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News Round UP: Week Ending 5/14/16

JAMAICA

At least one economist believes that Finance Minister Audley Shaw’s move to increase the income tax threshold from $592,800 to $1.5 million on a phased basis is good, but says it might result in a negative spinoff.

On Thursday, announced that the threshold will be moving to $1 million effective July 1, this year, and to $1.5 million as of April 1, 2017, for all PAYE workers.

But University of the West Indies (UWI-Mona) lecturer, Dr. Andre Haughton said that this might lead to an increase in production prices.

“I’m happy that Mr. Shaw took the advice of myself, and other economists and private sector groups. However, there seems to be some amount of discrepancy with the revenue measure in terms of the tax on gas,” Haughton told OBSERVER ONLINE.
He explained that this will lead to an increase in transportation and production prices straight across the board and that it will make manufacturing of goods and services more expensive.

“It will make transportation for everyone more expensive, every good more expensive, which will pass on into consumer and producer prices,” he said.Caribzone_Jamaica

Haughton said despite this, the move is not as severe as was anticipated as the gap would amount to a shade over $6 billion.

“So overall the electorate is going to be very happy because people who have been paying income tax on the PAYE — those who earn $1.5 million and those who earn above $1.5 million,” he argued.

“If they can cut into the profit of marketing companies with less of the impact being transferred to consumers that would be good,” he added.

Meanwhile, the People’s National Party (PNP) on Thursday defended Opposition Spokesman on Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips, saying comments in the media regarding his absence from Parliament are “diversionary”.

Phillips, in a news release, said he would not be present in Parliament for the opening of the budget debate and the announcement of the revenue measures by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw.

The PNP, in a news release, said the budget presentation has been delayed and so Dr Phillips’ overseas trip, which the party said was planned a year in advance, would not have coincided with the typical date for the budget presentation.
“As a result of the delay of the budget presentation, Dr Phillips wrote to and tendered his apology to the minister and the Parliament,” the PNP said.

Therefore, the PNP moved to debunk any thought of a “deliberate” plan for Dr Phillips not to be in attendance.

“Any such thought and or comments can only be deemed to be diversionary,” the party said.

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JAMAICA

The island’s special coroner William Campbell says his office needs more resources in order to speed up the disposal rate of cases as the current two to three per month is not enough to address the backlog in the system.

According to the special coroner, at any given time his office is handling 300 to 400 cases.

He said although police fatal shootings have fallen “dramatically” moving from approximately 21 per month to eight per month, there remains a high rate of shootings and the resultant backlog.

The Office of the Special Coroner was set up in 2009 to specifically deal with inquests arising from incidents where persons have died violently or suddenly while interacting with the police, military and other agents of the State. The office works closely with the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).
Campbell said in 2007, there were 272 per year (21 per month); 158 for the first nine months of 2008; 258 or about 21 per month for 2013; 115 or nine per month for 2014; while 101 or eight police shootings per month were recorded for 2015 and referred to the coroner.

“But even with that fall, we still have substantial backlogs. The disposal rate by way of public inquest is not more than two to three per month [so] you’re talking about 30 a year. But the rate of cases [sent to the coroner] are going up not by 30 per year but by 100 per year, so we have to have more resources to have a faster rate of disposal,” he said.

Caribzone_JamaicaCampbell was speaking at a stakeholder forum last Friday hosted by the Registrar General’s Department, to outline the steps that families should take from the time someone dies until their death is registered.

He noted that some cases can be disposed of under Section 14, of the Coroner’s Act, which says that: if “… no further light would be thrown upon the case by holding an inquest it shall be lawful for the appropriate coroner in his discretion to abstain from holding an inquest”.

But he argued that most cases that come to the special coroner cannot be disposed of in that manner, and require “further light to be thrown” on them. “Most of the cases that I have seen require a public inquest,” he stated.

Explaining why the Office of the Special Coroner was established, Campbell pointed out that from 1983 to 2010, there were more than 5,000 police fatal shootings, and a pile-up of cases. “It was felt (then) that the number of deaths was troubling enough to require special attention,” he remarked, emphasizing that he was neither ascribing blame nor justification, but simply outlining the facts.

Campbell said the vast majority of cases that end up in the Special Coroner’s Court are police shootings. “They’re the ones who interact most frequently with the public, so that’s not abnormal,” he said.

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St VINCENT

Caribbean Community (Caricom) foreign ministers ended a two-day meeting in downtown Kingstown, St. Vincent, amid calls for the regional bloc to explore avenues for even stronger ties with Cuba, following Havana’s improved relations with the United States.

St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Deputy Prime Minister Sir Louis Straker told Tuesday’s opening ceremony of the 19th meeting of Caricom’s Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) that an assessment must be made of the region’s position in light of the changing nature of the US-Cuba relations.

“The Caribbean has long been a staunch ally of and advocate for the Cuban people and, as such, we must ensure that we are prepared so as not to be left behind when changes are effected in the way of doing business with Cuba,” said Sir Louis, who is also the island’s foreign affairs minister.

The incoming COFCOR chair said it is incumbent on Caricom to consider ways in which the 15-member regional grouping may “more closely secure the ties that bind us with Cuba in a mutually beneficial manner that can start with the simple invitation to be heard at our table.Carinzone_St.Vincent&G

“COFCOR will examine the implications for the Caribbean Community of several emerging issues, including the reshaping of the United States relations with Cuba and the pending British referendum on European Union membership.

“As the community seeks to reinforce relations with multilateral organisations, COFCOR will discuss matters regarding the United Nations, the Organisation of American States, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and the Association of Caribbean States,” the statement said.

St Lucia’s Foreign Minister Alva Baptiste, the outgoing COFCOR chairman, also addressed the issue of the new US-Cuba relationship, saying that the region will be called upon to adumbrate the issues surrounding the normalisation of US-Cuba relations and how this will impact our community.

Caricom Secretary General Irwin La Rocque said the move toward normalization of relations between the US and Cuba represents a welcome development in hemispheric relations, making it a fitting background to the retreat agenda.

The meeting was held on the heels of last week’s Ninth UK-Caribbean Forum in The Bahamas. The Caricom foreign ministers will devote part of their meeting to discussing the critical elements emanating from that engagement.

The meeting also discussed key border issues and a range of bilateral topics involving Mexico, Cuba and the Nordic states, and the Unites States.

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SPORTS

Asafa Powell’s 200m race at the 13th Jamaica International Invitational (JII) meet at the National Stadium last Saturday, was more than just early season training as the former 100 m, world record holder says he will be hoping to run the double at the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association’s (JAAA) Olympic Trials in late June.

Asafa PowellPowell beat a decent field with a season’s best 20.45 seconds after he ran 20.51 seconds at a meeting in Texas last month. while that time will not scare the big guns in the half-lap event, the likes of world record holder Usain Bolt, American Justin Gatlin and even the fastest Jamaican this year, Nickel Ashmeade, and World and Olympic Games medallist Warren Weir, the 34-year-old Powell is confident he will be able to contest the double at the Olympic Trials.

In his post-race interview, Powell hinted that he was targeting the double at JAAA Trials. “Honestly, I don’t remember how to run the 200m, so it’s a work in progress, hopefully by national trials I will get there.”

Acknowledging he was not getting any younger, Powell said: “Time is running out and I have been running only the 100m for years now and most sprinters are running the double and I want to give it a shot.”

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St VINCENT

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Government (SVG) says it remains opposed to the controversial citizenship by investment programme (CIP), as a means of luring foreign investors to the island.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, addressing the launch of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Finance Fair Monday night, said that his administration remains opposed to the CIP, which he described as a “race to the bottom”.

Several Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts-Nevis and Dominica, have established CIPs through which foreign investors are given citizenship in return for making a significant investment in the socio-economic development of these countries.

Gonsalves told the private sector that he was re-affirming his Unity Labour Party (ULP) position on the issue and that his government has no intention of having a citizenship by investment programme.

“That is to say, the selling of citizenship and passports,” he said.

“The five other independent countries of the OECS have gone that way. I wish them well. We just simply have a different perspective on it, because, in one jurisdiction, which has been in the forefront, a lot of problems occurring,” he said in an apparent reference to St Kitts and Nevis, which he did not name.

“You have population of 50,000 and you have 12,000 economic citizens,” Gonsalves added.Carinzone_St.Vincent&G

Prime Minister Gonsalves said that the space is narrowing for economic citizenship programmes, adding, “and there is a race to the bottom in all of them and there are a lot of good products in this area in other countries where people from China and the Middle East are rushing to — Austria, Portugal, but, of course, they have different type of — better run regimes for these types of things.

“Notice what I say, there is a race to the bottom. We are not involved in that,” said Gonsalves, who has in the past said that there are national security challenges that come with CIPs.

“We start front the simple proposition that the two most important books in a house, in any house in St Vincent and the Grenadines, are the Bible and the passport. So we have a good quality passport and we have spent a lot of money on it, upgrading it, modernizing it,” he said.

Gonsalves said there are well-known factors that predispose investors to come here, including the legal and constitutional framework, political stability, a stable currency, moderate to low inflation, the availability of basic services such as reliable electricity at reasonable cost, water and telephone, and an efficient and predictable public sector.

He said that factors that induce investors to want to put their money in St Vincent and the Grenadines include concessions and no punitive rates of taxation.

Gonsalves said that data from the Caribbean and Latin America show that as a percentage of gross domestic product, St Vincent and the Grenadines has among the highest rates of foreign direct investment.

Gonsalves, who is also minister of finance, said that his administration has reduced company tax from 40 to 32.5 per cent with a target of 25 per cent, but the modifications have been interrupted by the global economic crisis of 2008.

He told the members of the private sector that there are still opportunities within the international financial services sector.

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SPORTS

Golden State superstar Stephen Curry was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the second straight year on Tuesday following his record-breaking contribution to the Warriors’ historic season.

stephen-curryCurry, who returned from injury on Monday to score 40 points in Golden State’s overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers, earned the MVP award in a landslide, sweeping all 131 first place votes to earn 1,310 points, a statement said.

It is the first time in the National Basketball Association’s 61-season history that a player has been the blanket first pick for the award, the league said.

San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard was a distant second with 634 points while the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James was third with 631 points.

NBA champions Golden State will meet Oklahoma City in the best-of-seven game series for the Western Conference finals, starting on Monday.

–end—

 

SPORTS

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) on Wednesday paid tribute to cricket writer and commentator Tony Cozier, describing him as the “voice of West Indies cricket”.

Cozier, who had been ailing for some time, died Wednesday morning in Barbados. He was 75.

“On behalf the WICB and the various stakeholders in West Indies Cricket we offer sincere condolences to his wife Jillian, his son Craig, his daughter Natalie, his grandchildren and other family and friends,” a WICB media release said.

It said the lifelong work of Cozier centred on West Indies cricket and that he made a lasting contribution to the game.tony-cozier

“He ensured that West Indies cricket fans all around the world received information and knowledge about their beloved team and their favourite players. His life was dedicated to the game in the Caribbean and we salute him for his outstanding work,” the release read.

“He was not just a great journalist, but also a great ambassador. He represented West Indies wherever he went. He educated people around the world about our cricket, our people, our culture and who we are. His voice was strong and echoed around the cricket world. He enjoyed West Indies victories and shared the pain when we lost. He gave a lifetime of dedicated service and will be remembered by all who came into contact with him,” the released added.

Cozier was a member of the Wanderers Cricket Club, where he played cricket alongside Test players Geoffrey Greenidge and Richard Edwards, as well as the late Peter Short, former president of the WICB.

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