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British Gov’t Rejects Call to Force Same-Sex Marriage and Voter Rights for UK Citizens on Overseas Territories

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LONDON, England, Tuesday May 14, 2109 – The
British Government has said ‘no’ to forcing its overseas territories (OTs),
including those in the Caribbean, to legalize same-sex marriage. It has also
rejected a recommendation that United Kingdom (UK) citizens be allowed to vote
and hold elected office in those territories.

Responding to recommendations made by
the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) of the House of Commons in February this
year, the Government said those decisions should be made by the Overseas Territories
(OTs), and declined to give any timelines for the changes the FAC had asked for.

In its report, entitled ‘Global
Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the Relationship’, the
FAC gave nine recommendations, including that the Government should initiate a
consultation with the elected Governments of the OTs and work with them to
agree a plan to ensure that there is a pathway for all resident UK and British
Overseas Territory citizens to be able to vote and hold elected office. It also
wanted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to lay out a timetable for that
consultation process and set a deadline for phasing out discriminatory elements
of belongership, or its territory-specific equivalents.

However, the Government said that while
it understands the committee’s concerns and continues to impress upon OT Governments
the importance of allowing people who have made their permanent home in the
territories the ability to vote and engage fully in the community, it also recognizes
the desire of island communities to maintain their cohesion, hence the need for
a reasonable qualifying process, and also understands the OTs’ concerns,
sensitivities and historical background on this issue.

“In the spirit of a relationship
based upon partnership, we will continue to support and encourage consistent
and open political engagement on belongership and its territory-specific
equivalents, whilst respecting the fact that immigration decisions are
primarily a matter for OT Governments,” the Government said in its official
response to the FCA.

A similar stance was taken on the issue
of same-sex marriage.

The FAC had asked the Government to set a date by which it expects all OTs to
have legalized same-sex marriage, and if that deadline is not met, the Government
should intervene through legislation or an Order in Council.

The Government said it remains
committed to equal rights, including LGBT rights, but rejected that
recommendation.

“The British Overseas Territories are
separate, largely self-governing jurisdictions with their own
democratically-elected representatives. Our relationship with the Overseas
Territories is based on partnership and therefore as policy on marriage law is
an area of devolved responsibility it should be for the territories to decide
and legislate on,” it said.

It noted that nine OTs have legal
recognition and protection for same-sex relationships.

A tenth territory, the Cayman
Islands, is in the midst of a same-sex marriage rights battle. Last month,
after Chief Justice Anthony Smellie handed down a ruling giving same-sex
couples the right to marry in the British Overseas Territory, the territory’s Government
filed an appeal and was granted a stay in the decision until August when its
appeal will be heard.

 “We believe that the strongest, safest and
most prosperous societies are those in which all citizens can live freely
without fear of discrimination, and where all citizens, including LGBT people,
can play a full and active part in society,” the UK Government. However, it
added, the justice mechanisms and processes in the territories “should be
allowed the space to address these matters”.

“We are working to encourage those Territories that have not put in place arrangements to recognize and protect same-sex relationships, to do so, and continue to engage with all the Overseas Territories to ensure that their legislation is compliant with their international human rights obligations,” the UK Government said, adding that it has “no plans to introduce an Order-in-Council on this issue”.

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Barbados PM Tightlipped on Sale of Country’s Majority Shares in LIAT

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Prime Minister Mia Mottley says she will not be having any discussions on the issue in the public domain.

BRIDGETOWN,
Barbados, Thursday May 16, 2019
– As LIAT shareholder
governments struggle to come up with a viable solution to keep the island-hopping
carrier in the skies, Prime Minister Mia Mottley is remaining tight-lipped on
the talks while a fellow shareholder suggests Barbados wants to offload its
majority stake.

Mottley stopped short of saying whether Government would
dispose of its 49 per cent interest in the cash-strapped carrier, declaring
instead that she will not be having any discussions in the public domain.

She would only say that she was focused on ensuring reliable and affordable regional transport.

The Prime Minister was responding to a question during the
annual luncheon of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) at the Lloyd
Erskine Sandiford Centre yesterday.

Mottley said: “Let’s just say we agree on the mission, and
the mission is that there must always be reliable affordable access for travel
in the region as there must be nationally. And I can assure you and the country
that we are working on this every day.

“But you also have to take the reality of an existence as
you find it and then determine whether the modality that you have is the best
mechanism by which to deliver on that objective.”

Her comments come amid speculation that Bridgetown intends
to give up its shares so it could start its own airline. It’s been a week since
fellow shareholder, the government of Antigua and Barbuda, confirmed that it
had officially submitted a document to authorities in Barbados indicating
interest in buying its shares.

According to reports out of St John’s, following a recent
meeting of the airline’s shareholder governments at which Mottley was not
present, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said a proposal was submitted to the
Barbados Government on May 7, and he was anticipating a favourable response.

The Barbados representative reportedly indicated that the
proposal would be examined.

While sources have indicated that the Barbados Government
was willing to sell its shares, responding to the question for an update on
regional transport and issues relating to LIAT today, Mottley said she would
speak on the matter at an “appropriate time”, suggesting that discussions were
at a delicate stage.

“I have been in public life long enough to know that when
discussions are at a sensitive stage that the worst thing you can do is up the
ante by trying to have some kind of public expression that may well lead to
hardened positions and an inability for people to negotiate in good faith,” she
said.

“Suffice it to say that the government of Barbados, at the
appropriate time, when discussions are concluded with stakeholders at all
levels, will speak to the country.

“Whatever means we choose, whether existing or other, there
will be a commitment to providing affordable, reliable air travel between those
in the Caribbean because without that we accept that there will be a serious
constraints on our people. But there are multiple ways of being able to do that
in the context within which we operate.”

Mottley added: “Similarly, we are not the only player so
that we also have to be mindful of that. Fortunately, the feminine genes in me
do not require of me, the need to beat chest in public.”

In addition to Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda where the
airline is based, the other major shareholding governments are St Vincent and
the Grenadines and Dominica. After years of coaxing, Grenada last week
announced that it was officially a shareholder.

The four territories together make up just over 94 per cent
shareholding interest.

The remaining shareholders are made up of private companies,
other Caribbean governments and employees.

LIAT and other officials have been engaged in back-to-back
meetings trying to find a solution to keep the airline afloat, while exploring
the possibility of a minimum guarantee scheme, which would see countries
benefiting from the airline services contributing financially.

LIAT currently employs over 600 people and operates 491 flights weekly across 15 destinations. (Barbados Today)

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Jamaican Financial Group Takes over Regional Insurance Conglomerate

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NCB Financial Group Limited now owns nearly 62 per cent of the outstanding shares in Guardian Group Holdings.

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday May 16, 2019 – The largest and most profitable financial services group in Jamaica now owns regional insurance conglomerate Guardian Holdings Limited (GHL).

NCB Financial Group Limited (NCBFG) says it has successfully completed the acquisition of 74,230,750 ordinary shares in GHL, following the granting of all necessary regulatory approvals, including in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, and the closing of the take-over bid earlier this month.

The shares were taken-up and paid for on Monday.

Based on the shares acquired, NCBGH now owns nearly 62 per
cent of the outstanding shares in GHL.

“As we stated at the beginning of this journey, we believe
this transaction is a game-changer in the history of the region. Amidst the
context of the de-risking impacting the region, we are proud and excited about
the implications and prospects of two leading indigenous Caribbean institutions
coming together to drive economic growth, customer and shareholder value,” said
NCBFG Chairman Michael Lee-Chin.

Patrick Hylton, Group President and CEO of NCBFG added that
with each having become stand-alone regional leaders, “NCB and GHL combined
have the opportunity to become a world class financial services conglomerate,
which has positive implications for our shareholders, our region and its
citizens.”

GHL CEO Ravi Tewari said the development should allow his
firm to better serve the region.

“Since the acquisition of the first block of shares in 2016,
the Guardian Group began to see opportunities for a very positive impact for
the shareholders, clients and employees of the Guardian Group. This further
deepening of the relationship between two leading Caribbean companies augurs
well for the acceleration of these positive impacts for Guardian and the region,”
he said.

NCBFG was incorporated in April 2016 as the financial
holding company for National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited. Through the bank
and its wealth management, life and general insurance, and offshore banking
subsidiaries, it provides a wide array of financial products and services.

The NCB Group includes NCBJ, NCB Capital Markets Limited and
its subsidiaries in Barbados and Cayman, NCB Insurance Company Limited,
Advantage General Insurance Company Limited, NCB (Cayman) Limited, Clarien
Group Limited and its subsidiaries in Bermuda, Guardian Holdings Limited and
its subsidiaries, as well as NCB Global Finance Limited in Trinidad and Tobago.

GHL, the parent company for the integrated financial services group Guardian Group with a focus on life, health, property and casualty insurance, pensions and asset management, serves markets in 21 countries across the English and Dutch Caribbean, including Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, Curacao, Aruba, St Maarten and Bonaire.

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Fortress Funds Achieve Strong Results in First Quarter of 2019

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BRIDGETOWN,
Barbados, Thursday May 16, 2019
– Funds managed by Fortress
Fund Managers had achieved “consistently strong results” at the end of the
first quarter of 2019, following an encouraging start to the year.

The good news was shared with investors in the leading fund
manager’s March 2019 quarterly report, released this month. It comes against
the backdrop of a move by the United States Federal Reserve to pause its rate
increases implying that “global interest rates may stay lower for longer and
continue to support financial markets,” the report stated.

The report focused on three funds: the flagship Caribbean
Growth Fund, the Caribbean High Interest Fund which focuses on income and
capital preservation, and the Caribbean Pension Fund.

The Caribbean Growth Fund gained 5.7 per cent in the first
quarter and was up 1.1 per cent over the past year as global stocks recovered
strongly from the weakness of last year. The Net Asset Value (NAV), which is
the total value of the securities the fund owns divided by the number of fund
shares outstanding, finished March 29 at $6.0082. The Fund’s annual compound
rate of return since its inception in 1996 has increased to 8.4 per cent per
year. 

Solid
returns in US, international, and emerging markets drive Growth Fund’s returns

While Caribbean stocks saw mixed returns during the quarter
with Jamaica and Trinidad strengthening slightly as shares in Barbados
weakened, global equities rallied to start the year, helped by a more friendly
interest rate and global trade backdrop than had obtained through most of 2018.

“The Fund benefited from its substantial investments in the
US, international and emerging markets equities via the Fortress Global Funds,
with solid returns in these areas driving the Fund’s overall return for the
quarter,” the report said.

With regard to Barbados, the report noted that the
government’s “fiscal reforms and the aftermath of the domestic bond
restructuring are likely to keep a lid on economic growth in the
short-term.”  It went on to add, however,
that Fortress was hopeful that the steps taken would yield better prospects in
the long-term to the benefit of businesses in the island.

The Caribbean High Interest Fund achieved a return of 1.5
per cent for the first quarter though it is down 0.5 per cent over the past
year. Its annual compound rate of return since inception in 2002 is now 4.1 per
cent per year. The NAV of the Fund’s Accumulation share finished March 29 at
$1.9575, while the Distribution share finished at $0.9984. During the quarter,
the fund benefited from the “rallying bond market and from some of the same
improvement in risk appetite that lifted stock markets.”  Net assets of the Fund were $136 million, up
from $131 million this time last year.

Fortress is hopeful that the recent quieting of
international trade frictions will allow global economic growth to resume its
prior upward trend after last year’s interruption.

“If this happens, interest rate increases may eventually
re-enter the picture. The average term to maturity of the Fund’s portfolio
remains relatively short to limit its sensitivity to interest rate changes,”
the report said.

With the Fund having had only “minimal exposure to the
government of Barbados bonds prior to the default; there is consequently the
potential to add exposure selectively now that the risk/reward proposition has
shifted”.

Diversification
a significant strength of Fortress funds

The three classes of shares under the umbrella of the
Caribbean Pension Fund rose between 1.6 per cent and 5.1 per cent in the first
quarter of the year.  This constitutes a
return of between -0.6 per cent and 1.6 per cent over the past year.  The fund manager reiterated that “proper
portfolio diversification is an essential ingredient especially for very
long-term pension investing, and this diversification is a significant strength
of the Fortress funds.”

Despite Fortress’ expressed wish to see some changes on the taxation
front, the recent Barbados budget did not announce a correction to the current
double taxation of pensions.

“We remain hopeful that one will be coming soon because the
machinery of pensions everywhere is predicated on at least minimal tax efficiency
and / or outright incentives,” stated the report.

Fortress also reminded investors that it seeks and continues
to find attractively valued areas of global and Caribbean stock markets in
which to invest at prices that imply substantial future returns.

“There will always be ups and downs but we are cautiously
optimistic on the outlook from here,” the report concluded.

Fortress manages more than $650 million across 11 different funds with regional and global investments.

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