Friday, February 23, 2018

...Crime, transport blues on agenda


Grenada PM: Tillman Thomas

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THE crime menace afflicting the Caribbean region as well as recurring air transportation woes are scheduled for special focus at the two-day 24th Inter-Sessional Meeting of Caribbean Community Heads of Government that gets underway in Haiti.

Participating in the special session on crime and security with the Caricom leaders and their relevant cabinet colleagues will be the Attorney General  of the United States of America, Eric Holder.

At least one third of the Heads of Government of the 15-member Community will be absent, among them the Prime Ministers of Grenada (Tillman Thomas) and Barbados (Freundel Stuart).

They will be leading their team of candidates for parliamentary elections within two days of each other this week—Grenada's on Tuesday and Barbados on Thursday..

Among the other no shows to be represented at Foreign Ministers level, will be Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, currently preoccupied with closing arrangements for the agreement finally reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for  a US$750 million support package over four years under its "extended fund facility".

The discussion on regional transportation challenges will have a special emphasis on concerns being expressed by a few governments about negative impact on intra-regional carrier, LIAT, and also for low-cost airlines operating some destinations out of the USA—for instance Guyana.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines, has already disclosed his anxiety to share with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar a legal opinion he sought and obtained that suggests the Trinidad and Tobago's fuel subsidy to state-owned Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) violates Caricom's Revised Treaty.

Since then, the Guyana Government has also been making a connection  between the recent announcement by Delta Airlines to cease operating the New York-Guyana route, with the claim that it's proving unprofitable.

But the Trinidad and Tobago Government is not expected to be easily persuaded; and Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar is reported to be travelling to the Haiti meeting with and "updated brief" on issues relevant to the fuel subsidy as well as the status of her much publicised initiative for a fast-ferry service from Port of Spain to supplement regional air transport.

Joining President Michel Martelly, now new chairman of Caricom, in addressing tomorrow's ceremonial opening of the two-day meeting will be the immediate-past chairman, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony of St Lucia, and the Community's Secretary General Irwin LaRocque.