Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 25th 2016 Contents FEBRUARY 25 • 2016 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
REGIONAL | BG11
Invitation for Bids
ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
REGIONAL DISASTER VULNERABILITY
Renovation of Emergency Shelters:
Dorsetshire Hill Government School
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has received financing from the
World Bank toward the cost of Regional Disaster Vulnerability
Reduction Project and intends to apply part of the proceeds toward
the Renovation of Emergency Shelters: Dorsetshire Hill
The Ministry of Economic Planning, Sustainable Development,
Industry, Labour and Information now invites sealed bids from eligi-
ble bidders for this bid, which includes installing electrical, security
and plumbing elements; renovating concrete masonry walls and
civil works such as walkways. The construction period is expected
to be six months.
Bidders may obtain further information via the Invitation to Tender
link in the Web Classifieds section at www.gov.vc or at the address
below during office hours 8.00 am to 4.00 pm:
THE DIRECTOR OF PLANNING
Ministry of Economic Planning, Sustainable Development,
Industry, Labour and Information
1st Floor, Administrative Building
Bay Street, Kingstown,
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Like many small business owners in this
struggling US territory, Luis Escribano was
having a hard time paying the power bills.
So, for at least five years, he did what many
others have done: tampered with the elec-
tricity meter at his small cafe, illegally cutting
his bill by tens of thousands of dollars.
Then the Puerto Rico Electric Power
Authority, which is struggling to pay its own
bills, decided to make an example of him.
He was charged with theft and threatened
with jail time if he didn t pay US$40,000
in back bills and fines. The company not
only persuaded the court to make restitution
a condition of probation for the first time,
but also alerted local media that Escribano
was due in court last month to publicly
"They have declared total war," said
Michael Corona, a lawyer who represents
While his case is extreme, it reflects a
new approach by Puerto Rican public agen-
cies that are desperate for money and no
longer able to put up with theft and cheating
that went unpunished in the past.
The Puerto Rico government is teetering
on the brink of financial collapse, burdened
by US$72 billion in public debt. Public agen-
cies account for nearly 40 percent of that
debt, including the power company, which
recently reached a deal to restructure a por-
tion of its US$9 billion debt. The highway
and transportation authority carries more
than US$7 billion of that debt while the
water and sewer company have more than
Amid the crisis, the Treasury Department
is going after delinquent taxpayers like never
before, even closing a business owned by
the head of the Chamber of Commerce for
non-payment of sales tax and temporarily
shutting down Jose Enrique, a restaurant that had
become a renowned culinary destination.
The island s water utility has prevailed on the
Justice Department to file criminal charges against
people who have not paid their bills or have stolen
service, a step only taken in drastic cases in the past.
And a government agency that issues permits recently
trumpeted the fact that it imposed a US$34,000 fine
against a company operating an electronic billboard
without its permission.
Such actions have surprised many on the island,
where the government had often taken a laissez-faire
approach to enforcement, among the qualities that
made Puerto Rico more like a Latin American country
and less like a US state.
"Everything used to be negotiable," said Treasury
Secretary Juan Zaragoza, who is leading an effort to
collect overdue tax revenue.
That lax attitude thrived as Puerto Rico went
through a period of relative prosperity thanks to a
US tax system that fostered the development of man-
ufacturing on the island, mostly pharmaceuticals and
medical equipment. But the incentives were phased
out by 2006, and the economy began to slump.
Unemployment rose higher than that of any US state.
Governor after governor borrowed money to help
cover the growing deficit, tripling Puerto Rico s debt
in just 15 years.
The new crackdown on unpaid bills is praised by
many who say they follow the law.
"It s about time," said Hiram Colon, a 47-year-
old event organiser. "They should have taken these
measures a long time ago because we wouldn t be
in the crisis we find ourselves now."
But other Puerto Ricans believe the government
is unfairly targeting the working class while making
few improvements in how it operates.
"Now they re giving us bad service coupled with
the threat of jail," said Corona, who said that Escribano
himself had declined to be interviewed. "I don t know
where this is going to end."
Delinquent power bills have been piling up for
years and are one of the reasons cited by the electrical
utility for its financial woes. It recently announced
that it will cut subsidised power at public housing
units starting next month because of US$31 million
in outstanding bills. AP
Trade and Economic Development Minister Oliver
Joseph is calling on the business community to take
full advantage of the investment opportunities existing
in the region and the Europe.
He says government has been working tirelessly
to create market access for local entrepreneurs and
businesses should not the benefits go unclaimed.
"So we have the EPA (Economic Partnership Agree-
ment with Europe), the Caricom Single Market and
Economy and all the trade agreements ...What the
private sector needs to do is to ensure market presence.
So we negotiate for you, but you have to ensure that
the goods reach there," he said.
"The government does not sell any goods. In the
EPA you have access to the European market under
certain conditions. You must be able to take full
advantage of all the trade agreements to sell your
The Trade Minister also urged the business com-
munity to get a better understanding of the EPA and
foster trade with Europe, especially the United King-
Grenada was among 14 countries that signed the
EPA back in October 2008.
The purpose of the agreement is to make it easier
for people and businesses from the two regions to
invest in and trade with each other.
Amid crisis, Puerto Rico cracks down on theft, tax cheats
Grenada minister tells
opportunities in Europe
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