Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 12th 2015 Contents Central Bank Governor,
Jwala Rambarran, right,
presents THA Chief
Secretary Orville London
with a replica of the new
$50 bill on Friday.
Rambarran made the
presentation during a
courtesy call with the
Chief Secretary at the
PHOTO COURTESY THA
CASTRIES---The Organisation of Eastern
Caribbean States (OECS) has launched
an initiative aimed at mobilising and sen-
sitising the public of the sub-region to
the recent moves by Cable and Wireless
Communications (CWC) to acquire
CWC is reportedly paying US$3 billion
to acquire the privately owned Columbus
International, a fibre-based telecoms com-
pany serving the Caribbean, Central Amer-
ica and Andean region, which is backed by
cable television billionaire John Malone.
Head of International Relations at the
St Lucia-based OECS Commission,
Ambassador Anthony Severin, said devel-
opments surrounding the takeover "have
profound implications for the progress of
an ICT sector and economies of our mem-
Severin, who is acting as head as officer
in charge of the Commission in the absence
of Dr Didacus Jules, the director general,
said serious concerns have been expressed
about this matter by a number of individ-
uals and institutions around the region.
"The OECS Commission is of the view
that these concerns are very real and that
there is need for the continued ventilation
of these concerns," he said, adding, "While
there has been some public debate on the
matter, we are of the view at the Com-
mission that this debate is taking place at
a level and in a manner which does not
even begin to address the real issues."
Savarin said the "current public debate
is based on a menu that is prepared within
the boardrooms and public relations offices
of the various protagonists whose interest
is to maintain the debate at a level of public
accusation by each other of malpractices
and various underhand dealings.
"We believe there is need for greater
sensitisation of our various public and
stakeholders about the real issues at play
in order that there can be much greater
and more informed public discourse and
that public policy when formulated could
be more reflective of and responsive to the
articulated concerns of our various publics
Severin said that the intent of the OECS
Commission is to contribute to the public
discourse "and to seek to raise the level of
He said the Commission was releasing
two documents penned by Jules or public
information. Severin said he was also chal-
lenging the media in the sub-region to be
active facilitators of the public discourse
as well as being "active contributors in a
substantive way to that discourse.
"We do not intend to stop there however
as we will be utlising to the fullest the var-
ious social media platforms in furtherance
of this effort," he said.
The OECS groups the islands of
Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada,
St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines,
St Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, British Virgin
islands and Anguilla.
The St Lucia-based Eastern Caribbean
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority
(Ectel) has already said the proposed
agreement is a matter of significant public
interest for the region deserving of rig-
orous regulatory attention and diligent
Ectel has expressed its "deep concern"
in relation to the proposed transaction
and the fact that the proposed merger
could "potentially result in a negative
impact on competition' by "reducing
choice for consumers of both services
and service providers."
Ectel further noted that "increased
monopolisation can erode the gains made
by liberalisation" and that the proposed
merger raises significant issues in terms
of potential breaches of licences by both
CWC and Columbus which must be
But CWC chief executive, Phil Bentley,
has given a commitment to Caribbean
governments and regulators that if the
company's acquisition of Columbus Inter-
national is approved, the enlarged CWC
will not negatively impact competition
in the cable and broadband markets.
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
ST JOHN'S, Antigua---The Antigua-
based regional airline, Liat, Friday an-
nounced a reduction in the fuel
shortage on tickets.
CEO David Evans said effective Jan-
uary 15, the fuel surcharge will be re-
duced by 50 per cent for all new
Liat first introduced a fuel surcharge
in 2003, in the wake of increasing fuel
prices. The cash-strapped airline in
2009 removed the fuel surcharge when
the fuel prices went down.
However, in 2011, Liat re-introduced
the fuel surcharge in response to
months of spiraling jet fuel prices. It
said in that year alone, Liat, whose
major shareholders are Antigua and
Barbuda, Dominica, Barbados and St
Vincent and the Grenadines, spent
US$22 million on fuel, or 18 per cent of
It said the price of both jet fuel and
crude oil have been falling recently and
Evans said, being fully aware of the im-
pact rising fuel prices have had on cus-
tomers, it is only fitting that they
benefit from the decreased prices.
Liat lowers fuel surcharge
OECS seeks public views
Falling gas prices
spark tax debate
Falling gasoline prices have sparked congres-
sional debate about increasing the federal gas
tax to help fund upcoming infrastructure projects
and have set up a potential disagreement among
House and Senate Republicans.
The federal gas tax primarily pays for trans-
portation projects but has stayed at 18.4 cents a
gallon for roughly two decades, helping create the
In addition, increasing construction costs com-
bined with less revenue from the gas tax, in large
part because of more fuel-efficient vehicles, have
further contributed to the estimated $16 billion
funding gap over the past several years.
Though Congress has managed to find money
elsewhere in the federal budget to cover the short-
ages, lawmakers say the country needs more than
a stop-gap solution.
However, House Speaker John Boehner suggested
Thursday that getting a gas-tax increase passed
in the now-Republican-controlled House and
Senate seems unlikely.
"When the Democrats had total control of the
Congress they couldn't find the votes," he told
reporters. "It's doubtful the votes are here to raise
the gas tax again. ... I've never voted to raise the
gas tax. We'll have to work our way through it."
But at least four Senate Republicans---Bob Cork-
er, Tennessee; James Inhofe, Oklahoma; Orrin
Hatch, Utah; and John Thune, SD---appear open
to the idea of increasing the tax.
Last week, Thune, the third-ranking Senate
Republican, said he didn't "favour increasing any
tax, but I think we have to look at all of the option."
Gas prices are now $2.50 a gallon, which some
economic experts argue now gives Americans
enough money to absorb such a tax increase.
The federal highway bill expires at the end of
May. And there is a roughly $100 billion shortfall
on funding the agency's Highway Trust Fund at
its current levels.
Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Committee on
Environment and Public Works, has suggested
lawmakers have little choice but to at least consider
an increase, in light of the state of the fund and
the country's crumbling roads and bridges.
Corker, who is backing a proposal for a 12-
cent-a-gallon increase in the gas tax over the next
two years, says such a hike would be offset by
other taxes that Americans now pay.
"At least it would put our infrastructure on
strong footing," he said. "And that second com-
ponent seems to get left out of the conversation
most of the time. But, yes, I believe that's what
we should do."
Democrats including Sen Barbara Boxer and
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both of Cal-
ifornia, have urged Congress to increase the tax
or find other ways to better fund infrastructure
"If there's ever going to be a time to raise the
gas tax, the time when gas is so low is the time
to do it," Pelosi said last week. (FoxNews)
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