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Legacy of Grenadian Educator lives on through Non-Profit Organization 

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada 

  • Crispin Booker ensures nation’s children have access to Information Technology
  • Veronica’s Way provides IT-based equipment to underprivileged youth

Inspired by the legacy left behind by the late Veronica L Paul, 32-year-old Crispin Michael Booker has made it his life mission to continue the work of his grandmother by ensuring that children of the nation receive a proper education by improving their access to Information Technology.

Based in Brooklyn, New York, Booker has over 10 years of experience in Information Technology with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Computer Management and Information from Adelphi University and Keller School of Management, respectively.

In 2017, non-profit organisation Veronica’s Way was formed to assist primary school students in Grenada and across the region by providing IT-based equipment to underprivileged youth.

Veronica Leatha Paul, who taught at what is presently known as the Grand Anse RC school, died on 18 June 2015, aged 82.

She was well known as Mother Paul and Teacher Lita, in the community of Fontenoy, St George where she was born on 4 December 1933. She received her education at the St Louis RC Girls School and achieved a scholarship to attend the St Joseph Convent. After, leaving school with a Cambridge certificate she started teaching at what was then called the Grand Anse Government School. Coming from a long lineage of teachers and headmasters, Paul dedicated over 30 years to the profession.

Her grandson Crispin Michael Booker founded Veronica’s Way, in her honour and has since formed a team of IT professionals whose mission is to bring IT equipment to students in as many Caribbean countries as possible. So far, the team has travelled to Haiti and generously donated computer systems to support the establishment of two computer labs which collectively support 1,400 students. They have donated 85 computers in Jamaica and will distribute 65 desktops computers among seven schools in Grenada.

“Although Information Technology has been my background, non-profit work and this mission have now become my life’s work… My grandmother meant everything to me. From a young age, she instilled the importance of giving back to the community. This was a pinnacle in her life and a pinnacle in her lessons to the family. She was my best friend and losing her caused incredible grief. As a way to cope, I decided to channel that energy into the community and impact change. Having worked with computers all of my life and chosen that as a career path, assisting my community in the technological arena was a natural fit,” Booker told NOW Grenada prior to his Grenada visit.

Team of IT professionals install computers systems at Wesley College

The IT team arrived on the island on Sunday, 6 October and on Monday, 7 October visited the Caribbean Coding Academy where they installed several computer systems. The following day the team went to the St Joseph’s Convent (Grenville) and St Martin de Porres RC School in Crochu where they also installed several computers. The team installed computers at Wesley College and St John’s RC school and completed their final installation at Park View Pri-Primary and St George’s Methodist schools on Thursday, 10 October. These desktops were outfitted with the software needed to make the learning process more efficient.

“All companies use Excel to create budgets and invoices so if we can start teaching the children now how to do it, they will be able to do when they go into the job market. So, we uploaded software, Office 2013 to help them with it. They also have PowerPoint in there so they can learn how to start creating presentations, and then they have Microsoft word so they can learn how to start typing letters, emails and getting their typing proficient. I heard that Grenada is going to be standardising their online exams so that this software should help them create a huge opportunity in the future,” Booker said.

Booker explained that this mission is more than just about installing computers; it is also about interacting with students and introducing them to both the hardware and software of a computer. “I think the greatest part of this is being able to meet with the children because we not just installing the computers, but we are opening them up and showing them the components of the computers and then we are showing them the software too so that they can get comfortable,” he said.

Wesley College was among several schools to benefit, and Principal Alarna Charles was elated to receive the donation. She said the computers will be used to teach students Technical Drawing and will become handy as the school prepares to introduce Electronic Data Programme Management (EDPM). “Over the years we have been trying to source systems to equip the room and to have these systems we must say that we are greatly appreciative of this because we have Technical Drawing which is using AutoCAD. Yes, we have an IT Lab but it is maximized, so to have this room now we can use it for AutoCAD and we can actually implement an Electronic Data Program Management as an additional subject now that we have the additional resources.”

Booker believes the future looks bright for the organisation as they seek to build a “Veronica’s Computer Lab” every calendar year in each Caribbean island. He has promised to visit Grenada every 3 years with IT Professionals who specialise in networking, coding and computer repair to ensure that these computers work optimally.

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Caribbean & World

Group wants cheaper airfares in the Caribbean

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — A group lobbying for a reduction in taxes and fees on intra-regional Caribbean travel has written to Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, on behalf of 20,000 people who have “come together in opposition to the current cost of intra-regional travel and governments’ role in escalating airfares”.

The spokesperson for the group, Citizens Against High Intra-Regional Caribbean Travel Taxes, Dalano R DaSouza said that over the past two weeks, packages containing copies of the petition bearing more than 20,000 signatures were dispatched to the offices of Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders and the Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat.

He said the packages also included a letter to each regional leader “cogently outlining the case for dialogue on the vexing issue of high intra-regional Caribbean travel taxes and fees”.

DaSouza said that, to date, only the offices of the President of Guyana David Granger and the Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell have acknowledged receipt of the communication.

“Accordingly, the Citizens Against High Intra-Regional Caribbean Travel Taxes is calling on the other Caricom heads of government to respond to the petition submitted to their offices,” DaSouza said.

“By signing our petition, the people of the region are collectively asking to be heard on the important issue of intra-regional Caribbean travel taxes. We hope that our leaders see it fit to engage with their constituents on this important matter,” DaSouza added.

In a November 7 letter to Prime Minister Gonsalves, the spokesman said that the issue of taxes, fees and charges (TFCs) in air transport has been a source of controversy globally, not least in the Caribbean.

He said that the Caribbean is a unique geographic space, heavily dependent on air transportation to support the tourism industry whose contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Caricom member States is significant, and for some, unparalleled.

“In short, tourism is a critical component of the region’s strategic development plan. However, the increasing cost of regional travel threatens to stymie our progress,” DaSouza wrote, adding that high and increasing TFCs have contributed to the decline in intra-regional travel in recent years.

“A 2018 study by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on regional air transportation found that intra-regional travel’s share of total Caribbean travel declined from 15 per cent to nine per cent between 2012 and 2017.”

At the same time, travel from the Caribbean to extra-regional destinations increased by six per cent, DaSouza said, adding that despite the slight rebound in intra-regional travel during 2018 reported by Caribbean Tourism Organisation, the cost of travel in the region remains a significant impediment to connectivity and growth.

The letter said that a 2007 study by InterVISTAS2 Consulting, commissioned by the International Air Transport Association, conducted an extensive literature review of publications and research spanning 25 years, and concluded with overwhelming certainty that higher airfares result in reduced passenger traffic demand.

“In the Caribbean, this issue of cost is exacerbated by the TFCs which, when added to the basic fares of carriers, serve to make overall ticket prices devastatingly expensive for passengers. Analysis in the aforementioned CDB study revealed that on average, TFCs added 54 per cent (40 per cent from taxes and 14 per cent from charges) to the cost of a LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport) one-way ticket in 2016. TFCs constitute similar proportions of fares for Caribbean Airlines (CAL) and other regional airlines,” DaSouza said.

He pointed to the example of a recent CAL promotion to mark its inaugural direct flight from Jamaica to Barbados, which advertised a fare of US$100 round trip.

“However, when TFCs were added to this fare, the total cost of travel increased by US$154 to US$$254. In this case, TFCs amounted to more than a 150 per cent increase in base fare.”

The letter included a breakdown of the different taxes imposed by Caricom governments, compiled from airline websites.

In the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the data shows that air passengers have to pay an airport charge of US$40 and five per cent on their fare when Argyle International Airport is the airport of origin.

But in other jurisdictions, air passengers pay even more in taxes, as is the case in St Lucia, for example.

Castries charges an airport development fee of US$35, an airport service charge of US$25, a security charge of US$4.82 — which is 7.5 per cent of the fare when St Lucia is the origin airport, a US$5 passenger facilitation charge for arriving passengers only, and US$0.37 for a facilitation charge for arriving passengers.

DaSouza said in his letter that there is no denying that airports are expensive.

“Consequently, there is almost an expectation that nations implement measures to extract revenue from passengers who utilise airports across the region to contribute not only to their operation, but also to fund aspects of government budgets.”

He said that for his group, the questions are how much TFCs can authorities impose on the traveller before negative overall outcomes begin to accrue.

“Specifically, how much TFCs can Caricom governments extract from intra-regional travellers before the region begins to be negatively impacted by the lower passenger volumes?” he said.

DaSouza said his group believes that the region is at “a critical juncture, where overtaxation while meeting airport operational costs is compromising regional development and economic integration for the worse”.

He said that the TFC regime which is applied to travel originating from and destined for outside of Caricom is not the focus.

“We are not asking governments to disrupt this income stream. Instead, our efforts are concentrated on the lowering of TFCs on travel between Caricom states…

“Rather, what we espouse is based on principles enshrined in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, signed by regional leaders optimistic about the manifestation of regional advancement through genuine, functional cooperation. Principles of collective responsibility and shared destiny, principles of reduced insularity and myopia built on the realisation that by depending more on each other, we can depend less on non-Caricom states for our social and economic progress.”

He said that numerous studies have used price elasticity of demand (PED), which measures the responsiveness of demand to changes in price, to predict that if governments were to reduce TFCs, intra-regional Caribbean travel would increase significantly.

He said Amsterdam Economics, in its study, Economic benefits of reducing aviation taxes in Latin America and the Caribbean, concluded that removing aviation taxes and fees would drive efficiency and connectivity growth to the benefit of both the consumer and the wider economy.

Moreover, CDB analysis suggests that there will be short-run and (larger) long-run boosts to the GDP of countries that reduce TFCs. The higher the magnitude of the PED, the greater the increase in GDP, and the more likely there will be a positive net financial impact, where additional tax revenue generated by increasing economic activity would rival TFC revenue foregone.

“In other words, the increase in travel will likely see governments collect other tax revenue similar to the amount lost by reducing TFCs. This would manifest in the form of revenue increases from taxes already in existence in the economy over time [for example sales tax/VAT],” DaSouza said.

“Instead, Caricom governments have effectively turned regional airlines into major tax collectors, and in doing so, pushed the cost of travel beyond the reach of many Caribbean citizens.

“We therefore call on Caricom governments to re-evaluate the current TFC regime on intra-regional travel. Overtaxing regional travel is counter-productive to regional connectivity and the growth and productivity of our economies,” DaSouza wrote to Gonsalves.

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Breaking News: Twely Joseph guilty of Capital Murder

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by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

A 12-member jury this evening found 19-year-old Twely Joseph guilty of Capital Murder in the death of 8-year-old Ariel Bolah of Frequente, St George.

Joseph is expected to be sentenced on 31 January 2020.

Complete story to follow.

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Peter David meets with UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation

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by Linda Straker

  • Support for dialysis machine for Grenada’s General Hospital discussed
  • Grenada has consulate and diplomatic representation in Dubai
  • Participated in third Expo 2020 Preparatory Meeting

Foreign Affairs Minister, Honourable Peter David, from 28-29 November was in Dubai and met with Minister Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimi who is the UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, as well as the managing director for Expo 2020.

The two ministers, among other matters, discussed support for a dialysis machine for Grenada’s General Hospital and Dubai’s contribution to assist in financing Grenada’s participation and delegation to attend the expo.

While in Dubai, Minister David also held bilateral meetings with other officials of the Dubai Government, during which the parties agreed on close cooperation during the preparatory work and during the Expo 2020 exhibition, which, according to the Minister, will see Grenada on full display. Grenada and The UAE already have strong ties, for a relatively new relationship.

The UAE has stepped up in the last five or so years, to show their support for Grenada’s development. This was demonstrated through their huge grant donation to assist with the rebuilding of Grenada’s premier democratic institution, the Houses of Parliament, which was opened in June 2018.

Grenada even has a consulate and diplomatic representation in Dubai now. So, the relationship is definitely growing, and the UAE has a strong commitment to ensuring that developing countries, such as Grenada, fully benefit from the World Expo 2020.

While in Dubai last week, Minister David, and Shanta Cox, of the Ministry of International Business, also participated in the third Expo Preparatory Meeting, which was held over the two days.

More than 15 local manufacturers have already registered with the Grenada committee to attend the Expo, which will run from October 2020 to March 2021. International Business Minister Nickolas Steele said that Grenada will be having its own booth/pavilion for the Dubai event. Previously Grenada’s products were displayed with the Caricom booth.

NOW Grenada is not responsible for the opinions, statements or media content presented by contributors. In case of abuse, click here to report.

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