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 Jamaica calls for strengthened ties, renewal within ACP group http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaica-calls-for-strengthened-ties--renewal-within-ACP-group_83142 JAMAICA&rsquo;S Foreign Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has called for greater cohesion among the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), in order to meet the challenges of a changing global environment.<br /> <br /> Speaking at the 104th Session of the ACP Council of Ministers in Brussels, Belgium, last week, Minister Johnson Smith noted that the world and context within which the 40-year-old ACP was created has changed considerably, &ldquo;requiring that the ACP itself undergo its own metamorphosis&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> The minister urged the group to redouble its efforts to bridge the gap in political, economic, social and cultural cooperation among its 79 member countries in order to strengthen intra-ACP collaboration.<br /> <br /> The council discussed the future of the organisation and its relationship with the European Union when the Cotonou Partnership Agreement expires in 2020. Jamaica has benefited significantly from EU development assistance over the years under this framework. <br /> <br /> Minister Johnson Smith indicated Jamaica&rsquo;s support for the negotiation of another legally binding agreement between the ACP and the EU, with a focus on sustainable development, peace, security and stability, inclusive development cooperation, and global public goods. <br /> <br /> Following discussions with Trinidad, Barbados and the ACP Secretariat, the minister, who is high representative of CARIFORUM, also proposed a declaration on correspondent banking and de-risking. The declaration highlights the concerns of ACP countries, particularly those in the Caribbean and the Pacific, of being excluded from the international financial system.<br /> <br /> The foreign ministry said Minister Johnson Smith is still in Brussels for her third ministerial trade meeting &mdash; the 14th Meeting of the Joint ACP-EU Ministerial Trade Committee &mdash; which is underway.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13493555/246309_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:00 AM &lsquo;No more vending in Falmouth&rsquo;s Water Square&rsquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-No-more-vending-in-Falmouth-s-Water-Square-_83143 FALMOUTH, Trelawny &mdash; Newly sworn in Mayor of Falmouth Colin Gager warned Wednesday that vending will no longer be tolerated in the historic Water Square section of the town.<br /> <br /> Water Square is a pedestrianised area which was designed as a historic recreational park.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We will have to re-resurect Water Square for what it was meant for. It was not meant for a market place; it was meant for a place where you can come and have recreation. It wasn&rsquo;t meant for what it is used for right now,&rdquo; Gager told the<br /> <br /> Jamaica Observer shortly after the swearing-in ceremony held at the Falmouth town hall on Thursday.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; I am sorry, but we can&rsquo;t function with Water Square like that. &ldquo;<br /> <br /> Gager, who was deputy mayor of Falmouth under the recent PNP-controlled Trelawny Municipal Corporation, formerly the Trelawny Parish Council, said that there are streets outside of Water Square where vending is allowed.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There are streets that are designated for vending so we will have to cooperate and people will have to go on those streets. It can&rsquo;t be on the brick that is laid there on the beautiful place, it can&rsquo;t be,&rdquo; he insisted.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Gager, who has been the councillor for the Warsop Division in Trelawny South since 2003, and who served as mayor of the Georgian seaside town from 2008 to 2012, disclosed that he will embark on an exercise to beautify the town as a matter of urgency.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;My number one priority is to clean up to get a facelift; I will have to draft in other people, I will have to call on the Port (Authority) to help me,&rdquo; he remarked.<br /> <br /> He also promised to to improve the traffic management system, improve on the use and development of the transportation centre, and the completion of the new market in the town.<br /> <br /> He was nominated unopposed by his predecessor, Garth Wilkinson, People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) councillor for the Falmouth Division.<br /> <br /> The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the Duncans Division, Donovan White, was nominated as Gager&rsquo;s deputy.<br /> <br /> The other councillors sworn in during the ceremony were: Phillip Service and Dr Pauline Foster of the PNP, and the JLP&rsquo;s Dunstan Harper, Jonathan Bartley, Desmond Smith, and Nicole Nugent. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13493619/246314_72966_repro_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:00 AM OUR approves water rate hike http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/OUR-approves-water-rate-hike_83201 CUSTOMERS of the National Water Commission (NWC) will see higher bills next month following the completion by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) of the Mid-Tariff Application review submitted by the company.<br /> <br /> The OUR&rsquo;s Mid-Tariff Review Determination Notice on the application took effect December 5, 2016. <br /> <br /> According to the OUR, customers will see an average two per cent increase in their bills due in January 2017, following the tariff review.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The OUR has determined that the K-Factor will be increased from 14 per cent to 16 per cent. The NWC had requested that it be increased to 20 per cent to allow it to service additional loans required to finance its non-public private partnership capital works projects,&rdquo; the utility regulator said in a release last evening.<br /> <br /> According to the OUR, the NWC did not provide sufficiently convincing information regarding the projects in question and the direct K-Factor benefits to justify the level of increase requested. &ldquo;The OUR has, however, left the door open for NWC to ask for a review of its decision on the K-Factor within the next six months, provided it is able to present better justification,&rdquo; the release said.<br /> <br /> The K-Factor was established in the NWC&rsquo;s 2008 Tariff Determination Notice to provide the entity with funds to carry out capital projects intended to reduce non-revenue water, extend sewerage services, as well as to rehabilitate its existing sewerage treatment plants. Efforts to reduce non-revenue water include repairing and/or replacing its current ageing and decaying infrastructure with a view to significantly reduce and over time (possibly) eliminate leaks in its network.<br /> <br /> In the meantime, the OUR said it has determined that the related Efficiency Factor (X-Factor) shall be kept at 5.5 per cent for the remainder of the tariff period in order to assist the commission in stabilising its fragile financial position. The X-Factor represents the efficiency gains made by the NWC that are passed on to its customers by way of a rate reduction. <br /> <br /> The OUR, meanwhile, has denied the NWC&rsquo;s request for a price escalator (Z-Factor) to be approved in the Mid-Tariff Review. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13488159/245928_72292_repro_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 1:00 AM Case involving Jamaican entertainer heads to CCJ next week http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Case-involving-Jamaican-entertainer-heads-to-CCJ-next-week_83145 ROSEAU, Dominica (CMC) &mdash; The case involving Jamaican entertainer Tommy Lee Sparta, who was prevented from entering Dominica in February 2014, will be heard in the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Monday.<br /> <br /> The matter has been brought by Cabral Douglas over the fallout arising from what is referred to as the Tommy Lee Affair.<br /> <br /> According to Douglas, the Dominican national who organised the concert, Tommy Lee, 26, whose real name is Leroy Russell, was scheduled to perform at a concert in February 2014, when on his arrival with three members of his team &mdash; Tiasha Oralie Russell, Junior Fraser and Mario Christopher Wallace &mdash; they were all denied entry, detained and deported the following day.<br /> <br /> The Government of Dominica said its action was based in the interest of public safety.<br /> <br /> The Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches denounced the artiste&rsquo;s appearances saying his music glorifies Satan and promotes lawlessness and violence.<br /> <br /> However, Douglas said the stance taken by the Government was illegal and he is demanding more than US$3 million in the matter.<br /> <br /> The hearing will be conducted via video conference.<br /> <br /> This will be the first legal matter from Dominica to be heard by the CCJ. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13344247/233582_60676_repro_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 1:00 AM Kamla Persad Bissessar ejected from Parliament http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Kamla-Persad-Bissessar-ejected-from-Parliament_83219 PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) &mdash; Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was ejected from the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament yesterday after she failed to heed a ruling by Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George on a motion said to be of national importance.<br /> <br /> The other Opposition legislators walked out in solidarity with Persad-Bissessar, who had wanted the parliament to debate the number of murders and missing people in the country &ldquo;as a matter of urgent national interest&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> But after she made her initial request for the debate, the speaker ruled that the matter did not qualify under Standing Orders and directed the former prime minister to use another avenue to have the matter debated.<br /> <br /> Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the walkout by the Opposition was strategic as Parliament is debating the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FATCA) Bill.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The FACTA Bill has to be passed and the Opposition walked out again,&rdquo; he said, noting that &ldquo;if this legislation is not passed by both houses of parliament, the effect will be the shutdown of the banking services in Trinidad and Tobago. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;This will result in the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago having no way to deal with their corresponding banking,&rdquo; he said, noting that apart from a press release in September, the Opposition has not put forward any position on the FACTA Bill.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The sole indication of the Opposition position is by a press release,&rdquo; Al-Rawi added.<br /> <br /> In September, the United States recommended that Trinidad and Tobago pass the FATCA by February next year, providing a five-month breathing space for the country.<br /> <br /> US Ambassador John Estrada had initially indicated that the Keith Rowley Administration had submitted a &ldquo;detailed, step-by-step plan&rdquo; to the United States Government on how it intends to bring the FATCA agreement into force.<br /> <br /> Estrada said that the plan had been submitted to the US Treasury.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Let me start by saying we strongly recommend that Trinidad and Tobago pass legislation no later than February 2017, in order to carry out the commitments undertaken when the FATCA agreement was signed by our two countries, and in line with the implementation plan put forward by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago,&rdquo; Estrada said.<br /> <br /> Al-Rawi told parliament that the Bill must have the support of the Opposition in order to be passed. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12454209/kamla_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:00 AM PHOTO: Customer appreciation http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Customer-appreciation_83194 Ronnie Thompson, FLOW&rsquo;s senior director of customer experience, shares a piece of Christmas cake with customer Tasha Nunes and her daughter Diamonique Maxwell, while Candise Bull, promotional representative, shares in the moment. Occasion was FLOW&rsquo;s Customer Appreciation Day held at the company&rsquo;s Portmore Mall location yesterday. (Photo: Leo Hudson) http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13493702/246380_72983_repro_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 1:00 AM CCJ rules in favour of private telecom company in Belize http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CCJ-rules-in-favour-of-private-telecom-company-in-Belize_83211 PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) &mdash; The Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) yesterday ruled in favour of the private telecommunications services provider, Speednet Communications Limited, reversing a Belize Court of Appeal ruling that had favoured the regulator, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).<br /> <br /> The four-member panel of judges ruled that Speednet Communications Limited had proved its case and ordered the PUC to refund the BZ$792,000, less the lawful licence fee of BZ$1,400.<br /> <br /> The dispute between the parties arose out of a difference in interpretation of the relevant regulations which set out the licence fees of BZ$100 per &lsquo;channel&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> According to the PUC, the term &lsquo;channel&rsquo; referred to &lsquo;voice&rsquo; channel while Speednet Communications argued that it meant &lsquo;radio frequency&rsquo; channel, which would mean that BZ$1,400 would be the appropriate fee.<br /> <br /> In a decision acknowledged by the Court to have &ldquo;potentially significant implications for the telecommunications industry and the wider economy&rdquo;, the CCJ rejected the view of the trial judge and the Court of Appeal in Belize and found that the term &lsquo;channel&rsquo; could refer to either &lsquo;voice&rsquo; channel or &lsquo;radio frequency&rsquo; channel.<br /> <br /> The CCJ ruled that the PUC, as the author of the regulations, should bear the consequences of the ambiguity and would therefore be entitled to only charge BZ$100 per &lsquo;radio frequency&rsquo; channel.<br /> <br /> The Trinidad-based CCJ, which is Belize&rsquo;s final court, noted that while this finding was not necessarily the technologically correct definition of the word &lsquo;channel&rsquo;, which could not be determined on the basis of the evidence before the court, it was the most appropriate meaning based on the application of legal principles to the wording in the regulations. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/11813424/CARIBBEAN-COURT-OF-JUSTICE_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:00 AM Five new tourism subsectors added to offerings http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Five-new-tourism-subsectors-added-to-offerings_83139 FIVE new tourism subsectors have been added to the country&rsquo;s offerings as the Government ramps up efforts to promote Jamaica as an ideal tourist destination.<br /> <br /> The new areas, which form part of the country&rsquo;s Tourism Linkages Network, are sports and entertainment, shopping, knowledge, health and wellness, and gastronomy.<br /> <br /> They were established to further diversify the country&rsquo;s tourism offerings, create business opportunities and increase the use of local goods and services within the tourism sector.<br /> <br /> Speaking Thursday at the official press launch at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said these key areas will serve to greatly enhance the country&rsquo;s tourism product.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This launch is important because it marks the start of what promises to be an exciting future for local tourism as the public and private sectors come together to unleash Jamaica&rsquo;s true potential as a tourist destination,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> The minister said the Government will be working on the policies relating to the new networks, which he intends to introduce in time for his budget presentation next year.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have already done the concept paper, which Cabinet has approved. We will now do the White Paper and then have the policy ready for Parliament&rsquo;s approval when I make my presentation,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Formerly the Tourism Linkages Hub, the primary goal of the Tourism Linkages Network is to ensure that Jamaica&rsquo;s tourism sector becomes better integrated with other sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.<br /> <br /> The objective is to increase the consumption of local goods, create employment, and generate and retain more of the country&rsquo;s foreign-exchange earnings.<br /> <br /> The Tourism Linkages Network is supported by a Tourism Linkages Council, made up of public and private sector partners, who oversee the coordination and implementation of effective and sustainable strategies that strengthen and facilitate linkages.<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13493587/246301_72823_repro_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:00 AM Caricom hails relationship with Cuba http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Caricom-hails-relationship-with-Cuba_83144 GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) &ndash; Chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has hailed the &ldquo;mutually beneficial relationship&rdquo; with Cuba as the 15-member regional grouping marks the 44th anniversary of Caricom-Cuba diplomatic relations.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The friendship between Caricom and the Republic of Cuba has grown stronger as we have built a mutually beneficial relationship over the past 44 years. As developing countries, we face similar challenges in our attempt to improve the lives of our people. This has ensured that that we have worked together to identify areas where we can assist each other in our development efforts,&rdquo; the Dominican prime minister said in a statement.<br /> <br /> He said that ever since the four Caribbean countries embraced Cuba into their diplomatic fold, Carisom has been steadfast in its advocacy for Cuba to be integrated into the wider hemisphere of which it is so integrally a part.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Our triennial summits, which began in 2002, has served to strengthen the solidarity between the community and Cuba as they provide a forum for deepening the ties that bind us. I look forward to the sixth summit which is scheduled for next year in Antigua and Barbuda.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Skerrit said that the results of those discussions have seen an intensification of the generous and meaningful technical assistance which Cuba renders to Caricom.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Caricom has benefited in its most critical areas of need, most importantly in the field of health, in the provision and training of both medical doctors and health care workers. Assistance has also been forthcoming to build regional capacity in the social and cultural fields, and to strengthen competencies in disaster management, agriculture and sport.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> He said that the signing in Georgetown, Guyana, on Caricom-Cuba Day, of a memorandum of understanding between the governments of Guyana and Cuba and the Caricom Secretariat, in relation to the Regional Training Centre for Development and Stimulation of Children, Adolescents and Young People with Special Educational Needs Associated with Disabilities&rdquo; is another gesture of solidarity and fraternity which is profoundly appreciated by the community.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This very substantial level of assistance has been provided despite the deleterious effects on Cuba of the economic, trade and financial embargo imposed by the United States against our sister Caribbean country.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Caricom has long been an advocate for the normalisation of the relations between the United States and Cuba. While we welcome the progress in that regard, we reiterate the Community&rsquo;s call for the full lifting of the economic, trade and financial embargo against that sister nation.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Skerrit noted that on November 25, Fidel Castro, the revolutionary leader of Cuba died and Caricom will always remember him &ldquo;as an outstanding friend and genuine partner who offered the expertise of his country to help develop independent countries across Latin America, the Caribbean as well as in Africa. &ldquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12956714/202957_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:00 AM PM says access to education is an inalienable right http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/PM-says-access-to-education-is-an-inalienable-right_83141 PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says access to education should be seen as an inalienable right as opposed to something which is considered reserved for only a special few.<br /> <br /> Holness, who was giving the keynote address at the Edu/Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Conference at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Montego Bay, St James, on Thursday, added that not only is such a notion prejudicial, but it is also one that is outdated and has no place in society.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Education is not for the elites. It pains my heart to hear people arguing against making education freely accessible. We are still very much wedded to an elitist model of education where only some must get it. Education is for all, and education does not mean exclusively academics,&rdquo; the prime minister emphasised.<br /> <br /> Holness said it is important that the country understands that his Administration is embarking on a road where education is a top priority and will be expanded to ensure access for all, regardless of status. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;A day will come in this country when someone will have a degree in auto mechanics and be considered on equal status with someone with a degree in law. That is the objective of this Administration,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> He pointed out that regardless of how menial something looks, a special skill set is now required, which should be both encouraged and appreciated in order to move forward as a nation.<br /> <br /> Holness said the provision of an occupational degree is an expansion and a diversification of the education offering, noting that &ldquo;not everybody wants to do law anyway&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> He added that a contribution in any discipline, whether in auto mechanics or in landscaping &ldquo;adds equal value to the quality of life of this society&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;If you really want excellence, then let us set up the systems of accreditation and competence evaluation so that everybody can have a stream to their own fulfilment,&rdquo; the prime minister said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We need occupational degrees in tourism. There are real opportunities that are there which we need to capitalise on,&rdquo; he added. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13493310/246335_72849_repro_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:00 AM JPS boss wins CEO of the Year Award at Platts Global Energy Awards in New York http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JPS-boss-wins-CEO-of-the-Year-Award-at-Platts-Global-Energy-Awards-in-New-York_83137 PRESIDENT and CEO of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), Kelly Tomblin, Thursday night won the CEO of the Year Award at the 2016 Platts Global Energy Awards, held in New York, USA. <br /> <br /> Tomblin, who was nominated for the prestigious award for the first time, was the sole female in an outstanding line-up of finalists from around the world, including India, China, Thailand, UK, and the USA. <br /> <br /> In her acceptance speech she noted that the transformation of JPS was driven by the determination to provide an energy solution for every Jamaican &mdash; a vision embraced by personnel at every level. She said that in leading the transformation, the company had come to a place of introspection and resolution to &lsquo;do power differently&rsquo;, impacting the local energy landscape with newer and better service levels and contributions to the Jamaican economy. <br /> <br /> Tomblin, who has been at the helm of JPS since 2012, has played a critical role in reframing the national and regional conversation on energy. She is responsible for introducing several ground breaking initiatives and developments in JPS, guiding the energy company through a profound transformation. <br /> <br /> At the top of the milestones achieved under Tomblin&rsquo;s leadership is the introduction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) into Jamaica&rsquo;s energy mix. Tomblin and her team have also led the introduction of a range of innovations which have changed the way the company serves its customers. These include prepaid metering solutions, the introduction of a retail arm, the roll-out of smart grid technology, expansion of the contact points for customers to interact with the company, and the establishment of the JPS Foundation &mdash; the organisation&rsquo;s philanthropic arm, among other initiatives.<br /> <br /> JPS was also a finalist &mdash; for the Energy Company of the Year Award, which was won by US-based Southern Company. <br /> <br /> The prestigious Platts Global Energy Awards recognise individual and corporate excellence in the global energy sector. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13492989/246294_72813_repro_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 1:00 AM Jamaicans encouraged to host wards of the State for Christmas http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Jamaicans-encouraged-to-host-wards-of-the-State-for-Christmas_83001 THE Child Development Agency (CDA) is appealing to Jamaicans to open their hearts and homes to wards of the State during the festive seas on.<br /> <br /> The agency&rsquo;s &lsquo;Take a Child Home for Christmas&rsquo; programme is aimed at providing children in State care with the opportunity to experience the joy that the festive season brings.<br /> <br /> Speaking with JIS News, regional director for the CDA&rsquo;s South East Region, Robert Williams, said the initiative by the CDA invites Jamaicans to take a child or two home for Christmas.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;These are normally children in State-run or privately owned facilities who we want to give the opportunity to spend this time of the year in a family setting,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> There are some 4,700 children in 58 facilities across the island, and for more than 15 years the CDA has been inviting Jamaicans to be part of the programme. Williams is encouraging the good citizens of Jamaica who are able to make a positive difference in a child&rsquo;s life this Christmas to reach out and be a part of that circle of care.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Help to bring joy to their lives this Christmas, because some of these children have no families outside of the care protection system,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Public relations and communications manager at the CDA, Rochelle Dixon, said that for individuals to qualify to participate in the programme, they must be Jamaicans with no criminal record. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;To apply, persons must fill out an application form and submit it along with valid identification, one passport-size photograph, two references from a notary public such as a justice of the peace, a pastor, a police (officer) at the level of a superintendent or above, and a school principal,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Dixon added that background checks on individuals who apply are done and there is also a home assessment. &ldquo;We go where the person live to see what the setting is like, and we also have to talk to all the persons who live in the home, because we want to ensure that the children are placed in a suitable environment and that there is appropriate accommodation,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Interested individuals are being asked to apply now because the application process may take up to three weeks. Application forms can be accessed at the CDA website at www.cda.gov.jm, or persons may call 948-2841-2 or visit any of the CDA offices islandwide. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13150384/216578__w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:00 AM Senate approves regulations to widen banking access http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Senate-approves-regulations-to-widen-banking-access KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; The senate has approved the Banking Services (Deposit Taking Institutions) (Agent Banking) Regulations of 2016, which was passed by the House of Representatives in November.<br /> <br /> The regulations will provide a framework that will allow some banking business to be undertaken through agents authorised by a Supervisory Committee.<br /> <br /> Information Minister Ruel Reid piloted the regulations on December 9 on behalf of Leader of Government Business and Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith. <br /> <br /> The services to be provided will include deposits and withdrawals, payment of bills and loan repayments, electronic transfer of funds, and account balance enquiries.<br /> <br /> Senator Reid indicated that the intention is to widen banking access beyond existing deposit-taking institutions&rsquo; branch networks and electronic access channels to include the use of third-party owned locations that will offer banking services alongside their own products and service offerings.<br /> <br /> These include supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores, money transfer and remittance operations, and lottery outlets.<br /> <br /> The regulations will also facilitate the Government&rsquo;s commitment to financial inclusion. <br /> <br /> Commenting on the regulations, Government Senator Don Wehby acknowledged the role they played as a strategy towards achieving greater financial inclusion. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;Financial inclusion is primarily about providing wide-scale access to affordable financial services to individuals and businesses in a country. Greater access to financial services has been identified as a basic building block for achieving the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of shared economic growth and food security,&rdquo; he said.  <br /> <br /> Wehby said the regulations are necessary to allow deposit-taking institutions to break down barriers to get &ldquo;affordable and suitable financial products.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Wehby recommended that the services to be provided by banking agents, such as supermarkets, be expanded to allow them to open customer accounts and offer loans. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495256/DDP-2_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 3:19 PM Venezuela seizes toys, will give them to poor children http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Venezuela-seizes-toys--will-give-them-to-poor-children BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) &mdash; Venezuela's socialist government has seized nearly four million toys from a private company and says it intends to hand them out as Christmas gifts to poor children this holiday season.<br /> <br /> The country's fair pricing authority seized the toys from three warehouses run by Kreisel, Venezuela's largest toy distributor, on Friday. Two company executives were detained on suspicion of promoting price speculation.<br /> <br /> Agency director William Contreras alleged that Kreisel underreported its inventory in order to sell some toys at higher prices. Kreisel has not commented officially beyond responding to Twitter messages of support.<br /> <br /> Contreras said the seizure would teach companies "that you can't play with the rights of Venezuelans",<br /> <br /> Authorities said local supply committees will be in charge of distributing the toys "fairly" to children.<br /> <br /> Venezuela has been wracked by a deep economic crisis accompanied by shortages of goods ranging from food staples to medicine. In recent days President Nicolas Maduro ordered stores to lower their prices between 30 and 50 per cent. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495241/toys_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 2:57 PM 82 healthcare workers receive specialised training http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/82-healthcare-workers-receive-specialised-training KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Jamaica&rsquo;s maternal and neonatal health services are expected to be vastly improved with an additional cohort of trained professionals.<br /> <br /> A total of 82 healthcare personnel have received specialised training in maternal and infant care and management under the training component of the Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC).<br /> <br /> They were recognised for their achievements under the programme during a ceremony held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on December 9.<br /> <br /> Speaking at the ceremony, Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton, said the training was undertaken as part of steps to upgrade maternal and neonatal health services in Jamaica to world-class standards.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The training of our health care professionals is critical, in terms of ensuring that they are both fully equipped to perform their tasks, and also that they are kept abreast of evolving trends and international best practices,&rdquo; he said. <br /> <br /> Dr Tufton informed that an estimated $186 million has been spent to date on health professional training initiatives under PROMAC, which has the specific objectives of reducing the incidence of neonatal and maternal deaths; improving the quality of management of high risk pregnancies; and enhancing public awareness and understanding of health care processes and patients&rsquo; rights.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So far, 51 specialist nurses and physicians have benefitted from post graduate training through the University of the West Indies. Training areas include fellowships for consultant physicians in Critical Care, Neonatology and Maternal-Foetal Medicine,&rdquo; he noted.<br /> <br />  In addition, scholarships have been awarded in anaesthesiology, obstetrics and gynaecology and paediatrics for qualified candidates registered in the Doctor of Medicine Programme.  A 10-week intensive course in Obstetric Ultrasound is also being provided to improve the capacity of team members in diagnostics and treatment. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are also training four nurse educators through the Masters of Nursing Education programmes. Additionally, 45 nurses have completed or are nearing completion of the Bachelor of Science (BSc) programme in post-basic critical care and post-basic midwifery at the University of Technology (UTech), with an additional 50 nurses to complete training over the next year,&rdquo; the minister said.<br /> <br /> Dr Tufton further informed that the Government has embarked on a comprehensive programme to train about 1,000 primary health care workers and 200 community health aides in a number of modules, including neonatal resuscitation, management of high risk pregnancies and customer service.<br /> <br /> The training under PROMAC, which is funded by the European Union, is specifically aimed at better enabling participants to deal with the challenges associated with neonatal care and improving the overall efforts to reduce child mortality. <br /> <br /> The areas covered included Maternal Foetal Medicine, Neonatology and Critical Care: Neonatal Nutrition, Post Basic Critical Care and Midwifery. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495230/p6_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 2:36 PM Nat'l security advisor says office critical for coordination among agencies http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Nat-l-security-advisor-says-office-critical-for-coordination-among-agencies KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; The Office of the National Security Advisor will be critical to enabling coordination among the various security agencies towards achieving benchmarks set out in Jamaica&rsquo;s standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).<br /> <br /> This is according to recently appointed National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, Major General Antony Anderson, who was speaking in a Jamaica Information Service &lsquo;Issues & Answers&rsquo; interview. <br /> <br /> Anderson said his office would be able to implement broad-based strategies for medium- to long-term objectives and create important synergies that are usually difficult for other agencies, due to the pressing nature of crime and other security concerns.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Security is broader than just crime. In that sense, we have to look beyond what&rsquo;s facing us currently, to what is facing our partners, the rest of the world and our region,&rdquo; he pointed out.<br /> <br /> Additionally, Anderson said his office, supported by a group of technical personnel, will be providing guidance to the National Security Council and support to the Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in decisions on national security. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;The prime minister has made it clear that he has particular interest in the safety and security of citizens, and it&rsquo;s important that he has technical advice as he makes decisions in the national interest on security,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Anderson noted that it is important for Jamaica to give the assurance of safety to visitors and citizens, and to show responsiveness to incidents that threaten the Government&rsquo;s commitment to economic growth through tourism and investment.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;What we will do is take that broad view, create the forum for agencies that don&rsquo;t normally interact, for them to interact, to coordinate some of our intelligence effort to ensure the best visibility and provide the Government with the best information to make decisions,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> The office&rsquo;s immediate mandate is to work with the executing agencies to see to the achievements of the benchmarks under the IMF standby agreement, signed last month, he added.<br /> <br /> Anderson, who is the former Chief of Defence Staff, has served in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) for 32 years, and worked closely with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). <br /> <br /> He has led deployment exercises in response to natural disasters locally and regionally and also headed a group organising the national security efforts in various countries ahead of the Caribbean hosting of the Cricket World Cup in 2007.<br /> <br /> Holness announced the creation of the Office of the National Security Advisor in November, noting that the move is consistent with international best practices in other jurisdictions and was being done in pursuance of strategic national-security management. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495207/a-anderson_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 2:03 PM UPDATE: Dead woman found wrapped in tarpaulin identified http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/UPDATE--Dead-woman-found-wrapped-in-tarpaulin-identified ST ANDREW, Jamaica &mdash; The police have identified the woman whose body was this morning found wrapped in a tarpaulin in a gully near the Crystal Towers Apartment complex on Old Hope Road in St Andrew.<br /> <br /> She is 33-year-old Shelly-Ann Wilson. <br /> <br /> Read: Woman beaten to death, found wrapped in tarpaulin<br /> <br /> Reports from the police are that the body was found about 9:05 am. Her common-law husband, who is now reportedly on the run, allegedly beat her to death. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495205/OLD-HOPE-MURDER_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 1:56 PM PM says Jamaica has tools to succeed http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/PM-says-Jamaica-has-tools-to-succeed ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Prime Minister Andrew Holness says his administration has no intention to forever rely on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to be the inspiration for change, noting that the country has the required tools to succeed.<br /> <br /> Holness, who was giving the keynote address at the Edu-Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Conference at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Montego Bay, St James, on December 8, said Jamaica has the social capital and political will to transform its economic fortunes and will be embarking on a road that will inevitably lead to prosperity.<br /> <br /> He noted that the Partnership for a Prosperous Jamaica Agreement, which was signed by the social partners on December 7, &ldquo;will enable us to keep managing, to keep spurring and to keep inspiring the change. Jamaica, I can tell you, is going to change for the better&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The four-year partnership involving the State, civil society, the private sector and the trade-union movement, is to ensure collaboration in fulfilling the national targets aimed at achieving social and economic progress for the country&rsquo;s citizens.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the prime minister pointed to the &ldquo;amazing potential&rdquo; of the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. He said BPO could generate up to 300,000 jobs.<br /> <br /> He noted, however, that the potential of the sector is being thwarted by the reluctance on the part of local business people to take the risk that comes with the investment.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;We have not really reached out and taken hold of that opportunity. We don&rsquo;t want to take the risk, everybody preferring to take this wait-and see approach,&rdquo; the prime minister said.<br /> <br /> He noted that developments in the BPO sector are being undertaken by overseas investors, who are coming to Jamaica to capitalise on the opportunities.<br /> <br /> Holness said that to take full advantage of all the available opportunities, Government must create the kind of environment that will facilitate investment.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;That is what business is about,&rdquo; he argued. &ldquo;The role of Government is to facilitate and to be the market maker. The Development Bank of Jamaica has been doing some work by creating a fund to help mitigate the development risk. The HEART Trust/NTA is also assisting with training. However, more can be done,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> He noted that the government is about to launch a programme that will provide a pool of trained human-resource personnel for the BPO sector. This will save investors time and money in the recruitment and training of workers. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495183/P-Minister-22_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 1:04 PM Woman beaten to death, found wrapped in tarpaulin http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Woman-beaten-to-death--found-wrapped-in-tarpaulin ST ANDREW, Jamaica &mdash; The body of a woman was this morning found wrapped in a tarpaulin in a gully near the Crystal Towers Apartment complex on Old Hope Road in St Andrew. <br /> <br /> Reports from the police are that the body was found about 9:05 am.<br /> <br /> Her common-law husband, who is now reportedly on the run, allegedly beat her to death.<br /> <br /> More information later. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495192/OLD-HOPE-MURDER_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:46 PM South Koreans rally again, this time to celebrate impeachment http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/South-Koreans-rally-again--this-time-to-celebrate-impeachment SEOUL, South Korea (AP) &mdash; The previous time South Korea's Parliament voted to impeach a president, ruling party lawmakers bawled and hurled ballot boxes, a man set himself on fire in front of the National Assembly, and thousands glumly held candlelight vigils night after night to save late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun.<br /> <br /> Twelve years later, the mood couldn't have been more different, with massive crowds returning to Seoul's streets on Saturday, a day after lawmakers voted in favour of removing disgraced President Park Geun-hye. The vote for impeachment left protesters basking in pride, believing they had repaired a damaged democracy with their weekly demonstrations.<br /> <br /> Thousands of people marched near streets close to the presidential palace, where the notoriously aloof Park will remain mostly alone for up to six months until the Constitutional Court rules whether she must step down permanently.<br /> <br /> Carrying signs, flags and yellow balloons, they gleefully shouted for her to quit immediately rather than weather the court process.<br /> <br /> The demonstrators waved their arms to the beat of gongs and drums and followed an effigy of Park dressed in prison clothes and tied with rope into a narrow alley near the presidential offices and residence, known as the Blue House.<br /> <br /> "Park Geun-hye, get out of the house! Get out of the house now!" the marchers chanted.<br /> <br /> "Come down and go to jail!"<br /> <br /> Seemingly, tens of thousands of demonstrators packed a large nearby boulevard that was the centre of massive protests in recent weeks.<br /> <br /> "We got off to a good first step (on Friday). It was a day when we all realised how strong we can collectively be," said Kim Hye-in, 51, an out-of-towner who spent her sixth consecutive Saturday in Seoul protesting against Park. "But we aren't there just yet. We need to keep gathering strength and protest until the court officially removes her from office."<br /> <br /> Protest organizers said about 600,000 people turned out on Saturday.<br /> <br /> On Friday, the Opposition-controlled Parliament passed an impeachment motion against Park, stripping her of her presidential duties and pushing Prime Minster Hwang Kyo-ahn into the role as government caretaker until the court rules on Park's fate.<br /> <br /> The impeachment came after millions of people demonstrated for weeks demanding the removal of Park, who prosecutors accuse of colluding with a long-time friend to extort money and favours from South Korea's biggest companies and to give that confidante extraordinary sway over government decisions. Park has apologised for putting trust into her friend, Choi Soon-sil, but has denied any legal wrongdoing.<br /> <br /> In 2004, the Constitutional Court reinstated Roh after two months, saying that minor election law violations and accusations of incompetence weren't enough to justify his unseating as president. The chances of the court restoring Park's powers are considered low because her charges are much graver, although some believe the court will need more than a couple of months to decide because her case is more complicated than Roh's.<br /> <br /> Park will be formally removed from office if at least six of the court's nine justices support her impeachment, and the country would then hold a presidential election within 60 days.<br /> <br /> While the historically large protests that helped push lawmakers to vote to impeach Park have been peaceful, the festive atmosphere kicked up a notch on Saturday as demonstrators let out relief that the president they so desperately want removed was finally halfway out the door.<br /> <br /> "We accomplished a peaceful revolution," said Park Seong-su, a frequent anti-Park protester who faces a court trial for throwing what he said was dog faeces at a Seoul prosecution office on October 31 as Choi, Park's now arrested long-time friend, arrived for questioning.<br /> <br /> "For long, people were told by politicians what to do, but on Friday, it was the will of people that forced politicians what to do," he said.<br /> <br /> Others weren't as comfortable, saying that protesters should continue to rally every weekend to apply pressure on the court until it decides to formally remove the president.<br /> <br /> Kim Hyeong-seok, another protester, said that the weekly rallies may turn violent if the court decides to reinstate Park. "Then the candles will turn into torches," he said.<br /> <br /> There was tension Saturday hours before the large demonstration started when thousands of Park supporters, most of them in their 60s or older, rallied in nearby streets, waving the South Korean flag and shouting for Park's "demagoguery impeachment" to be nullified.<br /> <br /> Some of them exchanged bitter diatribes with anti-Park protesters.<br /> <br /> Similar scenes played out on Friday, with scuffles breaking out between angry anti-Park farmers, some of whom had driven tractors to the National Assembly, and police. When impeachment happened, many of those gathered &mdash; some 10,000, according to organizers &mdash; raised their hands in the air and leapt, cheering and laughing.<br /> <br /> On Saturday, Hwang, as the acting president, held a meeting with cabinet ministers at a government building near the presidential Blue House to discuss issues related to national security, foreign relations and financial markets.<br /> <br /> The handover of power prompted the prime minister on Friday to order South Korea's defence minister to put the military on a state of heightened readiness to brace for any potential provocation by North Korea. No suspicious movements by the North were reported.<br /> <br /> The impeachment is a remarkable fall for Park, who convincingly beat her liberal opponent in the 2012 election. Park's single, five-year term was originally set to end Feb. 24, 2018.<br /> <br /> The political turmoil around Park comes after years of frustration over a leadership style that inspired comparisons to her father, slain military dictator Park Chung-hee.<br /> <br /> Critics saw in Park an unwillingness to tolerate dissent as her government cracked down on press freedom, pushed to dissolve a leftist party and allowed aggressive police suppression of anti-government protests, which saw the death of an activist in September.<br /> <br /> She also was heavily criticised over her government's handling of a 2014 ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people, mostly school students, and which was partially blamed on official incompetence and corruption. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495162/south-korea_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:38 PM Guyana to host regional training centre for young people with disabilities http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Guyana-to-host-regional-training-centre-for-young-people-with-disabilities GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) &mdash; Guyana will host a regional training centre for young people with disabilities according to an agreement signed here between Cuba and the Caribbean Community (Caricom).<br /> <br /> Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, Caricom Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque, and Cuba&rsquo;s Ambassador to Guyana Julio Cesar Gonsalez Marchante have signed a Tripartite Cooperation and Technical Assistance Agreement for the establishment of a &ldquo;Regional Training Centre for Development and Stimulation of Children, Adolescents and Young People with Special Educational Needs Associated with Disabilities&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> A Caricom Secretariat statement noted that the centre will use Cuba&rsquo;s extensive experience to assist Caricom member States to meet the special-education needs associated with disabilities.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The project came out of a proposal at the fifth Caricom-Cuba Summit, two years ago, that Cuba would cooperate with Caricom to create a training centre for the treatment of physical disabilities to assist physically challenged children and youths,&rdquo; the statement noted.<br /> <br /> It said that Caricom-Cuba summit came a year after a high-level ministerial meeting in Haiti in 2013 where the Petionville Declaration recommended specific national and regional actions to address the needs of people with disabilities.<br /> <br />  &ldquo;This project emphasises the interest of all parties to address a very important social and humanitarian challenge facing the region. It aims to use Cuba&rsquo;s extensive experience in this area to assist Caricom member States in improving the lives of a vulnerable sector of our population,&rdquo; LaRocque said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495141/wheelchair_w400_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 12:18 PM Grenada to receive IMF funds http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Grenada-to-receive-IMF-funds ST GEORGE&rsquo;S, Grenada (CMC) &mdash; Grenada is to receive EC$2.7 million (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the Washington-based financial institution approved the island&rsquo;s fifth review of its reform programme, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has said.<br /> <br /> Mitchell told Parliament that the disbursement is expected by December 22.<br /> <br /> He said in addition, the board of directors of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) had approved US$10 million in budgetary support for Grenada and that the World Bank&rsquo;s Board is expected to meet on December 16, to consider approval of US$9.4 million in budgetary support for the island.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Grenada stands to receive EC$60 million in additional budgetary support before the end of this year or by early January 2017, based on the strong performance of our Home Grown Reform Programme,&rdquo; Mitchell said as he delivered the EC$1.1 billion budget to Parliament on Friday.<br /> <br /> He said Grenada has already received EC$192.9 million in direct financial support since the start of the programme in 2014, some of which are grants or monies which do not require payback.<br /> <br /> Mitchell said that the sixth and final review of the Home-Grown Programme, which has been endorsed by the IMF, will be completed around June 2017.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;For 2017, we expect additional disbursements from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union to the tune of EC$28 million,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Mitchell told legislators that Grenada is continuing to &ldquo;make steady progress&rdquo; in regularising relations with all of its creditors.<br /> <br /> He said on account of the debt restructuring, Grenada has a received stock reduction of EC$200.3 million as at the end September, 2016 and that a further EC$158.3 million is expected upon successful completion of the Home-Grown Programme in 2017.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Furthermore&hellip; the cost saving in terms of debt service payments is calculated at EC$481.3 million,&rdquo; he said, adding &ldquo;in essence&hellip;our wisdom, courage and sacrifice to implement the Structural Adjustment Programme means we will not have to pay back over EC$839.9 million.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Over time, these funds will be used to invest in our people&rsquo;s health, education and other services,&rdquo; Mitchell said, noting that Grenada is well on its way to restoring full credit worthiness.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We place on record our sincere appreciation to all our creditors for the debt relief provided,&rdquo; he said. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495093/IMF.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 11:38 AM Bolivia defence minister calls Colombia plane crash 'murder' http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Bolivia-defence-minister-calls-Colombia-plane-crash--murder- LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) &mdash; Bolivia's defence minister says a plane crash that killed 71 people in Colombia was "murder" because the pilot only had the exact amount of fuel needed for the flight in violation of civil aviation principles.<br /> <br /> The Bolivia-based LaMia airline flight was carrying a Brazilian soccer team to the Copa Sudamericana tournament's finals when it crashed outside Medellin on November 28. Six people survived.<br /> <br /> In a recording, the pilot is heard radioing to the control tower that he is out of fuel. Investigations continue, but authorities say he ignored international rules on fuel reserves.<br /> <br /> "What happened in Medellin was murder because anyone who dares take passengers, more than 70 people, with the exact amount of fuel is clearly violating the most basic protocols of civil aviation," said Defence Minister Reymi Ferreira. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495081/brazil-team-crash_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 11:24 AM Gov't to implement LEGS programme for youth http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-to-implement-LEGS-programme-for-youth KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; The government will, early next year, commence implementation of a Work to Learn, Earn, Give and Save (LEGS) programme for youth, which will incorporate training, volunteerism and saving.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Andrew Holness said the initiative will be done through collaboration with the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).<br /> <br /> Giving the keynote address at the 2016 National Volunteer Awards Banquet of the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston on December 8, he said the LEGS programme will be a formal way for the State to have all unattached youth in a programme where they are preparing to earn, while also giving back to society and learning to save.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There will be a special programme of bringing in vulnerable, unattached young people where they will be getting a skill, a stipend and also giving service in critical national areas, and a part of that stipend (will go) to a compulsory-saving programme,&rdquo; the prime minister noted.<br /> <br /> Holness explained that LEGS is in line with a policy direction on work by the Government, which dictates that all Jamaicans must be engaged in a meaningful, rewarding activity. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;They will have that for two years, and when they are finished and graduate from the programme, they can leave with something that they can use to really start out in life; to further their education or start a business,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> Holness said the government has also started the development of a Jamaican peace corps, which will engage Jamaicans born overseas and other members of the Diaspora to serve in a structured voluntary programme.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;There are many Jamaicans born overseas who want to get to know or associate with Jamaica. I think that programme would bring the Diaspora closer to us, create an understanding and, indeed, preserve the link between Jamaicans at home and Jamaicans abroad,&rdquo; he said.<br /> <br /> The prime minister also announced that the government is designing a programme that will utilise the services of retired persons for voluntary activities in a structured way. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495033/p3_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 10:57 AM Gov't lowers rate on DBJ microloans http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-lowers-rate-on-DBJ-microloans KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) &mdash; Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw says the interest rate on the special microloan disbursed by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) has been reduced to six per cent from 10.5 per cent.<br /> <br /> The more than $1-billion credit line, which is backed by the World Bank is available for small and medium enterprises to undertake expansion projects.<br /> <br /> Shaw said it is unacceptable that the funds, provided by the World Bank at 0.5 per cent interest, end up at almost 11 per cent to businesses, due to various charges.<br /> <br />  Shaw said he has given instructions to the ministry that the funds be made available to the DBJ at two per cent, and the DBJ must on-lend to the approved financial institutions at one per cent. <br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are encouraging the approved lending institutions to put no more than three per cent on it,&rdquo; he noted.<br /> <br /> The minister was addressing a luncheon organised by JN Small Business Loans Limited on Friday (December 9) at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.<br /> <br /> He urged financial institutions to move &ldquo;progressively&rdquo; towards lowering interest rates in order to facilitate small-business development.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We need to increase loans to the productive sector so that (it) can fuel the economic activity, which will lead to job creation, foreign-exchange earnings, and the wealth that we all seek to achieve,&rdquo; Shaw said.<br /> <br /> President of the Small Business Association of Jamaica, Hugh Johnson, said the move to reduce interest on the DBJ microloan is &ldquo;a bold step by the Government&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> He noted that small farmers and others in the productive sector will benefit from the lowering of the loan rates.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13495031/Lonas1_w300.jpg Local News Saturday, December 10, 2016 10:41 AM