Daily Brief - Wednesday 26th April, 2017


Chamber wants clarity on property tax

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce wants Government to provide clarity on the property tax and questioned whether measures are being put in place for pensioners and the most vulnerable in society. It also expressed concern over the effect this tax might have on businesses. In a release yesterday, the chamber admitted that Finance Minister Colm Imbert, in his budget presentation for 2016/2017, “put the population on notice that property tax will be reintroduced as a much-needed source of revenue. “Last week’s announcement by the Ministry of Finance, therefore, came as no real surprise.” The chamber pointed out that with the global decline in the price of oil and gas it is fully cognisant of the need for Government to find alternative sources of revenue. Read more here

300 barrels of oil washed into river

Petrotrin is now saying that 300 barrels of oil spilled in the Guaracara River from a ruptured storage tank, but fishermen are saying oil has stretched over a five-mile radius into the Gulf of Paria. In its first statement after the spill on Sunday the State-owned company said only 20 barrels of oil had leaked from one of its storage tanks. But the Environmental Management Authority said on Monday that 20,000 gallons (a barrel contains 42 gallons) of bunker fuel had escaped. Dozens of species of plant and marine life have been affected by the spill which was being cleaned up yesterday with dispersants and containment booms. Read more here

Blunder after blunder in $60m fraud

What has been the fate of five First Citizens employees who handled the $60 million fraudulent wire transfer that was sent from the bank’s Point Lisas branch in September 2011 involving the National Energy Corporation (NEC), now called National Energy?
The Express has found out that two were promoted, one has since resigned, one remains a manager and one was fired. The case of the fired employee is being handled by the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU). Read more here



MSJ: Govt put cart before the horse

The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) has accused Government of misleading the public on the property tax issue and described attempts to implement the new regime as, “madness”. “The PNM Government led by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his Minister of Finance Colm Imbert must come clean on the Property Tax issue,” MSJ political leader David Abdulah said in a statement yesterday. He reported that at a media conference last May, Imbert said that property tax due and payable in 2016, will be equal to the amount paid in land and building tax in 2009, with full implementation in 2017. Abdulah further reported that in in the Mid-Year Budget Review presented in Parliament on April 8, 2016, Imbert stated a team was in the field doing assessments and they expect that 100 percent of assessments will be completed in 2017, so the property tax can be fully implemented in 2018. Read more here

Public anxious

Property tax pressure. The Opposition United National Congress and Movement for Social Justice have slammed Government’s “rush” towards implementing the property tax and cited problems with mechanisms to handle the process. On the flip side, as citizens work towards the May 22 deadline for submission of documents for residential properties being requested, assurance came yesterday from the Finance Ministry’s (Property Tax) Division that a minimum of documents may be accepted in that category. Finance Minister Colm Imbert also clarified some queries arising in the matter, after the ministry on April 19 announced moves towards start of the collection exercise. Read more here



Dividend payout in US$

Shareholders of the Trinidad and Tobago National Gas Company Limited (TTNGL) yesterday voted in favour of a resolution to receive dividend payments in either TT or US currency. The vote took place during TTNGL’s second Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Hilton Trinidad in Port-of-Spain. However, US dollar dividend payments require completion of, “a number of steps first”, including getting necessary approvals from the TT Stock Exchange and the TT Securities and Exchange Commission. TTNGL Chairman Gerry Brooks also said, “it’s also going to be extremely important that shareholders establish a US dollar account because if they do not have (one), there’s no basis on which to pay. Read more here

TTNGL APO coming soon

Chairman of the National Gas Company Gerry Brooks says that an additional offering of shares in TTNGL will soon be made to the local investing community. Brooks was delivering remarks yesterday at the second Annual General Meeting of TTNGL held at the Hilton Hotel in Port-Of-Spain. He said: “The minister of finance has announced an additional public offering and we are very advanced in that process in terms of our discussion with the T&T Stock Exchange and with the T&T Securities and Exchange Commission. It certainly is going to happen in 2017 and very shortly” Brooks added that the public could look forward to receiving more details about the offering once all the regulatory requirements had been fulfilled. Read more here

Don't let lands lie idle

The termination of 77 employees of Caroni Green Ltd last week signalled the end of another agricultural enterprise into which Government ploughed substantial cash and other resources, and which, if we believe the incumbent administration, was a colossal financial failure. The project, then named Caroni Green Initiative, was launched in June 2013 with ambitious goals: to cultivate 5,800 acres of mostly unutilised two-acre plots leased to severed sugar workers with vegetables, root and other crops. Read more here



St Lucia PM cuts funding for National Trust

In what is widely regarded locally as punishment for its opposition to a proposed dolphin park and its outspoken criticism of environmentally damaging components of a controversial multibillion-dollar development in Saint Lucia, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has removed government funding for the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) in the budget estimates currently being debated in parliament. The SLNT, joined by conservationists across the globe, expressed opposition to the Chinese-sponsored so-called Pearl of the Caribbean project that poses a serious threat to the country’s ecological, cultural and archaeological heritage. In particular, a proposal to build a causeway linking the Maria Islands Nature Reserve, one of only two wildlife reserves on Saint Lucia, to the mainland, would have calamitous consequences for the offshore wildlife haven, which is officially a protected area. Read more here

Eight More Going - Alleged Scammers To Be Extradited To US Today

Eight Jamaicans, including a police constable, who are accused of being part of a lottery scam network that fleeced scores of elderly American citizens out of US$5.6 million, or nearly J$500 million, are to be extradited to the United States today, law-enforcement officials have revealed. According to one Jamaican law-enforcement official, the five men and three women are to be handed over to US authorities at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. The eight, police Constable Jason Jahalal, Alrick McLeod, O'Neil Brown, Dario Palmer, Kazrae Gray, Kimberly Hudson, Xanu-Ann Morgan and Dahlia Hunter, are facing a 66-count indictment in the state of North Dakota. They are each charged with one count of conspiracy and attempting to commit wire fraud, 48 counts of wire fraud, 15 counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering. Read more here



China launches aircraft carrier, boosting military presence

China has launched a new aircraft carrier in the latest sign of its growing military strength. It is the country's second aircraft carrier, after the Liaoning, and the first to be made domestically. The as-yet unnamed ship was transferred into the water in the north-eastern port of Dalian, state media said. It will reportedly be operational by 2020. It comes amid heated rhetoric between the US and North Korea and ongoing tensions in the South China Sea. China has had only one operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which it bought from Ukraine and refitted. The US has deployed warships and a submarine to the Korean peninsula, prompting an angry reaction from North Korea. China has urged calm. Read more here

Could tensions turn into war in North Korea?

US warships and submarines are on the move. North Korea has carried out its largest ever live-fire drill. Washington and Pyongyang are trading inflammatory rhetoric on a weekly basis. With all of this, it's hard to know if war is actually imminent or if these are the growing pains of US President Donald Trump's new administration figuring out how to deal with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. Daily reports of the fragile situation fuel worries that war is imminent. But, has it really reached a point of no return? Read more here

26th April 2017


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