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MIAMI, May 25 2017 – Forecasters are predicting that the Atlantic hurricane season which officially begins on June 1, will be above average with 11 to 17 big storms and up to nine hurricanes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center says the expected absence of El Nino, an ocean-warming trend that tends to reduce the likelihood of hurricanes, is a major reason for the expected rise in number of storms.

Other factors include above-average sea surface temperatures and weaker vertical wind shear across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes.

“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA.

Forecasters are predicting a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms that could be tropical storms with winds of 39 miles per hour (63 kilometres per hour) or higher.

Five to nine of those storms could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher.

Two to four hurricanes are expected to be “major,” meaning Category 3 or higher, with winds of 111 mph or more.

The eastern Atlantic has already seen a rare, pre-season storm, Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed in the eastern Atlantic in April.

The Atlantic hurricane season ends on November 30.

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By Desmond Brown

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (ACP-IDN) – While there have been several activities at sub-regional level aimed at stimulating Caribbean countries to position themselves for successfully implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the pace of implementation has remained slow.

Specifically, the lack of national institutional frameworks for SDG implementation in most Caribbean countries constitutes a major obstacle to effective implementation of the goals.

The SDGs are the cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which became effective on January 1, 2016, and is supposed to shape sustainable development efforts globally.

In light of the slow pace of implementation, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has set about providing policy makers with practical options for establishing and enhancing their national institutional frameworks for putting the SDGs into practice.

“ECLAC’s mission is to help the countries of the Caribbean to fully integrate the SDGs into their national development plans,” according to ECLAC Caribbean Director Diane Quarless. “ECLAC has also been charged with providing a mechanism for regular monitoring and review of implementation of Agenda 2030 in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

The 2030 Agenda places people at its core and aims to achieve rights-based sustainable development under a renewed global partnership, in which all countries participate on an equal footing. Poverty eradication and addressing inequalities are central in the new Agenda, and are key priorities for the Caribbean.

On May 18, ECLAC convened a workshop here bringing together senior government officials from the Caribbean in the areas of foreign affairs, economy, environment, sustainable development and planning, as well as officials of the United Nations system, regional and international organisations, and representatives of civil society and academia.

The aim was to discuss practical steps towards establishing national institutional frameworks for SDG implementation and provide a space for peer-learning on Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) for the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).

“The Commission continues to play a relevant and valuable role in supporting the efforts of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to advance this new sustainable development agenda,” Mark Brantley, Saint Kitts and Nevis Minister of Foreign Affairs and Aviation, told IDN.

“No doubt its demonstrated commitment to advocating innovative solutions to persistent economic problems was rooted in the very early beginnings of the institution, at a time when the Third World had no voice.”

ECLAC’s contribution to development in the wider Caribbean over the last 70 years has also been recognised.

“ECLAC has never abandoned its structural roots and issues of structural heterogeneity, problems of poverty and inequality and the need for progressive structural change have been retained as part of its toolkit of analysis under a number of Executive Secretaries,” Deputy Executive Secretary Antonio Prado said.

“Equality is at the core of ECLAC’s thinking on how to promote sustainable development in the region.”

Putting the spotlight on the forthcoming celebrations for ECLAC’s 70th anniversary, which will take place in February 2018, Quarless underscored that since its founding, “ECLAC has always been at the vanguard of radical economic thinking and development practice in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Its focus has been on building resilience to promote sustainable development in the region,” she said.

The SDGs present a timely opportunity for Caribbean countries to successfully advance along a sustainable and transformative developmental path by designing country-relevant SDGs to address the root causes of current developmental challenges, and reactivate economic growth to end hunger, poverty, unemployment, food and nutrition insecurity, and appreciably enhance the general living standards of the population in these countries.

Despite making much social and economic progress since independence, Caribbean countries still face enduring developmental challenges, including achieving sustainable development and genuine economic transformation.

The SDGs promise a truly transformative development agenda that is both universal and adaptable to country-specific conditions.

But financing remains a huge challenge, and countries will require large and sustained amounts of investment funds, much of which will have to be sourced from domestic resource mobilisation, including public-private-partnerships, in addition to traditional overseas development assistance (ODA), multilateral development bank funding and foreign direct investments (FDI).

Compared with their situation in the 1960s and 1970s, Caribbean countries have made good economic progress.

Most, if not all countries have stable democracies; most countries are ranked in the top half of the Human Development Index (HDI), which takes into account life expectancy at birth (health dimension), years of schooling for adults, and expected years of schooling for children (education dimension), and gross national income per capita (standard of living dimension).

According to the World Bank, five countries are classified as ‘high income’, eight as ‘upper middle income’ and only one as ‘low income’.

In addition, under-nutrition rates are less than eight percent; with the exception of Haiti, all countries have sufficient food calories and macronutrients available to meet recommended dietary allowances of the population.

Unemployment, poverty and hunger, although at unacceptable levels, have declined relatively, and in the post-colonial period the region has displayed remarkable capacity for change, resilience and recovery when faced with natural disasters and other exogenous shocks.

Nevertheless, experts note that despite these positive developmental outcomes, severe challenges still remain and are compelling reasons for Caribbean countries to embrace the SDGs. [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 May 2017]

Note: This report is part of a joint project of the Secretariat of the ACP Group of States and IDN, flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, May 25 2017 – Former Premier McKeeva Bush was among victorious candidates in Wednesday’s general election but the outcome as to who will form the government remains unclear.

With all 19 seats counted – the tally was nine independents, seven from the incumbent People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) and three from the opposition Cayman Democratic Party (CDP).

The party to win at least 10 seats will form the next government.

The election results were a mixed bag for the PPM as the party suffered the critical loss of three sitting legislatures in George Town and Bodden Town.

Party leader Alden McLaughlin and deputy leader Moses Kirkconnell won reelection easily in their districts.

Meanwhile, Bush – who is also leader of the CDP blasted the new  “one man, one vote” system.

He attributed a low voter turnout to the new system.

“I suspect there was a low turnout because there is a lot of dissatisfaction,” Bush told reporters. “People are not supportive of the system. I don’t think it worked well for our democracy.”

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OTTAWA, Canada, May 24 2017 – Canada is in talks with the United Nations about donating money to a special trust fund set up for victims of sexual abuse by peacekeepers, a senior UN official revealed on Wednesday.

Atul Khare, the under-secretary-general for peacekeeping field support, wouldn’t say how much Canada is looking to provide for the Trust Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

He described it as a “very major contribution” that would be spread out over two years and help provide support and services to those who have been abused.

Khare revealed the talks during a news conference at UN headquarters in New York with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Jean-Pierre Lacroix, under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations.

The three were commemorating the International Day of the UN Peacekeeper, which is held every year in honour of the more than 3,500 blue helmets who have been killed since 1948.

The news that Canada could contribute to the trust fund comes as the UN struggles with revelations that peacekeepers either abused or exploited the very people they were to protect in a number of countries.

Even some Canadians have been implicated; UN figures show that three Canadian police officers deployed to Haiti have been accused of sexual abuse or exploitation since 2015.

The most recent was this last March, which the UN is currently investigating, while one of the others from 2015 was sent home for what the UN termed “administrative action.”

The third incident is also from 2015 and still under investigation.

The UN does not publicly identify alleged perpetrators.

Sajjan emphasized the need to reform and modernize peacekeeping during his news conference with Khare and Lacroix, as well as during an earlier speech to the International Peacekeeping Institute (IPI).

That includes increasing the role of women when it comes to planning and implementing peacekeeping operations, a message that Liberal ministers have also made at NATO.

“We in Canada feel strongly about the integration of women at all levels and in all roles in the promotion of peace and security,” Sajjan said in prepared remarks to the IPI.

“We know that local conflicts and crises often affect women and girls differently and more severely than they affect other demographic groups.”

But Sajjan did not specifically address the issue of sexual abuse or exploitation by peacekeepers, or whether Canada would become the sixth country to contribute to the special trust fund.

The fund currently has only about $436,000, according to the UN, with contributions from Bhutan, Cyprus, India, Japan and Norway.

The money is not given directly to the victims, a UN spokesman said, but goes to pay for services and support such as community outreach and education.

Sajjan’s visit to the UN on Wednesday was largely intended to set the stage for Canada hosting a major peacekeeping summit in Vancouver in November.

It was also expected to produce some awkward questions over the Liberal government’s failure, at least to this point, to make good on its promise to provide up to 600 Canadian troops for peacekeeping.

But both Khare and Lacroix kept any misgivings well hidden, as both thanked Canada for its commitment to peacekeeping, while Sajjan showed no sign the government was rethinking its earlier promise of troops.

Canadians “recognize the role peace operations play in protecting our collective security. They want Canada to engage in missions that have a meaningful impact in the lives of people most in need,” he said.

“For this reason, we pledged to increase our engagement in peacekeeping and are finalizing how we can best do that.”

For his part, Lacroix said Canada has “a lot to bring” to peacekeeping, “and we look forward to that.”

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Minister of Tourism - Shamfa Cudjoe

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 24 2017 – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has requested a full report from the Minister of Sports Darryl Smith, on a recently concluded trip to Tobago.

The trip that was made by the Minister, officials from the Ministry of Sport and the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago, has been the source of controversy following reports that a bill of TT$92,000 bill was racked up during the visit.

Minister of Sports Darryl Smith

It’s reported that a 12-member team from the Ministry and Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago stayed at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort when they went to attend the Tobago House of Assembly’s Sports Award held on May 20.

Smith is the second member of the Trinidad and Tobago Cabinet to rack up a massive bill in recent weeks.

Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe recently confirmed a four-day $59,000 phone bill.

Details of the astonishing phone bill was disclosed in the Senate by temporary Senator Christlyn Moore, during debate on the mid-term budget review.

Moore said the bill, which covers calls for the period January 29 to February 3 of this year, did not reconcile with Government’s request for the country to cut costs and save given the state of the economy.

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ST JOHN’S, Antigua, May 24 2017 – LIAT is assuring passengers that flights will operate tomorrow, Thursday, May as scheduled.

The airline said the planned action by the pilots have been withdrawn following a meeting today between the airline’s management and the Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA).

The meeting was hosted by the Attorney General of Antigua and Barbuda Steadroy Benjamin.

“The discussions were cordial and the management and pilots have reached a mutually amicable decision on outstanding issues,” an airline statement said.

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NASSAU, Bahamas, May 24 2017 – The police have arrested a Guyanese woman who attempted to smuggle cocaine, that was concealed in her hair weave, into the country.

The police report that shortly after 3 p.m. (local time) on Tuesday, the female passenger, who had just arrived at the Lynden Pindling International Airport on a Caribbean Airlines flight from Suriname, was found with just over two pounds of cocaine hidden in her hair.

The drug was found when a team of officers assigned to the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU), searched her in the customs arrival area at the airport.

During the search, one taped package containing the drug was found concealed in her hair weave.

The police have not released the identity of the woman.

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Dr. Daniel Lederman, Deputy Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank delivers the 18th William G. Demas Memorial Lecture in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands on May 23, 2017, ahead of the Caribbean Development Bank’s Annual Meeting.

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands, May 24 2017 – It is time for the Caribbean Region to think big about its small economies, says Deputy Chief Economist for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank, Dr. Daniel Lederman.

Further, small economies can be successful by being open and nimble. Lederman delivered the 18th William G. Demas Memorial Lecture, which took place in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands on May 23, 2017, ahead of the start of the Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

Lederman, joining a distinguished roster of speakers who have delivered the Lecture, spoke on the topic, “Thinking Big about Small Economies: From ‘Open and Nimble’ to Talented Workforce”.

The Deputy Chief Economist noted that the characteristic of being small helps ameliorate the volatility caused by fluctuations in global demand for specific goods and services.

“Small economies appear to have an uncanny ability to reinvent themselves more quickly and more often than large economies. Simply put, they are more likely than large economies to innovate by introducing new exports and letting go of old ones,” he said.

“By being innovative, small economies become more nimble than large economies. Yet this nimbleness by itself might not be enough to send us on a path toward stable growth,” Dr. Lederman cautioned. “It does mean, however, that fiscal policies, specifically countercyclical fiscal policies become even more important for small economies than for large economies,” he noted.

Lederman also addressed concerns about “brain drain”, noting that smaller economies typically have less variety of economic opportunities and amenities.

“Thus, it is likely that small economies must learn to live with a brain drain that cannot be completely halted,” said Dr. Lederman. “But, it is clear that brain drain is not an unsurmountable obstacle in the road to prosperity, because we know that small economies can succeed even when their emigration rates are high,” he added.

The speaker also spotlighted the issue of economic integration, acknowledging the legacy of William G. Demas, who often emphasised the importance of effective, not formal, sovereignty.

“His scholarly writings raised analytical issues related to the degree of openness of small economies, their patterns of trade specialisation, and the policy implications that often clashed with aspirations of sovereignty. But he persisted and stood by his conviction that deep integration arrangements can help small economies prosper,” he said.

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, May 24 2017 – Caymanians are voting in general election today to determine the next Legislative Assembly for this British Overseas Territory.

The polls opened at 7 a.m. (local time) in the 19 electoral districts and will close at 6 p.m.

The elections are seen as a straight race between the ruling People’s Progressive Movement (PPM), which has governed the country for the last four years, and the main opposition Cayman Democratic Party (CDP).

The PPM, lead by Premier Alden McLaughlin is fielding 15 candidates while the CDP has 11 candidates. There are 23 independent candidates.

This general election is a historic one as for the first time, Caymanians will begin the process of voting for a government under the equitable system of ‘one man, one vote’ in single member consistencies.

As a result, all voters will choose just one candidate on the ballot sheet in their electoral district.

Some 21,000 Caymanians are eligible to participate in today’s election.

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ST JOHN’S, Antigua, May 23 2017 – The Leeward Islands Airline Pilots Association (LIALPA) has placed its members on notice that pilots will embark on protest action starting Thursday.

“In the event that LIAT fails to pay pilot salaries by mid-night of May 24, 2017, the Executive Council will be executing a mandate received from the floor by directing protest action by all permanent pilots or full members of LIALPA,” Chairman Captain Carl Burke said in a memo issued to pilots today.

“This action would take the form of a sit-in at various airports and possible picketing on Thursday, May 25, 2017. Please note that this protest action may run over a 3-4 day period. Please be prepared for this,” the memo, a copy of which has been obtained by Caribbean News Service continued.

“All pilots are to report to work as normal, DO sign in to work, do not sign off on any flight documents, do not board any LIAT aircraft and take flight. You are to remain out of view from the travelling public until further instructed by a LIALPA Executive Council Member,” the Burke said in the momo.

He said the association would arrange refreshments and would be seeking to provide pilots with a comfortable resting area.

“These designated rest areas would be indicated to you in a subsequent email. Please note that these directives are not issued to pilots still on probation, who are not full members of LIALPA. Pilots on probation are to ignore these instructions and are encouraged to go to work as normal.  Do not engage anyone in discussion of the action being taken by LIALPA.”

Only yesterday LIALPA issued a statement in which it said its relationship with LIAT’s management is currently strained and has deteriorated to an all-time low.

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