Jamaica Observer http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/ JamaicaObserver.com, the most concise and in-depth website for news coverage on Jamaica and the Caribbean. Updated daily 7 days a week, 24 hours a day en-us copyright Jamaica Observer, 2011 Measures in place to prevent another PC Bank scandal http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Measures-in-place-to-prevent-another-PC-Bank-scandal_90287 The Agricultural Credit Board (ACB) says the financial mess uncovered at the National People&rsquo;s Cooperative Bank (NPCB) by the Auditor General&rsquo;s Department two years ago is being mopped up, and some amount of restitution is being made on loans that were found to be inappropriately granted.<br /> <br /> According to ACB Chairman Hugh Graham, the measures now in place will ensure that the situation uncovered by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis could never recur.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Progress has been made. Some loans have been recovered, some you know will never be recovered, some you will only recover a part of it. All of those collections are proceeding,&rdquo; Graham told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.<br /> <br /> A special audit of the premier agricultural development bank for farmers carried out by the Auditor General&rsquo;s Department between May and June 2015 had uncovered the alarming misuse of members&rsquo; funds and rampant abuse of position by those in charge at the NPCB, which resulted in over $665 million, or 21 per cent of members&rsquo; deposits, unaccounted for.<br /> <br /> Permanent secretary in the agriculture ministry Donovan Stanberry told a parliamentary committee that the audit had found that managers had been approving loans for themselves and members of the NPCB board. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;A lot of people have parted company with the bank,&rdquo; Graham told the Observer yesterday. &ldquo;The ACB made a lot of strides in terms of revamping the loan administration, putting systems in place including the IT infrastructure, and other improvements in terms of the human resources. The most important thing that we did was separate ourselves from it, not being part of the day to day management, and that was accomplished by putting in a board at the PC Bank.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Renowned banker Rex James has been appointed to head the newly constituted board of the NPCB.<br /> <br /> On Monday Opposition spokesman on agriculture Dayton Campbell questioned the &ldquo;motive and rationale&rdquo; for what he said was the sudden firing of the entire board of the ACB, which has oversight for the NPCB, earlier this month. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;It is strange that the minister has claimed that the board was dismissed immediately because it is to be merged with the DCFS (Department of Cooperatives and Friendly Societies), when the ACB has not been repealed and no formal proposal for the merger has been presented,&rdquo; Campbell said. <br /> <br /> Attempts to reach Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda for comment were unsuccessful. <br /> <br /> The Government is proposing to merge the ACB with the DCFS, which would call for a repeal of the ACB Act to allow for any transfer of its functions to the DCFS.<br /> <br /> TheObserver has learnt that some members on the ACB, who have served across administrations, including the chairman, were reappointed. <br /> <br /> In May 2015, then Opposition spokesman on finance Audley Shaw first raised alarm that the NPCB was in trouble and called for an immediate investigation into the management of the bank. Shaw said the deposits of over 200,000 members of the bank were at risk, as the NPCB was in fact insolvent, and that up to $1 billion in loans had been written off.<br /> <br /> Among the activities noted in the probe was the decline of a loan application from a director at the bank for $50 million in 2011 by the Development Bank of Jamaica, and the approval of that loan by the NPCB. Monroe Ellis&rsquo;s investigation revealed that while the application was being processed, a bridge financing loan of $10 million was granted to the director from members&rsquo; savings. <br /> <br /> The audit also highlighted other examples of weak internal control, such as the non-collection of commitment and processing fees on a $30-million loan for as long as six months; as well as other facilities amounting to $180 million which the bank granted to an applicant to build 24 townhouses. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660781/ZZ1565FBBB-sld.jpg Local News Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM CAC to hammer out $32-m &lsquo;bad gas&rsquo; settlement with stakeholders http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CAC-to-hammer-out--32-m--bad-gas--settlement-with-stakeholders_90305 The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is to meet again with stakeholders in the petroleum trade to hammer out a $32-million settlement for 379 complainants who say their motor vehicles were damaged by contaminated petrol between December 2015 and April 2016.<br /> <br /> Chairman of the CAC Kent Gammon told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the CAC, unable to reach an agreement up to January, had been preparing to take the matter to court, but that the stakeholders &mdash; including Petrojam, the Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association, dealers, haulage contractors, and marketing companies &mdash; have agreed to remain at the negotiating table.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;In the course of those steps being pursued (for court), there was a reaching out of the stakeholders to see if we could come to some meeting of the minds. So we had another discussion with all the stakeholders on Thursday, and we are planning again to meet in another two weeks to see if they can bear any fruit in terms of a settlement on an equitable basis amongst all the stakeholders,&rdquo; he explained.<br /> <br /> Gammon said the CAC had made some adjustments to &ldquo;reach as fair a position as possible. We are hoping that we can get something settled along the lines we have proposed so that we can put this thing to rest&hellip; we are hoping that we can have this thing resolved in a way that nobody is held fully responsible&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> He noted that, in the meantime, the energy ministry is working on new regulations for the trade to avoid a repeat of the &ldquo;loose way&rdquo; in which the industry was being regulated. <br /> <br /> Gammon had noted in a previous Observer interview that the negotiations had reached a stalemate at the end of January because none of the parties are willing to take responsibility for the bad gas issue.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Everybody is pointing their fingers, and that has been the problem,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Frantic reports of &ldquo;bad gas&rdquo; encounters pushed the Government to have the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) conduct islandwide tests on petrol being sold at service stations, as well as the storage facilities held by their suppliers. This resulted in some pumps being sealed and marketing companies defending BSJ&rsquo;s findings of contamination. But the reform committee, in its final report, said it could not pinpoint the source of the contamination. <br /> <br /> The retailers and suppliers remain at loggerheads over a number of long-standing issues affecting the trade, mainly what the retailers&rsquo; association says are onerous contracts and unfair practices.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660820/234805_sld.jpg Local News Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Dredging of Kingston Harbour begins http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/Dredging-of-Kingston-Harbour-begins_90328 Seven weeks into the dredging of Port Bustamante in the Kingston Harbour to facilitate larger ships coming through the Panama Canal, the company contracted to do the excavation is reporting that there are &ldquo;no visible impacts&rdquo; on fishing beaches in proximity to the operation sites.<br /> <br /> Using a trailing suction hopper dredger with a capacity of 14,000 cubic metres, Sodraco has so far been removing soft material &mdash; clay, silt and some sand &mdash; and dumping it some 15 miles south-west of the terminal where the waters are about 600 metres deep. It makes eight trips per 24-hour day and should remove a total volume of seven million cubic metres. Once the soft material is completely removed, a cutter suction dredger will tackle the rock-based material.<br /> <br /> The dredging is part of the Kingston Container Terminal (KCT) Expansion Project which is being marshalled by concessionaire Kingston Freeport Terminal Ltd (KFTL). It is being completed in phases, the first of which is scheduled to end late in 2018. <br /> <br /> Speaking with journalists on a tour of the dredging vessel yesterday, environment and social manager at Sodraco Jan Van Den Bogaert said all potential impacts of the dredging were laid out in an environmental impact assessment and subsequently defined in a permit issued by the National Environment and Planning Agency. Among the stipulations the permit makes are:<br /> <br /> &bull; The stationary dredger can&rsquo;t anchor in coral or among sea grasses; <br /> <br /> &bull; Sensitive areas &mdash; including mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs &mdash; have to be monitored for sedimentation;<br /> <br /> &bull; 500 metres of a heavy duty silt curtain must be installed between the dredge area and the protected site of the Sunken City in Port Royal;<br /> <br /> &bull; 1,500 metres of turbidity curtain will be kept at the ready to be deployed adjacent to dredging locations to protect sensitive areas; and<br /> <br /> &bull; Dredging must stop if turbidity levels reach 29 NTU<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The alarm is triggered at 20 NTU, and we stop at 29 NTU. That&rsquo;s stricter than even Florida, because we want to do the best we can,&rdquo; Project Manager Eric Fernagu added.<br /> <br /> Bogaert said further that the company is mandated to maintain a channel of communication with fishers in 14 beach communities, including those in Port Royal, Greenwich Farm, Portmore, and Old Harbour Bay. He said representatives of seven of them have already visited the dredger and met with the team.<br /> <br /> KFTL assumed operations of KCT &mdash; Jamaica&rsquo;s main trans-shipment port &mdash; by way of a 30-year concession agreement between itself and the Port Authority of Jamaica, allowing it to finance, develop, expand, and operate the facility over the period. The agreement took effect in July last year.<br /> <br /> The project is being completed in phases, the first of which comes in at US$452 million, with dredging and quay wall reinforcement eating up US$150 million of the sum.<br /> <br /> &mdash; Kimone Thompson http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660859/260144_sld.jpg Local Environment Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM BOJ working to make savings more attractive in J$ than US$ http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/BOJ-working-to-make-savings-more-attractive-in-J--than-US-_90322 Jamaicans&rsquo; appetite to invest in US currency has driven the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) to increase its holdings on the foreign currency deposits of financial institutions, thus creating a disincentive for the banks to take deposits in any other currency but the Jamaican dollar. <br /> <br /> The BOJ adjustment means that individuals seeking to hedge against the sliding local currency by saving in foreign currencies will &mdash; effective march 2017 &mdash; no longer see the returns they were once offered by the banks on deposits prior to October last year. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;That appetite to buy US dollars pretty much by everybody meant that they&rsquo;ve got dollars sitting in bank accounts and there is nothing much that people can do with it because there is not a lot of demand for the dollar. The current account deficit in Jamaica has narrowed so much that when you take account of the imports...we actually have more foreign exchange coming in than people want,&rdquo; Governor Brian Wynter stated during a quarterly press briefing yesterday.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a very unusual situation for Jamaica, but I want to stress that that&rsquo;s been the case over the last two years and we project for that to continue into the medium term. That&rsquo;s one of the reasons we say the exchange rate is fairly valued,&rdquo; he continued. <br /> <br /> On Monday the BOJ announced that it is implementing a three-percentage-point adjustment in the cash reserves and liquid assets that deposit-taking institutions are required to hold against foreign currency liabilities. The adjustment will be in two steps, beginning with an increase of two percentage points on the first business day in March 2017, while the remaining one percentage point will be on the first business day in April 2017. <br /> <br /> According to Wynter, the adjustment is aimed at removing the bias that the financial system favoured foreign currency deposits. It is viewed by the BOJ as positive because deposits in Jamaican dollars will now be favoured by the banks. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;The banks basically have got into this position because of this appetite that Jamaicans have had to dollarise. If they have Jamaican dollars, they try to buy US dollars; nobody cared what they were earning in many respects because they were protecting themselves from this devaluation fear.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> &ldquo;It was rampant last year. If you recall, despite our repeated statement that the exchange rate was fairly valued. Nevertheless, it was very clear during the year that there was a fear on devaluation, and this fed on itself until we took some stronger actions towards the end of October so that you see in November, December a reversal of that mood and into February now,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> Wynter added that the fear of devaluation had led a financial system flush with foreign currency deposits, with banks nowhere near able to lend the quantity that they borrow &mdash; which left money sitting abroad in accounts earning very little interest rates.<br /> <br /> The BOJ then began the adjustment last October when cash reserves for US dollar deposits stood at nine per cent, while the Jamaican currency reserve was 12 per cent, making deposits in the US currency more attractive. It sought to rectify the issue when it raised the cash reserve liabilities on US currency to equalise with the 12 per cent for Jamaican dollars, while removing the interest paid on foreign currency reserves held. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Having removed that bias in a steady way, we had indicated that we were considering going further on the US dollar cash reserves, hence this step now,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> It means that, as of April, cash reserves requirement on foreign currencies will move to 15 per cent &mdash; a total increase of six percentage points, or six cents more in every dollar, compared to October last year. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660736/260109_86520_repro_sld4.jpg Local Business Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Luton Shelton reinvents himself at old club Harbour View http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/sports/Luton-Shelton-reinvents-himself-at-old-club-Harbour-View_90311 Luton Shelton was drained after only 45 minutes of action upon his return from a lengthy injury layoff.<br /> <br /> But the striker was clearly satisfied as his boyhood club Harbour View FC &mdash; boosted by his first-half goal &mdash; came from behind to clip fellow former champions Tivoli Gardens FC 2-1 in the Red Stripe Premier League encounter at National Stadium on Monday.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been out of the game for the last two years because of injury and now I&rsquo;m working on my fitness and my confidence to get back,&rdquo; Shelton, who most recently played for FC Volga in Russia between 2013 and 2015, told the Jamaica Observer after Monday&rsquo;s win.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;While trying to get back into the game, I said I might as well play for Harbour View to try to help them and also see how much I can get from it. For a first game back it feels very good, and as a striker you always want to get that first goal and after that it becomes easier,&rdquo; he added.<br /> <br /> Shelton, 31, offered little threat throughout his time on the pitch, as he loped about, obviously lacking confidence and fitness following a problematic knee injury.<br /> <br /> While lacking the blistering pace that helped him become the Reggae Boyz all-time scoring leader with 35 goals, Shelton soon had a telling impact in his comeback game.<br /> <br /> Crafty off-the-ball movement came to the fore when he peeled away from the defence to direct a looping header into the goal to cancel Tivoli&rsquo;s opening goal from fellow veteran Jermaine Johnson.<br /> <br /> Shelton, who sustained a knock, was substituted at the break. However, a second-half strike from Kemar Bennett assured Harbour View all three points and condemned former leaders Tivoli to their second-straight loss.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t a very good game for me because I just started back playing this week, so I don&rsquo;t have much fitness. It was good to get the goal and I know the rest will come after,&rdquo; the former schoolboy star explained. <br /> <br /> Shelton, who has also played in Sweden, England, Norway, Denmark and Turkey, is one of several Harbour View stalwarts who have returned to help the struggling former champions.<br /> <br /> Sean Fraser and Akeem Priestly were on the scoresheet as Harbour View outscored Portmore United 3-2 last week.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;It feels very good because we are way down in the table and we have got some experienced players to come in and give their input. It&rsquo;s the experience that was needed, because we had a lot of young kids before but now we are able to win,&rdquo; Shelton told the<br /> <br /> Observer.<br /> <br /> Harbour View, who have lost 10 of their 23 games so far this season, have achieved two successive wins. They are eighth in the 12-team table with 27 points. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660626/260049_86506_repro_sld5.jpg National Premier League Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM Marley rhythm in top 10 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Marley-rhythm-in-top-10_90289 Chained To The Rhythm, Katy Perry&rsquo;s song with Skip Marley, debuts at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.<br /> <br /> Released February 10 by Capitol Records, Chained To The Rhythm is co-written by Marley, Perry and Sia Furler. It is co-produced by Max Martin and Ali Payami.<br /> <br /> This is the first time that a song featuring a Marley has made it in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.<br /> <br /> Chained To The Rhythm entered the UK pop chart last Friday at number seven. It is the first song featuring a Marley to make that table since 1999 when a remix of Sun Is Shining, credited to Bob Marley vs Funkstar De Luxe, reached number three.<br /> <br /> Chained To The Rhythm is also on charts in Australia (number four), nine in New Zealand, six in the Czech Republic, eight in France, 10 in Ireland, 20 in Germany, 12 in Switzerland, and five in Scotland.<br /> <br /> Bob Marley made the UK pop chart eight times. His sons (Ziggy, Stephen, Ky-Mani and Damian) are yet to do so as solo artistes.<br /> <br /> Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers had three entries on the UK pop chart &ndash; 1988&rsquo;s Tomorrow People (number 22), Tumblin Down (number 84) that year, and Look Who&rsquo;s Dancing (number 65).<br /> <br /> In the US, Bob Marley only charted once on the Billboard Hot 100. Roots Rock Reggae stalled at number 51 in 1976.<br /> <br /> Damian Marley reached number 55 in 2005 with Welcome to Jamrock, while Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers reached number 39 in 1988 with Tomorrow People. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13660758/258234_86493_repro_entsld.jpg Local Entertainment Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:00 AM