Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 2nd 2014 Contents BG10 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JANUARY 2014 • WEEK ONE
Agrinet, a research and development initiative, is a
platform to provide data about the agricultural sector
that stakeholders can use to determine what crops to
grow and in what quantity.
Patrick Hosein, spokesperson for Agrinet, said the
project is meant to take agricultural data and develop
applications (apps) using that data, which would be
useful for farmers and others who require such data,"
Hosein was speaking in an interview on December
11 at the launch of the T&T Extractive Industries
Transparency Initiative s 2010-2011 report, which was
held at the Kapok Hotel, Maraval.
He said the group decided to have a process of
"open data" where different sources provided data to
the Web site. Agrinet and the Ministry of Food Pro-
duction signed a Memorandum of Understanding
"In order to be able to receive this data from these
various organisations, we needed to have an MoU,
which was developed by the legal team at UWI and
they passed it to the Ministry, and as soon as that is
done, they will start providing us with the data."
Referring to Namdevco or the National Agricultural
Marketing and Development Corporation and what
role they would play in providing data, he said: "Right
now, Namdevco provides data on their Web site but
not on Agrinet s platform. What would be done is
that they would provide data directly to us as well.
It is much easier if they provide it directly."
According to Hosein the data available to farmers
• Price information
• Quantity of products sold in the Macoya and Cen-
He added that the vision for the future is to develop
"The farmers for instance they don t have an idea
of what crops to grow at any point in time, they just
go on historically, what they would grow at that time
"What we are hoping is to provide them with addi-
tional information they can use to optomise what they
should plant, in terms of what is the expected price
for that particular crop when its due to be harvested,
so they can make better decisions on what to plant."
Asked how receptive the farmers would be to Infor-
mation Technology in agriculture, he said: "we are
hoping with other initiatives of the Government,
making the internet accessible to people in the rural
areas that they would be able to go to one of the mobile
units. The platform, www.internic.net is expected to
be launched in January 2014.
Barbados Prime Minister Fre-
undel Stuart won the political
battle, but loss the economic
war in 2013.
His T&T counterpart, Kamla Persad-Bisses-
sar set a record by losing four political battles
in a year, while Grenada s Prime Minister Dr
Keith Mitchell set another record by leading
his New National Party (NNP) to a clean
sweep of all 15 seats in the February general
elections. This was the second occasion he
had achieved the feat within a decade.
In Suriname, President Desi Bouterse dis-
missed calls to step down following the arrest
of his son by United States law enforcement
officials on drug trafficking and terrorist related
But during the year, Bouterse fired his
Finance Minister, Adelien Wijnerman, because
of the slow progress achieved in clearing gov-
ernment s payment arrears. Since coming to
office in 2010, Bouterse has replaced ten min-
His record is perhaps matched in the
Caribbean only by Prime Minister Persad-
Bissessar, who accepted the resignation of
her embattled national security minister Austin
Jack Warner, only to see him successfully
defend the Chaguanas West seat in a by-
election and form his own political party.
Yet politics did not dominate events in the
Caribbean in 2013, economics did.
St Lucia s Prime Minister Dr Kenny Antho-
ny summed up the economic situation per-
fectly when he said some Caribbean countries
were refusing to face up to the impact of the
global economic crisis on their countries.
"The tragedy of the times is that we are
in the throes of a major crisis like the
Caribbean has never ever experienced before,
but we are refusing to face the reality that
confronts us and all of us are engaged in one
form or another of self denial," Anthony said,
challenging his regional colleagues to be honest
about the "hard and unusual decisions" that
must be made because of difficult global eco-
"We don t like frank talk. We don t like
open talk. We don t like honest talk," he added.
The Bermuda government laid it cards on
the table by telling citizens that they should
not expect the local economy to show much
growth in 2013.
"Overall, the Ministry of Finance anticipates
that Bermuda s GDP (gross domestic product)
will be flat to negative 0.75 per cent in 2013,"
The Central Bank of T&T revised the eco-
nomic growth for the oil rich twin island
republic saying it was now projected to grow
by 1.5 per cent this year as against earlier pre-
dictions of 2.5 per cent.
The test of Anthony s frankness came early
in the year when he warned striking public
servants that bowing to their demands for a
15 per cent salary increase would force the
island into the clutches of the International
Monetary Fund (IMF).
Public sector trade unions had rejected an
offer of zero per cent increase and a onetime
payment of EC$1,000 (one EC dollar=
US$0.37 cents). But the government said the
counter proposal by the trade unions would
increase its wage bill by an estimated EC$55
million annually while the back pay associated
with this proposal would cost about EC$40
million, "leading to a worsening of the current
deficit of close to EC$100 million for this
"It also means that for every ensuing year,
government would have to borrow an extra
EC$55 million just to meet the increase. This
is clearly a path that a responsible government
should not take," Anthony argued.
In the end, despite street demonstrations,
the public sector unions signed on the dotted
line, accepting the government s offer.
The nine-member Organisation of Eastern
Caribbean States (OECS) has long relied on
mono crops as well as the tourism industry for
their economic fortunes. But the Governor of
the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB),
Sir Dwight Venner, said they needed "to wake
up and smell the coffee" and realise that the
global economic crisis had exposed and exac-
erbate structural issues that had been hidden
in the past.
"Let us get sensible, there is the politics in
all of that, but in the end, you have to do the
maths," he told the Dominica Association of
Industry and Commerce (DAIC), noting that
the private sector had a significant role to play
in the newly-formed Economic Union of the
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
Sir Dwight told the private sector officials
"that s the only game in town" and pretending
that we can solve things without doing the
math is going to be a very frustrating exercise".
It was a message not lost on Grenada s
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who has
a doctorate in Mathematics.
He has had to present two national budgets
to Parliament in 2013, stressing at all times
the development of what he calls "the new
economy" to deal with the socio-economic
situation facing the Spice Isle.
The two essential building blocks of this
new economy are fiscal and debt sustainability,
and the Grenada government has said it would
present a strategy for the new economy in
the first quarter of 2014.
But Mitchell insists the "Homegrown Pro-
gramme" has been designed for Grenadians
and was not a programme put together by
the Washington-based IMF.
Caribbean people have long equated job
cutbacks, decline in social services and a cut
in government expenditure with the abbre-
So when Barbadian voters kept with tra-
dition and provided the incumbent Democratic
Labour Party (DLP) a second consecutive
term in power following a nerve-jangling
general elections in February, they would have
been forgiven for linking the government s
announcement of public sector job cuts in
December with a prescription ordered by the
IMF as the DLP administration seeks to revive
an ailing economy.
Their position may have been strengthened
by the IMF report on Barbados following its
annual inspection of the state of the country s
economy in early December. The Washing-
ton-based financial institution noted that the
central government debt had risen to 94 per
cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by Sep-
tember 2013; the government s deficit is
expected to rise to 9.5 per cent of GDP in
2013/2014; the government wage bill rose to
10.3 per cent of GDP in 2012/13 -- "the highest
in the region"; and, most worryingly of all,
international reserves had fallen to US$468
million at end-October.
Despite the gloomy picture, Barbadians
had taken comfort in the words of Prime
Minister Stuart that his administration had
always taken the position that, as far as pos-
sible, resorting to layoffs would be "a kind
of last option when every other option has
Perhaps the first sign that all options had
or were failing came when the government
announced it would no longer pay tuition
fees for nationals studying at the University
of the West Indies (UWI). The government s
message to students: free tertiary education
was never intended to last forever.
But even as the debate raged as to whether
or not the government would meet the eco-
nomic fees for students, Barbadians were
jolted by the announcement made by Finance
and Economic Affairs Minister Chris Sinckler
that the government would trim the public
service as well as reduce by ten per cent the
salaries of ministers, government legislators,
parliamentary secretaries and those considered
to be a "political appointee."
Sinckler said the plan to cut public service
jobs would result in the government saving
as much as Bds$143 million (one Bds dollar
= US$0.50 cents) and that the government
had also agreed to institute a "strict pro-
gramme of attrition" across the central public
service, filling posts only where it is absolutely
unavoidable, over the next five years, ending
"This attrition is expected to reduce central
government employment levels from approx-
imately 16 970 to 14, 612 jobs; a projected
loss of 2,358 posts; and savings of Bds$121
million. Over the current 19-month adjust-
ment period, public sector employment will
be reduced by an additional 501 jobs with a
projected savings of Bds$26 million," he added.
The government said that the first 2,000
job cuts would take place by January 15, fol-
lowed by others by March 1.
Despite assurances from Central Bank Gov-
ernor Dr Delisle Worrell that self confidence
would help the island overcome its economic
problems, the international rating agencies
like Standards & Poor s and Moodys Investor
Services were not impressed, revising their
outlook on Barbados that had "fallen back
UWI, Food Ministry
PHOTO: BRIAN NG FATT
Region at a glance
Continued on Page 11
Links Archive January 1st 2014 January 3rd 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page