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Trinidad e Tobago

Unions march to President’s House, Parliament

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Sab, 25/06/2022 - 7:31am

Over 300 members of ten unions congregated outside President’s House and Parliament on Friday to present a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister to the President, Opposition Leader, Speaker, and Senate President. OWTU president general Ancel Roget said the group’s next event would be a motorcade on July 3. Speaking to the crowd gathered across the Queen’s Park Savannah outside President’s House, Roget said the motion was different from measures the unions had carried out previously. “It’s a comprehensive motion. If it was raised in Parliament it would not see the light of day. Having raised this motion in the workers’ parliament and the workers support the motion of no confidence, that’s a significant development that must not be understated at all.” He called on citizens to be part of the mobilisation on July 3. [caption id="attachment_961537" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Trade union members hold placards expressing their discontent with the Prime Minister outside the Red House on Friday. - AYANNA KINSALE[/caption] “We call on the people to support the initiatives we will be putting on the ground to make sure they listen and put measures in place to alleviate pressure, hardship, suffering, and pain of ordinary poor people and workers. And, of course, that they put in place a proper and decent wage offer so that people can live in difficult times, and to stop this massive retrenchment that is taking place in our land.” Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar left Parliament to meet with the union leaders and their members, and receive the motion. “The government has said that the reason it cannot pay backpay is that it would have to borrow money to do so. But if they had paid workers their backpay on time, they would not have had to borrow. I call on the government to borrow what they have to pay the workers, since they have managed to borrow to pay rent and lawyers and to construct buildings.” She said the UNC had always been grounded in peace, bread, and justice, like the unions. “That’s what we’ve always stood for. And when we were in government, we tried to include the workers at every step of the way. Maybe some mistakes were made, but at every step of the way, the workers are the blood, sweat, and tears of this country. Therefore now that we’re seeing the suffering across the length and breadth of TT, the impact on families – I am a mother, I am a daughter, I am a sister, and I am a woman, and I know what it is like when jobs are being lost in this country. “The cost of living has gone skyrocketing, there are no solutions, there is no policy, no strategy on the part of a very clueless government.” Persad-Bissessar promised to stand in solidarity with the protesters. [caption id="attachment_961538" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar show support for trade union members who delivered a written motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister to her, the President, the Speaker and Senate President on Friday. - AYANNA KINSALE[/caption] “I welcome the day when the workers in the land stand with other right-thinking citizens to stand up for peace, bread, and justice.” She told workers from Lake Asphalt, who were asking what was happening with their pensions and NIB payments, that the UNC would raise the issue in Parliament. Under the People’s Partnership administration, public-sector workers were initially offered one per cent over a three-year period. which was eventually increased to five per cent. The dispute was referred to a special tribunal and strike action was taken by workers. Public Services Association president Leroy Baptiste commended the workers who turned out to demonstrate. He said the government had set out to destroy the lives of workers by design. “We are out here because they are deliberately getting rid of all permanent jobs, they have our people in temporary and contract positions for years and, what is worse, paying us peppercorn salaries. “So we have small salaries and we can’t approach the bank because we’re temporary. We must not settle this rounds for no peppercorn rates, talking about an increase of four per cent when gas price is 121 per cent. That cannot happen this rounds.” Roget said the motorcade would begin in Palmiste at 10 am and end at the Queen’s Park Savannah.  

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

Opposition wins Grenada general election

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Sab, 25/06/2022 - 7:31am

The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) won Grenada's general election on Thursday. According to a report in the Nation News, the NDC won nine of the 15 seats in Grenada's parliament. Former prime minister Dr Keith Mitchell's New National Party (NNP) won the remaining six seats Several incumbent government ministers such as Gregory Bowen, Nolan Cox, Pamela Moses and Alvin Da Breo lost their seats in the election. NDC leader Dickon Mitchell, 44, who took over the party's leadership last October, defeated foreign affairs minister Oliver Joseph 4,414 to 2,742 votes to win the St David constituency. Dr Mitchell, who retained his St George North West seat, called the election ahead of its constitutional March 2023 deadline. On Friday, political analyst Shane Mohammed said this result continues to follow a trend which began in 2015 when opposition parties in Grenada won the general election. "Prime Minister Keith Mitchell served the island well and for many years."

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

Robert Ballack Memorial Charity Golf carded for Sunday

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Sab, 25/06/2022 - 7:31am

The inaugural Robert Ballack Memorial Charity Golf Tournament takes place at the Pointe-a-Pierre golf club on Sunday from 10 am. Thirty-five two-member teams have already registered. The victorious team wins a trip to Barbados to compete in the Barbados Open Golf Tournament, from September 16-18. Although the tournament was fully organised by members of Ballack’s family, all proceeds from registration will go to the Cancer Society of TT. Ballack, 68, passed away in 2021 after succumbing to cancer. [caption id="attachment_961532" align="alignnone" width="614"] Former Pointe-a-Pierre golf club member, the late Robert Ballack. - Courtesy: Maritza Ballack[/caption] Ballack was an avid golfer for the past ten years with the Pointe-a-Pierre gold club and several of his long-time friends and golfing partners will feature at the debut event. “We decided to host this memorial tournament because it’s for a cause very dear to us,” said Maritza Ballack, Robert’s daughter and tournament organiser.  

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

Pride TT calls for meeting with government

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Sab, 25/06/2022 - 7:31am

Director of Pride TT Faye Ferdinandus says it is time government addresses the concerns the LGBTQIA community and is calling for a meeting with ministers to discuss strategies to end discrimination. Ferdinandus made the call during a demonstration outside the Red House on Friday afternoon where she outlined the need for more inclusive discussion with the community. [caption id="attachment_961529" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Pride TT director Faye Ferdinandus speaks with the media. - AYANNA KINSALE[/caption] She said while the perception and treatment of LGBTQIA people have improved slightly over the years, a lot of work still needs to be done in promoting tolerance and equality for members of the community. Ferdinandus noted that Pride TT has been actively trying to reach out to MPs by sending information packages and brochures to their various offices without success. She said members of the community have contributed to society, and she is calling on politicians to consider the value of their support for upcoming elections. [caption id="attachment_961528" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Friends For Life member Christopher Plummer displays his placard during the LGBTQIA demonstration. - AYANNA KINSALE[/caption] "The first step we want to see from the government is that they reach out to us to say 'Pride TT we hear you all, we see you all.' "Come to a meeting, let's discuss things. And if they don't want to come to a meeting, the second step is to make sure and read that handbook, make sure and reach out to other organisations, talk among yourselves. "Local government elections should be called by the end of this year. "If you want us to vote, we'll vote, we normally vote. If you want us to vote for you and your party, then talk to us. [caption id="attachment_961527" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Pride TT members and associates opposite the Red House on Friday as they called on ministers to discuss, with them, strategies to end discrimination against the LGBTQIA community. - AYANNA KINSALE[/caption] "In 2025 there's general elections. We're going to be looking very hard at who has reached out to us over the years." Ferdinandus said she felt political parties did not want to interact with the group for fear of losing support, but noted it was time for all public officials to recognise their value. She also urged the public to draw their own conclusions and avoid perpetuating hate out of ignorance. "We'll help alleviate the fears, and a lot of the abuses is driven by the fear of the unknown, fear of and, of course we're not saying to anybody to forget your church and forget your beliefs, what we are saying is dive into your church, dive into your beliefs and check what is really and truly being said. "Don't just repeat what a pastor or somebody else is saying to you." While packing up their placards and flags to leave, the group was confronted by street preacher Sheldon Matthews who expressed his disapproval of their lifestyle and began preaching to them.  

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

Chief Sec: THA will support Marriott-brand hotel at Rocky Point

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Sab, 25/06/2022 - 7:29am

CHIEF Secretary Farley Augustine has announced the THA will support the proposed construction of a $500 million Marriott-brand hotel at Rocky Point, Tobago.

The first-class hotel and property development, to be undertaken by Superior Hotels TT, was announced in September 2021 during the PNM-led THA’s term in office.

It will be built on approximately 28 acres of land on the western side of Grafton Road and south of Pleasant Prospect. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.

The project comprises 200 rooms, 28 duplex residences, 11-single family villas and 12 fully outfitted townhouses. It is expected to provide employment for 750 people during construction.

In the THA’s $3.97 billion budget presentation in the Assembly Legislature on Thursday, Augustine said he has held preliminary discussions on improving Tobago’s room stock with two investors, one of whom is associated with the Rocky Point development.

“Collectively, these two investors will result in an injection of approximately $1.5 billion in the Tobago economy, should they materialise. Both investments are likely to add about 850 rooms in the next three years,” he said.

“One of these investments relates to the tricky Rocky Point Hotel. This project started in the most troubling manner, but we are attempting to responsibly manage this project in the interest of our Tobagonians.”

told the House when the Progressive Democratic Patriots took office in December 2021, the developers for the Rocky Point project said they had had no formal conversation with the THA.

“It is unbelievable that a tourism-related project, a fifth-schedule item of that magnitude, was planned for Tobago without Tobago leadership input. They plan it and a chief secretary just sit down like a moo-moo and clap.”

Augustine said after learning of these developments, his administration "did the responsible thing," and invited the principals to Tobago to tour the land and to meet the stakeholders. He said they intend "to monitor and work closely with the developers to ensure that all the concerns that were raised are addressed to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.”

The THA is awaiting final designs and plans “commensurate with those concerns.

He said the construction phase for both investments will provide approximately 1,050 jobs for young Tobagonians and approximately 425 full-time jobs on commissioning and full operations.

He said Tobago needs 5,000 high-end rooms to build a viable tourism sector, and the current shortfall is about 2,500 rooms.

Augustine also announced the THA is pursuing divestment options in relation to the “troubling” Manta Lodge and Sanctuary resorts, which the PNM bought in 2014 “and continue to attract millions of dollars in expenditure annually.”

He also said the THA will foot the bill from its airlift support resources to ensure the ANR Robinson Airport stays open for longer hours to accommodate more Caribbean Airlines flights between Trinidad and Tobago, as CAL’s current 12 daily flights to Tobago have not resulted in significant bookings on the island.

“Tobago is service-driven, tourism-led. For an economy such as ours to be buoyant, it will require predictable, sufficient and reliant air and sea transport.

"At my last check (Wednesday), last night, the current offerings by CAL of 12 flights daily are sold out until after Tobago Carnival in October and even beyond. And while this is so, guest house capacity remains at max 50 per cent bookings.”

He said he was told it cost too much to keep the airport open until 1.30am.

“In other words, it is too costly to keep the Tobago airport open until 1.30 am, while Trinidad airport is open 24 hours per day.”

Augustine said he checked with the Airport Authority and discovered it would cost $16,800 to keep the airport open until 2 am daily.

“Somebody in central government thinks it is too costly to pay $16,800 per day to keep the Tobago airport open for this economy to get moving again. Madam Presiding Officer (Abby Taylor), we propose to foot the bill from our airlift support resources to keep the keep the Tobago airport open until 1.30 am.”

Saying air and seaports were part of the fifth schedule, Augustine declared, “This is a clear signal from this administration that we do not just want autonomy, but we are ready for the responsibility.

“CAL will now have no excuses. The movement of CAL between the both islands is an essential service, and it is the duty of the central government to foot such an operation.

"Therefore, I am using this platform to say to CAL: please return to full capacity.”

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

John-Williams remembered for his passion for football

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Sab, 25/06/2022 - 7:29am

FORMER TT Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams was remembered for his contribution and passion for local football.

John-Williams, who was a contractor by profession, died on Friday morning after ailing for some time.

He led the TTFA from 2015-2019, before being replaced by William Wallace in the TTFA election. Before getting into TTFA administration, John-Williams was heavily involved in local football as the founder of W Connection FC – one of the most successful clubs in TT.

W Connection, founded in 1999, have won several titles, including five TT Pro League titles, four FA Cup trophies and six First Citizens Cup trophies. Many national players represented W Connection, including brothers Joevin and Alvin Jones, Jan-Michael Williams and the deceased pair of Shahdon Winchester and Clyde Leon.

The Ministry of Sport and Community Development Facebook page said, “Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister of Sport and Community Development, extends her deepest condolences to the family, relatives, friends and the sports fraternity on the passing of David John-Williams, former TTFA president.”

The TTFA also reflected on John-Williams' contribution to local football, to conveying its "deepest and heartfelt sympathy" to his family and friends.

The TTFA said John-Williams had a “genuine passion and dedication to the growth of the game” and his contributions and commitment over the last decades wouldbe remembered.

TTFA normalisation committee chairman Robert Hadad said, “David’s passion for and knowledge of the game will be well remembered. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”

The Sport Company of TT, in a social media post, said its board and management expressed its deepest condolences to his family and close friends, adding, "Let us always remember his legacy in the sport of football and his contributions to the sporting industry of TT. RIP."

The TT Women’s League Football (TT WoLF) also remembered his life.

On Facebook, TT Wolf said, “It is with great sadness TT Wolf have learnt of the death of former TTFA president David John-Williams...TT Wolf would like to send out condolences to his family, loved ones and friends.”

One of John-Williams’s major accomplishments was the opening of the Home of Football in Couva in November 2019. It was a lavish opening, as FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the Prime Minister, Concacaf president Victor Montagliani and Cudjoe all attended.

The facility was the first of its kind in TT. The Home of Football, funded through FIFA’s Forward Programme, includes a 72-room hotel aimed to allow the TTFA to become self-sustainable. It is also intended to develop the next generation of TT’s footballers, as it is equipped with multiple training fields.

Days after the opening, John-Williams was dethroned as president in the TTFA elections.

Since it opened, the Home of Football has been under-utilised, for a number of reasons. A week after the opening, new TTFA president William Wallace shut it down because approvals were still pending and the property had no insurance. For example, at the time the building had no fire approval.

The building is now fit to use.

During the covid19 pandemic the Home of Football was used as a step-down facility for recovering patients. During this time no sport was being played in TT.

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Chief public defender: 90 cases settled through plea bargaining

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Sab, 25/06/2022 - 12:55am

The image shows a judge's gavel.

APPROXIMATELY 90 court matters have been settled through plea bargaining over the last two years. Chief public defender Hasine Shaikh made this comment in response to questions from Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh during a virtual meeting of the Finance and Legal Affairs Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Friday. Deyalsingh praised former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi for initiating steps to reduce the backlog of cases before the courts by introducing initiatives such as plea bargaining and judge-only trials. Plea bargaining is an arrangement between prosecutor and defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges Deyalsingh recalled there was some opposition to these moves when Al-Rawi mentioned them back in 2017 as part of the conversation about abolishing preliminary inquires. Shaikh told JSC members of the 90 matters completed through plea bargaining, 23 resulted in a guilty ruling. She said the public defenders' department, which falls under the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority, specifically handles plea-bargaining matters before the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Owing to the process involving inputs from several different entities, such as the police and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shaikh said it is not simple and may take six months in some instances. She added that plea bargaining is pursued in all courts in Trinidad and Tobago. Responding to questions from Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial, authority secretary Richard Ragoobarsingh said many people are unaware of the public defenders' department and the authority. Before the department was created, Ragoobarsingh said there was a small group of attorneys in private practice who specialised in criminal law. Shaikh added that this number was no more than 21. Ragoobarsingh said, "In looking at the strategic development of the legal team, we felt the time had come to separate them clearly into two parallel tracks." Attorneys who handle civil and criminal matters, he continued, can work in the public defenders' department if they want to focus exclusively on the latter. "That is why the public defenders' department was established." Shaikh said to date, the department has successfully concluded 336 matters. In response to a question from JSC chair Independent Senator Hazel Thompson-Ahye, Ragoobarsingh said the authority provides legal aid for people unable to hire an attorney for themselves. The people the authority helps are those who earn a maximum of $36,000 per year or $3,000 per month. Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland was comforted by this and by the authority chairman, Gilbert Peterson, SC, saying people seeking legal aid from the authority could receive quality representation.  

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

CWU head: Khamal Georges hiring unfair to retrenched TSTT workers

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Sab, 25/06/2022 - 12:53am

Communications Workers Union leader Clyde Elder has said the appointment of former CNC3 editor Khamal Georges is unfair to the recently retrenched 486 TSTT workers. In a brief phone interview with Newsday on Friday, Elder described Georges' appointment to Amplia Communications as a slap in the face to the workers who were let go. George's position in the company has not yet been identified. “Amplia Communications is owned by TSTT, so if TSTT has no money, Amplia has no money,” he said. “His qualifications are not the issue. What is so special about him? "If (TSTT) has no money to keep 468 workers, how can they have money to bring on Georges? If it have no money for them, it have no money for Georges either.” He said TSTT's claim that it could no longer afford to pay those workers was disingenuous if tit could pay Georges. Elder had earlier claimed that Amplia had hired Georges at a significantly higher salary than his predecessor. On Friday, he said he could not confirm Georges’ salary offer. Last Sunday, speaking at the UNC’s weekly media conference at the Opposition Leader’s office in Port of Spain, Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh asked where and when the vacancy at Amplia was announced. “We understand that Georges was hired to do the same job as a recently retrenched worker who was earning $25,000 a month, but he will be earning $75,000 a month.” Indarsingh called on the Prime Minister and TSTT CEO Lisa Agard to notify the public of the terms and conditions of Georges’ contract: “What special-duty allowance has he been granted, and what expertise and background he brings to this post.” Indarsingh claimed Guardian Media Ltd, Georges' and Agard's previous employer, had an unusually close relationship with the government and said Georges apparently had a monopoly on interviewing the Prime Minister. He also noted former PNM candidate for Barataria/San Juan Jason Williams was now host of CNC’s morning programme.

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

Manning: US$400m in forex made available to importers during pandemic

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Gio, 23/06/2022 - 6:45am

Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning has said, as of May 31, US$400 million in foreign exchange (forex) was made available to established importers to bring in essential supplies.

He was speaking during the American Chamber of Commerce of TT (Amcham TTs) annual general meeting at the Hilton, Port of Spain, on Wednesday.

“At the start of the pandemic, strict lockdown measures had to be implemented to curb the spread of the virus while fiscal support, in the form of short-term grants and cash transfers, was provided to help the most vulnerable groups.”

Manning said the government provided support to enable business continuity and access to capital through a number of programmes including the special import forex window for established importers.

He also said the loan guarantee programme was previously offered in 2020 to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with an initial resource backing of $300 million.

“In that initial programme, the total value of loans accessed amounted to $37.3 million.

“At the request of the SME sector, a phase two of the programme was finalised in September 2021 at a value of $196.0 million…As of May 30, 2022, 387 loans have been disbursed under Phase II with a total value of $80.1 million.”

A $30 million entrepreneurial relief grant facility, Manning said, was administered by the National Entrepreneurial Development Company (Nedco) and made available to small and micro business operators with annual revenues of less than $1 million. The facility was extended by the government on March 31.

“All of these measures, coupled with the advancements made in vaccinating the population, have helped the normalisation of activity by enabling the reopening of the economy.”

Manning said the government aims to transform the economy from being oil and gas dependent to focus on generating revenues and foreign exchange from a broader range of sectors.

He said initiatives under the Ministries of Finance and Trade and Industry aim to support the diversification of the economy.

“In 2018, the Ministry of Finance introduced the Eximbank Manufacturing Forex Facility at the request of the TT Manufacturers’ Association in order to provide improved access to foreign exchange for manufacturers engaged in export activity, and in 2021 the facility was expanded to include all manufacturing enterprises with an export plan.”

He said as of May 31, US$309 million in forex has been sold to 126 manufacturers, with 83 per cent being in the SME category.

Manning said the Ministry of Trade has also established programmes such as the grant fund facility, administered by ExporTT, through which SMEs involved in production of high value-added products and services can access grants up to $250,000 to finance new capital requirements and expenditure.

Manning highlighted several other initiatives which focus on digital transformation. He said, leading the thrust is the Ministry of Digital Transformation which has implemented initiatives such as e-ID – a government-owned, operated and issued unique digital identifier for each person.

“The government of TT…has positioned the economy for the strong rebound now being experienced.

“The business community and the population at large can therefore be assured of a positive outlook for the prospects of our economy.”

AmchamTT president Toni Sirju-Ramnarine also said the effect of the ongoing pandemic, climate change and recent geopolitical tensions continue to disrupt business.

“Against this backdrop, companies have been forced to make many difficult decisions to stay alive and afloat. But in the midst of these tumultuous times, many promising opportunities have also arisen.”

Sirju-Ramnarine said AmchamTT will be hosting its fourth edition of the Tech Hub Islands Summit from July 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, featuring speakers including global technology team lead for infrastructure modernisation at Google Cloud David White.

She said investing in technology is imperative to pushing business forward.

“We have seen how technology can transform the way companies produce and sell their goods and services.

“We know the potential it has to open up new markets and new business models, resulting in higher levels of productivity, production, and profits to grow the economy. What we require more of now are the structural changes to promote innovation.”

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

Alternative flour supply from Tobago from September

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Gio, 23/06/2022 - 6:45am

The Tobago Agribusiness Development Company (TADCO) will be supplying alternative flour in partnership with Novo Farms Ltd by September.

THA Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development Nathisha Charles-Pantin announced this virtually during Wednesday’s post-Executive Council news conference from the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, National Flour Mills and Nutrimix announced that wheat flour prices were being raised by up to 33 per cent.

Charles-Pantin said already an MOU (memorandum of understanding) has been signed.

“The idea is to supply flour not only to Tobago, but throughout TT. Novo Farms, they are already ready in Trinidad, and in the month of July, they would be supplying flour to Trinidad.

"TADCO would come on board and of course the processing would be done in Tobago.

"So we’re appealing to farmers to continue planting and up your supplies, because we want your cassava and dasheens to process alternative flour.”

The equipment, she said, is already in Tobago and flour would be processed at the packing house in Shaw Park.

Questioned about the amount that would be processed, she said: “National Flour Mills want six tonnes from us. Together with Novo, they want 16 tonnes, and this is monthly. We are negotiating.”

She said she welcomed the new initiative, as alternative flour is healthy.

“The flour will be made out of cassava and dasheen, and of course it would target especially the low-income households. We all would be able to afford the alternative flour, so I welcome it,(and) I know Tobago will welcome it.”

She said she has been using alternative flour from the local producers, describing it as an excellent product.

“I’ve used flour made from even yam and plantains. So we can make flour from anything local, provision or vegetable, it seems, because people are coming up with so many creative ways, making creative use of what we have on the island.

"Even breadfruit flour I’ve had. I’ve made roast bake I’ve had from breadfruit flour. I’ve had buss-up shut from breadfruit.

"So I welcome it, and I know Tobagonians are looking for an alternative, and this is something that our parents and grandparents would have used in our kitchens and making flour from it, I know everyone would welcome it.”

At supermarkets on Wednesday, cashiers said there was no rush when the news was announced the previous day.

At one supermarket, Jason Paul said the price increase would not affect his family even though his wife was an avid baker.

“This is the second increase but thankfully, my family had already switched things up to the healthier side, so we were already in the habit of purchasing locally-produced provision flour, so we are marked safe.”

Paul said the price increases are still concerning.

“Two increases in one year is ridiculous though. There is nothing out here for low-income people really, because are we going to get a salary increase as well?”

A woman shopping nearby said flour was a necessity.

“We have to live – no matter what kind of flour, we have to buy it because we have to feed ourselves and our families, so regardless of increases or not, we would buy it.”

One bakery owner who did not want to be identified said she had no intention of raising prices at this time.

“I mean, how much can I really increase? I did an increase in my prices when the prices went up earlier but to do that again, I would say is a little heartless.”

She added: “I would have to monitor it and see how it goes, but for now I won’t increase my prices.”

These sentiments were echoed by a doubles vendor who said: “This is sad. I already sell one doubles at $6 – how much higher can I go? I will have to monitor the situation, but for now I don’t see any increases.”

Supermarkets on the island could not confirm the new cost for wheat flour as they still had old stock on hand.

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

Ex-Central Bank governor wins dismissal case against Imbert

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Gio, 23/06/2022 - 6:45am

A High Court judge has ruled former Central Bank governor Jwala Rambarran's dismissal in 2015 was illegal.

Justice Devindra Rampersad also ruled Rambarran’s termination as governor was in breach of the Constitution and has ordered the former governor be paid his salary from the date of his dismissal to July 16, 2017, when his tenure would have come to an end if he had not been fired. The judge also ordered vindicatory damages in the sum of $175,000.

In his lawsuit, Rambarran claimed the Government unlawfully revoked his appointment in breach of his constitutional right to due process and fairness.

These claims were upheld by Rampersad who delivered the ruling virtually on Wednesday.

In his ruling, Rampersad referenced the Central Bank Act and the Financial Institutions Act which, he said, prescribed a remedy if either section was breached for summary court proceedings to be instituted.

“The process by which the appointment was revoked was seriously flawed,” and “was in clear breach of the law,” the judge ruled, adding that Rambarran’s dismissal went against the principles of natural justice.

Rambarran was fired as Central Bank governor on December 23, 2015, after his appointment was revoked by acting president Christine Kangaloo on the advice of the Cabinet. He was appointed on July 17, 2012.

At the time, it was said he was removed for being “discourteous” to the Government by making public details of foreign exchange, announcing on December 4, that year, that TT was officially in a recession, and disclosing the names of companies that were the biggest foreign-exchange buyers.

Two weeks before his firing, the Prime Minister said Rambarran had created problems for himself by his actions, labelling them “reckless and illegal.”

On December 22, 2015, Rambarran was summoned to a meeting with Finance Minister Colm Imbert at which the permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Maurice Suite was present. Rambarran was presented with a press release from the bank, dated December 8, 2015, which noted the sentiments expressed by the private and financial sectors following Rambarran’s statements.

Two days after that meeting, Rambarran was served with the instrument of revocation of his appointment which gave no reasons or grounds for his dismissal.

In his ruling, the judge was critical of Imbert. He said when he met with Rambarran, the minister had already obtained legal opinions from three out of four people. These, he said, were not presented to the court, but the minister, in his affidavit, said Rambarran’s actions, the bank’s statement, and the national furore that ensued, as well as his own “grave concern,” led to him seeking the opinions.

“What he does not say is whether these opinions supported his contention that the claimant had broken the law and if so, what law and whether these opinions supported his ability or power or jurisdiction, or that of Cabinet, to summarily reach a judgment on an issue that the statutes prescribed to be judicially determined.”

Rampersad voiced concerns about the failure to “properly lay the Government’s hand on the table as is prescribed in public law matters.”

"The minister did not put to the claimant, in any way whatsoever, that he had misconducted himself in such a way as to warrant his removal or failed to carry out his duties and functions much less for giving him an opportunity to respond to that. Instead, there was a meeting held on an uneven playing field with the minister holding his intention and his legal opinions undisclosed and close to his chest.

“All he wanted was confirmation that the press release reflected the claimant’s position without saying why. It is clear that he did not want any drawn-out confrontation by disclosing his intention because the newspaper reports attached to his affidavit quoted the claimant as saying he would fight any attempt to remove him. That was unfair,” the judge said in his 75-page decision.

Rampersad referred to transcripts of Rambarran’s meeting with Imbert, saying it suggested there was a “skirting reference” to the allegations of breach of confidentiality.

He added, “At the end of the day, whether what the claimant did was in fact a breach is not an issue for this court’s determination.”

“...Instead of being full and frank with the claimant, the minister hid his true intentions in the meeting that they had on December 22, 2015, thereby depriving the claimant of the opportunity to disabuse him of the findings on the law which the minister sought to rely on.

Rambarran, who filed a series of other legal proceedings, had accused Imbert of sabotaging his appointment as a senior adviser with the US G-24 Secretariat because of a political and personal vendetta. Rambarran said the director of the G-24, Marilou Uy, sought Imbert’s feedback on the secretariat’s selection. He was ranked as the highest candidate by a shortlisting panel, a selection panel from G-24 member countries at the IMF and World Bank, and experts from both institutions.

Rampersad said the court has no doubt that the minister's e-mail “is not only unfair but it was also misleading.”

“The court recognises that a person giving a recommendation is not compelled to give a good recommendation but must give a fair one. In this circumstance, the email suggests that what was sent was not fair.”

However, the judge said had Rambarran not been fired, there was nothing to suggest he would have applied for the G-24 position nor was there sufficient evidence that Rambarran became unemployable. He said for these reasons, he could not order further compensatory damage for financial loss other than what he lost for the unlawful termination of his post as governor.

He has given the Central Bank until July 6 to calculate what is owed to Rambarran, less deductions, including income tax. The judge also ordered the State to pay Rambarran’s costs as well as interest on the damages ordered at a rate of 2.5 per cent from January 19, 2019, when he filed his lawsuit, to June 22, 2022.

Rambarran was represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Renuka Rambhajan, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Kent Samlal, Natasha Bisram, and Vishaal Siewsarran. Representing the Attorney General were Russell Martineau, SC, Jason Mootoo, and Romney Thomas.

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago

Imbert: $953m from waiver on penalties for NIB late filing

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday - Gio, 23/06/2022 - 6:45am

A bill to waive late-filing penalties for employers is expected to yield $161 million in its first year of operation plus $792 million over the next ten years, Finance Minister Colm Imbert told the House of Representatives on Wednesday, piloting the National Insurance (Amendment) Bill.

He said this benefit was a very conservative estimate, based on a mere ten per cent of some 4,034 employers who are currently unregistered becoming registered after the bill's passage.

Defining registered employers as those registered for pay-as-you-earn tax for their workers, he said only 84 per cent of these employers had also registered at the NIB.

Imbert said that each year in succession from 2019-2021 respectively the NIB had collected an extra $319 million, $547 million and $424 million in arrears owed by employers, totalling $1.3 billion.

However he went on to lament a $1 billion deficit each between the NIB's benefits paid out and contributions raked in, respectively of $5.5 billion and $4.5 billion annually.

Saying the bill offers only temporary help to the NIB's financial state, Imbert sought to expand the debate to discuss more permanent ways to help the NIB to address the deficit caused by a shrinking workforce of contributors coupled with an expanding pool of retired claimants. This deficit, he said, had been reported by successive auditor reports on the NIB over the years.

Imbert tried to focus debate on the question of increasing the retirement age from 60 to 65 to allow the worker another five years to contribute to the NIB fund (rather than take from it), but was reined in by Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George. He managed to say that this country was far behind other countries in a similar situation which had already raised their retirement ages to 65.

Imbert said such a hike was a win-win situation, as the worker would still retain his/her salary instead of a reduced NIB benefit, while the employer and NIB would also benefit. He said other possible were to increase the contribution level, reduce the benefit paid, or to include self-employed people.

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Categorie: Trinidad e Tobago