Daily Brief - Friday 5th May, 2017

NEWS

Errors in SEA

Hours after over 18,000 primary school students sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam yesterday, Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan announced that three questions from the exam, totalling four marks, will not be marked due to errors on the paper. Speaking at a press conference at the Ministry’s Port-of-Spain office, Minister Garcia placed the blame squarely on the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), which is based in Barbados and which is tasked with overseeing all major national exams in the Caribbean including SEA, CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) and CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam). Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan told reporters that based on reports from monitors who visited schools, the ministry was informed that there were two issues identified in the exam. Read more here

Fishermen: Coast Guard stripped us naked

Fifteen fishermen from Pakistan in Marabella are now calling for justice, after they alleged they were detained by the T&T Coast Guard, stripped naked and jokes made about their private parts at the Point Lisas Transshipping port on Wednesday morning. The men, who were fishing off the Point Lisas port in the Gulf of Paria around 9 pm on Tuesday, said they were detained by the officers for six hours before being allowed to return home. No one was charged but they were given a stern warning not to fish near the port. Fisherman Whazid Hammid said he was disturbed at the humiliation they went through. Read more here

‘Man posed as contractor’: new victims come forward

More people are coming forward claiming they were scammed by a man posing as a contractor after the Express reported an elderly woman's story of being defrauded. Two women who wished not to be named, citing safety concerns, spoke with the Express about their encounters. One woman said her incident occurred in March 2014, while the other said she fell victim to the same scam in November of last year. The Express reported this week that retired nurse Yolande Halls was devastated by the scam. Halls, 72, said she wanted to rent an empty space and the information she received from the man sounded reassuring enough to ­allow the “contractor” to reside at the place. Read more here

 

POLITICS

Cabinet seeks information on TSTT/Massy deal

Cabinet will seek detailed information from State-owned TSTT about its share purchase agreement to acquire 100 percent of Massy Communications Limited for $255 million. Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said this at yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s. At a public inquiry held by the Public Accounts Enterprises Committee (PAEC) at Tower D of the Port-of-Spain International Waterfront Centre on Wednesday, TSTT chairman Emile Elias declined to provide PAEC chairman Wade Mark and committee member David Small with particulars of the agreement. Read more here

Will squatters have to pay property tax? Govt working out key issues

Government has sought legal advice to examine whether squatters on private lands and those with buildings on state lands will have to pay the tax, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said yesterday. He said the Attorney General has asked the Solicitor General to examine the matter. “If someone is squatting on state lands with a building they built, the issue that needs to get legal clarity is if they own the land,” Imbert added. Speaking to reporters at Government’s weekly press briefing, AG Faris Al-Rawi said it was a very complicated issue, since one had to be very careful that land is not given away unwittingly. Read more here

Ramdial wants account of $12m for jazz festival

The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) must give an account of the $12 million Tobago Jazz Experience this year. In a release yesterday, Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial stated there needs to be accountability to the public by the new Secretary of Tourism, Nadine Stewart-Phillips. She said hosting the festival this year cost $12 million, and airbridge and seabridge problems resulted in a low turnout at the event. Read more here

 

BUSINESS

Remy vows to resist job cuts at TSTT

Secretary of the Communication Workers Union Joseph Remy says the union will resist any attempt at retrenchment at TSTT. Addressing journalists yesterday at the union’s head office at Henry Street, Port of Spain, he was responding to comments by TSTT chairman Emile Elias that some job loss is inevitable with the advance in technology, a comment Elias made on Wednesday during a sitting of the Public Accounts Enterprises Committee of Parliament. He said TSTT has decided that part of its strategic plan is to acquire 100 percent of the shares in Massy Communications but Massy Communications is one of the subsidiaries of the Massy Group of Companies. Read more here

T&T launches new aid-for-trade strategy

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon admitted that T&T has “numerous” trade-related challenges and there was need for more support for exporters, since increased trade has the potential to grow T&T’s economy. She added that support for exporters is outlined in the national Aid for Trade Strategy 2016-2019 (AfTS). The AfTS was launched last week, and comes on the heels of the Standard and Poors’ April 21 announcement that T&T’s sovereign credit rating had been downgraded to BBB+ and Moody’s downgrade of the sovereign to “junk bond” status, as well as the suggestion by both rating agencies that T&T should find an alternative means of revenue generation outside of the energy sector. The strategy, launched at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port-of-Spain, is expected to assist financial donor agencies, investors and international development partners in deciding what is the best option to help T&T boost its trade. Read more here

OCM first-quarter revenues cross $106m

One Caribbean Media Group (OCM) has achieved “satisfactory” results for the first quarter of 2017. Revenues of $106.8 million (US$15.8 million) for the first three months of the year compares favourably to the $106.2 million (US$15.7 million) in the same period in 2016, OCM chairman Faarees Hosein said in OCM's first quarter results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2017. Read more here

 

REGIONAL

St Lucia minister called on to answer bribery allegations

Saint Lucia’s current minister for economic development, housing, urban renewal, transport and civil aviation, Guy Joseph has again been called on to answer long-standing allegations of bribery and personal enrichment when in office during a previous United Workers Party (UWP) administration between 2006 and 2011. The renewed focus on these allegations appears to have been triggered by remarks made by Joseph in parliament recently, accusing opposition St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) members of various misdeeds while in office, drawing a retort from one opposition member that he would respond to Joseph when he (Joseph) answered the prior allegations against him. Read more here

Land Probe! - Lack Of Valuation Forces OCG To Intensify Investigation Of Chinese Property Deal

The country's main anti-corruption body says that it will now have to intensify a probe into the US$720 million North-South Highway contract between the Government and the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). Contractor General Dirk Harrison disclosed the office's intention yesterday, following revelations on Wednesday by the National Road Operating and Constructing Company (NROCC) that 1,200 acres of state lands being given to the investors under the deal was not valuated. "Up to December of last year, we had sought some further update from NROCC on the matter. We had received a response, and it was along the same line, particularly them not being in possession of a valuation report," he said. Read more here

 

INTERNATIONAL

Brexit: English language 'losing importance' - EU's Juncker

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has told a conference in Italy on the EU that "English is losing importance in Europe".

Amid tensions with the UK over looming Brexit negotiations, he said he was delivering his speech in French. "Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe and also because France has an election," he said, explaining his choice of language. He called the UK decision to leave the EU "a tragedy". Laughter and applause greeted his comment about the English languagee, and he could be seen smiling wryly. "We will negotiate fairly with our British friends, but let's not forget that it is not the EU that is abandoning the UK - it is the UK that's abandoning the EU, and that makes a difference," he said. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has accused some EU officials of trying to influence the UK's 8 June parliamentary election. The Commission's chief Brexit negotiator, French ex-commissioner Michel Barnier, is to give a speech on Brexit in a few hours' time. Read more here

North Korea claims US 'biochemical' plot to kill Kim Jong Un

North Korea has accused the US and South Korea of attempting to assassinate leader Kim Jong Un with a "bio-chemical substance." In an extraordinary 1,800-word report Friday, which offered no evidence other than account laced with fantastical language, North Korean state news agency KCNA said a "hideous terrorist group" conspired with the CIA and South Korea's Intelligence Service (IS) to mount the attack. Its aim, the report said was to "commit bomb terrorism targeting the supreme leadership" during major events including a recent military parade. Read more here

5th May 2017

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