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CARIBBEAN NEWS SUMMARY for the week ending February 22nd, 2013

22 Feb

MONUMENT TO U.S.S. MAINE VICTIMS RESTORED IN HAVANA—02/16/13
In 1989, an explosion sank the U.S.S. Maine, which was docked in Havana’s harbor, killing 266 United States sailors. A monument to these sailors was dedicated 27 years later in tribute to the friendship between Cuba and the U.S. Now, a restoration project is underway to restore the monument. According to Timothy Hyde, historian of Cuban architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, this monument project is fraught with symbolism, “struggling to contain all the different historical episodes” occurring between the two countries since the Maine went down.

UN ENVOY SAYS HAITI NOT READY FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT—02/17/13
Nigel Fisher, United Nations Acting Special Representative, is disagreeing with the government of Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, stating that contrary to the government’s claims, Haiti is “not yet” ready for foreign investment. According to Fisher, some of the delay can be attributed to external partners that did not pay promised assistance. Fisher also cited the bidding process for contracts and concerns about an independent justice system as reasons for Haiti’s unpreparedness for foreign business.

U.S. TO BUILD TWO PRISONS IN HAITI—02/18/13
The government of the United States is planning to construct two prisons in rural Haiti. The new building is meant to end the serious overcrowding, disease, and violence currently occurring in the nation’s existing prison system. According to Carl Siebentritt, director of the Narcotics Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy, a prison will be built in Petit Goave and Cabaret, two coastal towns. The project is expected to cost between $5 million and $10 million, according to public records.

PRESIDENT OF CHINA PLANS VISIT TO ALLIES IN CARIBBEAN—02/19/13
President Ma Ying-jeou of China is planning to visit the Caribbean allies of the Republic of China. The date for his visit has yet to be determined, according to David Lin, Foreign Minister. Preparations for the visit have been under consideration since the end of 2012, but there is not a clear timeline yet, said Lin. Local media report that the Chinese president will visit St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Kitts and Nevis.

U.S. ASKED FOR AID IN CONTROLLING ARMS IN CARIBBEAN—02/20/13
Members of CARICOM have asked the United States for help to ensure that an international treaty, which is designed to regulate the global arms trade, will include a provision addressing small arms. This issue, among several others, was raised in a private discussion between CARICOM representatives and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. After the meeting, Holder said the Obama Administration has the treaty under review.

LEADERS OF CARIBBEAN NATIONS MEET IN REGIONIAL SUMMIT—02/21/13
The political leaders from Caribbean nations will meet in Haiti for the 24th Intersessional CARICOM Meeting of the Heads of Government. This is the first time the summit is taking place in Haiti, which took the CARICOM chairmanship at the start of 2013. The conference will host at least 11 heads of state and over 100 delegates. Attending the summit will be Haiti’s president, Michel Martelly, the Prime Minister of St. Lucia Dr. Kenny Anthony, and Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary and  General Ambassador.

JAMAICAN CHURCHES WILLING TO PAY PROPERTY TAXES—02/20/13
According to a spokesperson for the Jamaican Umbrella Groups of Churches (JUGC), a group that represents most of the island’s Christians, churches are willing to pay property taxes if that will help to generate funds for the federal government. However, the churches are not willing to pay taxes on weekly offerings. Church property taxes would represent part of a process designed to raise public revenue so Jamaica can apply for a long-term loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The churches have “substantial” real estate holdings, according to Rennard White, JUGC chairman.

JAMAICAN GOVERNMENT COMMENDED BY WORLD BANK—02/21/13
The World Bank commended the government of Jamaica on its economic initiatives, such as the National Debt Exchange (NDX), implemented to obtain the staff-level agreement recently reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to Marie Lucie Morin, executive director of the World Bank, the government is making all the right moves toward improving the nation’s economy. Morin said the World Bank is ready to help Jamaica in any way it can.

NHT UNDECIDED ON STATE OF SURPLUS—02/22/13
In spite of agreeing to a drawdown of $45 billion from its surplus over the next four years, the National Housing Trust (NHT) has not determined the status of the reserve at the end of that period, said Easton Douglas, NHT chairman. He said he does not have the details of the status but noted that the Trust projects it will have a surplus of $22.9 billion at the end of the financial year on March 31, 2013.

SHAW CALLS FOR FIRING MARKETING FIRM—02/22/13
Jamaica’s Opposition spokesman on finance, Audley Shaw, has called for the contract of SMB Worldwide Entertainment and Convention Venue Management Company, which addressed the promotion of the Montego Bay Convention Center, to be terminated. Shaw said the firm has performed “miserably” in its attempts to market the convention complex. Mikael Phillips, a member of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) said, however, that the contract, which was signed in July 2011, had been approved by a Cabinet of which Shaw was the Finance Minister. SMG has been receiving management fees totaling US$20,000 per month.

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