PM Browne calls on CARICOM Heads to protect Regional Financial Services

PM Browne CARICOM 2015

NASSAU, The Bahamas – 28th February 2015……….Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Gaston Browne has warned that the Caribbean’s banking sector “is facing a new and potentially devastating threat” because the  Region is being labelled as “a high-risk area for financial services”.

The Prime Minister was speaking as the out-going Chair of CARICOM at its Inter-Sessional Conference in the Bahamas.

He informed the Conference that “correspondent banks in the United States and major banking centres in Europe are being made to evaluate risks versus rewards for doing business with Caribbean indigenous banks, and offshore banks established our regional financial centres.”  He explained that “Because in many cases indigenous banks cannot provide a high level of reward, correspondent banks are closing their relationships with them – all because an arbitrary and unsubstantiated claim is being made that the Caribbean is a high risk area for financial services.”

Prime Minister Browne cautioned that unless this situation is addressed with urgency, the financial services in every Caribbean country will be forced to close their banking doors, not because of any inherent difficulties in the banks themselves, but because they are constrained from transacting business abroad.

“I need hardly say that the impact of such a development on our economies would be calamitous, I venture to suggest that our Community should waste no time in jointly addressing this problem,”  Browne said.

He called on the Heads of Government to establish a Committee of Finance Ministers to work with the Caribbean Association of Banks to develop a plan to deal with this matter, including “by making strong representations at the World Bank, the IMF, within the Commonwealth and La Francophonie and, if it necessary, at the United Nations”.

Developing his argument further, the Antigua and Barbuda leader emphasised that Caribbean Community countries are not only marginalised in the international community with no voice or vote in International Financial Institutions of the world, but are also coerced into adopting policies that harm Caribbean economies while serving the interests of others.

He said “Extra-territorial laws and policies made in other countries and regions are imposed upon us without consultation – indeed without the slightest interest in such consultations”.

The Prime Minister drew his colleague Heads’ attention to the fact that Caribbean jurisdictions are being made to implement the agenda of others, even to the point of spending the region’s own scarce resources to act as their tax collectors, or suffer the consequences of not surrendering to their will.

He concluded  “It is time that we raise our voices and not meekly accept the continuing emasculation of our financial services, particularly after we have spent millions of dollars on making our jurisdictions compliant with every demand that has been made of us.

Antigua and Barbuda and Fiji Formalize Relations

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NEW YORK, New York, USA – 27th February 2015……Antigua and Barbuda has formulized diplomatic relations at the Ambassadorial level with the Government of Fiji on February 20th 2015.
Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations H.E. Ambassador Dr. Walton Aubrey Webson and Permanent Representative of Fiji H.E. Ambassador Peter Thompson signed a Joint Communiqué establishing diplomatic relations between the two states.
Both countries highlighted their similarities as Small Island Developing States and pledged to support each other in areas that are important to their respective development. Areas of discussion for joint collaboration are Climate Change, Oceans, and debt. The Ambassadors discussed their economies being heavily dependent on tourism and ways of diversifying the economies in order to maintain sustainability.

Antigua and Barbuda declines request to give Taiwanese visa free entry

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St.JOHN’S, Antigua and Babruda – 27th February 2015…….The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has declined a request made on 24th February 2015, through the Secretariat of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), to grant visa-free entry to nationals of Taiwan.

In a letter to the Director-General of the OECS, Dr Didacus Jules, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has made it clear that Antigua and Barbuda is committed to a One-China policy and has enjoyed unbroken and beneficial relations with the Peoples Republic of China.   Therefore, the government of Antigua and Barbuda “respectfully declines the request”.

The Director General of Communications in the Prime Minister’s office, Maurice Merchant, also made it clear that when Prime Minister Gaston Browne spoke at the Opening of the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in the Bahamas on 26 February, he did so in his capacity as Outgoing Chairman of the organization.   In that capacity, he had an obligation to reflect the views of all member-states.  It was in that context, and on their behalf, that he conveyed thanks to the government of Taiwan.

Mr Merchant emphasized that the Prime Minister’s statement as outgoing Chairman of CARICOM does not dilute in any way the ongoing commitment of Antigua and Barbuda to a One China policy and its relations with the Peoples Republic of China.

Antigua and Barbuda and Venezuela Agree on Terms for West Indies Oil Company (WIOC) Acquisition

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ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda – 23rd February 2015……..Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne and Foreign Minister of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Her Excellency Delcy Rodriguez, on Saturday 21st February successfully hammered out an agreement covering the acquisition of the West Indies Oil Company WIOC.

Foreign Minister Rodriguez and her team of ambassadors and technicians flew into Antigua on Friday on the instructions of President Nicolas Maduro, fulfilling a promise made to Prime Minister Browne in Costa Rica to collaborate on the acquisition of one of the most significant business enterprise in Antigua and Barbuda.

“We had a most successful – most productive meeting. We have in essence and in principal agreed to the terms of our arrangement which include an equity participation by Venezuela as well as a loan facility to help us to upgrade the West Indies Oil Company facility. Our plan is to turn WIOC into a major petrol distribution hub in the northern Caribbean. We have sold them the idea and they have agreed to support us. They will be providing 24 million US dollars in funding,” Prime Minister Browne stated.

The country’s leader also announced that his government has secured an additional 30 million US dollars from a Chinese investor who will partner with Antigua and Barbuda in the acquisition.

“The excess funds will be utilized for maintenance and expansion of WIOC. We intend to turn WIOC into a major profit centre with the government maintaining fifty-one percent of the shares. Some of the shares will be divested to Antiguans and Barbudans eventually. I think WIOC is poised to become a major facility in the sub-region. This new enterprise has the ability to create more jobs for our people and make an even more significant contribution towards national development,” said PM Browne.

The country’s leader stated that this is a great opportunity for the country and it is being made possible by the partnership with Venezuela. He thanked President Maduro and Foreign Minister Rodriguez for their government’s commitment to Antigua and Barbuda and outlined that the partnership will further help to strengthen and deepen the relationship. He said this particular partnership will redound to the benefit of both peoples of Antigua and Barbuda and Venezuela.

Foreign Minister Rodriguez said that Venezuela is committed to Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean and the agreements reached demonstrate how deep the relationship is with Antigua and Barbuda. She noted that the partnership on WIOC acquisition will be beneficial to both countries.

Government currently owns twenty-five percent of the shares in WIOC. The remaining seventy-five percent of the shares are being offered at US $30 million dollars.

Prime Minister Browne has indicated that it is his government’s intention to expand WIOC to become an export facility, which will grow the country’s foreign exchange, generate jobs and grow the economy.

Antigua and Barbuda History Month Progresses

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St.JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda – February 22, 2015 – The inaugural Antigua & Barbuda History Month moves into week two with three more village exhibitions and film shows followed by two days of centralized activities at the Multipurpose Cultural Center, before culminating in Barbuda by mid-March.

The activities got off to an excellent start in Old Road last Monday 16th February, moving on to Swetes, then Old Road. In each village there was an exhibit of village life highlighting the lifestyle and culture followed by an old time ‘flim’ show and cultural presentation. The exhibits were visited by a number of schools during the day followed by the community in the evening.

This week the villages of Wilikies, Seaview Farm and Freeman’s Village will take focus as each will feature in an exhibit, documentary and cultural presentation.

Freeman’s Village will be featured on Monday 23 at the Freeman’s Village Primary School. Next will be Seaview Farm on Tuesday 24 at the Seaview Farm Primary school. Finally, Wilikies Village will feature on Wednesday 25 at Wilikies Village Primary School.

The Culture Development Division has collaborated with the Precision Center and residents across the six villages to facilitate: the broadening of knowledge of the Nation’s history and culture, to further kindle the spirit of the community and to forge an awareness of the values of working together and patriotism.

The Antigua leg of the History Month activities culminates with a two day exhibition and screening at the Multipurpose Centre to be executed by the Precision Center. The plans and dates for Barbuda will be revealed shortly thereafter

Government to Partner with Microsoft on E3 Solution Platform Initiative

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda – 26th February 2015…
The Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology will be signing a milestone agreement with Microsoft on Monday 2nd March 2015.
Microsoft officials arrived on island earlier this week, to discuss the particulars of the partnership with Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology, the Hon. Melford Nicholas.

The agreement will allow for the long awaited transformation of how government conducts business through the use of the “Microsoft Office 365” platform, which is being contracted through a Licensing Solutions Partner (LSP), SoftwareOne.

This programme is expected to create a portal for citizens to have better engagement with the government and also make more persons accountable for their work, through collaboration and inter office communication.

Developers say the platform will increase the country’s ease of doing business and will also facilitate the reduction of cost through more efficient and document management.

Officials at Microsoft have indicated their delight in assisting the Government with this important initiative.

“We at Microsoft are grateful that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda are giving us the opportunity to collaborate with them to modernize the management of the government through technology. This modernization will ultimately transform the way employees work, improve transparency, and enhance the services provided to citizens,” mentioned Guillermo Almada, Public Sector lead for Microsoft Latin America Emerging Markets. “In addition to our joint efforts to help modernize the way the government operates, this partnership also allows us to help impact positively the development of society in key areas, including education.”

Representatives from Software One have also indicated their delight in partnering with Microsoft and the Government of Antigua on the new Enterprise Agreement and are looking forward to making the transition a seamless and successful one.

It is envisioned that Ministries and Government agencies will move ahead through the use of this top of the line full office programme and a wide range of integrated collaboration services, which are coupled with advanced compliance features and full IT power.

Through this platform, Government will be demonstrating leadership in the adoption and use of ICT Technology. This implementation will enable greater transparency, improved collaboration and the ease of doing business with the government.

Minister Nicholas says the platform will further assist in the development of special initiatives within the Ministry of Education, assist in Human Capital Development and improve interactivity between citizens and the government, thus creating more openness, sharing, communication and collaboration.

Prime Minister, the Hon. Gaston Browne, Minister of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology, the Hon. Melford Nicholas, Representatives from Microsoft Office and other Seniour Public Service Officials will be in attendance at the signing of the agreement, which will take place on Monday, 2nd March at the Office of the Prime Minister at 2 pm.

The agreement will also facilitate the placement of all employees within the government sector on a single domain (ab.gov.ag) for online communication purposes.

Following Monday’s signing, teams will be on the ground to commence implementation and make presentations to various stakeholders to include: Cabinet, Permanent Secretaries, Seniour Government Officials and Information Technology Managers within Ministries.
Implementation is expected to run over the next six months.

MAJOR MARKETING CAMPAIGNS TO RAISE PROFILE OF ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA

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St. John’s, Antigua (February 3rd 2015) – The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, is anticipating a surge in bookings to Antigua and Barbuda from its primary source markets, as a result of new marketing campaigns being implemented to raise the profile of the destination.
A sixty minute television documentary on ‘Tourism in Antigua and Barbuda’ will air in the Italian Market, this February and again in March, following filming last week by Sky Italia. The feature will appear on, ‘Top Holidays in the World’, broadcasting on Sky Italia and Italian National Digital TV.
This programme follows a month-long British Airways marketing campaign launched in January, by the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, just in time for the peak of the 2014/2015 winter season.

The British Airways campaign included a visually appealing destination feature, produced by an award-winning film production company in September, and aired on British Airways Audio Visual On Demand (AVOD) systems. The video, which targets visitors and investors on long-haul flights, has a call to action by Prime Minister, The Hon. Gaston Browne, who invites British Airways’ 1.2 million passengers worldwide to visit Antigua and Barbuda.
Commenting on the partnerships, Minister of Tourism, The Hon. Asot Michael said: “We are embarking upon aggressive marketing campaigns in all our major source markets, using all marketing channels to further create demand for the destination.”
He noted that, “Antigua and Barbuda’s partnership with British Airways was hugely impactful and offered a brilliant opportunity to market the destination globally, targeting a select audience of premium travelers and allowing us to attract high-net worth individuals to our shores.”
A double page destination feature also appears in the January 2015 edition of the magazine, British Airways High Life, distributed in every British Airways seat pocket and in British Airways lounges.
CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, Colin C. James said: “The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority has entered 2015 with a renewed marketing focus, and with the aim of generating maximum exposure, and bookings for the destination.
The Tourism Authority CEO, noted that the marketing campaigns will continue, as February will see the launch of Antigua and Barbuda’s New York Times Square ninety-day promotion, which has the potential to reach over 1.5 million persons daily.
Viewers of the campaigns will be exposed to Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism product as the films showcase the destination’s beaches, restaurants, hotels, art, land and water based excursions and locations such as Nelson’s Dockyard, Shirley Heights, Redcliffe Quay, Heritage Quay and Betty’s Hope.