The Prime Minister will dispatch a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper urging him to reconsider the imposition of visas for Saint Lucians traveling to Canada.
According to a press release from the Office of the Prime Minister, the Canadian Government via diplomatic Note said Saint Lucia does not meet Canada's criteria for an exemption.
This is due to the sustained flow of asylum claimants and a high rate of immigration violations.
The Government says it is willing to discuss with the Canadian authorities appropriate security arrangements to inhibit these illegal activities.
According to the statement, Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny D. Anthony was notified of Ottawa’s concerns at a meeting with the Canadian High Commissioner on August 11, 2012.
Dr. Anthony explained although he was aware of the asylum claims he never received complaints about the travel documents of citizens who traveled to Canada.
The government says while the law allows Saint Lucians to adopt new names by Deed Poll the vast majority of Saint Lucians who travel to Canada had safe, reliable and secure documents.
The Prime Minister also explained to the High Commissioner the current government was elected to office on November 28th, 2011, and therefore required time to address the stated concerns.
The High Commissioner promised to convey the Prime Minister's request to the Government of Canada.
Months later on September 10th, 2012 the High Commissioner advised Dr. Anthony the Government of Canada did not accede to the request and would announce the imposition of visas the following day.
The Government of Saint Lucia says it regrets the decision of Canada “a country with whom we have shared exceedingly close ties over the years.”
Bus driver robbed Story bySant Justin
Peter Louis is the latest victim of violence against public transport providers on the island. This follows last week-end’s shooting death of a Maynard Hill taxi driver whose family said had been repeatedly robbed by bandits.
Louis says the incident occurred at approximately 8:30 in the evening during his last trip. He says the unfortunate incident, which involved a gun occurred in the presence of his son.
Louis says the pistol wielding bandits made off with his day’s earnings, documents and the minibus.
And while residents of some areas complain about the unavailability of late night transport, members of the Grande Riviere Minibus Association say this is the risk bus drivers who work in the evening face.
The Assistant Secretary of the Grande Riviere Minibus Association says he too has been in a similar situation.
Anthony Marius says he and Louis are merely two of many who have lived through this experience.
Marius also offered these words of advice to minibus operators who ply routes at night.
Minibus operators are appealing to the bandits and anyone who may come across the White Minibus, to report it to the nearest police station.
The registration number on the Toyota, popularly known as the Waycheh is M329; it has a pair of magged rims.
The service charge debate Story byLovely St.Aime Joseph
A National Workers Union Press Release issued on Thursday reads in part: “The National Workers Union has been reliably informed Service Charge earned by workers employed within the Hotel and Tourism sector will be vatable.
The NWU is of the strong opinion that should such a decision be implemented this would have devastating economic effects on hotel and tourism workers. The NWU therefore will have no other option but to shut down the various hotels. The NWU has communicated its decision to the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association.”
Coordinator of the VAT implementation Office Adria Sonson confirms that under VAT law service charge will be taxable.
For hotels it means although the 8% concessionary rate announced by the Prime Minister will be applied on service charge, for other tourism properties like restaurants or bars the standard VAT rate of 15% will apply.
But Sonson is at a loss about the union’s threats of hotel shut downs saying the VAT rate will have no direct impact on hotel workers.
To be clear VAT is paid by the final consumer, in hotels this would mean tourists or visitors to the resort would pay these charges.
The NWU represents workers at Anse Chastanet, Jalousie Plantation Resort, Goddards Catering Group Limited, Morgan Bay Beach Resort, Rex and Royal St. Lucia Hotels, Smugglers Cove Resort & Spa, Spinnakers Restaurant, Ti Kaye Village and St. Lucia BLU.
In response to Sonson’s comments Maynard says the union and its members will have to wait and see how the situation plays out.
Although both the NWU and the VAT office say they are open to dialogue, a lack of dialogue appears to have caused what looks like misinformation.
The SLHTA meanwhile has confirmed the VAT payable on service charge will have no direct impact on workers.
The only way workers would be indirectly impacted is if hoteliers cut back on operations due to poor business.
Prime minister on VAT Story byCarmy Joseph
The Prime Minister addressing speculation the implementation of the Value Added Tax has been pushed back to January 1st, 2013.
This as the UWP Political Leader continues a series of meetings designed to pressure the government to delay implementing the tax.
The Prime Minister was speaking one day after he met with the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association.
He says the meeting was a follow up to another in March; held to discuss VAT implementation.
Initially the hotel sector will pay a VAT rate of 8% compared to the island-wide 15%. Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony says the SLHTA must now provide government with requested information which will be used to determine a VAT structure for the tourism sector.
But while he acknowledges there are issues currently facing implementation – including the effectiveness of the VAT Office – Dr Anthony says the tax will be implemented on schedule.
The Value Added Tax will be implemented in Saint Lucia on October 1st.
Price control and VAT Story byLovely St.Aime Joseph
Director of the Consumer Affairs Department, Phillip Mac Lauren, says the only effective way to deal with the anxieties plaguing consumers about the introduction of the Value Added Tax System and the issue of pricing is for legislation that speaks to Consumer Protection and competition to be implemented.
Mc Lauren says consumers must get in the habit of shopping around to ensure they get the best prices and value for their money.
But more importantly he says, is the need for government to take steps to expedite Anti Competitive Legislation and the consumer Protection Act.
These would enable legislation to create an environment that may cause consumers to see decreases in prices.
On Thursday Mc Lauren along with technical officers from the VAT implementation office and other technocrats of the Ministry of Commerce met with importers of price control goods.
To be clear these pertain not to fixed price goods like flour and sugar but to goods whose mark up are set by government like onions and milk.
Mc Lauren says as it stands importers apply their various charges to arrive at a landed cost and then add the mark up.
Under the new price calculation mechanism importers will take into account input and output VAT before arriving at a final cost of these items. The prices will also have to be approved by the Ministry of Commerce.
Mac Lauren says understanding the new price calculation is crucial to facilitating a smooth transition to the new Value Added Tax System.
When importers get it right he says it means approval can be given without any hiccups and wholesalers and retailers will be able to get these goods on store shelves without delays.
Education minister on bus subsidies Story bySant Justin
A press release from the Opposition UWP asked if the Education Ministry’s decision to offer three month contracts to bus operators transporting students from far distances to their various schools was an indication the program was about to end.
Education Minister- Dr. Robert Lewis says on the contrary, existing contracts were allowed to continue through the first term.
However he admitted to having reservations with the current program. These centered on the manner the contracts were distributed.
Dr. Lewis says he was then faced with over three hundred applications for 100 contracts. He says he then decided since it was too late to go through with the process; an alternative method would be applied.
Dr. Lewis is adamant the Ministry of Education will be ready for the December 31st deadline. He says he simply did not believe the previous method was the best, as in some cases one person may own several buses.
Meetings with the National Council on Public Transportation, the Transport Division of the Ministry of Infrastructure and other NGO’s have already been planned to discuss best practices in choosing drivers for the school contracts.
OECS meeting Story byCarmy Joseph
The OECS secretariat in collaboration with the Eastern Caribbean states Brussels will this week hold a two day meeting in Saint Lucia with experts from the private sector and international organizations to discuss investments in “green technologies”.
Participants are expected to build on the green growth investment forum hosted by the mission of the Eastern Caribbean states in Brussels in early October 2011;
they will closely examine the proposals that came out of the earlier forum. The experts will also propose an action plan to take forward the proposals in the form of projects.
Among the topics to be discussed is a proposal for a green award for enterprises based on sustainable and environment-friendly criteria.
Participants will also discuss the concept of a green award as an approach to "gap analysis"; green awards and creative industries; and, youth-targeted green awards.
The first day of the meeting was held at the bay gardens hotel on Thursday. On Friday the second day of the meeting will be devoted to a “networking field trip” to the south of Saint Lucia.
During that exercise participants are expected to observe, first hand, initiatives that involve green technologies.
Employers federation AGM Story byWinston Springer
The Prime Minister says the island has to summon the will for unprecedented reforms, he warns the world will not wait for Saint Lucia if it does not modernize its economy.
In his address at the 31st meeting of the Employers Federation he cites delays on the contentious Labor Code as a prime example and implored all interests to move forward on the issue.
Dr. Anthony whose exhaustive speech to the employers focused on the creation of a tech-savvy contemporary workforce through job training and human resource programs acknowledged the drawbacks due to unskilled labor.
Dr. Anthony conceded the governments fiscal constraints and the need for public sector reform and modernization.
He hinted at shared sacrifice and understanding by both private and public sector employees on wage issues.
The Prime Minister believes the introduction of the VAT has cajoled the productive sectors to modernize aspects of their operations.
According to the government leader with tax reform mere days away with the introduction of VAT, he is concerned about the island’s fiscal position.
However he says the country also has awesome responsibility with many OECS territories confronted by financial difficulties.
He told the federation the stability of the system depends heavily on the decisions made in Castries.
During the luncheon the Prime Minister revealed the island had finally ratified the EPA after many years.
Dr. Anthony also echoed sentiments expressed by the Minister for Labor Dr. Robert Lewis and Federation President Vern Gill for a tripartite arrangement for stable industrial relations in the country.
New Heineken bottle Story byDesmond Collymore
Heineken K2 rolled off the WLBL assembly line this week and will be available at retail outlets in a 250 ml long neck bottle this weekend.
The new design features a clear plastic label and unique curved embossment on the extended neck and back.
Windward and leeward brewery invested millions of dollars into its Vieux-Fort plant to facilitate production of the new bottle.
The K2 brings saint Lucia in line with the international re-branding of the bottle that is said to be a stamp of quality and authenticity to the brand and taste.
Nurses getting ready Story bySant Justin
Preparation for the move of Victoria Hospital staff to the new National Hospital continued on Thursday.
Clinical Resource Nurses gathered at the Hospital’s conference room to display manuals of the work done thus far.
Departmental Head of the Accident and Emergency Department- Rita Mason says the main reason for Thursday’s exercise was to review the Standards and Protocols manual.
Quality Manager at Victoria Hospital- Ruth Regis-Adesanye says policies and protocols play a big role in the preparation process.
Both nurses agree there is still a lot to be done ahead of the move in 2013. There is also no doubt in their minds they will be ready. Ministry officials were also expected to attend Thursday’s session.
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Health recently announced a December deadline for the completion of the New National Hospital.
World wide views on biodiversity Story bySant Justin
The St. Lucia National Trust on the weekend held a Biodiversity Consultation dubbed World Wide Views on Biodiversity.
The session was one of 35 meetings being held in 25 countries around the world. Communication and Advocacy Officer- Karetta Crookes-Charles says those present viewed videos on biodiversity, both land and sea, then engaged in discussions based on issues raised during the presentation.
Charles says they were then made to vote on a number of issues. Charles says participants were of varying age groups, class and backgrounds.
The National Trust earlier this month made an appeal to members of the public to participate in the activity; it attracted an impressive turn out.
Charles is hoping the activity will have a long term effect on those who attended. The activity was held at the Cocoa Palm Hotel in Rodney Bay.
Jehovah witness conference Story byAndrew Mondesir
Jehovah witnesses in Saint Lucia will host the 21st session of its annual assembly from Saturday 22nd to Sunday 23rd September.
The assembly will be held at the kingdom hall in Bexon and is open to the public at no cost. Circuit overseer of the Jehovah’s Witness Barbados branch, Frank James say this year's theme is: 'safeguard your mind'.
He spoke to the relevance of the theme in today's society.
The two day sessions will begin at 9:20 am on both Saturday and Sunday.
The local media has been under fire in recent weeks.
Firing a shot was the Police who accuse certain media houses of hampering ongoing investigations with inaccurate reporting. There was also concern the media was criminally identifying persons of interests who had not been formally charged by Police.
DPP Victoria Charles-Clarke was the first to remind the media they were liable for prosecution if their actions negatively affected ongoing court matters; her concern was expressed after numerous stories on the Eugene St Romain matter. An elder statesman of the ruling SLP also joined the fray this week accusing the media of bias towards the Opposition; similar suggestions was made by the UWP while in power. Amid all the noise –the newly minted Media Association has called for professional and accurate reporting as the only way to deal with critics. But is the local press being unfairly targeted or should this be a wake up call to get it right the first time as opposed to getting it first as appears to obtain sometimes
Are calls for the local media to be more objective and professional justified?