News in brief from the Caribbean and abroad
Job cuts in Barbados
Budgets in Grenada and St Kitts
Senior academics condemn the Dom Rep
Uruguay legalises cannabis
Guyana's sugar shortage
Cuba rejoins regional baseball series
Caribbean Grammy presence
[For week ending 15 December]
One newspaper called it Black Friday: Barbadians learnt on 13 December of major job losses for the public sector in the new year.
In the first wave of cuts, 2,000 jobs will go on 14 January, with a further 1,000 jobs scheduled to be axed by 1 March.
Finance Minister Chris Sinckler said that the measure was part of a package aimed at plugging a US$71m finance gap.
As well as the staff cuts in government ministries and statutory authorities, MPs and permanent secretaries are to take a 10% pay cut and all ministerial travel budgets will be slashed in half.
The Barbados Nation newspaper called in a 16 December editorial for a measured approach to the job cuts, including retraining and counselling.
The paper said: “The negatives for thousands of Barbadians are many and it will make no sense pointing to what the people of Greece, Ireland or Spain have had to endure.
“Government agencies must do their part, and do so quickly and effectively if those negatively impacted over the next 24 months are to feel and see some hope in the future.”
Grenada’s Prime Minister Keith Mitchell put the emphasis on improving productivity in his 2014 Budget presentation.
He told parliament on 10 December that low productivity was now a drag on economic growth and job creation.
“Consequently, if we want to accelerate economic growth in Grenada, we must raise our current levels of productivity,” Dr Mitchell said.
“But the productivity challenge is not limited to labour. It requires a change in mindset by the public and private sectors. Indeed, it requires changes in behaviours by both managers and workers.”
The US$346m (EC$933m) budget included increases in direct and indirect taxes and a new US$5 stopover tax on visitors.
Meanwhile, St Kitts and Nevis unveiled what it called a “tax-free” budget – that is, the tax burden on its citizens remained unchanged.
An optimistic Prime Minister Denzil Douglas said that his government’s measures were working and declared it “Spring time here in St Kitts and Nevis”.
“We are ushering in a new season of rejuvenation and visioning for our future prosperity! My government and the country as a whole have definitely made some important strides over the last year,” the Kittitian leader told parliament.
The Institute of International Relations (IIR) at the University of the West Indies has written to Caricom condemning the Dominican Republic following a court ruling on citizenship.
The IIR said that the ruling, expected to affect mainly people of Haitian descent, was “yet another attempt, going back at least two decades, to deny systematically the citizenship rights of descendants of Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic”.
The letter, signed by some of the Caribbean’s leading academics, supported Caricom’s suspension of Santo Domingo’s application to join the regional grouping until the situation is dealt with.
The IIR also said that the Caribbean region needed to provide what it called “meaningful protection” for those affected by what it called the “xenophobic” ruling.
The government in the Dominican Republic has announced an 18-month period, starting in June 2014, when those affected by the court ruling can apply to regularise their citizenship status.
To hear the views of those affected and from those supporting the court ruling, check out our story, the Dominican Dream on hold.
Guyana might have to import sugar for its domestic needs this year.
The country reported a 23-year low in sugar production this year, which means that a large part of what it does produce will go towards fulfilling existing European Union export deals.
The industry has been hit by a year of industrial action, as well as workers leaving the industry for the gold mining sector.
Sugar workers returned to work on all but one estate on 12 December, after a one-day strike over calls for an annual production incentive.
The latest strike caused a total shutdown of GuySuCo’s operations.
The governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have sorted out their differences following a migration row, but some in the private sector are advising that the situation still needs to be watched closely.
The former President of Jamaica’s Manufacturers Association, Omar Azan, has asked his government to hold Trinidad and Tobago to its commitments under the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Mr Azan’s comments follow the signing of an accord between Kingston and Port of Spain on free movement of goods and people.
The deal helped to stave off a potential trade war and a Jamaican boycott of Trinidadian products by Jamaicans, after a row over the detention and subsequent deportation of 13 Jamaicans from Trinidad in November.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Minister, Winston Dookeran, flew to Kingston to meet his Jamaican counterpart, A J Nicholson.
However, while Mr Dookeran was telling Jamaicans that a trade war would not be in anyone’s interests, Trinidad’s National Security Minister, Gary Griffith, spoke up for the rights of immigration officers to enforce the law.
Mr Azan said that, if the impasse continued, Jamaica could be forced to “hit the Trinidadians where it hurts”.
Uruguay has passed legislation to legalise marijuana, which makes it the first country to introduce a legal national marketplace for the drug.
President Jose Mujica said that he wants the market to be operational in 2014.
He said that the global war on drugs was a failure and that his country could better use its resources for dealing with organised crime and tackling addiction.
The new measure allows registered people to buy up to 40g of cannabis a month from pharmacists.
Al-Jazeera America said that the decision added “momentum to the movement building in Latin America and in the US... to legalise the recreational use of marijuana”.
Decisions by some US states to soften drug laws have also helped to heat up the debate in the Caribbean during 2013, while Caricom has set up a team to look at the medical and legal consequences of possible changes in legislation.
Cuba is to take part in the 2014 Caribbean Baseball series in Venezuela in February.
The Cuban team was invited to take part as a guest and will send its National series champion side, Villa Clara.
Cuban won seven of the first 12 Caribbean series tournaments in the 1950s, but it backed out in 1960 when the government banned professional baseball.
The series is organised by the Caribbean Baseball Confederation.
It includes the champions of the professional leagues of Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
The nominations are out for the 2014 Grammy awards and Caribbean stars are in the list.
Caribbean nominees include Rihanna, Ziggy Marley, Sizzla, Beres Hammond and Sly and Robbie.
One of our favourite Caribbean Diaspora liming spots – Toronto Lime – asked the question: “who do we need to speak to” to get a soca or calypso category?
Quote of the week
“Last Tuesday’s memorial service when the Caribbean region did well in showing an impressive presence, [Sir Shridath] Ramphal was not among any of the delegations. Was it a terrible oversight, or just plain political ignorance of the sterling contributions of regional and international affairs of a most competent and committed son of the Caribbean?” Columnist Rickey Singh on Caribbean leaders attending Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on a shared flight provided by Trinidad, but questioning the absence of Sir Shridath Ramphal, who had been Commonwealth Secretary-General when Mandela was released from prison. Click here to read Shridath Ramphal’s tribute to Nelson Mandela.