Bahamas Blog International
UNITED STATES AND LATIN AMERICA - - - Re-launch on various fronts
By Dalia González Delgado:
UPON commencing his second term in January, Barack Obama initiated an intense period of U.S. activity in Latin America. The President traveled to Mexico and Costa Rica, while Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Brazil at the end of May, moving on to Colombia and Trinidad & Tobago, a few days before the arrival in the latter country of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Biden himself described the initiative as the most active period of high-level contact with Latin America in a long time, acknowledging that the Western Hemisphere has always been important to the United States, but particularly now, given that it has more potential than at any other moment in its history.
In early June, the White House welcomed Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, and on June 10, Obama met with the Peruvian leader, Ollanta Humala.
Obama praised the strong and important relationship with Chile, as well as the economic model being promoted by the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc founded in 2012, which includes Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico, while Costa Rica is in the process of joining.
Everything indicates that the United States has placed its hopes in rapprochement with a hemisphere which has distanced itself from its imperial neighbor.
Adam Isacson, from the Washington Office on Latin American Affairs (WOLA) told BBC Mundo, "They are not going to be able to recover this lost ground with new and daring aid programs because there’s no money, so the logical step is to increase diplomatic activity." The analyst noted that no special ideas or programs were proposed during Obama’s visit to Mexico. "There were no concrete promises," he stated.
However, Harvard professor Joseph Tulchin sees positive signals coming out of Washington. As the U.S. academic told Granma, "The Obama administration is trying to respond to the Latin American nations’ new scale of international activity."
Tulchin said, "In his speech in Brazil, Biden emphasized the country’s leadership and made it clear that the United States is disposed to work with the hemisphere to solve common problems."
But despite what is perceived as intense diplomatic activity – possibly desperate given integrationist projects such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and MERCOSUR – U.S. policy toward Cuba and Venezuela remain unchanged.
Eric Hershberg, director of the Latin American Studies Center at American University, Washington, believes that his country has been completely out of synch with governments of the region on the issue of integration.
"Thus, it’s still very early to predict that relations with Latin America during Obama’s second term are going to be less sour than they were during his first term."
Professor Ernesto Domínguez at the Center of Hemispheric and United States Studies at the University of Havana, agrees. He sees an evident re-launch of U.S. policy toward Latin America on various fronts. "Hence the search for a rapprochement with Brazil, the largest power in the region; and also with others, such as Colombia, Chile and Peru."
"The policy of the Trans-Pacific Alliance has to be placed in the geo-strategic, geopolitical and historical perspective of U.S. interests in the Pacific, an area which has been its priority since the 19th century, and more so now with the growth of the Chinese economy and in general, that of all of Eastern and Southeastern Asia," Domínguez affirmed to Granma.
"When you put everything in the balance and add the tendency to the use of soft power, you have a nice picture of a policy directed at reversing left-wing processes in Latin America, reinsuring the region for the United States, consolidating positions in the Pacific and, in summary, consolidating its domination and recovering its hegemony."
June 13, 2013
Caribbean Blog International
Caricom's 'survival' challenges
By RICKEY SINGH:
THE first in a series of planned consultations, across this region, for the introduction of a Five-Year Strategic Plan for Caricom had a low-profile start in Barbados last Wednesday.
First official news on the beginning of the consultative process came from the Georgetown-based Community Secretariat and, at best, media coverage was quite patchy or, worse, absent.
No surprise really, as the original decision to have the national consultations came at last July's Heads of Government Summit in Haiti amid lingering cynicism and disenchantment pertaining to the administrative structure and governance system of the 15-member Community faced with a serious implementation deficit challenge in this its 40th year of existence.
Nor was it surprising to learn that with arrangements underway for next month's summit of Caricom leaders in Port of Spain, it was considered expedient to kick-start the "consultations" process in Barbados.
It is the member state whose Head of Government has lead portfolio responsibility for implementation of plans for the realisation of a seamless regional economy, as promised with the CSME.
As previously reported by this columnist, the stimulus for the five-year strategic plan is largely located in a report by the UK-based consultancy Landell Mills Ltd with funding from the European Union (EU).
Those who care to remember may perhaps be wondering why major recommendations outlined in the far-reaching Time for Action report by the high-level West Indian Commission -- including the urgent need recognised for a new governance architecture, never got the desired responses required under changing member governments.
Now, 21 years later, and before another annual Heads of Government Conference, the first of new regional consultations has been launched with official information, wrapped in curious language, about a "change facilitation process" intended to take shape under the guidance of so-called designated "change drivers".
However, while this "change-facilitation process" is being "driven", fundamental challenges continue to be ignored for required collective priority attention.
Just think, for instance, of developments when a scheduled meeting of the Community's ministers responsible for regional air and maritime transportation took place in St Vincent and the Grenadines ahead of the back-to-back visits in Port of Spain of US Vice-President Joseph Biden and China's President Xi Jinping.
Amid continuing political song and dance about the subsidy being provided to Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) by its owner, the Trinidad and Tobago Government, the general intention was to find practical commonalities on the way forward for, at least, regional air transportation, even as CAL itself sorts out its own recurring heavy financial losses and keeps changing its board of directors.
The Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, invariably viewed as an 'Anancy' politician but also recognised for his often well-articulated commitment to the advancement of regional economic integration, hosted the air transportation meeting in Kingstown with a surprising disclosure.
He said that while in Port of Spain for Vice-President Biden's visit, he had requested a special "90-minute bilateral meeting" with the T&T prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar -- host for next month's Caricom Summit -- to discuss not just the controversial question of the subsidy to CAL, but wider matters pertaining to regional air and martime services, including a much talked about regional fast-ferry service.
Transportation and Crime
Desirable as a one-on-one meeting between prime ministers Gonsalves and Persad-Bissessar may be, there must clearly be a preference for regional air and maritime transportation to be treated as a top priority agenda issue, possibly as a special session of all Heads of Government and delegations.
This moreso in view of growing region-wide concerns over increasing problems relating to air transportation -- including recent suggestions that it should be treated as "an essential service" in a Community with economies highly dependent on such a service to sustain the vital tourism sector as well as to produce and market food to replace imported products.
Further, since the initial signal of her own government's interest in the inauguration of an intra-regional fast-ferry service to complement efficient regional air transport, no new initiatives have come from Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar.
Now that she will formally become the new chair of Caricom, with the holding of next month's summit in Port of Spain, it is to be hoped that the prime minister would appreciate the value of a special session of all Heads of Government to treat both regional air and maritime transportation as a top priority issue.
Along with, of course, discussion on the persistent, dread social plague of endemic gun-related killings and other worsening acts of spreading criminality.
Like, for example, recurring reports of rape of women and children and armed robberies -- sickening crimes about which there is plenty of talk and hand-wringing within officialdom, but no known new collective strategies to arrest the tragedies and raise hopes for solution in any of the more seriously affected jurisdictions.
In the circumstances, rather than verbal swipes at critics, or opponents, in relation to doubts and frustrations over the persistence of a serious widening implementation deficit of decisions unanimously endorsed for regional action, it is felt that our Heads of Government should come forward next month with some new ideas to help restore needed confidence in the way forward for Caricom.
They can perhaps do themselves the favour of ticking off the road not taken in implementation of decisions collectively approved, and be prepared to come forward with a communiqué on their 2013 Summit in Port of Spain that can possibly stir hopes among citizens of our community for a new dawn in the fulfilment of promised policies and programmes for 'One Community, One People'.
It cannot be beyond our Heads of Government to do so, considering that they -- as well as less disillusioned critics, and most certainly an admirable cadre of Caribbean experts ever willing to be of service to this region -- are quite aware that there cannot now be any turning away from the original vision that gave birth to Caricom at Chaguaramas some four decades ago.
No, not in the face of an increasingly globalised environment. Indeed, to reflect the sentiment of the West Indian Commission's seminal report of 1992, it is felt that now is no time to evade hard choices; nor to be in a so-called "pause" mode.
Rather, it's more than high time to cut the rhetorical and ceremonial frills and, instead, prepare to bite the proverbial bullet in favour of collective implementation of decisions unanimously taken.
Let next month's Caricom summit in Port of Spain, therefore, sparkle with some of the passion and vision that had resulted in the historic inauguration on July 4, 1973, in Trinidad and Tobago, of what's officially recognised, warts and all, by the world today as our regional economic integration movement. It is a movement that, for all its real and imagined weaknesses, cannot afford failure to survive.
June 09, 2013
Caribbean Blog International
The Bahamas: oil, cash, renewable energies, royalties, black gold, Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC)... and Bahamas’ energy security through alternative energy sources
Related to country: Bahamas
'Renew' Energy Security Through Oil Royalties -
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas could turn “oil into cash” and finance renewable energies from the royalties generated if ‘black gold’ is discovered beneath this nation’s waters, an oil explorer suggested yesterday.
Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) chief executive, Simon Potter, said such a move would be critical to the Bahamas’ energy security.
Mr Potter, a speaker at an energy security seminar hosted by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), said there was a premium placed on locally-generated energy, or oil.
BPC is aiming to drill for oil in the Bahamas, and has spent $50 million to date on the venture. Mr Potter said that if commercial quantities were discovered, the Government would take 25 per cent “off the top” and could use these revenues to invest in alternative energy sources.
“In my view, to be able to move energy around becomes quite inefficient. There is a premium, in my view, for locally generated energy, of which there are many options,” Mr Potter explained.
“There is solar, wind, and energy from sea, but these are expensive. They need development and they need to be invested in. What better way to provide those sources of energy to the people here in the Bahamas than through an oil revenue stream.”
The Government has announced it will permit BPC to engage in exploratory drilling to determine whether there are commercial quantities of oil in the Bahamas prior to any referendum, noting it was unlikely that the latter would be held prior to the 2015 second half.
Mr Potter said BPC supported the Government’s efforts to strengthen and modernise the country’s petroleum regulations.
“We have put together our own Environmental Impact Assessment, taking into account what we believe to be international standards. We are very confident that our plans will comply with new regulations, which we welcome and look forward to, making sure our future plans are in full compliance,” said Mr Potter.
“We spent $50 million to-date on remote exploration, but we will now need to drill a well. We have important data we need to incorporate into our well plans. It will take us a year to plan that well safely to execute in the latter half of 2014, and that’s when we will really see if we have commercial reserves of oil or not.
“As we go forward it will probably be a five to seven-year process while we look at the development options and, during that period, that gives us the opportunity to help develop, train and encourage skills in the Bahamas, as well as the support skills and services that could support such a new industry.”
Mr Potter said BPC was still looking to secure a joint venture partner going forward.
“We have two major sources of funding capital, the shareholders and a partner who finds the prospects of finding oil in the Bahamas equally high as I do, in which they would pay a premium to come in and join us in our license,” he explained.
“There has been interest amongst companies that do see a similar technical attractiveness to the prospectivity of the rocks here in the Bahamas.”
Mr Potter said BPC was hoping to bring its Bahamian Depository Receipt (BDR) share offering to the local investor market in the next few months.
June 06, 2013
Caribbean Blog International
Experts Recommend Washington to Change Policy Towards Cuba
Related to country: Cuba
Washington, May 31 (Prensa Latina) US experts coincided Friday in the need for a change of policy towards Cuba, speaking at the 31st Congress of the Latin American Studies Association.
Such a step would be in correspondence with the current situation and the position of the rest of the countries in the hemisphere about the importance of the normalization of the links between Cuba and the US. Wayne Smith, former head of the US diplomatic mission in Cuba and Robert Muse, another expert, coincided in the convenience for Washington to express its disposition to start dialogues to solve the differences.
Smith remembered all the countries of the region have relations with Cuba, except the US, and this shows the isolation of the US policy towards Cuba.
"We should change our policy. We are alone," said the US former diplomat in his intervention in one of the panels in the congress, in session from May 29 to June 1st.
He also reminded that every year, the United Nations General Assembly votes mostly against the US policy, and the countries of the region expressed their rejection to the celebration of meetings in which the presence of Cuba were not permitted, in the 2012 Summit of the Americas.
"All the countries in the world congratulated the election of Raul Castro as President of Cuba. US did not recognize this, and it brought the disagreement with this position of even some important European allies," Smith said.
Muse, for his part, said that there are areas in which an approach can be made, with practical actions to eliminate the blockade to Cuba, and that both nations should negotiate the signing of an agreement for protection of investments, as one of the US governmentâ�Ös actions as a response to the Cuban economic updating process.
"To achieve it, work should be centered on a coalition influencing people able to make modifications to the US anti-Cuban policy," Muse said.
With more than 7,000 members from different regions (45 percent from the US) LASA is considered the biggest group of experts on Latin America in the entire world.
Caribbean Blog International
The onslaught of negative publicity towards foreigners... generated by The Bahamas Department of Immigration... undermines Bahamian tourism promotional efforts
Related to country: Bahamas
Our partial welcome to foreigners -
The Nassau Guardian Editorial
Nassau, The Bahamas -
Recently, the Ministry of Tourism proudly revealed the heavily financed “Behold” campaign in New York City’s Rockefeller subway station. It is good that the collective islands of The Bahamas are being represented in our tourism promotions. It is a shame that such a decidedly spectacular campaign confronts the negative anti-foreign sentiments expressed by the Department of Immigration.
Our thirst for tourism dollars drives national development despite the so-called lack of a national development plan. And when it comes to foreigners, our policies are often contradictory.
We enact legislation to promote investment specific to the tourism trade – the Hotels Encourage Act being one such act. We accelerate residency applications to foreign homeowners with home evaluations in excess of $1.5 million. We give away Crown land at the lease of $1 for hundreds of acres for the sake of developing tourism. We entice foreigners to “Behold” The Bahamas, to come and succumb to its beauty.
While we have these policies that attract, we have others that repel. We are now saying do not seek foreign labor to maintain your $1.5 million home – even if Bahamians are no longer interested in these jobs. And please do not think about establishing an offshore company here with any foreign employees. We lure tourists here to discover and share in the enjoyment of our natural beauty only to drive them away when they want more.
Tourism is immensely important to The Bahamas; its contributions to the economy do not go unnoticed. The Family Islands are desperate for increased visibility to drive revitalization. We applaud the Ministry of Tourism’s campaign. But we are mystified by the government’s rationalization to spend millions of dollars to attract foreign tourists when its new more exclusionist immigration policies demonstrate it resents them.
The onslaught of negative publicity towards foreigners generated by the Department of Immigration is not good for the Bahamian economy. Capital likes to flow where it is allowed to operate businesses reasonably with the professionals it needs. When there is a genuine labor shortage in certain areas, those people must be found out of the jurisdiction if the business is to proceed. Businesses could close if they are not allowed to hire the skilled people needed.
We need the tourist. And in areas where there is a genuine labor shortage and Bahamians are not available, we need the foreign worker. We should not automatically think of all foreign workers as enemies of the state. A foreigner living and working in The Bahamas must buy food from the local supermarket, home supplies from local dry goods stores, he or she engages the services of a local mechanic or plumber or carpenter, establishes local banking, while also paying duty on goods entering the country.
This government must present a cohesive strategy on immigration and foreign direct investment that marries the “love” we show to potential visitors when we ask them to visit our shores. The Bahamas simply cannot afford lavish yet stunning advertising campaigns to lure unsuspecting visitors to islands where the government provokes anti-foreign sentiment.
May 29, 2013
The Nassau Guardian Editorial
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