St. Kitts government to table marijuana use legislation

The government of St. Kitts-Nevis says it plans to table legislation in Parliament on Tuesday allowing for the regulated and controlled use of marijuana for medicinal, scientific, religious and recreational purposes in the twin island Federation.

A government statement said that Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris will table the amendments to the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

“The far-reaching legislative amendments come after the Cabinet established a National Marijuana Commission to ascertain the views of citizens and residents on cannabis use,” the statement said, noting that the consultations, which were chaired by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, had “found unanimous agreements for the decriminalization of marijuana in the Federation”.

It said that the Commission had also recommended a phased approach to the establishment of a marijuana industry and that the Cabinet adopted the Commission’s report on February 18.

But it noted that since then the High Court has ruled that some prohibitions on cannabis use outlined in the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) Act, Cap 9.08, were too broad and inconsistent with the Constitution.

The statement said that the government has responded with amendments to the Drugs (Prevention and Abatement of the Misuse and Abuse of Drugs) (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

It quoted Harris as promising that his administration would give “special support and priority to locals interested in pursuing marijuana cultivation and trade within the confines of the law”.

Grenada wants a return of resident British High Commissioner

The Grenada government says it is looking forward to the return of resident High Commissioner to its shores following the installation newly elected UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In a diplomatic note sent to the UK Foreign Office in Castries, Acting Prime Minister Gregory Bowen congratulated Johnson, adding that his victory marked a “defining moment in history that brings with it the challenge of charting a new relationship between Europe, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean that reflects fruitious equanimity while permitting democratic self-governance at home”.

He added that he was looking forward to continued growth in the UK/Grenada relationship and the soon return of a resident High Commissioner to the island.

“As a traditional partner of the UK, and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, I express the hope that our special relationship will continue to grow as manifested by the pending return of a resident commissioner to our shores and consolidate to our mutual benefit.”

Johnson, former UK Foreign Secretary won 92,153,votes which represents 66% to Jeremy Hunt’s 46,656. Voter turnout was 87.4% among 159,320 Tory party members .

Johnson is taking over the helm of the party and byextension the government from Theresa May who opted to step down after numerous unsuccessful attempts to get consensus, in the party and in Parliament, on a Brexit deal.

In his acceptance speech, Johnson promised to deliver Brexit, unite the country and defeat Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, all of which were his campaign mantra.

He says he will deliver Brexit by October 31st 2019.

Jamaica Public Service gets largest slice of budget pie

Dr. Nigel Clarke, Finance Minister, Jamaica

Finance Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke presented a J$803bilion budget to the parliament on Thursday announcing a J$385.6 recurrent expenditure allocation for the Ministry of Finance and Public Service. This represents over to 58 per cent of the total budget.

The next biggest allocation of J$109.4b representing 16 per cent, went to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information which also received a capital expenditure budget of J$5.7b.

Recurrent Expenditure – Jamaica Budgetary Allocations, 2019/2020 Fiscal Year

National Security received J$72.4b recurrent and J$20.2b which represents the largest portion of the capital expenditure budget (34%).

Clarke said the budgetary allocation for national security reflects the level of priority government places on improving security for the citizens of Jamaica.

“Mr. Speaker the dedication of significant resources to national security arises out of the Government’s conviction that the high incidence of violent crime is a significant source of inequity in Jamaica.

“Jamaicans, who live in areas subject to consistent violence, or under the control of organized crime, are denied an equal chance at life. Due to the restricting nature of pervasive violent crime, they are victims of unequal access to services and unequal opportunities in the work place.

“If we care about equity and justice we must care about national security not for some, but for all,” the Finance Minister said.

Capital Expenditure – Jamaica Budgetary Allocations, 2019/2020 Fiscal Year

In what was his maiden presentation Clarke told legislators that though Jamaica was one of the most indebted countries of the world, it is now has a positive fiscal trajectory and has become “a shining example to the world of what can be achieved when there is unity of purpose.”

He said when the current fiscal year ends on March 31, Jamaica’s debt-to-GDP ratio will be near 96 per cent, the lowest debt level for Jamaica, in nearly two decades; and it will be the first time below the 100 per cent for the same period.

Clarke boasted of the country being close to completing its engagements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after entering into a precautionary arrangement with the fund almost three years ago.

“What started as an IMF programme became Jamaica’s programme with IMF support,” Clarke told legislators.

“The Andrew Holness Government terminated the US$930m Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the IMF, six months into office which was also six months before the maturity of the EFF.

“With the EFF, Jamaica borrowed money from the IMF. In its place Jamaica entered into a larger US$1.6 billion Precautionary Standby Arrangement.

“We are now 2 and a half years into this Precautionary Standby Facility, with 6 months to go and Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that…so far….Jamaica has had no need to draw down on and borrow funds from the IMF.”

The Finance Minister also reported that the country has had low, stable inflation for four years with domestic interest rates at levels that never before seen in the country.

“The Central Bank has lowered the policy rate four times this fiscal year to a record low of 1.5 per cent in February 2019.

Market interest rates for individuals and businesses have never been lower. Many individuals and businesses are now able to access single digit interest rates on Jamaican dollar loans, something that would have been deemed unattainable, unthinkable a few years ago,” Clarke told legislators.

In his presentation titled “Growth with Equity” Clarke also outlined plans to remove some taxes and a reduction on others.

The  minimum business tax of J$60,00 dollars will be abolished as of April 1, while taxes on property transfers, student loans and stamp duties will see a significant reduction.

Opposition Spokesperson on Finance, Mark Golding,  will respond to the budget presentation on Tuesday, March 12, while leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, will make his contribution to the debate on Thursday, March 14.

Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, will speak in the Budget Debate on Tuesday, March 19, and the Finance Minister will close the Debate on Wednesday, March 20.