Caribbean and Diaspora News Round-up
APD tops Diaspora and business event
Antigua opts out of rum fight
Cable & Wireless to focus on Caribbean operations
McAfee's Belize house sufferes fire damage
Trinidad, Barbados pick up Chelsea flower medals
Turning around a turtle PR disaster
APD headlines at Caribbean reception
The impact of Britain’s airport passenger departure tax (APD) was at the top of the agenda when the region’s diplomats, Jamaica’s governor-general and Caribbean, diaspora and British investors and community leaders joined British parliamentarians at a reception this week.
The Caribbean Council Reception took place at the House of Lords on 20 May.
Jamaica’s Governor-General, Sir Patrick Allen, told the gathering that there had been a 10% fall in flight numbers since the APD came into existence.
He said that the APD lobby needed to continue to build awareness of what he called the “negative impact of this trade-distorting measure”.
“Our states are some of the most tourism-dependent in the world,” he told the gathering.
He called for the Caribbean to be placed on the same tax band as the US and praised the Caribbean diaspora for its continued lobbying work on the issue.
British Virgin Islands Premier Orlando Smith also urged the British government to “think again about the airport passenger departure tax”.
Dr Smith stated that the BVI had a “modern system of [financial] transparency” and made it clear that his country was “unequivocally against illegal financial activity”.
He added that the sharing of banking information “should not be a one-way street”.
The British Foreign Office minister responsible for the Caribbean, Mark Simmonds, asked for the issue of allowing “competitive tax jurisdictions to exist” to be kept separately from other issues under discussion between the Caribbean and the UK.
He thanked Caribbean overseas territories for their role in the tax-sharing agreements in the run-up to the G8 meeting and said that joint trade with Caricom was second only to Britain’s trade with Brazil in South America.
He also spoke of plans by Britain’s Department for Business to “maximise” work with the Caribbean diaspora, as well as plans for a new British embassy for Haiti.
“The Caribbean matters to the United Kingdom,” he told the reception.
Caribbean Council President George Foulkes summed up the speeches by saying: “In case you hadn’t known... the most significant issue is A-P-D – air passenger tax.”
Cable and Wireless focus on Caribbean
Telecommunications company Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) has unveiled plans to focus on its Caribbean operations.
CWC chief executive Tony Rice described 2012-13 as a “milestone year” for the communications company.
“The agreements to sell our Monaco & Islands and Macau businesses have reshaped the group and we have achieved the goal of structural coherence that we set ourselves at the demerger of Cable & Wireless in 2010,” he stated.
“The group is now focused on a single region with low penetration for data services and strong growth potential, where we have scale and market leadership.
"This focus will create a more unified, effective and cost-efficient group.“
He added that the new target was to drive US$100m of savings and improve margins and cash flows, “particularly in our Caribbean business”.
According to the report, EBITDA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation] for the Caribbean was US$274m - a 4% reduction from the previous year.
“We begin the 2013-14 year with a strong foundation and a clear direction,” Mr Rice added.
The report mentions the priority to change its operating model by “de-layering management” and “removing the need for a London office”.
London business paper City AM quoted Tony Rice as saying that Cable & Wireless was planning to move its management and other operations from London to Miami.
“The move comes as [Mr] Rice aims to focus on CWC’s operations in Panama and the Caribbean, having recently agreed to sell its other divisions for a total of $1.75bn,” City AM reported.
Antigua opts out of regional rum talks
Known for its David and Goliath approach to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Antigua and Barbuda has said it cannot be directly involved in talks over the West Indies rum dispute with the US and its Caribbean rum producers.
St John’s said that while it could pledge support, it could not currently afford to be at the forefront of the fight.
The permanent secretary in the trade ministry, Colin Murdoch, said that some countries at the recent Caricom Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) had indicated they planned to take the rum dispute to the WTO.
“We are concentrating our resources on the ongoing trade dispute that we have with the United States,” Mr Murdoch told the Antigua Observer.
Antigua has been locked in a dispute with the US over online gaming, following a WTO challenge which Antigua won, but which then ran into American restrictions and counter-allegations by the US at the WTO over copyright law.
Mr Murdoch added that each country would have to determine whether it wanted formal WTO consultation on the rum issue.
He pointed out that Caricom countries also had to look at joint diplomatic resources and a pooling of resources.
“To bring a case at the WTO is an expensive undertaking and all these are things that have to be considered before member states take a decision to go down that road.”
Trinidad and Barbados in bloom at Chelsea
Trinidad and Barbados won awards at the Chelsea Flower Show this week.
The tropical Caribbean blooms caught the judges’ eyes at the centenary of the Royal Chelsea Flower Show.
Checks by Caribbean Intelligence© indicate that the Horticultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago won the Gold medal in the Pavilion Competition for its tropical and sub-tropical flowers and foliage display.
Barbados won a Silver Gilt Flora medal for its tropical flowers and foliage.
McAfee’s house burns down
Once described by CNN as John McAfee’s “pleasure palace” in Belize, the home of the virus software founder suffered about $500,000 worth of fire damage on 16 May.
Two buildings at the compound were gutted, sparking off yet another exchange of words between Mr McAfee and the Belizean authorities.
Mr McAfee, who recently shared his uncomplimentary thoughts about his former country of residence in an interview with USA Today, has now said that he believes the Belize government paid a “low-level individual” to commit arson.
He told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper that he had a private investigator working on the case.
Mr McAfee fled Belize last November after being named as a “person of interest” by the Belizean authorities, following the death of his American expat neighbour, Gregory Faull.
Turtle tourism is seeing a surge on Trinidad’s northern coastal Grand Riviere area after last year’s high-profile destruction of turtle eggs.
In July 2012, Caribbean Intelligence© visited the area after bulldozers had accidently destroyed what environmentalists had said were around 20,000 leatherback turtle eggs and hatchlings.
The incident became a major green issue on global social media platforms.
Out of this publicity has come more attention from green groups in the area, which is now thriving on turtle tourism.
The New York Daily News reported this week on what it described as the number of leatherback turtles rebounding “in spectacular fashion”.
“Researchers now consider the beach at Grand Riviere, alongside a river that flows into the Atlantic, the most densely nested site for leatherbacks in the world,” The Daily News said.
Fox News headlined their report, which included a turtle and village photo gallery, as: “Villages in Trinidad embrace threatened sea turtles, spark tourist boom”.
The protected beach is now reportedly so busy that female leatherback turtles bump into one another.
Now that’s how to turn a PR disaster into a triumph.