Caribbean News Round-up

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Rambachan: $15 million Labour Movement payback?

Surujrattan[Trinidad Express] – Former Minister of Works and Infrastructure, Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, yesterday questioned whether the $15 million allocation to the Labour Movement as outlined by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in his 2015-2016 budget presentation on Monday, was payback for support in the September 7 general election.

That was among several questions raised by Rambachan on the PNM Government’s budget presentation.

Imbert noted that Government will allocate $15 million in 2016 to assist the Labour Movement in building capacity and for providing technical and training support. The assistance, he said, would be divided between the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) and the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC).

Rambachan listed several questions in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

He asked, “Did you read that the PNM is giving 15 million to Natuc and JTUM. Is this a payback? I am just asking.”

He asked whether the PNM budget presentation gave citizens the assurance that the new Government has a clear vision for Trinidad and Tobago and where they were headed in the next two years.

Rambachan explained that the reduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent meant that citizens would now be paying VAT on food items which were listed as zero rated. And he asked citizens their thoughts on the return of property taxes, even at the old rates. He questioned whether citizens believed property taxes would remain at the old rates.

Rambhacan noted that the 15 per cent increase in super gasoline and diesel would result in a rise in the cost of transportation and ultimately cost of living will also increase. And he suggested that the number of On-The-Job trainees would reduce as Government intends to increase their salary by 20 per cent.

Rambachan asked, “Do you know that the PNM although they are saying more resources for Local Government will be made available have actually cut the development budget for Local Government by $53 million compared to last fiscal year? Do you know that the funding for Rural Development and Local Government under the Infrastructure Development Fund has been cut?”

He said the recurrent expenditure for Local Government was cut by $92 million, which can suggest that there will be job cuts. He questioned whether short term employment will be cut or drastically reduced.

“Do you know that though the Government is crying out that the Peoples Partnership had an overdraft that the PNM has received about $13.4 billion in cash from extra ordinary dividends to start up its period of governance? Would you like to ask them how they intend to use this windfall of $13.4 billion?” he asked.

Rambchan questioned whether complaints by the PNM that there was a $5 billion debt to settle salary increases to workers meant that the PNM Government would not have approved the wage increases.

JTUM has called an emergency meeting today to discuss the $15 million allocation and intends addressing the media on the issue.

 

Doubles trouble: Price now $5

trinidad-carnival-bake-shark-doubles[Trinidad Express] – The price of doubles, the most popular street food in Trinidad and Tobago, has increased by $1. And citizens are outraged.

Doubles vendors said they had no choice but to increase prices following the 2015-2016 national budget presentation, delivered by Finance Minister Colm Imbert, on Monday.

The vendors explained that an increase in the price of diesel and super gasoline would indirectly affect prices.

Imbert announced that Value Added Tax (VAT) would be reduced from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent. But doubles vendors argued that Imbert failed to explain whether the zero rated list of items still exist.

The sudden hike in doubles price has outraged consumers, who complained that there was no reason for the increase.

Doubles vendors, however, noted that the $1 increase has not affected sales, yet.

A San Fernando vendor said customers have not hesitated to pay $5 for a doubles. A “triple” cost $6.

The vendor said, “In recent weeks we noticed that grocery items were increasing gradually. The price of flour and other ingredients had gone up. And we saw in the paper this morning that the price went up from $4 to $5 so that is why we raise the price this morning.”

She said the increase in diesel and gas prices would ultimately result in a rise in transportation and food items.

The doubles vendor said the increase was necessary to ensure that they sustain a profit.

The Express found that several doubles vendors in San Fernando and surrounding areas had increased their prices yesterday.

However, there were a few doubles vendors who decided to wait and “assess the situation” before increasing prices.

Meanwhile, people have taken to social media to vent. People want to know how vendors justify the increase, given that most have few overhead costs, and pay no taxes. Some have called for a campaign to not buy doubles, and instead resort to those selling bake.

 

Guatemala to build homes for mudslide victims

_85896967_029433743-1[BBC] – Guatemalan President Alejandro Maldonado has announced that his government will build homes for the survivors of a landslide which buried some 125 houses last week.

More than 200 people were killed when a hillside collapsed on a neighbourhood in Santa Catarina Pinula.

Hundreds more were left homeless.

President Maldonado said his government would be “directly in control” of building the homes and would not sub-contract the work.

It is not yet clear where the new houses will be built, as the area where the mudslide hit has been declared uninhabitable.

An estimated 300 people are still missing presumed dead after the mudslide buried homes under tonnes of dirt in the El Cambray 2 neighbourhood,

The number of confirmed dead rose to 215 on Wednesday as more bodies were found.

Brazil’s Rousseff faces impeachment threat

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

 [Al Jazeera] – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has suffered a major new setback, with a court ruling that her government’s accounting practices were illegal, paving the way for her opponents to try to impeach her.

Wednesday’s decision by the Federal Accounts Court was the latest blow to Rousseff, less than a year into her second term.

The court said that her government’s accounting practices in 2014, including taking what amounted to unauthorised loans from state-owned banks to make up for budget shortfalls, broke the law.

“The accounts are not a condition where they can be approved. We recommend their rejection,” the lead judge, Augusto Nardes, said after the court’s panel voted unanimously.

The government says it did nothing illegal and that it was merely juggling funds in line with previous practices.

The court’s ruling, which next goes to Congress, was likely to give powerful impetus to Rousseff’s congressional opponents, led by the scandal-plagued speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, who has repeatedly threatened to push for impeachment.

Late on Tuesday, another judicial body, the electoral court, or TSE, ruled in favour of probing alleged illegalities in Rousseff’s 2014 re-election campanies.

Tim accuses gov’t of “dirty politics”

Downtown Trinidad[Trinidad Express] – Caroni Central Member of Parliament Dr Tim Gopeesingh, said he was appalled by the level of “dirty politics” being meted out to citizens by the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government.

The former education minister said too many people were losing their jobs and crime was out of control.
He was responding to the termination of senior employ­ees of the Carib­bean New Media Group (CNMG).
Gopeesingh said: “As a member of Oppo­sition coming through from government, I am horrified by the amount of casualties occurring across the country, in terms of this present Government firing hundreds of people. And the political dirtiness has already begun and it is rearing its ugly head across the country.”
He said people were being dismissed without a cause. “Therefore, we were telling the people that once this Government comes in that political vindictiveness and dirtiness and there is evidence of it occurring,” he said.

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