St Joseph.

Anthony Douglas was holding his one-month-old child when he was shot. The child was not hurt, police said.

The 31-year-old farmer planted chive and thyme. Police said the killing took place around 5.55 pm and had no motive for the killing.

In a separate killing which took place in Petit Valley on Saturday, police identified the victim as Nigel Rudder. Police reported that Rudder’s body was found around 6 am by residents of Eagle Drive, Simeon Road, Petit Valley. Rudder, 31, died from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Garcia: Budget cuts for school feeding programme

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

Despite 2018 budget cuts for School Feeding Programme funding, all students in T&T will still get breakfasts and lunches, says Education Minister Anthony Garcia.

“We’re not cutting the quantum of meals served,” Garcia stressed as he was questioned about the matter during yesterday’s final day of Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee scrutiny of 2018 Budget documents.

Garcia confirmed the 2018 School Feeding Programme will be $43m as a result of funding reduction. He, however, assured students would not be disadvantaged.

“Discussions have been held with the Schools Dietary Services to ensure no student is affected and we’re also talking to our caterers to ensure all students receive,” he said.

Garcia also confirmed funding cuts to privately-operated Early Childhood Centres since he said information shows some operators are not interested in this any longer and others are charging high fees despite receiving Government subvention.

Garcia said the Education and Health Ministries will be taking information to Cabinet soon to treat with students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This is a mental disorder characterised by problems of paying attention, excessive activity, or difficulty controlling behaviour. Children with ADHD may find it more difficult to focus and complete schoolwork.

In 2016, UNC MP Dr Suruj Rambachan piloted a motion — supported by Government — on the need to treat with children with ADHD and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), which both affect him. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ayanna Webster-Roy said the motion resonated with her because of suggestions her son may also be afflicted with this.

Garcia confirmed funding cuts for several programmes as well as the University of T&T — whose board will soon work out which programmes would be affected by this and the National Training Agency among others.

When UNC’s Dr Tim Gopeesingh expressed concern about the cuts, Finance Minister Colm Imbert asked what Government should cut to be able to provide for all the programmes.

Following yesterday’s scheduled SFC conclusion, the debate of the 2018 Budget begins at 10 am today in the Senate. This concludes Friday.

$5m to relocate squatters

for Sando waterfront project

The Planning Ministry has allocated $5m for 2018 to for temporary relocation of squatters as a result of the San Fernando Waterfront project ahead, Planning Minister Camille -Robinson-Regis said yesterday.

At yesterday’s Standing Finance Committee, she said sites haven’t been located yet, but the $5m will deal with site planning and building structures for the squatters.

She also said Government has paid a total of $14.4m so far to sugarcane farmers in settlements owed. She said 1,153 accepted payments under $12,000 and 2,328 fall into the category for payments over $12,000. A third phase involves 2,300 other farmers. No court action is pending. “We told them there’s a certain amount to be accepted and some of them accepted it,” she added.

Robinson-Regis said the Ministry is up to the level of “a six” (out of ten) where Central Statistical Office efficiency is concerned. Recommendations on climate change programmes in synch with the Paris accord will soon be taken to Cabinet, she added.

Barrackpore/Princes Towntaxi fare to increase by $1

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

The Princes Town/Barrackpore Taxi Drivers Association has announced a $1 increase in fares which will go into effect on October 30.

Association president Chandranath Rampersad said that will not fully cover the increased cost of operating and maintaining their taxis but they understand the plight of passengers who also have higher bills to pay. He said all factors were considered during a meeting at his residence on Sunday.

“We have to now dip more into our pockets for tyres and to repair the wear and tear on our vehicles. I used to full my tank with $70 in the evening, now I have to pay way more and I use diesel,” he said.

“The prices have been increased by $1 and while it is not enough we will have to make it do. We cannot kill the public with too much of an increase. I don’t know how they will respond to this increase but we have no choice, we have to do it. It’s not fair to anybody but we have to go up with the price.”

Rampersad said the issue of higher taxi fares hit a snag last week when the now-defunct St Croix/Barrackpore Taxi Drivers Association were discussing increases which would have led to taxis along the route charging different prices. Ramesh Deena, attorney for the Princes Town/Barrackpore Taxi Drivers Association, sent a letter calling on the defunct association to cease lobbying for the drivers along the route or face legal action.

Fishermen denied bail in $40m cocaine case

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

Two fishermen jointly charged for possession of $40 million in cocaine for the purpose of trafficking were denied bail when they appeared before Siparia Magistrate Margaret Alert yesterday.

Junior Boyce, 34, of South Oropouche, and Emmanuel Gordon, 21, of Fyzabad, were advised to apply to a judge in chambers for bail and remanded in custody.

Alert said they were denied bail because of the seriousness of the offence and the quantity of drugs involved.

The men were arrested on Saturday after officers of the Southern Division Task Force executed a search warrant at Boyce’s home at Red Brick Trace, South Oropouche.

It is alleged that the police found a yellow compressor in a bedroom in which 25 packets were hidden, each containing a white powdery substance believed to be cocaine.

The compressor and cocaine packets were produced in court and tendered as evidence.

Court prosecutor Sgt Salazar said the drugs weighed 28.86 kilogrammes and the street value had been estimated by police service’s Transnational Organised Crime and Narcotic Unit.

Their attorney, Sade Lee Duprey, who asked the court to grant them bail, said Gordon, who was working at Boyce’s home, had one pending matter for marijuana possession, while Boyce had a previous conviction from several years ago for robbery.

Both men are expected to return to court on November 20.

Annisette: Cabo Star engineer quit over safety issues

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

Concerns raised by Estonian engineer Edurak Lasuk about safety issues on the Cabo Star are real and are being addressed by the ship’s owners, said Caribbean and Latin American representative for the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), Michael Annisette.

He said Lasuk submitted a report to the union two weeks ago detailing several concerns and as ITF representative and president of the Seamen and Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union (SWWTU) he had to determine the veracity of the complaint.

“We took it seriously, as the representative for the ITF we were duty bound to go and investigate, and it was in those circumstances that a contingent headed by maritime attorney Nyree Alfonso boarded the vessel last Saturday,” he said.

Annisette said he visited the vessel last Monday and surveyed the engine room, galley and other areas where he identified several areas of concern.

“The company gave timelines in which they will address the issues. We are dealing with a vessel where safety is of the utmost in terms of international best practice,” the union leader added.

Lasuk had been described as “a disgruntled employee” by vice president of Bridgemans Services Group Andrew Purdey who said: “We had the union and our ship managers attend the vessel and understand his concerns. The concerns are baseless and he has been removed from the ship.”

However, Annisette responded: “Those statements are calculated to mislead the public and compromise the union. We see the statement as unfortunate, regrettable and disingenuous.”

Lusak was employed on a three-month contract on September 25, but asked to be “removed” prematurely on the basis of safety concerns.

He left last weekend saying he could not work on the vessel.Another Estonian engineer left the country yesterday citing similar concerns about safety on the vessel.

“We were satisfied that some of the safety issues were genuine and required the intervention of the ITF,” Annisette said.

Annisette did not give details of the concerns raised by Lasuk, saying he first has to submit a report to the ITF. However, well placed sources told the T&T Guardian that among them was the leakage of oil from compressors.

On October 14, the sailing of the Cabo Star was delayed. Purdey said it was because the starboard engine had failed but Annisette said the delay was because of Lasuk’s departure.

“There was no replacement for him and they did not have the necessary personnel for the safe manning of the vessel,” he said

“We were able to source an engineer, a UTT graduate. I personally, along with union representative Tony Alexis, took the guy to the airport. He got on the 8.50 pm flight with some assistance from a senior Port official who contacted CAL and as a result the vessel was able to sail.”

MPs query early poll

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

Is the political leader of the United National Congress acting ultra vires of the party’s constitution by calling elections for the post of political leader a year earlier than scheduled?

Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the National Executive (NATEX), may not think so, but UNC MP for Chaguanas West Ganga Singh thinks the election for the post of political leader at this time is a breach of section 18 of the party’s constitution.

Singh has penned a letter of complaint to the UNC’s General Secretary Dave Tancoo seeking answers as to why the election for the post of political leader has been brought forward and has indicated to Tancoo that if he does not get a response within four days he will be “forced to consider other options in order to save the party from action that may be contrary to its Constitution and damaging to the party itself and the membership in general.”

Section 18 of the UNC Constitution states: “The political leader shall hold office for three years. All other elected National Executive Officers shall hold office for two years. They shall hold office until successors to their offices have been elected unless they resign or are removed from the office prior to the expiry of their tenure or their offices otherwise become vacant for any cause.”

Singh said from his reading, “the framers of our Constitution stated and intended that officers of the party and in particular the political leader hold or shall hold office for a fixed term,” unless they resign or are removed from office prior to the end of their term.

The UNC last held an election for the post of political leader in December 2015, and Singh is arguing there is no need for an election to that position before the next due date in December 2018.

The UNC release with the notice of the election is posted on the Facebook page of Persad-Bissessar. It said she had taken the decision to seek a fresh mandate from the party members as the party prepares for a general election.

But Singh said Article 18 of the Constitution “does not give the political leader the power to take a decision to seek a fresh mandate from the party members before the end of her three-year term.”

Tancoo told the T&T Guardian, “there is nothing that debars the political leader from seeking re-election at any point.”

He likened it to a Prime Minister seeking a fresh mandate at any point in their five-year term. He said he was yet to receive any letter lodging any concern about the election.

Singh insisted that the fixing of November 26, as the date for the election of the party’s political leader is ultra vires and/or in breach of the constitution and is, therefore, null, void and of no effect.”

Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoe Tewarie told the T&T Guardian: “I always believe that if you have a constitution you must honour the constitution and live by it.”

He said he found the leadership election this year “is a little premature because the political leader has a continuing mandate until next year. I don’t see why she cannot continue to honour her mandate. There is no challenge to the leadership as far as I am aware.”

Tewarie said there is “no demand for an early election and the executive election should be held as it is due and the leadership election should be held when it is due.”

He admitted he was in Parliament when the decision was taken for the November election.

Party chairman: Time right for fresh mandate

UNC Chairman David Lee told the T&T Guardian that Persad-Bissessar wanted to “revalidate her position as political leader. She decided to seek a fresh mandate.”

Asked why she thought she needed to do that a year before the election for the post is due, he said: “Given the state of the nation and lack of governance by the PNM administration, we don’t want to get distracted in the next coming two to three years. We feel that because of the lack of governance general elections could be held very, very soon.”

He said the party did not want to be “consumed with internal elections,” but wanted to be able to “concentrate all our energies on preparing for the general election.”

Lee said the for the past 25 months “the political leader has done tremendous work in rebuilding the party coming out of our defeat in the last general elections. Given the tremendous amount of work she did as the political leader and Opposition Leader she feels that now is a good time to revalidate her position.”

Persad-Bissessar had two challengers—Vasant Bharath and Roodal Moonilal—in the 2015 election.

She captured 17,502 votes, Moonilal 1,821 and Bharath 1,305. Moonilal said he is not contesting the election while Bharath is still considering his position.

The last election was marred by allegations of voter-padding and corruption. Lee said they were exactly that “allegations, they were never factual. I think the political leader and her team won fair and square. The UNC ran a transparent and democratic process,” he said.

The party general secretary Dave Tancoo said UNC elections have always been “free and fair.”

Govt begins process to establish TTRA

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

Anna-Lisa Paul

Government has embarked on the first phase of its plan to establish the T&T Revenue Authority (TTRA).

The move comes less than one month after Finance Minister Colm Imbert indicated in the budget presentation that the TTRA would be set up next year.

During a post-budget forum earlier this month, Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West said government was committed to transforming the country's revenue collection process through the TTRA.

Regarding the opposition's support which was necessary for its successful implementation, West said government had been exploring ways and means of establishing the TTRA without needing the two-thirds majority.

In a release yesterday, the Ministry of Finance revealed "mapping" exercises had already been undertaken at both the Board of Inland Revenue and the Customs and Excise Division.

Officials said, "The TTRA will subsume the powers, responsibilities and functions of the Board of Inland Revenue and the Customs and Excise Division under the provisions of the Exchequer and Audit Act and all other relevant revenue legislation and regulations."

They said the TTRA will be a government agency responsible for the collection of government revenue and the provision of other services for the protection of government revenue, including investigation of tax evasion, the conduct of audits and border protection.

Government has assured all categories of staff including permanent, temporary, contract, monthly-paid and daily-paid, that the transition will be done smoothly and without loss of employment as is being claimed by the Public Services Association (PSA).

Officials said, "Government has taken a decision that all staff in the Inland Revenue Division and the Customs and Excise Division will transition from their respective positions to the TTRA at terms and conditions, no less favourable than those that they currently enjoy, if they so desire."

"Any member of staff who desires to transition to the TTRA will be guaranteed a position in the organisation."

Officials said one objective of the TTRA was to better compensate, incentivise, train and equip staff to execute their duties more efficiently and effectively.

The ministry went on, "Staff who do not wish to transition to the TTRA would be able to remain in the Public Service at terms and conditions no less favourable than those they now enjoy."

Contacted on the issue yesterday, PSA President Watson Duke declined to comment immediately.

He requested time to study the information released by the ministry, adding that he would be seeking legal advice on the matter to determine if in fact government had found a "loop hole" around the legal requirements.

However, he said, "History has shown that those types of arrangements do not work."

He said this was evident in similar situations where workers were transitioned from the General Post Office to TTPost, from the National Housing Authority to the Housing Development Corporation, and from the Ministry of Health to the Regional Health Authority.

Duke said, "The workers and the public want a solution, but this is no panacea."

He said there was evidence worldwide to suggest Revenue Authorities, "Had strengthened or improved the collection of revenue."

IDB Advisor: Caribbean region in period of fiscal consolidation

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

Dr. Moises Schwartz, Inter American Development Bank (IDB's) Regional Economic Advisor for the Caribbean has said that all countries in the region are either already undertaking fiscal consolidation or are expected to embark on it soon.

“While the short-term focus is often on revenue measures and on reductions in spending for capital investment, deeper and more long-lasting measures will be required of the region's governments to achieve sustainable fiscal accounts while providing essential services and infrastructure.” Schwartz said

A release from the IDB yesterday said the latest installment of the IDB Caribbean Region Quarterly Bulletin was released during the annual Conference on the Economy (COTE) 2017, held at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

The IDB's Bulletin notes that there is no shortage of fiscal challenges in the Caribbean.

The bulletin said: "Commodity producers, accustomed to high growth and high revenue, were caught by the slump in commodity prices during the 2008 global financial crisis. While revenue fell immediately, expenditure only reacted slowly, leading to increases in deficits and debt while economic output contracted. A lacklustre economic performance in tourism-dependent countries, combined with high and rigid government spending, has led to a steady build-up of debt and interest payments. These policy decisions by several Caribbean governments have increased their macroeconomic vulnerability and have also reduced their fiscal and debt sustainability."

Schwartz further recommended that, “Institutional strengthening would better guide fiscal and economic policies across the Caribbean region.”

The bulletin also advocated the implementation of fiscal rules to buffer the effects of economic shocks.

"Institutions that anchor fiscal policy, such as fiscal rules, offer several advantages, especially in a region that is so vulnerable and prone to external shocks. Such rules institutionalise a political commitment towards budget discipline, render fiscal policy-making more predictable, and improve the quality of public financial management."

ICATT seminar coming in November

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

Top local economists will be presenting at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of T&T (ICATT's) Finance and Accounting conference scheduled to take place on November 9 and 10 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port-Of-Spain .

Dr. Terrence Farrell, Chairman of the Economic Development Advisory Board, and Dr. Vaalmikki Arjoon, lecturer at The University of the West Indies (UWI), are among the panelists engaged for the discussion on the topic - Heating Up The Economy - with fellow economist and strategic management consultant, Gregory McGuire, as moderator.

A release from ICATT stated that the timely panel discussion is scheduled for the morning of Day Two of the conference, which is considered the premier financial and accounting conference in the region.

At the opening session, Senator Aubyn Hill, Deputy President of the Jamaica Senate and Chief Executive Officer of Corporate Strategies Limited, will speak on the topic Leading the Pack, which is expected to set the tone for an exploration of business strategies that can support a return to a healthy economy.

The 2017 conference is expected to attract over 400 people from the business and accounting communities.

The conference theme - DRIVING THE UPTURN: The Transformation to Longer-term Prosperity - will focus on strategies to stimulate the local economy with the aim of achieving sustainable recovery.

A line-up of professionals in the fields of economics, finance and accounting from T&T, the wider Caribbean region, the UK and USA, have been recruited to speak on specific topics, moderate conversations and be members of various panel discussions.

12 schools reopen in Dominica

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

So far, 12 schools have reopened in Dominica and Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit expects “a greater number will be opened in the next week.”

Plans to reopen schools on the hurricane-ravaged island last Monday were delayed because of continuous rain.

At a daily news conference in Roseau yesterday, Skerrit said his government had received a number of tents, which would be erected on the compounds of schools which existed prior to the devastation of Hurricane Maria in mid-September.

He said with schools reopening, Cabinet would discuss the construction of temporary housing for people to be taken out of shelters so that their children can go to school.

The Prime Minister said in the next few days his government was expected to sign a contract for construction of Bailey bridges at locations across the country to reconnect communities. The bridges were procured from a friendly government in the region which he did not identify.

Skerrit also said the government was looking at a recommendation from the Chief of Police to change the current curfew hours from 6 pm to 6 am to 10 pm to 5 am and an announcement will be made soon. He urged owners of bars and restaurants to ensure patrons left their business places before the 10 pm curfew once it was instituted.

He again urged Dominicans to stop complaining and do what they could to assist each other and communities.

“We have volunteers, we have forces, we have police officers from the region and everywhere else who are sleeping in very difficult circumstances, but they don’t complain, they press on. They are here to help us,” he said.

Skerrit singled out the T&T contingent for mention saying: “We have the forces from Trinidad here, who have been exceptional in fixing things and building things for us.

“They don’t complain, instead, they are asking for more material to get more done.”

He told Dominicans: “We have genuine concerns and challenges let us bring them forward but we must come with suggestions to fix things.”

He urged a “greater demonstration of love and care” among Dominicans as the country seeks to rebuild in the coming months.

Skerrit leaves today for Brussels for talks on areas of collaboration and cooperation.

Region divided on IICA vote

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 21:59

A divided Caribbean vote is generating a keener than anticipated contest for the post of Director-General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as the hemispheric body prepares to meet this week in Costa Rica.

Sources close to the process say the fractured Caribbean vote is “unprecedented” in the history of the 75-year-old organisation established to promote agricultural development in the Americas.

Barbadian Chelston Braithwaite served as Director General between 2002 and 2010.

One interested party described the contest as “too close to call”, unlike previous encounters when the 14 Caricom member states of IICA voted as a bloc at the meeting of the 34-member Inter-American Board of Agriculture (IABA), comprising agriculture ministers.

Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, Clarence Rambharat confirmed that T&T would support Chile’s minister of agriculture, Carlos Furche for the post.

There had been early speculation that this country would have backed the other candidate, 65-year-old Argentinian veterinarian and consultant to his country’s Council on Foreign Affairs, Manuel Otero. The meeting is being held on Wednesday and Thursday.

Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia and Suriname are all expected to support Otero.

The Bahamas has, however, already confirmed its support for Furche. Barbados, Jamaica and Saint Lucia are also expected to lend their support to the Chilean.

Ortero had taken his campaign to Saint Lucia in August where he addressed Caribbean agriculture ministers on the margins of a meeting of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

An October 15 article in Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper says the contest has the potential to cause friction between the two South American neighbours.

Chile is an associate member of Mercosur and has a longstanding relationship with Caricom. It is currently negotiating a partial scope trade agreement with T&T.

Close to 90 per cent of the country’s natural gas supplies comes from T&T together with ammonia and methanol imports.

Argentina has close working relations with Caricom countries on technical assistance related to health, in particular.

Otero, however, made a strong pitch for his candidacy when he addressed the Caucus of Caricom Ministers of Agriculture in Guyana on October 5 during a meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (Coted).

The two South American candidates are facing off to serve a four-year term from 2018 to 2022.

The incumbent, Victor M. Villalobos of Mexico, has served two consecutive terms. He enjoyed bloc support from Caricom in the elections of 2010 and ran unopposed for the 2014-2018 term.

Otero is also virtually assured of support from representatives of the Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay which, together with Argentina, comprise the full members of Mercosur. The split Caricom vote has, however, opened the contest wide.