11 July 2011

Sint Maarten to Seek associate membership in The Caribbean Community (CARICOM)


Prime Minister holds preliminary talks at Heads of Government Meeting of CARICOM

Basseterre, St. Kitts

2011 (CUOPM) – St. Maarten has expressed an interest in becoming an Associate Member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

This was disclosed by St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister and Chairman of the regional integration movement, the Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, who said the St. Maarten leader (Hon. Sarah Wescott-Williams)  was one of several Heads of government and Institutions, who CARICOM leaders met with during the 32nd Regular Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government.

“The dynamism and solidity of our Community have encouraged one of our special guests at this meeting, the
Prime Minister of St. Maarten, the Hon. Sarah Wescott-Williams to talk with us about submitting a formal request for her country to become an Associate Member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister Douglas announced at the Closing Ceremony.

Prime Minister Wescott-Williams, who attended the Opening Ceremony on June 30th, held talks with
Caribbean leaders during the luncheon session of the first caucus at Ottley’s Plantation on Saturday 1st July.

Prime Minister Wescott-Williams during the luncheon meeting brought Caribbean leaders up to date on the recent constitutional changes in Country St. Marten with the Dutch Kingdom.

CARICOM has several Councils on matters of interest to St. Maarten,” said Prime Minister Wescott-Williams in a recent statement reported in the St. Maarten Herald.

In accepting the invitation from Prime Minister Douglas to attend the Conference, the St. Maarten leader said she hoped to discuss “St. Maarten’s involvement in these Councils and eventual membership of CARICOM during the visit to St. Kitts.” The communiqué issued at the end of the conference said:

“Heads of Government and the Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, the Hon. Sarah Wescott-Williams held preliminary discussions with a view to Sint Maarten submitting a formal request to become an Associate Member of the Community.”

During the four-day meeting, Heads of Government also exchanged views with His Excellency Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, President of Colombia; His Excellency José Miguel Insulza, Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Mr. Andris Piebalgs, European Union Commissioner for Development.

CARICOM Chairman Douglas also met with the Special Envoy of the Government of Cuba, His Excellency Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla.

CARICOM Member States and Head of Government are Antigua and Barbuda, Dr. the Hon. Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister; The Bahamas, The Right Hon. Hubert Ingraham, Prime Minister; Barbados, the Hon. Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister; Belize, the Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister; Dominica, the
Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister; Grenada, Hon. Tilman Thomas, Prime Minister; Guyana, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, President; Haiti, His Excellency Michel Martelly, President; Jamaica, the Hon. Bruce Golding, Prime Minister; Montserrat, the Hon. Reuben Meade, Chief Minister; St. Kitts and Nevis, the Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, Prime Minister; St. Lucia, the Hon. Stephenson King, Prime Minister; St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister; Suriname,
His Excellency Desi Bouterse, President; Trinidad and Tobago, the Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister.

Associate Members are Anguilla, Hon. Hubert Hughes, Chief Minister; Bermuda, Hon. Pamela Cox, Premier; British Virgin Islands, Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal, Premier; Cayman Islands, Hon. William McKeeva Bush, Premier; and the Turks and Caicos Islands. (OTR Note: Since 2009, elected government has been suspended in the Turks & Caicos Islands by the United Kingdom, the territory's administering power).

In 1972, Commonwealth Caribbean leaders at the Seventh Heads of Government Conference decided to transform the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) into a Common Market and establish the Caribbean Community, of which the Common Market would be an integral part.

The signing of the Treaty establishing the Caribbean Community, Chaguaramas, 4th July 1973, was a defining moment in the history of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Although a free-trade area had been established, CARIFTA did not provide for the free movement of labour and capital, or the coordination of
agricultural, industrial and foreign policies.

The objectives of the Community, identified in Article 6 of the Revised Treaty, are: to improve standards of living and work; the full employment of labour and other factors of production; accelerated, coordinated and sustained economic development and convergence; expansion of trade and economic relations with third States; enhanced levels of international competitiveness; organisation for increased production and productivity; achievement of a greater measure of economic leverage and effectiveness of Member States in dealing with third States, groups of States and entities of any description and the enhanced co-ordination of Member States’ foreign and foreign economic policies and enhanced functional co-operation.

In 1989, when the Heads of Government made the decision to transform the Common Market into a single
market and economy in which factors move freely as a basis for internationally competitive production of goods and provision of services, it was also decided that for the transformation to take place, the Treaty would have to be revised.

In 1992, following the adoption of the report of the West Indian Commission, an Inter-governmental Task Force was established, to work on the revision of theTreaty. Between 1993 and 2000, the Inter-Governmental Task Force (IGTF) which was composed of representatives of all Member States, produced nine Protocols, for the purpose of amending the Treaty. These nine Protocols were later combined to create a new version of the Treaty, called formally, The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community, including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

Allowances have been made for the subsequent inclusion in the Revised Treaty, by way of additional Protocols, new issues such as e-commerce, government procurement, trade in goods from free zones, free circulation of goods, and the rights contingent on the free movement of persons.

Erasmus Williams
Press Secretary to the Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
Government Headquarters
Church Street
Basseterre, St. Kitts

Tel: 869-465-9698
Fax: 869-466-9997
Cell: 869-665-8422

Integration of Puerto Rico as a U.S. State would reduce representation of remaining U.S. states

By Stefan Antonmattei

Territory would gain 5 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives
 and 2 seats in the U.S. Senate seats 

If Puerto Ricans ever voted to become a state of the union, the island could face a formidable opposition from the very large, and very Republican state of Texas. It could also face resistance from another large populated area, the swing-voting state of Florida which in 2004 voted for George W. Bush but in 2008 voted for Pres. (Barack) Obama. Other states that would lose congressional seats, were Puerto Rico to become a state, are California, Washington, and Minnesota.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Sun, Dr. Dudley L. Poston, Jr., a Texas A&M University professor of sociology said that were Puerto Rico to become a state, the island would gain five U.S. House of Representative seats and two U.S. Senate seats. The study was based on an analysis of the 2010 Census.

“The Congress has the final authority regarding the admission of a new state. Most assume that if Puerto Rico submits a petition for statehood, the House and Senate would pass a resolution authorizing statehood. But I really wonder if the passing of a resolution will be that easy. It will be interesting to see if the senators and representatives from the five states that will lose seats, especially the Republican-voting Texas, and the swing-state of Florida, would favor such a resolution. Texas is a bright red state [Red referring to the color given to represent a Republican state — the governor of Texas, both senators, their legislative body and many of their congressional representatives are Republican]. Seat assignment in the U.S. House is a zero-sum situation. If Puerto Rico (or, for that matter, Washington, D.C.,) became a state, some of the 50 states must necessarily lose seats,” said Dr. Poston.

A White House task force recently recommended that Puerto Rico conduct a plebiscite on its political relationship with the U.S. and decide whether the island wants to remain as a commonwealth, become a state of the U.S., or independent of the U.S. On his June 14 visit to the island, President Obama promised he would support the outcome of the plebiscite. Obama’s “support” for statehood — if that were the result — was conditional on a “substantial majority” of Puerto Ricans voting in favor of statehood. The term “substantial majority” has been used by all former U.S. presidents and congressional leaders with respect to solving the island’s status. The undefined technical definition of a “substantial majority” has never been specified in terms of what exact number or percentage of the vote it would represent.

The U.S. Census Bureau has already determined the distribution of House seats based on data from the 2010 census. According to Dr. Poston’s application of the equal proportions method to the 2010 population data from the Census Bureau, the five states that would lose representatives if Puerto Rico is added as the 51st state are Florida, Washington, Texas, California and Minnesota. Without Puerto Rico as a new state, the 2010 census data show that Texas gains four new seats, Florida two, Washington one, and California and Minnesota none. If Puerto Rico is added as a new state, Texas will only gain three new seats, Florida one, Washington none and California and Minnesota will each lose a seat.

Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico

Both Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959. Alaska was seen as rich in natural resources and Hawaii, as a bridge to Asia. The current population of Alaska is 710,000 and Hawaii 1.3 million. Puerto Rico’s population is 3.7 million. Another 4.6 million Puerto Ricans live on the mainland U.S. More than 800,000 Puerto Ricans live in Florida, a key state in the general elections. Of the 308.7 million Americans living in the states, 50.5 million (16 percent) are Hispanics.

“Statehood has its benefits, both for Puerto Rico and, to a certain degree, for Obama and the Democrats. Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. tend to vote Democratic in presidential elections, particularly in New York where the bulk of the 4.6 million mainland Puerto Ricans live. But this is not the case for Florida where more than 800,000 Puerto Ricans live,” said Dr. Poston.

“Since it is unlikely that the House will increase its number of seats beyond 435, seat assignment is a zero-sum game. If a new state is added, there will not be an increase in the number of House seats. One exception to this rule occurred with the admission of Alaska and Hawaii. For one session of Congress there were 438 seats (one for Alaska and two for Hawaii). However, with the results from the next census in 1960, the House reverted back to its basic number of 435 seats. I doubt that this will occur again, that is, that Congress will allow a temporary increase of more seats for Puerto Rico prior to the 2020 census, and then revert back to 435 seats after the new (2020) census data are issued,” said Dr. Poston.

Recent plebiscites in Puerto Rico
The last two status plebiscites in Puerto Rico, held in 1998 and in 1993 — both held under the pro-statehood administration of Gov. Pedro Rosselló — did not result in a substantial majority for any particular status, be it statehood, commonwealth, or independence. In the 1998 plebiscite an option under the auspices of the pro-commonwealth status Popular Democratic Party named “None of the Above” (Ninguna de las Anteriores) won 50.3 percent (787,900 votes); the pro-statehood garnered 46.5 percent (728,157 votes); and the pro independence party won 2.5 percent (39,838 votes).

In the 1993 plebiscite, the pro-commonwealth position won with 48.6 percent (826,326 votes) versus 46.3 percent (788,296 votes) for statehood, and 4.4 percent (75,620) for independence.

The last plebiscite held in Puerto Rico was in July 2005. Only 22 percent of the more than 2 million registered voters participated. On that date 83.8 percent of the voters (464,010) voted to reduce the legislative body from two chambers to one, and only 16 percent (88,733) voted to keep the current system. To date, nothing has been done about it.

Dr. Poston is a demographer and professor of sociology in the College of Arts at Texas A&M University in College Station. He is also a Guest Professor of Demography at the People’s University in Beijing, China and a Guest Professor of Cultural Studies and Sociology at Fuzhou University, also in China. Prior to Texas A&M, Dr. Poston was a professor at Cornell University and at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include demography, human ecology, and the sociology of gender, with a special attention to the populations of China, Taiwan, and Korea. Earlier in his career, he studied the Hispanic population in the U.S. In 1968 he obtained his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Oregon. Dr. Poston is a Vietnam veteran where he served as a 1st Lieutenant and Captain and where he was awarded a Bronze Star.

New rum distillery to open in central Puerto Rico

Associated Press


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A new rum distillery will open in a former pharmaceutical plant in central Puerto Rico, helping to offset the loss of Captain Morgan rum from the island, economic officials said Wednesday.

The Club Caribe LLC distillery is scheduled to open in early 2012 in the mountain town of Cidra and will produce 2 million gallons of rum its first year as part of a 20-year deal, said senior vice president Alberto Rivera.The local company is affiliated to Cc1, a Puerto Rican company that distributes Coca-Cola products in the U.S. territory.

Club Caribe expects to employ 25 people and invest $10 million in machinery and equipment as it moves into the old GlaxoSmithKline factory. "We're going to have a significant production of rum on a global level," said Jose Perez-Riera, Puerto Rico's economic development secretary.

The distillery eventually will produce up to 10 million gallons of rum, both to sell in bulk and as private labels including Club Caribe, a white rum; Black Roberts, a spiced rum; and Carlos Rum, a gold rum, Rivera said.

The company will target the U.S. mainland market. "Vodka is the most consumed liquor in the U.S., but that is changing," Rivera said.

The anticipated production of 2 million gallons next year will eventually generate $20 million in revenue for the island, said Jorge Junquera, deputy executive director of the Puerto Industrial Development Company, a state corporation that promotes business on the island.

The type of affiliation that Club Caribe Distillers, LLC, has with Cc1 is unclear, and a spokeswoman for the company did not clarify the relationship.

Puerto Rico is expected to lose $140 million next year as a result of the lucrative production of Captain Morgan rum moving to the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands.

In January 2009, liquor company Diageo PLC signed a long-term lease to build a Captain Morgan rum distillery in the Virgin Islands in exchange for a portion of the territory's excise-tax revenue, estimated at $2.7 billion over 30 years.The distillery opened in late 2010 on the island of St. Croix and is expected to generate more than $100 million a year in revenue for the next 30 years.

"We are losing a mountain of money with Diageo's departure," Junquera said.

Puerto Rico has argued that its neighbor unfairly lured away business by using revenue from a tax that U.S. consumers pay on every bottle of rum produced in the two Caribbean territories. All but 25 cents of the $13.50 in federal excise taxes levied on per proof gallon of rum produced in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands goes back to the local governments to spend on infrastructure and public services.After the loss of Captain Morgan rum, Puerto Rico pursued several deals to help generate revenue.

In November 2010, legislators voted to increase the amount of money spent on promoting the island's rum industry from 10 percent to 25 percent of federal excise taxes.

In February, the government awarded Bacardi a $95 million grant to renovate its production plant in exchange for maintaining a minimum level of production for the next 20 years, which translates into more than $230 million in yearly revenue through excise taxes.

Puerto Rico's rum industry employs about 4,500 workers and generates $400 million annually, more than 70 percent of which comes from Bacardi.