Notes From The Margin

June 16, 2008

Marginal Picks Up His Pen – Venezuelas Claim of Barbados’ Waters


After much thought we’ve decided to come out of retirement to blog on the subject of Venezuela’s claim of Barbados’ waters. This is not a full re-opening of NFTM but we felt that given our history of blogging on Venezuela and it’s territorial claims that we might be able to provide some clarity on this issue. This article is freely reproducible (once the source is attributed). In fact we would ask that given the potential seriousness of the claim that members of the blogosphere and other media propogate this story.


Marginal

Like Barbados Free Press we saw the story today in the Venezuelan publication PetroleumWorld entitled “Barbados’ Troubled Waters”

The new government of Barbados opened the bidding process for rights to offshore blocks for oil & gas exploration on Monday and will close it on September 30. The winner announcement will be made on Nov 20th. More than 20 companies were present this week in the bid kick off, including among others, Exxon, Gazprom, Lukoil Shell, BHP Billiton of Australia, Hess Oil Company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Marathon Oil and Murphy Oil, all of the United States, StatoilHydro, Petro-Canada, and Petrobras from Brazil. However, there is an issue that the IOC’s perhaps have not taken in account, that is that two of the block are in venezuelan waters, the Bottom Bay blocks Ad I and Ad II. We expect that the venezuelan government will issue a diplomatic note to the government of Barbados asking for clarification and the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA will issue a warning to the OIC’s on the issue.

The two blocks in question are the two southernmost blocks that are up for bid (Highlighted in red in the illustration). Venezuela’s claim rests on two pillars

1. It’s claim to approximately half of Guyana’s land area.

Venezuela claims everything west of the Essequibo river, the historical reasons for this can be found in our post. Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

2. Venezuela’s Maritime Treaty with Trinidad.

In 1990 Venezuela and Trinidad agreed a treaty delineating their maritime boundary. This treaty can be found on line HERE.  This treaty allowed the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s offshore oil resources. However this treaty had two unforeseen impacts. First it tacitly recognised Venezuela’s claims on half of Guyana, and secondly it pushed Trinidad’s territorial claims north which is what led to the Maritime border dispute between Barbados and Trinidad. The impact of this can be seen in our post How Much Gas Does Trinidad Have? Indeed the main sticking point in the negotiations was the Trinidadian position that Barbados should recognise the 1990 treaty. The UNLOS council held that two countries could not bind a third without it’s consent and hence the 1990 treaty had no impact on Barbados.

The maritime boundaries are currently as seen in the diagram below. The purple line indicates Trinidad’s initial boundary claim and the brown line indicates the claim they put forward to the UNLOS Council. The green line represents the final decision of the UNLOS Council.

The result of the UNLOS is that the 1990 boundary between Venezuela and Trinidad extends into what is (and always was) legally Barbados’ waters.

Venezuela is now seeking to exercise a claim in an area that it has no right to claim. The waters under discussion can ONLY be Venezuelas if you accept that

1. Half of Guyana is actually Venezuela.

2. That two countries (Venezuela and Trinidad) can commit a third and fourth countries (Barbados and Guyana)  to some form of agreement or treaty without consulting them and without their agreement.

In short, the Venezuelan claim is baseless.

Marginal

Other interesting information on this topic.

International Law Environment by Professor Robert Volterra

Venezuela and Bird Island

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Bird Island Again! – Grenada in Maritime Boundary Dispute With Venezuela.

April 15, 2008

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish….

It’s been a year since NTFM first debuted in the blogosphere, in that time we have done 198 posts which have been seen by 42,000 visitors, we have logged some 650 comments and unfortunately we’ve also dealt with 10,000 emails of spam. Small numbers perhaps in comparison to Barbados Underground or Barbados Free Press, but we think that we have established our own following and we’ve also established a reputation as a quality blog with high standards.

It’s been an interesting ride, that has taught us much. The search for quality articles has led us down some interesting paths and turned up some surprising stories. We are particularly proud of the work we’ve done on the whole Venezuela issue as it relates to the Caribbean. We remain deeply concerned that not enough is being done by the mainstream media to educate Barbadians about our South American neighbour.

We started a blog in large part because we were concerned about what was being said about Barbados in the blogosphere. Based on what some very biased people were saying, it would be very easy to equate Barbados with Zimbabwe. That is not the Barbados we know, the country we know and live in may not be perfect but it’s a far cry from what is portrayed on BFP and to a lesser extent BU. A dermatologist following their approach would describe someone with acne as having flesh eating skin cancer. We felt there was an unfilled space for balance and thoughtfulness, a space that over the last year we have tried (with uneven results we admit) to fill. We freely admit that there is an important role for Barbados Underground and Barbados Free Press in ensuring democracy and freedom in Barbados, we may disagree with their methods but we believe that they are truly motivated by good intentions and that in the long run they are a healthy addition to the Barbados social scene, we wish them well.

However after a year, we have found the demands of running a daily posting blog difficult to meet. In that regard we have considerable respect for David over at BU and even the BFP crew. Given the demands of our day to day lives we find that we can no longer devote the time to NFTM that will maintain the standard that we want to have.

In short NFTM has had it’s day. We have to admit, it’s difficult to put down something you have carried for a year, but it is far better to go out with style than to dribble off into obscurity.

To our well wishers thank you for your kind comments, to our critics… when you think about it, you’ll come around to our opinion 😉

Farewell

Marginal

Marginal puts down his editorial pen.

April 13, 2008

Is This Venezuelan Propaganda?

On page 8b of our Sunday Sun paper was a full page ad purporting to be paid for by the Honourable Hamilton Lashley, promoting the Venezuelan PetroCaribe agreement. It’s headlined “Petrocaribe The Way Forward” The ad is extremely well produced in terms of design and writing style, however it just doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing that an opposition parliamentarian would produce. Let’s face it when parliamentarians are in opposition they don’t have alot of money to throw around.

Our position on PetroCaribe is well known a quick search of this site will lead to many articles on what we think of Mr. Chavez’s initiative. In a nutshell we think that Petro Caribe will saddle the countries of the english speaking Caribbean with massive debt and make them subject to the whims of a Venezuelan government that historically has shown itself to be hostile to the region’s best interests.

When we read the ad we felt it read like a Venezuelan press release, so we went looking on the net and….

GUESS WHAT!!!!

IT DOES READ LIKE A VENEZUELAN PRESS RELEASE!!!!

The following paragraph comes from “Hamilton Lashley’s” ad.

“What is Petrocaribe?

Petrocaribe is an Energy Cooperation Agreement proposed by the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, in order to resolve the imbalances in access to energy resources through a new system of favourable exchange, equity and fairness among the countries in the Caribbean region. “

Now the following is from Bolivarian News Australia which is released by the Venezuelan Embassy there. We’ve put a copy on our server in case the source document should suddenly disappear 😉

“Petrocaribe is an Energy Cooperation Agreement proposed by the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela in order to solve the world’s asymmetries to have access to energy resources, through a new exchange scheme: favorable, equitable, and fair among the countries of the Caribbean region…”

What are they odds of these two articles being written by different people? Probably about the same odds as winning the lottery five times in a row!

Marginal

For Further Reading:

The folly of Petro Caribe

Venezuela and Bird Island

Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Bolivarian News Australia 27th December 2007 (on NFTM Server)

April 4, 2008

Beachfront Development In Barbados, A Look Into The Future…

Now that the dust has had a chance to settle, we on the margin have been reflecting on the sale of Cheffette Holetown. At $40 Million for the site Cheffette would have taken the offer. How many years of profit is that from the Restaurant? Further that’s enough money that they could build a second restaurant nearby and still have money left over. As a business deal this is fairly straight forward, Cheffette got an offer that was simply too good to turn down and that is that.

From an economic point of view, the Holetown site in condos will contribute more to the economy than it would as Cheffete. Certainly it would be part of the foreign exchange earning sector rather than being a user of foreign exchange. Economically this is good for Barbados as well.

However one of the very few remaining windows to the sea will close when condos go up on the site. Locals will have to go in either at the Holetown Police Station (the old Pizza House restaurant) or go all the way up past Sandy Lane to access the beach. Heading south after that we believe the next opportunity for beach accesss is Paynes Bay.

Now we on the Margin can’t argue with Condos, but we do have a specific issue with beach development. The development of a condo project allows the developer to make his money back quickly, with relatively little risk. A hotel means that the developer takes the business risk and all of the headaches that come with running a hotel. So if you are a developer, a condo is lower risk for a higher return and an extremely quick payback period. This is why hotels are closing for condos, we on the margin doubt that anything the new administration does will change this. (Despite what Mr. Loveridge says)

The other factor at work here is that there’s only so much beach front land in Barbados. The simple law of supply and demand means that prices for land on the coast will skyrocket in the face of huge demand fed from outside of the island. Hence we can hear about $40 million being paid for a relatively small piece of land. Remember all of those little chattel houses in the Garden in St. James? Little gold mines each one of them.

Now because the land costs are skyrocketing developers need to do two things 1. increase the value of each condo unit and 2. increase the number of units on the lot. This means that development along the beach is going to be high value, and is going to maximise the land use (so much for beach access for locals) and further is going to go up and up and up. This results in what we are seeing at Paynes Bay in St. James where the people on the land side of highway one stop seeing the sun around 3.00pm in the afternoon each day.

If you watch the BTA advertisement above it talks about

“…an island that hasn’t been homogenised and supersized and commercialised away from even being Caribbean anymore”

While these words are being said images of high rises next to the beach are being shown.

Ironic isn’t it?

We think that there is a need for a policy intervention by Government that puts the brakes on this form of development. Now this will have to be done with a light touch otherwise we run the risk of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. One possibility is restricting future high rise structures to the land side of the road. We are not saying no to development of the coast, we are simply saying if we continue as we are going now we will end up being one of those islands that no one wants to go to. The economics of it are inexorable.

Now is the time for an enlightened policy response.

Marginal

March 18, 2008

Welcome to the 5 year long election campaign!

When the dust settled on January 16th the two parties ended up being quite far apart on number of seats but actually quite close on total number of votes cast. With only an 8% difference in terms of total votes, it means that the current government is vulnerable to a 4% swing. This means that despite a comfortable majority in Parliament, the Thompson administration must politically plan from now with an eye to elections in 2013. It also means that the Mottley opposition is already keeping an eye on that year.

As a result of this we are likely to see Mr. Thompson trying to attack what has long been perceived as the BLP’s strongest point; it’s management of the economy. The BLP for it’s part will pick at every flaw in the government’s actions.

This leads to the  ludicrousness of things such as Government suddenly becoming skeptical about unemployment statistics despite never having said a word about it before or during the campaign. It certainly was not a part of their platform. They are not releasing those figures because it will reinformce the BLP’s perception of good governance.

For the BLP’s part, this whole “We don’t know why the government won’t work with our consultants” is laughable. They damn well know why and they would do the same if they were in office as well.

What it amounts to is that we are in for a five year long election campaign, with the cut and thrust of January continuing at a lower intensity until 2013

Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a wild ride!

Marginal

March 12, 2008

Consultants – Another One Of Those Silly Games That Politicians Play

“Politicians Mekkin Mock Sport At We…..”
Mighty Gabby

We on the margin have watched with a degree of amusement at first Prime Minister David Thompson’s “House cleaning” followed by Former Prime Minister Arthur’s war path speech. Having listened to them both I can only come to the conclusion that our prime ministers both present and past are playing “mock sport” with us.

Let’s accept a few realities here…

1. Consultants are an accepted part of governance in the Caribbean, always have been and more than likely always will be. When running something as complex as a government, it is understandable that policymakers (whatever party they may belong to) may want to have independant advice to help them shape policy or to advise them politically, to write speeches etc.

2. Let’s also accept the fact that each policy maker is going to want to select their own consultants or advisors. Hence you cannot equate persons who fill this role with public servants. Like the directors of statutory boards etc. They SHOULD resign when the administration changes. It is not victimisation for the incoming administration to say that they want to take someone else’s advice.

So here we have PM Thompson, equating hiring consultants with squandermania, just to have to turn around and defend his appointment of “political advisor” Hartley Henry as being somehow different.

We also have former PM Arthur talking about going “on the warpath” over these people being dismissed. (They should have tendered their resignations already)

While we have serious concerns about Mr. Arthur saying that he “helped out” one of his speech writers who had lost his previous employment, we also recognise that Mr. Henry is unlikely ever to file consultant report that will be filed in the government filing system. The advice given by consultants at this level is more than likely to be held in the PM’s personal files and also likely to leave the office with the individual when he demits office.

So when you cut through all of the sound and fury that has surrounded this issue, there really isn’t that much substance here. Just politicians playing “holier than thou” and mekking mock sport as they play to the gallery.

Marginal

March 9, 2008

David Thompson Praises Owen Arthur- BFP Criticises David Thompson….Coincidence?

 

It was bound to happen sooner or later, BFP turned savage on David Thompson. (Just after Mr. Thompson praised his predecessor)  It would seem that BFP is discovering that politicians are politicians. (Particularly in Barbados)

The whole tale in three parts….

Nation News – Well Done!

BFP: Barbados Cabinet Ministers Free To Accept “Gifts” From Persons Wanting Government Approvals Or Contracts

(Note The BFP  article is published same day as the Nation Article)

Our take on the matter…(Published in June LAST YEAR) “Prime Minister Owen Arthur, and the Opposition Democratic Labour Party led by David Thompson, who was once the Minister of Finance, are virtual ideological twins”

What makes Barbados fortunate is that both Mr. Thompson and Mr. Arthur are quite good as politicians go, and while they may both talk left their actions are decidedly centrist. But anyone expecting fundamental change from either party is likely to be disappointed.

Marginal

March 5, 2008

Irish Backed Airline Startup Airone/Project Horizon Advertising For Pilots…

The Irish backed airline Airone Ventures is advertising for pilots in this month’s Flight Magazine under the name Project Horizon. We have noted a growing level of chatter about this airline in the aviation forums on the net…

PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 16:42:09 Post subject: Reply with quote

I still am amazed that this topic is not causing more ‘ripples’ on the website and in the Eastern Caribbean!!
Anyway here is ad from Flight International…I quote:Launching Low Fares in the CaribbeanProject Horizon is an exciting start up low cost airline based in Barbados. As the first Caribbean low fares airline, Project Horizon plans to become a major player in the region developing a number of bases by combining innovative strategies along with the quick roll out of exciting new routes from our home base in beautiful Barbados. Using dependable Boeing aircraft and an experienced team, Project Horizon will provide indisputably low fares, superior reliability, innovative products and services and a distinct choice of non-stop routes. If you would like to be involved in this dynamic environment, we currently have a number of opportunities for flight crew. So what are you waiting for? Launch your career with us!Direct Entry Captains – Ref. 001The successful candidates will have:
ICAO license with current type rating on B737EFIS Aircraft
Current Class 1 Medical
Minimum 4500 hours total, with 1000 hours in command on type
Captains applying for Flight Instructor positions require minimum of 500 hours as instructors on type
Proficiency in English

First Officers – Ref. 002

Requirements:
Type-rated on B737EFIS. Current ICAG. Commercial/IR license
Minimum 2000 hours, total with 500 hours on type
Proficiency in English

We are also seeking suitable candidates for the following positions:

Regulatory Director Ref: 003
Materials Manager ReI: 004
Technical Services Manager Ref: 005
Maintenance Operations Coordinator Ref: 006.
Quality Assurance Inspector Ref: 007
Flight Operations Officer Ref: 006
Crew Planner Ref: 009
Crew Scheduler Ref: 010
Quality & Flight Salety Officer ReI: 011

If you enjoy a challenge, are interested in flying or working with Boeing 737 EFIS aircraft and in joining a dynamic, productive and exciting startup in the Caribbean, please send you curriculum vitae to our recruitment team at pilots@caribbeanjobs.com
To meet our aggressive growth plans, non-type-rated Pilots will be accepted from January 2009.

Flight International 26 February – 3 March 2008

It would seem that the rumours are true.

Also in related news, Barbados has signed an open skies agreement with Canada which will help the island attract more business of this type.

see:

Canada announces Open Skies agreement with Barbados

Marginal

Also

Irish Airline Headquartering in Barbados?

Jamaica Drops The Ball – Irish Competition For LIAT – Coming Soon To Grantley Adams?

Irish Competition For LIAT?

March 3, 2008

Why We DON’T Want Obama To Win (Or Clinton For That Matter)

This is one of the more difficult posts to write, difficult because we don’t want to be misunderstood, and difficult because it’s a difficult choice to make. As we write this the Primary season of the US presidential election is rolling forward. The Republican front runner John McCain appears to have his hand on the nomination (barring something quite unexpected happening) In the Democrats camp there is a heated battle for the nomination going on between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In the Caribbean the popular sentiment is understandably for Obama, he’s personable, has an agenda for change in Washington and of course, he’s black. For the first time ever it would seem that an African American has a real chance of ending up in the White House. For a region that is mostly African in descent it’s heady stuff.

However….

As cool as it is that the United States has reached the stage of maturity that they could seriously consider a black man for the post of Commander in Chief, we on the Margin have come to the conclusion that Mr. Obama’s race is (or should be) for us in the Caribbean irrelevant.

Why have we reached this conclusion?

We have to recall the Clinton presidency (That’s Bill if you are confused) Bill Clinton was one of the most “human” US Presidents in living memory. Former President Clinton was enormously popular in the Caribbean, mostly on his personal charisma. However when you look at the effects the Clinton presidency had on the Caribbean, Bill Clinton did more damage to us than any hurricane that has struck the island chain. Why do we say this?

1. Dole/Chiquita Bananas and the WTO.  This action destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of Caribbean farmers basically to repay a campaign contributor.

2. The Ship Rider Controversy. Remember the pressure that was brought to bear on Barbados when it resisted?

3. The OECD “Harmful Taxation” initiative.  Despite the BLP’s efforts to say that it fell apart because of Owen Arthur, we really know that it fell apart because when Bush came to power the US was no longer interested in backing the initiative.

This isn’t meant to be a US bashing post, but the fact is the Caribbean has ALWAYS done better under a Republican in the White House than a Democrat. We can see the echoes of similar policies in Mr. Obama’s current political career. With rhetoric against NAFTA (Ironically which was enacted by Clinton) and action in sponsoring the “Tax Haven Abuse Act”.

If we lived in the US we would probably vote for Mr. Obama, but the fact is that we don’t live in the US. Rather than get caught up in the euphoria that surrounds his campaign we are forced to apply the same logic that we do to our local politicians “Judge them not by what they say, but by what they do” and when judged on that scale (from a Caribbean perspective anyway) Mr. Obama is found to be less than an ideal candidate.

Marginal

February 28, 2008

Hartley Henry Tries To Blame BLP For Rihanna Tribute Mess Up

We REALLY hadn’t wanted to blog on the whole Rihanna/KB Kleen Fiasco, we had hoped that much like the whole “hairdo” controversy it would fade in to the general background noise of life in Barbados. However an op ed column by Government campaign strategist Hartley Henry has brought KB Kleen to Margin.

We really had no problem in how he started the column…

Owing to commitments abroad, I was not among the multitude, but I got a “blow by blow” account of the Independence Square megaevent. It is because I heard and understood clearly what transpired that I am calling on the critics to “ease up off KB Kleen“. I accept his unconditional apology.

Today, he stands ten feet taller in my sight.

So far we agree whole heartedly with him. Kevin Hinds has done the correct thing, clearly there was a screw up. Rather than trying to defend it he apologised unreservedly. We should accept it and move on.

However…

Then Mr. Henry goes on to attempt to build a case that Kevin Hinds is the end result of years of mismanagement of the cultural industries under the BLP.

The Ministry of Culture and its offspring the National Cultural Foundation have been rudderless for close to two decades. Mediocrity abounded during a period when success was measured in terms of gate receipts and tourist arrivals.(edit)

Now here’s our problem with this…
An MC does not run or produce a show, whoever the producer of the Rihanna tribute was must bear the ultimate responsibility for EVERYTHING that happened at the event (good and bad). We know that WHATEVER the cultural environment of the past 14 years that there is a history of successful events of this type, so clearly the skill exist on island to produce “world class” shows. If the emcee was out of line, the producer or stage manager should have taken him in hand immediately and reigned him in.
Kevin Hinds has done the honorable thing, yes this was a screw up, he acknowleged it, apologised and let the matter rest. The producers of the show have stayed hidden in the background and left Kevin to twist in the wind. They should come forward and take responsibility for what happened on the night of the tribute, apologise and then we can all move on.
To have a government spin doctor attempt to shift that responsibility to a political opponent who had no involvement in the event is not only ridiculous, it’s insulting.
Mr. Henry should know better.
Marginal
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