Island Opinions

Island Opinions (734)

By Sir Ronald Sanders – CNS Contributor

WASHINGTON – The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has tormented small Caribbean economies for five decades with austerity measures and fierce conditionalities, has been exposed as adopting utterly different standards towards Europe, especially the countries of the European Currency Union.   That is except for Greece which, throughout its economic crisis, the IMF treated like a third-world country.

According to a report, published on 28th July by the IMF’s watchdog, the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO), the Fund’s top staff worked in cahoots with the European Commission and the European Central Bank to misrepresent the situation in Greece to their own Executive Board; laboured diligently to protect the Eurozone in the interests of its larger members, such as France and Germany (which, incidentally, are also the main controllers of the IMF); and punished Greece with the burden of alone carrying the cost of a bailout – something that had not been done to any other European Union country.

In a revealing and telling sentence in the executive summary of its report, the IEO declared that: “In general, the IMF shared the widely-held “Europe is different” mindset that encouraged the view that large imbalances in national current accounts were little cause for concern and that sudden stops could not happen within the euro area”.  The report, “The IMF and the crises in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal: an evaluation by the independent evaluation office” can be read at:  http://www.ieo-imf.org/ieo/files/completedevaluations/EAC__REPORT%20v5.PDF and it is strongly recommended that officers of all Finance Ministries and Central Banks in the Caribbean should read it.

The authors of the report stated unequivocally that: “The IMF’s handling of the euro area crisis raised issues of accountability and transparency, which helped create the perception that the IMF treated Europe differently. Conducting this evaluation proved challenging. Some documents on sensitive issues were prepared outside the regular, established channels” and either disappeared or were not made available to the Evaluation Team.

The principal reason for handling the financial crisis in Greece differently was primarily to protect the Eurozone at the insistence of the European Commission which negotiated on behalf of the Eurogroup, subjecting IMF staff’s technical judgments “to political pressure from an early stage”.  As a result of this, in May 2010, the IMF Executive Board approved a decision to provide exceptional access financing to Greece “without seeking pre-emptive debt restructuring, even though its sovereign debt was not deemed sustainable with a high probability”.   The truth is that the actions in relation to Greece (hidden from the Executive Board by the management) were designed to make French and German banks ‘whole’; never mind what Greece was forced to endure.  In other words, Greece was ‘sucker punched’ or, ‘fiscally water-boarded’ to use the more emotive description of the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (now Professor of Economics at the University of Athens).

In a robust response to the IEO report, Varoufakis observed that: “The establishment press were claiming that a finance minister of a small, bankrupt nation which is being water-boarded by the high and mighty troika functionaries cannot afford to say, in public or in private, that his small, bankrupt nation was being water-boarded”.  But, he said Greece had “tried silence and obedience from 2010 to 2014. The result? A loss of 28% of national income and grapes of wrath that were “…filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage”.

Of course, Greece, though a small European economy, is significantly larger than the small economies of the Caribbean.  When Finance Ministers of small Caribbean countries complain about the conditionalites of IMF programmes that hurt more than help, as Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne did in August 2014, they are roundly criticised for their audacity.  Browne had remarked about the IMF strait-jacket that his government inherited when it was voted into office: “The fiscal problems have not been resolved, but yet still we are being asked to pay back US$119 million over the next four years. We have to pay back even before the problem is solved”.  And, small economies have no capacity to stand-up to the IMF and those who control it.  Greece proved that point and is now struggling as a result.

Varoufakis feels that Greece is owed an apology and officials of the IMF should be fired now that the IEO has exposed duplicity – even conspiracy – in the way the country was treated by the IMF, including – and especially – not being granted any significant debt relief, through a debt write-down or a reduction in the sum of the debt, while having an austerity programme stuffed down its throat.  But, he is realistic enough to say:  Is any of this going to happen? Or will the IMF’s IEO report light up the sky fleetingly, to be forgotten soon? The omens are pointing to the latter”.

Concern about the findings of the IEO report, particularly the obvious political interference in the IMF’s processes by the European Union and the European Central Bank, has evoked editorial comment from leading financial publications.   For instance, the UK Financial Times newspaper editorialised on 28 July about “Europe’s outsized influence over the governance of the IMF” and expressed the view that such influence “must continue to decline if the institution is to retain credibility”.

But, the reality is that recent reforms in the voting power of the IMF still leave the European governments with enormous and undeserved power.  As the Financial Times observed, rather belatedly (and perhaps with an eye to yet another unthought-of consequence of Brexit): “The EU has also yet to demonstrate that it has abandoned the traditional stitch-up by which it, in effect, appoints the head of the IMF”.   The United States of America (US) aids and abets the EU in its imposition of the IMF chief in return for the right to name the President of the World Bank.  Between them, they operate a cabal of control of the international financial system.

The IEO report is a valuable document.  Developing countries, including those in the Caribbean, should not allow its findings “to run through our leaders’ fingers like thin, white sand” as the former Greek Finance Minister vividly put it.  Instead, it should be used as a beacon to shine a bright light on the dark crannies of an organisation that was created to help countries out of dire fiscal straits, but whose prescriptions result in hurting more than it helps, except when the interests of its controllers are affected.

At the World Bank/IMF meeting this autumn, the IEO report should be prominent among the items that Finance Ministers emphasize.  It should become a tool for the re-examination of IMF policies and more considered discussion of the many governance issues, highlighted in the report and which, in the interests of all, have to be addressed effectively.

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto.  The views expressed are his own)

By David Jessop – CNS Contributor

LONDON – As has been widely reported, Cuba has entered a new period of austerity.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - This September when you go to the polls you will not be electing ministers. Neither will you be electing a Prime Minister. Instead, the people of Sint Maarten will be voting in fifteen persons to represent them in Parliament.

What is the job of these fifteen representatives? We must be aware that parliamentarians are not elected to office to build bridges, construct schools or design hospitals. They are not in parliament to negotiate contracts or to execute projects. This is the job of a minister or the Council of Ministers. They are the ones to execute plans, programs and projects.

It is the minister who, through his or her ministry can help that mother who needs assistance for her sick child. It is the minister who can give instructions to help out that senior citizen who is unable to make ends meet and who needs social assistance.

The job of the parliamentarian is different. Parliamentarians legislate. They draft, amend and approve laws in the benefit of the people and the country. For example, they can pass a law that allows the minister to give financial assistance to that mother with her sick child. Or they can pass a law to increase the old age pension of that senior citizen who cannot make ends meet. So when politicians promise you an increase in salary, or a job or materials to build your house they are fooling you. It means that they do not know their job or function as a parliamentarian and that they are not yet prepared or ready for you to vote them into parliament.

The job of a parliamentarian is very clearly outlined in the law. Parliamentarians are there to draft or amend laws. They are there to monitor, control and investigate the work of a minister or of the Council of Ministers. Parliamentarians also play a major role in the selection of the ministers and when parliament loses confidence in a minister, the minister in question must leave office. So popularly speaking, parliament hires and fires the ministers.

Another major function of a parliamentarian is to approve and amend the annual budget of country Sint Maarten. Hence when you see that parliamentarians have no questions concerning the budget or walk out when it comes time to approve the budget, then you know that those parliamentarians do not know their job and that they are not ready to carry out the duties and bear the responsibilities of being a parliamentarian. It seems like they are only willing to enjoy the high salary and the perks of travel, high travel allowances and so on.

Parliamentarians are paid a full time salary but are still able to keep their second job or side jobs. It is no wonder that they cannot give all of their time and full attention to representing the people who elected them. Sint Maarten parliamentarians are the highest paid in the kingdom but produce the least work of all. Look how many laws were drafted, amended and approved last year. According to the 2014-2015 Annual Report of Parliament only one amendment was submitted and passed in 2015. The year before, not one law was submitted. According to the 2014 report Parliament only initiated three laws and not one of them was approved and passed. Here we have fifteen highly paid elected officials and together they cannot even initiate a draft law that can pass. This is an indictment against such a high salaried elected body. The question to ask here is; are our people getting their money’s worth from the people they placed in parliament? Several integrity reports have been written about the malfunctioning of our parliament yet these reports have never been debated on the floor of parliament.

It is a misconception that parliament is the highest body in the country. The highest body is really the people of Sint Maarten who elect the parliament. In simple terms it means that the people hire and therefore can also fire parliament by voting them out of office. This election is not about voting for ministers. It is about electing parliamentarians who then will appoint the ministers to execute the work on behalf of the people of Sint Maarten. If you want to have a good functioning Council of Ministers then you must first elect good parliamentarians who understand that their job is to legislate and not to execute. So be wary of all the promises that politicians are making during this campaign because you are voting for a parliamentarian and not for a minister.

Wycliffe Smith​

Leader of the Sint Maarten Christian Party

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - On behalf of the board and members of the DP, my family and myself, I extend heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the late Chantal Ringeling.

St. Maarten has lost a dedicated educator, one who showed her love for children within and outside of the school walls.

Her service to country, through her beloved Lions Club will long be remembered.

She fought a brave and valiant fight against cancer, but lost in the end.

We pray that her family will find peace and strength during this difficult time. May her soul rest in peace.

Sleep softly, Chantal.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - My name is May-Ling Chun and I am a candidate on the United People’s Party (UP Party) list for the upcoming Parliamentary election on September 26, 2016.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Born of a Sint Maarten father and a Saban mother, I was raised in a family with strong Biblical values. I left my parental home to further my education abroad, and took those values with me.

Like most youngsters, when I tried to do my own thing, those values would tug at my conscience and keep me in line. Living, studying and working in the Netherlands have taught me to rely on the values I was brought up with and which I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

The teaching I have received at home, the experience I gained abroad and the fact that God has kept me, have shaped me into the person I am today. A person who is compassionate and empathetic. So being there for people comes natural to me. This is the reason why the slogan of the Sint Maarten Christian Party SERVING YOU FOR A CHANGE resonates strongly with me.

I have learnt that an ideology is the foundation on which a political party is built and it sets the tone by which the country will be governed. If a party doesn’t have a clear ideology or set of beliefs and principles one can safely assume that there is no sense of direction in that party and consequently there will be no sense of direction in government. If we look at Sint Maarten’s situation, I am unable to identify an ideology in the different parties. What I see is people coming together on a party list and as soon as their personal expectations are not met, they jump ship. And the business of the people is not taken into account because it was never about the people in the first place. This leads to instability and lack of continuity in government as well as to insecurity and distrust on the part of the people and investors. Eventually, we see a widening of the gap between the have and have nots. We also see an increase in crime, in poverty, in taxes as well as in the prices of goods and services. In general, the cost of living goes up and there is a noticeable erosion in the social-, economic- and financial fabric of our society.

Sint Maarten is hemorrhaging profusely; the people are hurting and they are sick and tired of being sick and tired of the type of representatives that we have had. Government has failed the people. The lack of integrity, transparency and accountability is blatant. People want to know that their concerns are taken seriously and that the elected persons that they put in government are working on their behalf. As I look at all the problems facing our country they seem unsurmountable. However, sitting on the sidelines, feeling helpless about the situation and complaining about the government will not solve the problems. I had to ask myself. Do I want to be part of the problem or do I want to be part of the solution? I eventually decided to become a part of the solution. That is the reason I joined the Sint Maarten Christian Party which is a party that is concerned about the welfare of each citizen of this country. It’s a party whose ideology is Christian based and as such it will uphold good governance and serve the people for a change. I realize that if we want to see a change on Sint Maarten, we cannot continue to vote the way we have been voting and expect a different outcome. And remember, that not voting is not an option! I am making myself available by becoming a candidate on the slate of the Sint Maarten Christian Party so that I can serve you the people and help to bring about the much needed change in our country.

Beverley Gibbs

1-721-522-0578

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By David Jessop – CNS Contributor

LONDON – Earlier this month CARICOM heads of government met in Georgetown. Among the many issues they considered was Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Their focus was on a secretariat paper largely intended for information.  While they recognised the British people’s decision represented a watershed in world affairs with far-reaching and long-lasting geopolitical and geo-economic repercussions, they decided that the best approach was to monitor developments as the process unfolds.

It is a position that contrasts with that of many other nations that have begun to strategise, focus on priorities, and initiate an exploratory dialogue with British ministers, and in particular with the new Ministry of International Trade which will undertake all third country trade negotiations.

Brazil with Mercosur, the US, Australia and others have decided to act now on so far informal suggestions that the UK intends having a significant number of draft or outline trade agreements with third countries in place by 2019, the most likely date when the UK will leave the EU. They have recognised publicly that all third countries wanting some form of freer trade arrangement with the UK will have to negotiate new agreements.

Under EU law such discussions are technically impermissible while the UK is still a member. However, it is now widely understood that the UK is likely to seek, when establishing with the EU27 the rules of engagement for Brexit, some form of understanding or arrangement that will allow it the freedom to negotiate in parallel international trade deals. The objective will be to establish by 2019 what the Minister for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, has described as the basis for a huge new trade zone.

At the same time, it has also become clear is that the options for the UK’s future relationship with the EU are narrowing. Although no formal announcement on the approach is expected for some time yet – this is expected to be contained in a white paper towards the year’s end – it is apparent from the language being used by key ministers that Britain is likely to seek a unique trade agreement with Europe.

While the detail of this is not known, it seems likely the UK government’s ideal outcome would be some form of advanced association type agreement with the EU27 that enables free trade in most goods and services, in some way accepts the UK will control the free movement of EU citizens, and may possibly include financial arrangements in discrete areas, for instance on development or scientific co-operation.

Whether this or a similar approach will succeed, or as some analysts believe, cause negotiations to breakdown; whether it is politically saleable in the UK, where factions among the leave voters and politicians have wildly differing views on what Brexit means; or whether the process will end in the UK deciding on a WTO arrangement with the objective of becoming a Singapore type low-tax offshore centre located between the US and the EU27, all remain to be seen.

Irrespective, these are all developments that suggest that it would be wise for Caribbean Governments and the region’s private sector to be addressing now a number of key questions.

The most obvious among these are does the UK matter as a trade partner; is it is as a nation still of long term political and strategic importance to the region; are the Caribbean and the UK’s shared history, cultural ties and values still of significance; and are there areas of cooperation, such as climate change and security, that make the relationship special?

Assuming the answer is a qualified yes, and there is a broad based acceptance that the relationship matters more for some countries than for others, the most pressing question that then needs addressing is what configuration might offer the region the best future basis on which to engage profitably with the UK?

Put another way, should CARICOM seek to achieve with the UK something similar to the existing trade relationship it has under the EU- CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement, or should it try to establish something wholly new that is more skewed to key sectors, services and regulatory issues? Alternatively, should it work with others, for example Central America or Cuba, or should it consider for example re-engaging with the UK through the ACP.

The issue of configuration is far from academic having already become a matter of private discussion, brainstorming and seminars in the Commonwealth, in parts of the ACP, in Central America, in Mercosur, as well as in some Cariforum member states and in the UK’s Overseas Territories.

Of particular note in this respect is a debate underway within the Dominican Republic.  Experts there make clear that while the UK is of limited economic significance in terms of the country’s overall exports, visitor arrivals and investment, its banana market in the UK is significant. So much so that it accounts for around 77 per cent of the Dominican Republic’s overall exports of US$171m to the UK.

As a consequence, high level consideration is being given to whether the country should, in seeking a new trade arrangement with the UK, join with Central America or perhaps some other Latin American configuration; a position that stems from the now deeply held belief in Santo Domingo that the country will continue to be ostracised by CARICOM.

This is of some importance as it may affect how CARICOM eventually negotiates. The value of the UK export market for CARIFORUM essentially has three components: CARICOM (minus Trinidad & Tobago) which largely exports agricultural products, manufactured goods and some services; Trinidad which largely exports oil and gas and related products; and the Dominican Republic which largely exports agricultural produce, manufactured items such as garments, and rum.

Disaggregate this and it is immediately apparent that CARICOM would be in a weak negotiating position.

This suggests that unless the region can obtain early assurances from the UK about continuing market access, there is the real possibility that the UK will accept what is offered by larger pro-active groupings like Mercosur or Central America, while agreeing a new domestic agricultural regime that together will leave no space for Caribbean exports.

In all of this it is now much harder than in the past to guess how the UK will weigh its historic relationship with the region as there is now a strong interest in many parts of the UK Government in the much larger and more dynamic Latin American Market.

Barbados TODAY Editorial

BRIDGETOWN, BarbadosTaking issue with LIAT’s business model and consistent loss-making track record, Mr. Allen Chastanet, the newly elected Prime Minister of St Lucia, has always maintained a seemingly unrelenting opposition to supporting the Antigua-based regional airline.

MARIGOT, St. Martin -

This United state élection 
Is like a Bellot game of cards
Donald Trump
Has the Ace Of trump
In his lift of cards
While everyone else
is looking on real sad
Trying to find
someone to blame
For this shame
Thé démocrate party
Is Blaming Hillary 
For all its mysery
While the républican 
Is blaming the tea party
They all Claiming to be
Abraham Lincoln party

But it is still Hillary Clinton 
That is The queen of hearts
Bernie Sanders the joker
in this pack
Finaly is cutting Her some slack
But she can not win
Without the jack 
Monica Lowensky has 
The carré of Queens
But that will not help Hillary
This time in
If Obama don t play his
Hand very quickly
For he is holding the jack 
And and the ten
Thé only thing that will save
Hillary skin
Other than that she kapau
And she pipe will .be smoked
By the crapeau
So if he holding the right
Cards in this game 
It is time he play them right
Play your TRUMP
Or be stop by Trump

HE started as a lame duck
Like Donald the duck
They say hé wont .be nominate
But Hillary better watch out
Cauz he is at the white House gate
For juste like any bellot game
Who hold the Trump 
Will win this game
For after Clinton play His heart
Donald J Trump
Will still .be holding on to his Trump
AND TRUMPING HIS WAY TO WHITE HOUSE LAWN

copyright 2016
raymond helligar 
aka BIG RAY

 

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Not unlike elections before, there is no shortage of "plans" during this campaign leading up to the September 2016 election. Plans and ideas of individual (prospective) candidates are now surfacing at least one every day. And there is basically nothing wrong with this. Anyone is free to "share" his/her ideas.

However, it would be much more revealing if these ideas were part of the vision of the party that the candidate represents. Parties are required by law to publish a party program. How do individual candidates' plans align with these programs? How realistic are these desires of candidates? How do individual candidates' statements align with the party they could potentially come to represent in Parliament?

It is a fact that overall, we lack cohesiveness in our planning for the country.

Furthermore, where there currently already are plans, these are often times guarded and shrouded in secrecy. How refreshing would it be if e.g the plans for Philipsburg were shared with the public at large from the planning stages. The current government building, the post office building, the old fire station. If you speak to 5 persons, there are 5 "plans" for these buildings.

With government plans made public, businesses can plan, entrepreneurs can start to think of a business niche that they can engage in.

The same holds true for Cole Bay and Simpsonbay. The recent invitation by Government for bids to upgrade from Welfare Road down to Simpsonbay is a worthwhile initiative, but the public at large should know what government envisages for this "strip" and not leave it up to solely to the contractor with the "best" design. I know what I would like to see: sidewalks of course, a promenade, road side seating, lighting etc.

Why have discussions with stakeholders for an economic plan that has yielded nothing tangible?

What is the holdup with the National Development Plan for St. Maarten?

These are but some of the questions on people's minds, especially the persons who participated.

In addition to stability in government, a government of leaders with their noses pointed in the same direction would be a welcomed shift in the way we do government business on St. Maarten.

Simply put, we need a common vision for St. Maarten that can be shared with the people to bring back the trust in government.

We need a change alright! A change of climate....in our community; in our streets; in our government, in our schools etc.

The foregoing is to stimulate a discussion on party programs, candidates' loyalty and the actual workings when these translate into seats in parliament and potential representation in government.

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