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News Round UP: Week Ending 3/26/16

Jamaica

Usain Bolt has confirmed this year’s Summer Olympics will be his last, snuffing out the possibility of extending his career to the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan. Usain Bolt

The Jamaican sprint king had raised the prospect of prolonging his Olympic career in January, after revealing that his coach Glen Mills had suggested his fitness would carry him through to Japan.

However, Bolt told AFP subsidiary SID in an interview that the curtain would come down on his Olympic career in this year’s games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he is targeting three more gold medals.
“It’s going to be hard to keep the motivation to go on for four more years, so it’ll definitely be my last one.”

Bolt, who already has six gold medals from his stunning performances in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, has repeatedly said he plans to hang up his spikes for good after the 2017 World Championships in London.

He hopes to have taken his tally to nine gold medals by the time competition in Rio has concluded in August.

“My biggest dream at the Olympics is to win three gold medals again. That’s my focus, that’s what I want. And that’s what I’m aiming for because that’s my goal and that’s my dream,” Bolt said.

Bolt, meanwhile, reiterated his desire to make more record-breaking history before he retires, saying that he is determined to become the first man to go below 19 seconds for the 200 metres.

“I’ve said the only big thing, big time I want to run is the 200 metres,” said Bolt, who holds the world record of 19.19sec for the 200m, set in Berlin in 2009.

“I’d love to try to go sub-19. That’s the only thing I would really, really want because that’s one of my goals.

“I’ve always talked about and always wanted it, so for me, that’s something I look forward to.”

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Cuba

Caribzone_US_CubaAs President Barack Obama ended a landmark visit to Cuba on Tuesdayy, the White House extended an invitation to the island’s Communist authorities to attend a regional energy summit later this year.

The strategic overture comes as Cuba’s supply of crude from Venezuela at deeply discounted prices looks set to dry up.

Caracas’s decade old “Petrocaribe” project, a vehicle for Venezuelan energy largess and political clout across Latin America has been hobbled by low crude prices, with dramatic knock-on effects for the government’s budget and the broader economy. The event in Washington will be chaired by Vice President Joe Biden.

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Jamaica

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck is calling on judges to move to dismiss cases that are in the system for five years and more by the end of 2016.

He insists that cases must be dealt with within months, similar to procedures in other jurisdictions.

“I would urge that this year, those cases, unless there are reasonable grounds for them continuing, should be dismissed for want of prosecution. It is just not fair that any accused person, even if he is guilty, has to be going to court for five years hoping that their innocence can be pronounced,” he argued.

Chuck was speaking at a forum on the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) Programme, held recently, at the Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.Caribzone_Jamaica
Minister Chuck said that timelines must be established for the disposal of cases to ensure efficiency in the justice system and also protect the rights of Jamaicans.

“I hope in another year we can say ‘no case over four years’ and that we can try to get down to as close as two or one year as possible. We must get cases tried and completed within a reasonable time,” he said.

The Justice Minister acknowledged that there are challenges facing the sector, such as the shortage of judges, and noted that measures are being undertaken to address these issues.

The five-year JUST Programme, which ends this year, is being undertaken through CND$20 million in funding from the Government of Canada.

This programme seeks to reform Jamaica’s justice system, making it more efficient and accessible, and also raise awareness among Jamaica about legal processes and procedures and their rights before the justice system.

High Commissioner of Canada to Jamaica Sylvain Fabi said that the JUST Programme has been successful in supporting legislative reforms including establishing sentencing guidelines; facilitating timely release of judicial decisions; among other things.

He said the Canadian Government is “seriously looking’ into extending provisions under the programme, noting that “there are things we should continue to do”.

“The Canadian Government is honoured to be a part of the justice reform programme in Jamaica,” he noted, while commending the Jamaican Government on the successes.

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Haiti

Haitian lawmakers have rejected economist Fritz Jean as the country’s new prime minister sending the provisional government in the French-speaking Caribbean Community (Caricom) country into a state of uncertainty.

Jean, named by Interim President Jocelerme Privert needed at least 60 of the 119 members of the Lower House to support his nomination.

But when the vote was taken on Sunday evening, he received 38 votes with 36 against with one legislator abstaining.

Caribzone_HaitiThe vote leaves President Privert without a person to run the government’s day-to-day affairs and he also failed to get support for the new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) that is needed to organise the twice-postponed presidential run-off vote now tentatively scheduled for April 24.

President Michel Martelly left office on February 7 without any successor being elected and last week Sandra Honore, the top UN envoy for Haiti, told the United Nations Security Council that Haiti was at a “critical juncture” in consolidating its democracy and the next few weeks would be decisive.

Jean had been nominated and then sworn in at a ceremony at the National Palace in the hopes his experience and reputation as an economist and former governor of Haiti’s central bank would overcome objections from opposition lawmakers.

In his inaugural speech on Sunday, he told lawmakers that the new government “is committed to providing to all institutions involved in the electoral process the necessary means for achieving the objectives.

“The new CEP will be put into condition to strengthen the mechanisms of voting. We will ensure to recreate the confidence of key players involved in the electoral process, knowing that the results will have to reflect the real choice of the people,” he said.

He told the lawmakers that the government, if approved by them, would play its role in creating a peaceful climate ensuring that “these elections… will allow our country to return to constitutional order.

He said his government would also deal with the issue of justice, adding “we want a constitutional state where every citizen is equal before the law, in which each citizen is accountable for his actions.

“The current situation in Haiti requires the urgent to redress public finances through the adoption of measures allowing institutions of perception to execute their strategic reform plans; to improve performance,” the US-educated economist said, adding “it is our responsibility to meet the sanitation challenges in order to restore confidence, eliminate apprehensions and dissolve anxiety”.

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Jamaica

The ceremonial opening of Parliament and tabling of the 2016/17 budget will take place on April 14, according to Education, Youth and Information Minister; Ruel Reid.

Reid said that Cabinet will hold its first retreat from March 30 to April 1, followed by its preliminary consideration of the budget on April 4. Those deliberations are expected to be finalized on April 11.

“That would allow the Standing Finance Committee to review it from May 3 to 5, and the budget (debate) will be from May 9 to 19, and hopefully get to the Senate for its deliberations on May 27,” Reid said.Caribzone_Jamaica

The estimates of expenditure is, therefore, being debated some two months later than last year, and it was not clear whether the new Administration will make any adjustments to the format surrounding the length of the period for the debate process itself, which was introduced last year.

For 2015/16, the revenue measures, the debt management strategy and the tax expenditure report fiscal policy paper were tabled at the same time as the estimates of expenditure — about three weeks before the opening of the debate. The then Government said this was in order to facilitate a longer lead time between the tabling of those critical documents and the start of the debate, and to shorten the deliberations.

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Jamaica

An adjustment to the proposed toll rates to use the North-South link of Highway 2000 could be in the offing following persistent outcry about the magnitude of the rates. Information Minister Ruel Reid said this week that an announcement would be made on the issue.

“We have heard the cries of the people of Jamaica in regards to asking for us to negotiate a better deal and we are working behind the scenes to see how we can address these concerns. The Government is going to be working very hard to see how we can negotiate, if possible, a better rate,” he told journalists at Jamaica House yesterday.

The rates published last week go as high as $3,700, which would mean that motorists would have to pay almost $8,000 in toll fare for one round trip from Caymanas in St Catherine to Mammee Bay in St Ann. The motoring public as well as those expected to be worst hit, such as operators of public transportation, have called for the rates to be reduced.

Caribzone_JamaicaBut at the moment, the Government is locked into a half-century-long agreement with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which gives the Chinese company the right to set or increase tolls, subject to review by the local authorities. The Government has no input in the initial setting of the rates.

Under the arrangement, the Government can appeal to CHEC for an adjustment, but the company can either insist on the rates or if it decides to forgo any amounts, the government is bound to pay CHEC for the shortfall or loss. Another option would be to lengthen the lifespan of the agreement, which would require a contractual adjustment.

In May 2015, then Transport Minister Dr Omar Davies said that he would ask Cabinet to make changes to the contract to give legal teeth to CHEC’s completion of the highway more quickly than planned, as the developers were moving ahead with the project much faster than expected.

CHEC spent US$600 million to build the highway and is expected to recover its expenses through toll revenues. The Government has also included in the deal 1,200 acres of land that run alongside the highway that will be given to CHEC for residential and commercial development.

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Guyana

Guyana is establishing night courts to help reduce a backlog of cases and ease overcrowding at jails following a prison riot in which 17 inmates died.

Judiciary Chancellor Carl Singh told The Associated Press (AP), on Wednesday, that a group of magistrates will soon be appointed to hold hearings on weekday nights.Caribzone_Guyana

The South American country has taken other measures to improve prison conditions, including transferring dozens of inmates from Guyana’s main prison to other facilities.

Authorities are investigating the riot earlier this month in which inmates set fire to mattresses to protest prison conditions. A top prison official has been placed on leave.

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