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Posts tagged ‘Caribbean’

Cuba’s Catholic Church Calls for Accelerated Reforms.

HAVANA — Cuba‘s Catholic Church urged the government Tuesday to move more swiftly on reforming the communist-ruled island’s Soviet-style economy.

“We cannot hope to build a prosperous country and society without prosperous citizens and without opening the doors to financial sources that generate prosperity,” Orlando Marquez, spokesman for the Havana archdiocese, wrote in an article published in the church’s “Palabra Nueva” journal.

Cuba has tinkered with pro-market economic change since President Raul Castro took over from his brother Fidel in 2006.

But playing off the communist regime’s “slowly, but surely” slogan, Marquez said the government needed to move more quickly to stay ahead of demographic trends that show a bulging elderly population and not enough young people to support them.

In 2030, “30 percent of the population will be more than 60 years old,” he said, calling for “the creation of conditions that spur birth and discourage emigration of young people who would be ready to work and invest their capital and know-how in Cuba, including Cuban emigres willing to return.”

“It’s a waste of time to constantly insist on the long-proven ineffectiveness of state control on all production and services,” Marquez said, insisting that “our country’s technological backwardness puts us in a difficult situation in light of our need to join the global economy.”

“Accelerating reforms and generating wealth would be the best way to stop then reverse the deterioration of our society’s two most important sectors: health and education,” Marquez said.

In the absence of a legal opposition, the Catholic Church has emerged over the past three years as the sole organization with the standing to negotiate politically with the Havana government on social and economic issues.

© AFP 2013

John MacArthur Suffers From Spiritual, Cultural and Theological Myopia.


Pastor John MacArthur
Pastor John MacArthur

John MacArthur suffers from spiritual, cultural and theological myopia. With great due deference to a Christian leader many of us admire, his conclusions regarding the largest and fastest growing of global Christendom, the Pentecostal/charismatic movement, speaks to a man ignorant of the community’s unbridled commitment to biblical orthodoxy.

Unfortunately, this blessed Christian leader cannot differentiate between substance and style, or engaging a biblical metaphor, between Christianity’s “wine” and the varied “wineskins.”

In other words, Mr. MacArthur should be focusing on the fact that while many in the church continue to abandon our Christian faith, the Pentecostal/charismatic community continues to offer the church a legitimate growth mechanism.

Correspondingly, with great due deference of course, he must be made aware that the optics of the criticism also imply a cultural naiveté. The epicenter of the World’s Pentecostal and charismaticdemographic stems not from North America but from the continents south of the equator.

In essence, he is condemning the very Christian narrative responsible for shining the light of Christ to God’s children in Africa, South America, the Caribbean and elsewhere.

As a result, this movement is one of the few non-white led and arguably the most ethnically diverse Christian movements in the globe today.

Finally, I encourage this gracious preacher to preach the word. In a world full of relativism, decadence, strife and apathy, John MacArthur should focus on preaching the word; Christ crucified, resurrected and coming back again.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the Hispanic Evangelical Association.



Cruz: I Forgot Ties to Overseas Holding Company.

Tea party favorite Ted Cruz says he forgot to disclose a piece of financial information when he ran for office in 2012. The Texas senator says he did nothing wrong and is working to fix the error.
A Senate ethics committee is looking into a promissory note Cruz holds from a Caribbean-based holding company.
According to Time, Cruz failed to disclose his relationship with the holding company when he filed his campaign papers last year.
Cruz invested in a Jamaican private equity firm founded by his college roommate more than a decade ago. When his wife started working for the Department of Treasury in 2003 Cruz severed all ties with the company, with the exception of a promissory note.
Cruz said the omission was an oversight. “In 2011, there was an inadvertent omission of this promissory note, and after a conversation with my college roommate I remembered it,” Cruz says.
Cruz, who is most recently known for his efforts to get rid of Obamacare, corrected the error himself in May, but the paperwork contained errors, according to Time.
In the paperwork, Cruz said the promissory note was for Caribbean Equity Partners Investment Holdings with a value between $100,000 and $250,000. But, according to Time, no company with that name is registered in Jamaica. There is, however, a company by the name of Caribbean Equity Partners Limited, of which Cruz was a founding director and preferential shareholder.
The Senate Select Committee on Ethics asked Cruz to amend the papers, and asked him to provide the nature of the promissory note, the entity that issued it, the city the entity was located in, and the date the note was issued. Cruz says he is in the process of getting this information for the committee.
The Texas senator says he has had no connection to the firm in more than a decade, is no longer a director or shareholder, and has received no money from the promissory note or the company.
According to Senate ethics, there are no prohibitions on being a director of a company or holding shares in, or notes on, a private equity firm or holding company. The rules state Senators can’t get paid for positions outside of their government service and must disclose all financial holdings.
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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Lisa Furgison

Billionaire Branson Denies Fleeing UK to Avoid Taxes.

Virgin Group billionaire Richard Branson is denying that he fled Britain to avoid a 50 percent tax rate, saying he moved his family to their privately owned island of Necker in the British Virgin Islands for health reasons and because they love it there.

Britain’s Sunday Times reported that the 63-year-old Virgin airlines tycoon was using the residence as a tax shelter, and had relocated to take advantage of the islands’ zero tax rate.

However, Branson fired back in his Virgin Group blog post that he actually moved to the island seven years ago and continues to pay taxes, according to CNBC.

“I still work day and night, now focusing on not-for-profit ventures with Virgin Unite, but on Necker I can also look after my health,” he wrote, in a reference to his island getaway in the Caribbean.

“There is no better place to stay active and I can kitesurf, surf, play tennis, swim, do Pilates and just play,” Branson said.

Branson said his enterprises have created tens of thousands of jobs and have paid hundreds of millions in taxes. He said they would continue to do so.

“I have been very fortunate to accumulate so much wealth in my career, more than I need in my lifetime, and would not live somewhere I don’t want to for tax reasons,” he declared.

Related Stories: 

Billionaire Branson Leaves UK for Caribbean Tax Haven
More American Companies Seeking Off-Shore Tax Havens

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Audrey Hudson

Billionaire Branson Leaves UK for Caribbean Tax Haven.

Image: Billionaire Branson Leaves UK for Caribbean Tax Haven

LONDON — One of Great Britain’s richest men, Sir Richard Branson, has permanently taken up residence in a Caribbean tax haven.

The London Sunday Times reports that Branson sold his Oxfordshire estate and will officially live in Necker, an island he bought in the 1970s and where he has spent much of his time the last seven years.
According to The Sunday Times, Branson’s new address means he will not be required to pay any personal income tax on earnings outside Britain, although he will still be taxed on U.K. earnings.

Editor’s NoteAn $87,500 Tax Loophole Discovered by Cherry Hill Accountant

Branson’s holdings include the Virgin Atlantic airline, as well as balloon flights and health clubs, and those companies continue to pay significant corporation taxes, the newspaper said.
A spokesman for Branson told the Times the move makes “no difference for tax purposes whether he is in the U.K. or the British Virgin Islands” because Branson mostly works on non- profit ventures and donates his income to charity.
Under British tax laws, Branson will not be allowed to spend more than 183 days in the U.K. in any one year.
Forbes magazine lists Branson as Britain’s sixth wealthiest man with a £2.9bn fortune – the equivalent of about $4.5 billion.

© 2013 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.

Big Trouble in Paradise: Puerto Rico Faces $87B Collapse.

Image: Big Trouble in Paradise: Puerto Rico Faces $87B Collapse


Puerto Rico’s island paradise may be teetering on the precipice of a financial collapse that would make Detroit’s implosion look modest by comparison, economists and analysts warn.

Detroit, a city of about 700,000, went bankrupt after piling up $18 billion in debt. Puerto Rico, by contrast, has 3.7 million residents — and faces a whopping $87 billion in debt and unfunded pension liabilities.

“The Puerto Rican economy is near collapse,” prominent Puerto Rican economist Gustavo Vélez tells Newsmax. “The government is running out of money and there is no end in sight.”

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Puerto Rico Senate President Eduardo Bhatia told bond analysts in New York on Monday that the Obama administration is “wondering how they can help Puerto Rico send a very strong signal of stability right now.”

He added that island officials are expecting “an announcement” soon from administration officials. But that appears to be at odds with a Bloomberg report that a U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman said no plan is afoot to bail out the island’s economy.

In September, UBS AG and other U.S. brokerage firms warned some 40,000 U.S. investors and brokers to stay away from the bonds that Puerto Rico uses to finance its deficit. Not long afterwards, the island’s bond yield – the amount it has to offer to lure investors – rose to 9.29 percent, surpassing even that of Greece. Predictably, Internet headlines began referring to the beautiful tourist haven in the Caribbean as “America’s Greece.”

Puerto Rico, however, probably still has some time to work out its finances. Unlike Greece, very little of its debt is short term. But the New York Times reports Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla and other officials are engaging in intense shuttle diplomacy between New York, Washington, and the Caribbean. Their objective: To convince bankers, credit analysts, and political leaders that the island is on a path toward restoring financial stability.

Since assuming office in January, Gov. Padilla has taken several austerity measures. State employees’ contributions to their pension plans were increased from 8.275 to 10 percent.
The retirement age was increased. Utility rates were hiked sharply to bring in more revenue, and new taxes have been imposed as well. So far, financial markets appear almost indifferent to the tough belt-tightening measures, leaving island officials frustrated.

Unlike Detroit, a declaration of bankruptcy for Puerto Rico may not be an option due to its status as a territory, rather than a state. The Times reports the Northern Mariana Islands tried to seek bankruptcy protection in 2012, but that effort was rejected by the courts. The way out of the legal limbo for Puerto Rico would be a financial plan of support enacted by the U.S. Congress. But that would assume Congress is better equipped to deal with Puerto Rico’s budget impasse than it has been dealing with its own.

The Times reports that the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico has been discussing whether the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to impose special fiscal controls. One idea would be for Congress to designate a financial control board led by an official with the power to overrule its local, politically elected leaders. But the legality of such a move has reportedly not yet been established.

Puerto Rico leaders, meanwhile, object to the aspersions cast upon their ability to plug their fiscal liabilities, and insist the island is not on the verge of bankruptcy.

Alan Schankel, a managing director for the Janney Montgomery Scott investment firm, tells Newsmax that Puerto Rico will probably avoid a default in the near term. But, he adds, “this outcome isn’t assured.”

“The one assurance we make, is that volatility is likely to continue in the near term — and perhaps beyond,” he says.

Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate hit 13.2 percent in September. A fourth of the island’s residents receive entitlements such as food stamps or income assistance. Tax revenues, meanwhile, have steadily dwindled.

So how did Puerto Rico lose its status as one of the richest spots in the Caribbean? Economists cite the decline of its once-powerful manufacturing sector.

Fifty years ago, Puerto Rico relied primarily on exports of coffee, sugar cane, and rum. The tourist industry, of course, brought in revenue as well.

But the island’s biggest boost arguably came in 1976, when Congress effectively exempted Puerto Rico-based companies from paying federal income taxes. The goal was to boost the territory’s economy, and it worked. The tax breaks, coupled with the island’s proximity to the United States, made it a prime destination for multinationals.

Companies lured by low taxes, gentle tropic breezes, and reliably sunny weather made Puerto Rico a mecca of manufacturing. But the boom would be short-lived.

In the 1990s, critics attacked the tax breaks as too expensive. After an intense lobbying battle in 1996, Congress repealed the tax abatement, which was phased out over a decade.

As those tax breaks disappeared, much of Puerto Rico’s tax base disappeared with it. But Puerto Rico’s entitlements and liabilities, which rapidly expanded during the boom years, remained unchanged.

“The effect was immediate and crushing,” says Vélez. “Our economic model was developed around these tax breaks, and after they were allowed to lapse, investment just stopped, and that model just disappeared.”

As a result, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans lost their jobs. About 100,000 Americans of Puerto Rican origin have relocated to the mainland in search of better opportunities, according to Vélez.

Urgent: Should GOP Stick to Its Guns on Obamacare? Vote Here. 

That Puerto Rico, whose name ironically translates to “rich port,” has avoided calamity as long as it has may be thanks to its attractiveness to investors. As a territory, Puerto Rico can offer bonds that pay tax-exempt interest across the country. It offers special legal protections to investors and a high rate of return. Investors gobbled up Puerto Rico’s bonds – to the tune of some $70 billion. But after markets were spooked by the signal earlier this summer from the Federal Reserve that it would not continue to prop up the bond markets interminably, Puerto Rico effectively found itself unable to sell its debt for less than outrageous prices.

Today, its credit is hovering at just one notch above junk-bond status, with the Wall Street agencies putting it on a negative watch for more possible downgrades. Considering the austerity steps the island has already taken, Puerto Rico officials are more than a little frustrated with the credit-rating analysts on Wall Street.

“I disagree with them and believe they are treating Puerto Rico unjustly,” Gov. Padilla said earlier this week.

If the credit-worthiness of the Commonwealth’s debt is downgraded yet again, it could trigger another run on its solvency. The New York Times reports that Puerto Rico has engaged in financial deals known as interest-rate swaps. These contracts force it to come up with additional cash as collateral, should its credit fall to junk-bond status. That could push the island’s balance sheet closer to the brink.

Padilla has tried to reassure investors that he can put the island back on an even financial keel, and the island’s 2014 budget includes over $1 billion in expected new taxes.

Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank has stated: “We are confident that no major debt issuer will default on its debt.”

But skeptics aren’t so sure. The latest report to the federal officials who keep a watchful eye on the municipal securities market revealed that the commonwealth ran a $39 billion deficit in 2012. That was a $5.4 billion increase over 2011.

And if higher taxes create too big a drag on the Puerto Rican economy, the deficit could get even worse.

“The problem isn’t that taxes aren’t high enough,” says Vélez. “The problem is that the government has done nothing about spending, and there is no strategy that grows the economy and expands the tax base.”

Until that happens, Vélez warns, “the people of Puerto Rico are going to continue to struggle.”

Perhaps the biggest question stemming from Puerto Rico’s financial crisis is how it will affect the island’s ongoing bid to become the 51st state in the union.

Statehood is a near perennial question in Puerto Rico. In a nonbinding referendum conducted last year, 54 percent of Puerto Rican voters said they favored changing Puerto Rico’s current status as a commonwealth. But Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla says that vote was invalid because the referendum referred to Puerto Rico’s “present form of territorial status” rather than describing it as a “commonwealth.”

There have been four plebiscites on statehood since 1967, and there may soon be another. President Obama has requested $2.5 million to pay for a new statehood referendum.
But given Puerto Rico’s deep financial turmoil, its leaders are busy just trying to avert insolvency.

“Right now we are aren’t even thinking about statehood,” leading Puerto Rican economist Gustavo Vélez tells Newsmax. “Right now the government is just trying to meet payroll.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By David A. Patten and Matthew Lysiak

PHOTONEWS: Annual Caribbean Labor Day Parade In Brooklyn, New York.


The annual Caribbean labor day parade on the Eastern Parkway in brooklyn New York today.

Photo credit: Sahara Reporters Media Group

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