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News Round UP: Week Ending 2/27/16

Jamaica

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was on Thursday night declared the winner of the 2016 general election, after claiming 33 of the 63 constituency seats.

The ‘Labourites’ will now form Jamaica’s new Government, after the People’s National Party (PNP) only managed to win 30 constituency seats.

The December 2011 election, which resulted in the JLP being voted out of office after just one term, saw a 53 per cent turnout of electors, in which the PNP shocked the nation by capturing 42 of the 63 parliamentary seats. The remainder went to the JLP.

PARLIAMENTARY EMBRACE. Andrew Holness (left) and Portia Simpson Miller (right). Was it a kiss of death or a warm embrace shared by the party leaders, then, during a session in the Jamaican parliament?
PARLIAMENTARY EMBRACE. Andrew Holness (left) and Portia Simpson Miller (right). Was it a kiss of death or a warm embrace shared by the party leaders, then, during a session in the Jamaican parliament?

Thursday’s general election was the 17th since Universal Adult Suffrage in which Jamaicans won the right to vote in 1944, at a time when the country was still under colonial rule. The Jamaica Labour Party has now won eight elections to the People’s National Party’s nine.

Early indicators are that the swing factors among voters were the decision by the ruling PNP party not to participate in a series of national debates on how they plan to govern and ‘step up the progress’ and the fact that they made a campaign issue out of a house being built by the opposition leader Andrew Holness.

Exit polls also favored the JLP for its 10-point action plan and in particular, its revolutionary tax incentive for persons earning under J$1.5 million, which the PNP said could not work but without putting forward a plausible alternative.

“Questioning the integrity of the opposition leader and making it a campaign issue was not a smart move on the part of the PNP and at the end of the day, the electorate chose the better of the two con artists”, argued college graduate and first time voter Monica of St. James.

Interviewed by Power 106 FM, shortly after the election was decided, outgoing Minister of Education, Rev. Ronald Thwaites said graciously that the focus must now shift from winning to serving, contrasting the outgoing prime minister and party leader Portia Simpson Miller, who called for “no stones to be left unturned in a recount of all the votes, every single one”.

Days before the election, the manifestos of the two major political parties were dismissed by well placed commentators as ‘not good enough’.
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The Health Ministry has ordered the activation of the national influenza plan, days after Jamaica recorded a death linked to the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus or Swine Flu. The health ministry says nine cases of the flu have been recorded in the past two weeks. A tenth influenza case is being linked to another strain of influenza.

Caribzone_JamaicaThe health ministry says measures are being put in place through the National Emergency Operations Centre to prepare the health sector for any possible increase in the number of influenza cases.

The health minister says the ministry’s team has been instructed to ensure that the necessary resources are put in place across all the regional health authorities. Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Winston De La Haye says the ministry has noted an increase in influenza cases over the past six weeks. As a result doctors have been advised to report suspicious cases of influenza within 24 hour. Dr Winston De La Haye, said the health ministry had been facing difficulties in sourcing Tamiflu, an antiviral medication used to treat the Swine Flu. However, he says the government is now being assisted by the Pan American Health Organization. The Jamaica Labour Party has argued that there was a shortage of the drug because the government failed to replenish its stock.
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Jamaica’s coastline and world-renowned culture will set the stage for romance in the upcoming episode of ABC’s romance reality series The Bachelor.Caribzone_benfixed
The resort town of Ochi Rios, St Ann, will serve as the backdrop for the Bachelor, Ben Higgins, and his ladies as their journey comes to an end. The first of two episodes will air Monday, February 29, 2016 with the second episode to air Monday, March 14, 2016, both at 8/7c on ABC.

“We have always known that Jamaica is the ideal place for romance, so to be selected as the location of choice for the culminating episodes of The Bachelor, is testament to the island’s appeal,” said Paul Pennicook, Jamaica’s director of tourism. “The diverse offerings of the island will be on display to the millions of viewers across the United States who are eager to know Ben’s final decision.”
During his visit to the island, the bachelor stayed at the outstanding all-inclusive Sandals Ochi Beach Resort.
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Haiti

An increasing number of Haitians are at risk of being driven deeper into poverty and hunger as Haiti faces its worst food crisis in 15 years, the United Nations World Food Program said on Tuesday. The U.N. agency, which is launching an $84 million appeal to help stave off extreme malnutrition and deaths in an already fragile Haiti, is blaming the emerging crisis on the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Already blamed for some of the worst drought conditions around the globe, the weather event has left some Haitian farmers facing up to 70 percent crop losses and has doubled the number of food insecure people in the country since September.

“We are seeing the malnutrition rates dramatically increased,” said Wendy Bigham, WFP deputy country director.Caribzone_Haiti

“This is really a severe food crisis.” The crisis couldn’t come at a worse time for Haiti, which is facing a power vacuum after its president left office without an elected successor. A 120-day provisional government has yet to be installed, and some in the opposition are accusing the country’s only sworn-in elected officials, the parliament, of staging “a coup d’etat” after the leaders of both chambers signed a last-minute deal with outgoing President Michel Martelly.

The accord outlines the steps for putting in an interim president and consensus prime minister in the coming days. Add to the ongoing power vacuum, the country’s domestic currency, the gourde, continues to depreciate against the U.S. dollar.

Before the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, it cost 43 gourdes to buy one greenback. Today, it’s 61.25 gourdes
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National

The Jamaica Tourist Board engaged commuters at the 33rd Street Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) station in Manhattan on Thursday, February 25, from 7:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m., offering New York and New Jersey residents a brief escape to the warm island of Jamaica.

JTB UNDERGROUND. Independent reggae artist, Lion Melta, provided live entertainment and thrilled passersby with a number of acoustic reggae hits. -contributed
JTB UNDERGROUND. Independent reggae artist, Lion Melta, provided live entertainment and thrilled passersby with a number of acoustic reggae hits.
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JTB NYC UNDREGROUND. Jamaica Tourist Board’s Business Development Managers, Marcia Sinclair (second left) and Kenton Senior (right), were on-site to interact with PATH commuters.
JTB NYC UNDREGROUND. Jamaica Tourist Board’s Business Development Managers, Marcia Sinclair (second left) and Kenton Senior (right), were on-site to interact with PATH commuters.

Jamaica Tourist Board’s Business Development Managers, Marcia Sinclair (second left) and Kenton Senior (right), were on-site to interact with PATH commuters, providing travel information and facilitating consumers as they enter to win an all-inclusive Jamaican getaway to Moon Palace Jamaica Grande.

The event also featured live reggae music, with giveaways of Jamaica “Home of All Right” branded lip balm and sunscreen, and a chance to take a picture at the “Home of All Right” photo booth.

From February 25 to March 7, those who participate in taking a selfie with any of the Jamaica ads on the PATH, tagging #HomeofAllRight, @VisitJamaicaNow and @PalaceResorts on Twitter, will also be entered to win a trip to Jamaica.

 

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Barbados

AS PART OF ITS ACTIVITIES to mark Barbados’ 50th Anniversary of Independence, the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) has launched a special edition of its popular series We Bajans, featuring outstanding Barbadians.
The series, which will be featured on television, radio, social media and in print, will run monthly until November 2016.Caribzone_Barbados

Deputy Chief Information Officer Ian Inniss, said the aim of the project was to highlight Barbadians, both known and unknown, who have made a significant contribution to the community.

“We will be focusing on personalities across the spectrum of Barbadian society, including business persons, the clergy, community workers, politicians, entertainers and sportspersons,” he stated.

The series began on radio on Monday, featuring local surfing sensation Chelsea Tuach. The Deputy Chief explained the individuals selected would also appear on television on the final Thursday of each month, and the programmes would be posted on the BGIS’ YouTube channel thebgis.

“In addition, you can see some of the behind-the-scenes from each film shoot on our YouTube channel. So, it should be an exciting and worthwhile contribution to the overall celebrations for our country’s golden milestone,” Inniss added. (BGIS)

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St. Vincent & Grenadines

Minister of Health Luke Browne has re-emphasized the need for concern about the threat to the health of the public posed by mosquitos.

According to Browne, for some time now, residents in this country and across the region have had to deal with a number of viruses that are transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito, including the viruses that cause dengue, chikingunya and now Zika.

Carinzone_St.Vincent&GBrowne, while addressing the opening ceremony of a two-day meeting for health sub-regional managers on Tuesday, said that his ministry was determined to do something about combating the threat.

He disclosed that this country’s response was in keeping with a coordinated approach agreed by the OECS as articulated in a recent statement by Grenadian Prime Minister and Chairman of the OECS, Dr Keith Mitchell.
The OECS coordinated approach called for a focus on eliminating the breeding grounds of the aedes aegypti mosquito.

Other measures include the setting up of a strategic committee and staff to be deployed at the various clinics, the latter being tasked with conducting community level public education programmes related to the mosquito and the virus they carry.

The Ministry of Health is also expected to spearhead community clean up campaigns, and this has already been intensified with increase in frequency of fogging exercises.

“Arrangements have also been made for pre-natal counselling for expectant mothers,” he said, in relation to a specific response to the threat of the Zika virus.

There have been no reports to date of the Zika virus in the state.

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Bermuda

Minister of Finance Bob Richards has defended his proposed introduction of a 5 per cent services tax next year. In his 2016-17 Budget statement on Wednesday, the Deputy Premier briefly detailed his plan for a general services tax, which is scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2017, at the earliest.

“In order to broaden the tax base, the GST will be levied on turnover from the provision of most services by service providers to the public,” he said.

The new tax is expected to raise $50 million a year for the Government’s coffers, as it attempts to balance Bermuda’s budget while tackling the island’s $2 billion-plus debt.

Mr Richards added that the delay in implementing the tax is due to “significant adjustments” faced by both service providers and the Government to ensure its enforceability.

Banking, insurance and healthcare sectors will be exempt from the tax, as will small businesses. Later Mr. Richards addressed the media at the Cabinet Office, where he expanded on his intentions for the tax.Caribzone_Bermuda

“We have a service economy and we’re only taxing goods,” he said. Mr. Richards added that he was unable to offer specifics on the plan, as the consultation process was in its early stages with the Chamber of Commerce and the island’s company. “We’re not keeping any secrets here, and we’re not going to blindside businesses with new rules,” Mr. Richards added.

“Business people don’t mind bad news, but they do mind uncertainty. I think they’ll understand what we have to do, and we’re confident that we’ll come to an agreement on how to proceed.”
Michael Dunkley, the Premier, added his support for the legislation.

“Throughout the history of man, people have been hesitant and uncertain about change,” Mr Dunkley said.

“This is a drastic change we’re talking about, and the minister needs to be lauded for the consultation he has done, and the consultation he has signaled that he will do in the future.

“I think we all have to accept that if we don’t make some changes, and if we don’t deal with the reality of here and now, then we’re in trouble.”

Elsewhere in the Budget, Mr Richards announced plans to increase excise taxes on alcohol, tobacco and petrol — thereby boosting revenue by $14.7 million.

The payroll tax is also under review, with Mr Richards claiming that a “more progressive” restructuring of legislation could help lower income employees while also yielding additional revenue.
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