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Updated: 1 hour 5 min ago

US, Canada, Mexico pledge quick work to update NAFTA

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:03

US, Canadian and Mexican negotiators are pledging to work quickly to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, a 23-year-old pact that President Donald Trump has called the worst trade deal in history.

The first round of NAFTA renegotiations talks were wrapped up Sunday. The three countries said they planned to meet again in Mexico September 1-5, in Canada late next month and back in the United States in October.

They did not offer details on the five-day talks.

The negotiations are likely to prove contentious. US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer declared Wednesday that the United States “is not interested in a mere tweaking” of NAFTA and will seek an ambitious rewrite of a deal the Trump administration blames for hundreds of thousands of lost US factory jobs.

NAFTA did away with most barriers, including tariffs, on trade between the US, Canada and Mexico.

Trump and other NAFTA critics say the agreement encouraged manufacturers to move south of the border to take advantage of lower-wage Mexican labour. Lighthizer said the US wants a revamped agreement to do more to ensure that products are made in NAFTA trade bloc and specifically in the United States.

The Canadian and Mexican negotiators agree that NAFTA needs to be updated, but they have defended it as an economic success story for expanding trade between the three countries.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said at the start of the Washington talks that he hoped differences could be narrowed in the next round of negotiations. AP

Tourism Minister to meet with officials from Google, Airbnb and Uber

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:03

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is leading a delegation to the United States for talks with international technology companies as Jamaica seeks to position itself in a technology driven tourism and travel industry.

Bartlett, who is heading a three-member team, will meet with officials from Google, Airbnb and Uber in San Francisco during his weeklong visit.

“I know that many people fear the potential impact that technology-driven companies can have on the tourism and travel industry, but they are rapidly transforming things.

“The type of innovation these companies bring to the table must be embraced, and we must use the disruption caused by new technology to create greater efficiencies and manageable outcomes in the sector. We cannot be left behind and must adjust quickly,” Bartlett said.

Senior adviser/strategist to the tourism minister, Delano Seiveright said that Airbnb had long extended an invitation to Bartlett to participate in strategic meetings as well as to tour their headquarters.

“The meeting will advance initial discussions regarding an MOU signed in December between the Jamaica Tourist Board and Airbnb aimed at driving tourism growth and diversity. It will also focus on the participation of Airbnb as a sponsor and presenter at the upcoming Government of Jamaica/World Tourism Organisation/World Bank conference on Jobs & Inclusive Growth: Partnerships for Sustainable Tourism, scheduled for November 27-29, at the Montego Bay Convention Centre,” Seivwright said.

Seiveright said that Bartlett will tour and meet with senior executives of Google on Thursday.

He said the meeting will provide an opportunity for Google, the multinational technology company that specialises in Internet-related services and products, to explain its relationship with tourism boards and ministries worldwide.

Bartlett will also meet with senior representatives from Uber, the ride-sharing technology company which operates in 633 cities worldwide.

“Jamaica’s tourism sector has significant potential, but it will only thrive if we work as partners in building it,” Bartlett said.

“We have been placing emphasis on partnerships aimed at empowering our people to help foster tourism’s growth at the community level in order to build a sustainable industry that has a positive impact on the lives of every Jamaican,” he added. CMC

Girl, 4, killed in Valencia accident

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:02

A two-vehicle accident on the Valencia Stretch on Monday night claimed the life of a four-year-old girl and left another man warded in a critical condition at the Port-of -Spain General Hospital.

Lexie Baptiste, of Matura Village, Matura, succumbed to her injuries while doctors were trying their best to save her at the Sangre Grande Hospital. She was reported to have suffered a fractured skull and other bodily injuries in the accident.

Govindra Akaloo, who was seated in the back right seat of the B15 vehicle the family was travelling in, suffered head, facial and body injuries. The other members of the Baptiste family suffered minor injuries and were treated and discharged.

Police said around 8.30 pm Monday, a Coelho bread truck was heading west along the Valencia Stretch when on reaching near St Alban’s Road it is alleged the vehicles in front the truck slowed down. The truck driver pulled away from the left lane into the right lane and collided with the B15 the Baptistes were in.

Police from Sangre Grande, Valencia, the Fire Service and ambulances responded.

Little Lexie was removed from the car, placed in a police vehicle and rushed to the Sangre Grande District Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries. The other occupants of the car, which included the child’s mother Joan Mitchell, brothers Nigel and Nicholas and friend Akaloo, were later placed in a Fire Service ambulance and taken to the Sangre Grande Hospital.


PM tells media read GML story on Galicia probe

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:01

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Monday urged the media to read an April 16, 2017 T&T Guardian article written by Khamal Georges, saying it would provide answers to some of their questions involving the contract and operations of the Super Fast Galicia.

Rowley made the disclosure in response to a question posed to him during a news conference at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, following a meeting with Tobago stakeholders on the ferry fiasco involving the Ocean Flower 2 and Cabo Star on Monday.

In fielding questions from the media, Rowley was told by a journalist that since the Galicia’s departure from the sea bridge in April, he had indicated there was a possibility of criminal charges to come out of the award of the contract to the vessel.

Rowley denied saying that and drew to the media’s attention an April 16 T&T Guardian article written by Georges, stating that he preferred to chose his words very carefully.

“What I said was from the documents I have seen, I have good reason to believe that there would have been criminal conduct in those who carried out that Galicia contract. And I passed the matter to the Attorney General to advise me as to whether my view is supported.”

He added: “I will answer by asking you to read the article of Khamal Georges on April 16. What surprised me is the level of boldfacedness that attended the attempt to find a ferry in this year under this Government. And I say no more on that for the moment.”

The Galicia had served the T&T route since 2014, but was pulled by Trasmed after the company failed to secure a long-term lease from the Government and refused to continue on a month-to-month basis.

The lead article, headlined “Hyatt sends $1.3 million damage bill to Govt - Galicia causing quakes,” stated that the vessel had reportedly caused damage to the Hyatt Regency hotel estimated at US$200,000 (TT$1.3m).

Two letters sent by the hotel chain to UDeCOTT and the Port-of-Spain Infrastructure Company between September 2015 and May 2016 lamented the “daily disturbance and interruption” the vessel had caused. It said the “vessel shakes our hotel every time it moves, causing concern to guests as it feels like an earthquake.”

The letters were contained in a pile of documents forwarded to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who had started conducting a probe into whether there may have been any wrong doing in the Galicia deal.

Some of the documents now in the AG’s possession, which GML got hold of, also show that the Galicia was initially deemed unsuitable for the sea bridge.

Jamaica, Mexico sign MoU on multidestination travel

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:01

Jamaica has signed a memorandum of understanding with Mexico in the latest stage of a cross-nation strategy to grow multidestination tourism in the region.

“With bigger aircraft and larger capacity, it’s attractive to airlines to be able to make multiple stops,” Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said the island hoped to finalise the deal next month.

It followed the signing of an MoU with Cuba last May; part of a wider collaboration between the three countries and the Dominican Republic to boost marketing activity and encourage airlines to offer multi-stop routes within the region.

“With bigger aircraft and larger capacity, it’s attractive to airlines to be able to make multiple stops,” he said. “For tourists with three or four weeks’ vacation time it is particularly appealing.

“Airlines already do it a bit in the eastern Caribbean but now we want to offer it in the western Caribbean,” he added.

Bartlett said that Jamaica, Mexico, Cuba and Dominican Republic account for 70 per cent of all international visitors to the region, making it an attractive area for tour operators. He believed neighbours such as the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Haiti and Turks and Caicos could join the agreement in the future.

Bartlett said the country is currently 5.1 per cent ahead on UK visitor numbers than at the same point last year and presently forecasts between 221,000 and 223,000 visitors for 2017.


BVI to introduce tourism levy in September

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:01

British Virgin Islands to introduce tourism levy in September

Visitors to the British Virgin Islands are being advised an environmental and tourism levy of $10 will be collected on arrival at the ports of entry from September 1.

The government has said that the funds collected will be used to facilitate environmental protection and improvement, as well as the maintenance and development of tourist sites and other tourism-related activities.

The environmental protection and tourism improvement fund act, 2017, which was passed on June 9th 2017, and subsequently gazetted on June 12, states that all visitors arriving to the territory via air or sea are required to pay the levy.


Panama records strong increase in visitors from Europe

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:01

From January to May 2017, Panama received a total of 102,388 European tourists, a 25.4 per cent increase on the same period in 2016, according to data from the Panama Tourism Authority.

Visitors come mostly from Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, who choose Panama for its nature and culture.


Ethics in the tourism sector

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:01

Tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world, but little attention has been paid to the ethical marketing of the tourism product. Lohmann and Netto (2016) authors of the book Tourism Theory define ethical tourism as: “tourism in which all stakeholders involved apply principles of good behaviour (justice, fairness and equality) to their interactions with one another, with society, with the environment and other life forms.” The purpose of rules of ethics is to differentiate between good and bad human conduct and to provide the foundation for tourism providers in the Greater Caribbean.

Ethical issues can be detected within the behaviour and actions of the tourism human resource. In recent months, the world observed instances where airlines deprived air transportation to passengers as their staff overbooked flights.

This is, in fact, a grave ethical problem of which the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) states that denied boarding as a consequence of deliberate overbooking may be considered as discriminatory, in that it is based on a concept designed to meet the needs of one type of traveller while impacting another. Although the passenger incurs short-term negative effects, the airline company suffers long term negative effects.

As a result of technological advancement, these incidents now circulate all over the world in a matter of seconds, running the risk of damaging the company’s reputation and declining future sales. In order to secure repeat business, the proprietor must show the tourist that the operation concentrates on quality service, in an efficient and caring manner, with the desire to satisfy the expectations of the consumer.

Another platform in which ethical issues often emerge is in the promotion of tourism products and services. Published and online advertisement, social media, TV and brochure, are the most effective marketing tools used to promote the tourism industry and “sell” a location or product. However, the possibility may arise where misleading information and distorted media images are used for advertising.

Perhaps the greatest unethical practice within tourism is the frequent lack of congruence between promotion and product reality. In fact, anticipations that far exceed the reality of the traveller experience, results in disappointment and it is the tourist’s right to question “was the presentation of this tourist destination ethical?”

Greenwashing is an example of unethical promotion which issues misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice in order to appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is, with the intention of increasing sales.

According to The Guardian (2009), a well-known airline was reprimanded for greenwashing after one of its advertisements issued misleading claims stating that its flights had a smaller carbon footprint than a hybrid car.

Tourism in the Caribbean is highly dependent upon the environment and greenwashing is counterproductive to the Association of Caribbean States’ (ACS) focal initiative towards sustainable tourism.

It should be noted that nations differ in their attitudes toward lying and deception. While in collectivistic cultures, misleading advertising is considered acceptable, in individualistic cultures misleading advertising presents a major problem.

Nevertheless we must remember that stakeholders within the tourism industry such as tour operators, tour guides, transportation, restaurants and accommodation among others influence tourist numbers and behaviour towards the destination, as well as, the desire of the tourist to return in the future.

Moreover, the ACS is conscious of the importance of probity and public ethics and for this reason the directorate of sustainable tourism of the ACS encourages its member states and associate members to implement good ethical practice in tourism through the implementation of the indicators of the Sustainable Tourism Zone of the Greater Caribbean (STZC) within the criteria that corresponds to the social and ethical dimensions.

The ACS aims to improve training and public awareness on the importance of sustainable tourism by endorsing ethical best practices within the value chain of the tourism industry which include; tour operators, tour guides, transportation, restaurants and accommodation, for instance.

In order to achieve this goal, the Directorate of Sustainable Tourism has prioritised Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as one of its thematic areas. TVET is an umbrella term referring to the process comprising general education, the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, and knowledge related to the world of work (UNESCO, 2013).

Additionally, based on the aforementioned areas addressed by this field, the ACS developed a study entitled “Training for Careers in Sustainable Tourism” with a focus on TVET which indicates that ethics and spirit of work are some of the important competencies to be reinforced.

Regarding the aforementioned goal, the implementation of actions that lead to adequate attention and the necessary support to contribute to the productivity, professionalisation and growth of stakeholders within the tourism sector are imperative.

The tourism sector has the potential to make a valuable contribution to peace and to make positive social and economic impacts as long as all stakeholders commit themselves to the principles and values of ethics in tourism as it is our roadmap towards a better future.

This article was written by the directorate of sustainable tourism of the Association of the Caribbean States. Any comments or feedback should be submitted to [email protected]

Finance transformation roles

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:01

Management and career experts often advise finance professional about the importance of career pathways, and the value of creating well planned career development goals.

Having foresight and a clear head for the future can help ensure goals are made and met. Additionally, having a clear understanding of where you want to be and why within a defined timeframe will also create a clear path to the top to become a CFO.

However despite creating the perfect plan, career trajectories can often take off into realms and responsibilities that were not a part of the original script. This can be a blessing in some case, but a cause for disappointment in others.

No two career paths are the same, so ambitious finance professionals have a lot to think about when deciding on what role to take and which organisation. Finance professionals must be mindful to make sure they don’t travel a dead end road on their paths to success.

The pathway to the top can be tricky for those working in finance transformation. Too often, senior positions in finance transformation, shared services or outsourced functions have been seen as a graveyard for ambitions.

While some organisations prize the value that finance transformation brings, others still view shared services and outsourcing “merely as a factory for transactional, rules-based work.”

Keeping an eye on the organisational calendar is a good thing for those in finance transformation roles, in addition to understanding the corporate agenda and the leadership is key.

Organisations can change their plans and focus and, of course, they can also change their approach to business service models, often as a result of a change in top leadership.

Indeed, understanding the organisation’s corporate objectives is a cornerstone of getting on in the workplace and many CFOs are instrumental in defining that strategy and direction, especially when they get a seat in the boardroom.

With continuing challenge from businesses for the finance function to prove its corporate value, today’s finance leaders are tasked with ensuring that it operates in a smarter, essentially more efficient and more effective way. They must run their finance operations as cost effectively as possible, bring high quality stewardship and control to the organisation. They must also generate the critical financial and data insights that help the CEO and other senior executives in the business to make the right commercial decisions in what is an increasingly complex and volatile environment.

In their ambitions to become to become smarter, transformation of the finance function is a key priority for today’s finance executives.

It is apparent there is often a dual career path for finance professionals—a clear path to CFO through the so-called retained organisation with a distinctly different pathway through shared services.

At a time of rapid changes in markets, globalisation, technology, and management, the skills that leaders pick up in finance transformation roles can be transformative for the organisation as a whole. It is ACCA’s belief that the skills and capabilities that shared services and outsourcing leaders bring to the table need to be reassessed and revalue.

There are pros and cons of taking on a finance transformation role; that can be said for many careers and jobs.

Many finance transformation leaders are pioneers, the first occupants of their jobs and are therefore carving a new path that other can follow. But some organisations have been engaged in finance transformation for over 10 years; often seen as a lifetime in corporate history.

What happened to the previous transformation leaders?

If they have moved on into other, perhaps larger or more responsible, corporate roles within the organisation, the shared services job is probably not a career-ender. If the previous incumbents have taken on bigger roles in another company, it is likely that the organisation is seen as a best practice operation and a breeder of good talent. In either case, time in that shared services organisation need not always be a career-limiting move.

Racquel Moses, head of ACCA Caribbean and international projects


T&T calls for greater investment trigger manufacturing rebound

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:01

Innovation, investment and incentives have been highlighted as key to unlocking T&T’s manufacturing revival, with the government urging greater private sector investment to help boost growth and reverse foreign direct investment (FDI) outflows.

Broadening the country’s product offering and exploring new methods of production are key to developing T&T’s non-energy industry, which would subsequently create new sources of foreign exchange (forex) revenue, Paula Gopee-Scoon, the Minister of Trade and Industry, said at a trade and investment convention in July.

Gopee-Scoon told delegates at the convention that the government was looking at ways to support manufacturing operators.

“Under consideration at this time is a facility to assist small and medium-sized manufacturers, including those in the agriculture and agro-processing sector, which is expected to have the effect of directly increasing the available financial resources for manufacturers to invest in meaningful economic activities,” she said.

While traditional export agriculture contributes very little to the country’s trade balance, accounting for just $5m (US$740,000) in sales, or 0.01 per cent of GDP, in 2015, the related food, beverages and tobacco segment comprises 4.5 per cent of GDP and accounts for more than half (58 per cent) of manufacturing output.

Developing local capacity in these and other value-added lines of business is seen as key to achieving the government’s goal of doubling non-energy exports’ share of total trade, up from 15 per cent at present.

Gopee-Scoon’s public comments follow a recent interview with OBG, where the minister said certain regulatory measures would also be reformed to facilitate investment and ease business operations.

“The government has also approved and is currently implementing a national policy for special economic zones, which will provide for a new institutional, legislative and administrative framework through which public-private partnerships are encouraged and incentivised in strategic areas of national importance,” she said.

Among the incentives currently on offer are a free industrial zone programme, as well as tax reductions and exemptions for export-focused investment in local manufacturing. In addition, large-scale manufacturing and processing companies are eligible for Customs duty and value-added tax exemptions, while new manufacturing ventures can qualify for duty-free import of raw materials, such as machinery, equipment and packaging.

Some 3,485 ha of land have been earmarked for industrial and business development, adding to the 19 industrial parks already in operation in the country.

While manufacturing is one of the leading non-energy contributors to T&T’s economy, the sector has suffered a contraction in recent times following the closure of a major steelworks plant and weakening demand.

Manufacturing accounted for 7.8 per cent of the country’s GDP last year, according to official estimates, slightly down on 2015 levels of 8.1 per cent.

The March 2016 closure of ArcelorMittal’s iron and steelworks plant at Point Lisas has been cited as one of the major factors behind the sector’s slowdown. The divestment that followed the shutting down of the plant contributed to a net outflow of FDI from T&T and led to a substantial fall in investment in the broader Caribbean region, according to a new report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

The country’s negative investment flow reached $60m last year, with the report citing the Point Lisas closure, along with divestments in chemicals, chemical products and logistics, as the major reasons for the decrease.

The closing of the facility has also impacted downstream manufacturers, with businesses involved in the production of building materials and industrial supplies affected by the loss of local capacity.

Despite this drop in manufacturing activity, the sector maintained its position as the third-largest contributor to the economy in 2016, behind energy and services.

While the closure of the steelworks no doubt affected industrial output last year, the impact of ArcelorMittal exiting the local market has already been factored in to manufacturing performance, with further declines in output and GDP contribution unlikely.

Following proposed operational incentives from the government, the Ministry of Finance has also moved to support manufacturers, many of whom have faced challenges due to the decline of forex in the market.

The mid-year budget review, tabled on May 10 by Colm Imbert, minister of finance, stated that manufacturing revenues had been affected by a reduction in hydrocarbons earnings and the subsequent dip in available forex, with the energy sector experiencing cuts to expenditure and investment.

While funding for the sector remains steady, Imbert told Parliament the government would move to free up more forex for manufacturers, facilitating their dealings with overseas suppliers.

“In this respect, I wish to confirm that consistent with our drive to encourage local companies to become net earners of forex and/or to reduce our import bill, we have requested the central bank to give priority to manufacturing and trade whenever it intervenes in the disbursement of forex to the commercial banks,” he said.

This T&T economic update was produced by Oxford Business Group.

BHP to quit US shale business as annual profit surges

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest miner, reported a surge in underlying full-year profits on Tuesday and said it would exit its underperforming US shale oil and gas business, pleasing disgruntled shareholders who had called for a sale.

The Anglo-Australian mining giant, which is under pressure from US hedge fund Elliott Management to rethink its investment in oil and boost shareholder returns, was buoyed by a recovery in industrial commodities markets.

It generated more cash than even in some years of the mining boom, slashed net debt by nearly US$10 billion to US$16.3 billion and tripled its final dividend to US$0.43 a share.

Underlying profit of US$6.7 billion was below expectations for US$7.4 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, but the market focused on the lower debt and the company’s determination to exit US shale, pushing its shares up 1.2 per cent.

“Net debt looks very impressive… so the cash looks like it was applied to deleveraging versus extra dividends,” Shaw and Partners analyst Peter O’Connor said.

BHP joined other miners who have boosted payouts in the current earnings season to reward shareholders amid a resurgence in commodity prices. Rio Tinto and iron ore miner Fortescue Metals both paid record dividends, while Anglo American reinstated its dividend.

Facing calls from some shareholders to dispose of the shale business it acquired at the height of the oil boom, the miner said it was “actively pursuing options to exit.”

Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said the preference would be a small number of trade sales, but refused to give a timetable for quitting the business.

Fund managers including Elliott and Tribeca have been agitating for shale’s divestment, along with higher shareholder returns and the elimination of dual-structured Australia and London stock listings.

Tribeca welcomed BHP’s comments that shale was no longer core to the company.

“That was our approach. We didn’t see it fitting strategically in BHP. We think they can realise value ahead of market expectations for the US onshore business,” Tribeca analyst James Eginton said.

BHP Chairman Jac Nasser, who retires this year, has conceded the US$20 billion investment in shale six years ago was a mistake. Analysts have suggested the business could sell for about half that today. Reuters

Body of hiker found but remains in forest

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

The body of missing hiker Richard Baird was found yesterday but could not be air-lifted out of the dense Aripo forest.

Soldiers remained at the site last night and a fresh attempt will be mounted today to remove Baird’s body.

After almost three days of intense searches, Baird’s decomposing body was found near the trail where he went missing.

Around 11 am an Aripo resident, who was among members of the search team, found Baird’s body at the bottom of a precipice.

Baird, 55, a computer technician at State-owned energy company Petrotrin, was heading to the Hollis waterfall with a group of 65 other hikers when he got lost.

A National Operations Centre helicopter was unable to airlift the body from the remote location due to the density of the forest.

Police said that the method was selected over hiking through the forest with the body as they wish to preserve it as best as possible for an eventual autopsy. Villagers were ferried by helicopter late yesterday to help clear an area for the aircraft to land.

A team of crime scene investigators were also airlifted to the site and took photographs of the location and the body, as homicide detectives have not received enough information to deem his death an accident.

The helicopter’s first attempt to remove the body yesterday was delayed as the rescue team did not have sufficient rope to facilitate the attempt. Even though the additional length of rope was quickly sourced, it was still not enough to lower a basket to the site due to the topography of the area.

Members of the search and rescue team suggested that Baird may have died shortly after he went missing on Saturday.

In an interview at the assembly point, Baird’s son Kern thanked the members of the protective services and the villagers for their dedication and assistance.

“All I did was leave home and come to the assembly point each morning. People left their jobs and homes each morning to help find somebody they did not know and they did everything possible,” Kern said.

He also stated that he would not give up hope that his father was still alive until he sees his body.

“Even as they found a body I will wait until it is identified. I still have hope and faith,” he said.

Kern said he had suggested to his father to participate in the hike on Saturday.

“To be honest I did encourage him to go when I heard about the hike. He has been hiking longer than I know myself because he introduced me to hiking through Cub Scouts. He was familiar the bush,” Kern said.

Baird, of Rousillac, went missing around 2.15 pm on Saturday. He had reportedly stopped to rest when he went missing. The hiking club members returned to look for him but were unsuccessful.

The persons who participated in the hike are expected to be re-interviewed by police once Baird’s body is recovered.

Superintendent Neville Sankar is coordinating the recovery efforts and police investigation.

His family described him as a frequent hiker but said that it was his first time in Aripo and that he is suffering from a knee injury.

Unions prepare to meet with PM

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

Up to late last night leaders of the trade union federations were in a meeting over the discussions to be held with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley today.

Official correspondence was received from the Office of the PM regarding a requested meeting between Rowley and leaders of the three Federations - Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM), National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN).

That meeting is set for 2 pm.

On Friday, JTUM’s Ancel Roget hand delivered a letter to Rowley giving him a two-week deadline to meet with them on pressing matters including its “forced” withdrawal from the National Tripartite Advisory Council.

In the letter, the Federations disclosed that numerous attempts were made to meet with various Ministers, including Finance Minister, Colm Imbert, to seek redress on several issues that fall under their purview.

“The issues of rising crime with the high numbers of murders; poor health care; increased cost of living with rising prices; hardship to pensioners, retirees and our senior citizens; austerity measures with wage freeze and mass retrenchments particularly in the State Sector; falling productivity levels; and vast inequity with the unfair sharing of the burden of adjustment to citizens,” the letter read.

“In addition, the abuse of power and authority; growing allegations of corruption and the increasing instability within the industrial relations climate are all manifestations of poor governance, a recipe for total chaos,” it added.

FITUN’s Remy said that for them to return to the Council they will have to meet with Rowley where they will propose that their return will be based on “conditions.”

PM Rowley’s comment upsets Bridgemans boss

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

Vice chairman of Canadian-based fast ferry service provider Bridgemans Services Group LP Andrew Purdey, yesterday said he was willing to give a detailed interview and hand over all contractual documents relating to the Ocean Flower 2 to sole investigator Christian Mouttet.

Mouttet was hand-picked by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley last Tuesday to investigate the procurement process of the Cabo Star and Ocean Flower 2 vessels, which are now embroiled in controversy.

Purdey said his decision to return to Trinidad to cooperate with all investigators was prompted by inaccurate statements made by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley at a press conference in Tobago on Monday.

During a press conference at the Magdalena Grand on Monday, Rowley suggested that he believed something had gone drastically wrong and crooked with the Ocean Flower 2 transaction, a sentiment which was reported in all the media yesterday and the night before.

Yesterday, Purdey said while he would not comment directly on the PM’s statements, he was prepared to provide any information that he (the PM) would request of him.

“He (Rowley) has got his information, but I am prepared to provide any information that he or anyone else wants because there is a saying that goes...the truth shall set you free and we should be focusing on the truth,” Purdey said.

In an email sent to Bridgemans Services president Brian Grange, Port Authority of T&T acting general manager/CEO Charmaine Lewis and its deputy chairman Adrian Beharry, which the T&T Guardian received a copy of, Purdey raised issues about his company’s name being discredited in the media in relation to the Ocean Flower 2 contract.

Purdey said he had received several news reports that Rowley had suggested the contract “we negotiated with PATT regarding the Ocean Flower was crooked.” He questioned “why Bridgemans need to defend the truth when it is your own Government that you can talk with and set the record straight.”

He said every stage of the negotiation process was conducted with the highest level of ethics and professionalism and was done in front of PATT’s board.

“Why should we need to be dealing with this? We will need to get to the bottom of this wasteful and inaccurate information that is damaging Bridgemans,” Purdey insisted in his email.

In a brief telephone interview, Purdey said he had no problem with surrendering all documents to Mouttet and any other authority investigating the procurement process involving the vessels.

“If they ask us too, yes, we will hand over all documents and conduct interviews. We will give full disclosure and the sooner the better,” Purdey said.

“I am planning on coming back to Trinidad very soon to set the record straight and we want the truth out there. We categorically deny every wrong doing on Bridgemans’ part. Everything that the contract had was done using the highest standard of international law.”

He maintained that Bridgemans and PATT held discussions every step of the way, including the ship selection.

“So we want the investigation to be conducted as soon as possible,” he said.

He steered clear, however, on saying whether reports that the Ocean Flower 2 was still on its way to Trinidad were true, saying: “That’s a matter of contract between us and the Port.”

Cop’s wife charged for 440 fraud offences

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

A wife of a police officer appeared in court yesterday on 440 charg

Tinisha Gosine-Ramdass was also jointly charged with her husband, Insp Darryl Ramdass, on nine charges in contravention of the Wildlife Act for being in possession of protected birds.

Of the 440 charges laid, the largest number of charges to be laid against someone by the Fraud Squad, 126 were on money laundering offences, 127 on falsifying accounts and 127 on larceny servant in the sum of $2.8 million.

Gosine-Ramdass, of Princes Town, appeared yesterday before Justice of the Peace, Ackbar Khan. She was remanded in custody to reappear before a Princes Town magistrate today.

The charges were laid by Sgt Samuel of the Fraud Squad following an investigation led by Snr Supt Totaram Dookhie.

Ramdass, 46, a detective attached to the Organised Crime, Firearms and Narcotics Bureau was arrested at the Piarco International Airport last Thursday after his office, based at the airport, was searched.

Gosine-Ramdass was subsequently arrested at her south home. They were charged after six days in custody.

Ramdass appeared before Magistrate Nanette Forde-John in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court charged with being in possession of five macaws, two toucans and two parrots without having relevant permits.

He was allowed to continue on the bail which was granted to him at the police station and ordered to reappear before the Princes Town Magistrate’s Court today. Ramdass has over 22 years service.

Ramdass was charged by detectives from the Fraud Squad shortly after they were served with a writ of habeas corpus requesting them to justify his prolonged detention.

The writ was due to come up for hearing in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday but was abandoned after investigators charged Ramdass and released him on bail.

Ramdass was represented by attorney Criston J Williams.

PM’s entourage caught in chaos

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

The Prime Minister’s security detail and other members of his entourage were among passengers who were told to disembark the T&T Express yesterday morning at the Scarborough Port, following the sudden cancellation of its sailing to Trinidad.

However, at about 4.41 pm passengers finally boarded for sailing to Trinidad after the technical problem which forced the delay was rectified.

The initial sailing of the vessel was scheduled for 6.30 am and expected to arrive in Port-of-Spain (PoS) at 10.30 am yesterday. It was then expected to depart PoS at 4 pm and arrive back in Scarborough at about 8 pm. However, the return sailing was cancelled due to the issues with the vessel.

This latest development came less than 12 hours after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley met with the Tobago stakeholders regarding the collapsed sea bridge, including the failed procurement of the Ocean Flower 2 from Bridgemans Services Group.

Yesterday’s delay and cancellation caused much frustration for passengers, especially the ones who visited Tobago over the weekend for the annual Great Race weekend festivities.

Many of them attempted to make alternative arrangements on the air bridge, but the T&T Guardian was told there were no available flights to Trinidad from ANR Robinson International Airport due to full bookings. The standby list had exceeded 150 up to press time.

Passengers described the situation at the Scarborough Port yesterday as “pure chaos.”

Contacted earlier yesterday, head of communications at T&T Inter-island Transportation Limited, Vilma Lewis-Cockburn, confirmed that electrical issues had caused the delay to the T&T Express sailing and that passengers were eventually asked to disembark. At about 4.40 pm, Lewis-Cockburn said the problem had been rectified and passengers had re-boarded for departure.

Speaking to the T&T Guardian under strict anonymity, a port worker said passengers were hurling abusive language in frustration when they were made aware of the issue.

“People with their children, their babies, sitting all on the ground frustrated. They don’t even know when they will get to go home after their little relax time. They stressed out. People cussing and quarrelling, begging for the sea bridge to be properly functional without hiccups. It really is a sad sight.”

When contacted for comment yesterday, president of the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce Demi John Cruickshank said it was time for the vessel to be “dry docked.”

Asked if he thought the problem yesterday could have been an act of sabotage, given that the PM’s official vehicles and officials were on board and he had just discussed the issue the day before with Tobago stakeholders, Cruickshank laughed and said: “I am happy that the PM and his people are feeling, first hand, the effect of what we Tobago people feel and go through on a daily basis, but sabotage is not something I would want to put on the table.”

He added: “Those vessels are very old and due for dry dock. I mean, literally, the T&T Express due for an overhaul. Given the vessel’s age I hope it is serviced properly.”

Former transport minister Devant Maharaj weighed in on this latest development yesterday, describing it as “continued incompetence and ineptitude.”

“Tobago is now essentially cut off from Trinidad. This administration, headed by a Tobago-born Prime Minister that campaigned on a ticket of good governance and transparency, has continued to bungle and botch the Tobago sea and air bridge connections without taking responsibility. The Prime Minister continues to protect the line minister, who has only distinguished himself in making excuses and passing the blame,” Maharaj said.

The T&T Express, built in 1997, was purchased by the government and commissioned into service on December 27, 2006.

ECCB offers re-assurance about safety of currency

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00


“The ECCB continues take steps to deter the circulation of counterfeit notes and to protect the stability of the Eastern Caribbean currency,” the ECCB said.

The statement by the ECCB, which serves as a Central Bank for Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat and Anguilla, follows an announcement in Grenada last week that counterfeit EC$50 (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) and EC$100 dollar notes were now in circulation here and that they had the serial numbers VM033672 and SR380132 respectively.

“The public is urged to exercise utmost vigilance and caution when doing business. Small business operators such as bus drivers, taxi operators, shop keepers, vendors and the likes are urged to be on their guard,” the police said in a statement.

ECCB Deputy Director of the Currency Management Department, Rosbert Humphrey said the Grenada police recently retrieved three counterfeit EC$50 notes and one EC$100 note.

But he insists there is no need for the public to be alarmed, adding that, of the banknotes throughout the world, the EC notes are known to have the most security features.

“However, the ECCB urges the public to be vigilant, particularly during the times of festivities, when perpetrators tend to engage in the production and circulation of counterfeit notes.”

Humphrey said that there are officers in the police forces and commercial banks across the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) who are trained to identify counterfeit EC notes.

“The public is reminded that it is an offence to be in possession of counterfeit EC notes. Individuals who are in possession of counterfeit notes or think they may have received such notes during their business transactions are asked to take them to the Police Criminal Investigation Department in their respective countries or to the ECCB Agency Office in their respective countries.” (CMC)

Sagicor gives up $0.20

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

Overall Market activity resulted from trading in 9 securities of which 1 advanced, 2 declined and 6 traded firm.

Trading activity on the First Tier Market registered a volume of 37,024 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $417,792.05.

JMMB Group was the volume leader with 22,163 shares changing hands for a value of $26,615.60, followed by TTNGL with a volume of 5,089 shares being traded for $119,337.05.

Scotiabank T&T enjoyed the day’s sole price increase, climbing $0.01 to end the day at $58.03.

On the Mutual Fund Market 6,671 shares changed hands for a value of $75,303.90. Bourse Brazil Latin Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 5,000 shares valued at $40,380.00. It remained at $8.08. Clico Investment Fund declined by $0.10 to end at $20.90

Tobago owner in tears

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

There were tears and a sense of hopelessness in Tobago yesterday, as members of the business community confirmed that the banks and suppliers are now demanding payment and threatening to put their properties up for sale.

Owner of the Enchanted Waters Hotel and Casino on Shirvan Road, Buccoo, 94-year-old Ken Patino admitted to the T&T Guardian that the business he and his 79-year-old wife and their son own and operate was facing such a consequence.

He said they were in arrears because of the decline in business due to the drop in tourism business and the lack of promotion of the island over the past few years. These problems, he said, had been compounded by the air and sea bridge issues in the past year.

Patino, who also owns a property in Mt Irvine, said he explained to the bank (which he identified) that he had done a valuation of the property in April and its value was put at five-and-a-half million dollars. He said he told the bank he had put the Mt Irvine property for sale and once it was sold he would be able to pay off his debt to them. But he said the bank refused to budge and indicated that the hotel will be put on the market this weekend.

Patino said: “We are struggling along with other businesses in Tobago trying to make ends meet.”

He said he found it “ironic that immediately after the Prime Minister met with stakeholders, banks calling for their money and advertising properties for sale. This is adding stress to our problems.”

The elderly businessman said he will not “lie down and play dead. I told the bank I want to pay the debt, we work 24/7, we will never surrender.”

All he needed, he said, was “time” but the bank has been unrelenting.

He said: “They took a unilateral decision, no consultation. I want to pay the mortgage and clear the air with the properties. But they said they will send their valuator to value the property. They seem to have taken a decision and it is not open for discussion,” Patino said.

“I asked the representative from the bank and he told me their decision was made and they will be advertising the property.”

With the time running out and with the loss of his property imminent, Patino is now appealing to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to intervene. He said when the issue was raised at the stakeholders’ meeting on Monday, the PM indicated he does not control the banks. However, he argued that the PM “has the power to ask Corporation Sole, the Minister of Finance, to intervene by speaking to the Governor of the Central Bank, who can call in the banks and ask them to assist.”

Patino said he was “ready to go on bended knee to the bank to beg for time until I see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Given the current situation, where businesses in Tobago have been sinking into a further abyss because of the air and sea bridge issues, he said “the banks must understand they too have a role to play.”

Contacted yesterday, former Tobago Chamber of Commerce president Diane Hadad confirmed Patino’s case but said it is unfortunately not unique now, as she lamented that other Chamber members recently had to “pitch in to help another member pay his bills.”

Hadad lamented that when the “former government was in power they introduced a $250 million loan guarantee programme, but the money never got to the people it was meant for.”

She said people were “in literal tears yesterday as not only banks, but suppliers started calling and demanding payment of outstanding monies.”

Suppliers, she said, were not interested in hearing that businesses “were in a backward state” because of the many problems they face.

“All they saying is they want their money,” Hadad noted.

Hadad said she was the one who raised the issue with the Prime Minister at the meeting on Monday, when he indicated he was not in charge of the banks. But like Patino, she said the PM has control over the Minister of Finance, who in turn can call in the Central Bank Governor, who has control over the banks.

An angry Hadad said: “Somebody draw the war cards, the swords are drawn. I am not leaving my business to go down.”

She said she had been contacted by Hotel and Tourism Association president Chris James, who informed her that several of his members were also concerned.

“People are crying. They say they will lose their businesses.”

She said many people were also upset that the Prime Minister “offered no resolution or hope.”

The T&T Guardian tried to contact the bank involved in Patino’s case without success yesterday.

Under-17 women face USVI in World Cup opener tonight

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 22:00

T&T’s Under-17 women’s football team will be hoping to make a winning start in its quest to qualify for the 2018 FIFA Under 17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay, when it takes on the US Virgin Island (USVI) in their opening Caribbean qualifier at the Ato Boldon Stadium from 7.30 pm tonight.

The game will be the second match of a double-header, with Grenada meeting Curacao from 5 pm. After three days of matches, only the top team will advance to the Caribbean Finals in Haiti.

The team has been in training for the better part of this year under Italian Carolina Morace and her staff. However, Jamal Shabazz took over the team when Morace and her staff pulled out, citing a dispute over unpaid wages.

Shabazz, who has coached women’s football team at national level for many years, has since had a number of solid sessions with the team and is quietly optimistic going into the match.

“We have prepared well with a few solid sessions and I think the players are all eager and ready for their first qualifying match. They have the experience of playing in a CONCACAF Championship in the past at the Under 15 level but this now is a different environment with a different cause. This is actually World Cup qualifying so they are aware of the importance and the meaning of these matches,” Shabazz said.

He added: “Looking at our opponents, we see that former national player Izler Browne is the coach of US Virgin Islands and I expect they will come here with some kind of preparation and will be no push overs and we have seen progress in women’s football made both in Grenada and Curacao.

“Neither of these teams will be run around and they will come here intent on causing an upset on the host team. But at the same time we believe in our ability and I expect our players will take each game on its merit and will put out the effort that is required to get us past this first hurdle,” he said.

The team will comprise a few US-based college players such as midfielder Sarah De Gannes, who is based in Alberta, USA, Kara Trotman, the niece of former national player, Mickey Trotman, who plays for Seattle Reign in Seattle and Annika Daniel of FC Bellevue in Kenmore.

Some of the home-based players include 12-year-old midfielder Kayla Baboolal of Biche FC in Biche, Aaliyah Prince of Success Laventille, defender Moines Mejias of Trinity Nationals and goalkeeper Chelsea Ramnauth of Fyzabad Secondary.

Apart from Haiti, which received a bye as hosts of the final round, the remaining 18 countries entered the first round, and were drawn into three groups of four teams and two groups of three teams.

The winners of each group advance to the final round to join Haiti, where they are divided into two groups of three teams, with the top three teams qualifying for the final tournament as the CFU representatives.

T&T, Puerto Rico, St Lucia, Guyana, and St Vincent and the Grenadines were automatically seeded in Groups A–E, respectively, as hosts of each first round group, while the remaining 14 teams were seeded based on the results of the previous two editions of the qualifying competition.

Three teams from the Caribbean advance to the CONCACAF Final round next year towards the 2018 FIFA Under 17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.