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(Demerara Waves) Digicel’s Guyana operations on Thursday denied claims by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) that it has evaded taxes through what its competitor called an illegal bypass.

“Digicel notes with great disappointment GT&T’s most recent statements to the press in which it repeated untrue allegations and more specifically claimed that Digicel has denied the Government of Guyana payment of taxes. Digicel wishes to state categorically that it owes no taxes and is in good standing with the GRA (Guyana Revenue Authority),” the phone company said in a statement.

The Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes has since said she is not opposed to an audit of Digicel’s operations, but highlighted that GTT does not serve many areas and has not stuck to its contractual obligation of upgrading the landline service every 10 years.

Hughes said so far, GTT has not yielded to her calls to prove that it has the capacity to provide adequate data service.

For its part, Digicel said when it began providing services in Guyana in 2007, consumers saw up to 50% decrease in domestic call rates and access to new affordable handsets with no activation fees. Digicel added that 27 years after GT&T’s launch in Guyana, there are still areas even in Georgetown where customers are still waiting for service from GT&T.

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DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors has stopped doing business in Venezuela after authorities took control of its only factory there in what GM called an illegal judicial seizure of its assets.

The plant was confiscated on Wednesday as anti-government protesters clashed with authorities in a country that is roiling in economic troubles such as food shortages and triple-digit inflation.

The Detroit automaker said in a statement Thursday that other assets such as vehicles were taken from the plant, causing irreparable damage to the company.

It's not the first time the Venezuelan government has seized a foreign corporation's facilities. In July of last year, the government said it would take a factory belonging to Kimberly-Clark Corp. after the U.S. personal care giant said it was no longer possible to manufacture in the crisis-wracked nation due to a lack of materials.

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(iWitness News) There is still no resolution to the currency exchange issue that has seen Vincentian traders having grave difficulty in buying Eastern Caribbean dollars after selling agricultural goods in Barbados and Trinidad.

“It is a very important issue which goes to the heart of the trading regime under the Caribbean Single Market,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told the last meeting of Parliament.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said his government has raised the matter on several occasions and he has written to the government of Trinidad and Tobago more than once about it.

He said he also raised it at February’s meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and had also raised it at the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.

The prime minister said the issue is that Vincentian itinerant traders — referred to locally as “traffickers” — sell their goods in Trinidad and Barbados and are paid in Trinidad and Tobago dollars or Barbados dollars.

But when they are leaving those countries, they are supposed to get the Eastern Caribbean dollar equivalent of what they sold and have to make the various applications in the central bank in Bridgetown or Port of Spain.

“And over the last two or so years, these central banks have come up with the mantra that they have a shortage of foreign exchange and they have to wait.

“The problem with this is that apart from the traffickers themselves, these are persons who would have purchased commodities in whole or in part from farmers on credit and they expect when they come back to pay the farmers,” Gonsalves told lawmakers.

He said if the traders can’t get their foreign exchange, they can’t pay farmers.

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(V. I. Consortium) ST. CROIX — Governor Kenneth Mapp — flanked by Attorney General Claude Walker and Bureau of Internal Revenue Director Marvin Pickering — announced the creation of a task force to be helmed by Mr. Walker and Mr. Pickering, with the sole goal of collecting some $430 million that the government has determined is owed to it.

The announcement of the task force to collect owed taxes — made during a press conference at Government House here this morning — places on display the administration’s continuing challenge to maintain liquidity for the operations of government, while other sources of funding are either unavailable, or have yet to come into effect.

“I am here to report to the people of the Virgin Islands that within ten years prior to today’s date, the outstanding monies owed in income taxes, gross receipt taxes, hotel occupancy taxes to the people of the Virgin Islands is now at $324 million,” revealed the governor. “That means that we have approximately $430 million on the streets of the Virgin Islands that are owed to the people of the Virgin Islands.” The governor mentioned his prior announcements of potentially furloughing government employees and cutting short work weeks because of the lack of funds, in an apparent effort to remind residents that the government is still struggling to maintain operations. He also mentioned the inconsistencies in issuing tax refunds — again, pinning the uneven delivery of refunds on those who owe taxes, but have refused to make good on their obligations.

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(Jamaica Observer) Jamaica’s programme implementation under the Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF was yesterday described as a “strong performance” by the executives as the board concluded its first review on the country’s performance.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission Chief for Jamaica Uma Ramakrishnan, all structural benchmarks and all but one performance criteria for the first review under the new arrangement were met, allowing the country another US$170 million for drawdown from total access of US$1.64 billion over a 36-month period.

Nevertheless, the IMF highlighted the preservation of social consensus for reform as a risk that will be critical in sustaining gains to macroeconomic stability and resilience that have been achieved by Jamaica over the past four years.

In fact, the IMF is now cautioning the Government to “carefully plan, manage and communicate upcoming public sector changes, especially in light of ongoing public sector wage negotiations”.

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