Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart is expected to discuss the state of the Barbados economy when he meets with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in Washington later this month.
The Stuart administration is grappling with a growing fiscal deficit, significant unemployment and foreign and domestic debt, all of which could result in the downgrading of the country’s investment grade rating to junk bond status by rating agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s.
Stuart will also address the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, and will open a symposium of the Caribbean Sea Commission.
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said that negotiations with China Harbor Engineering Company on the construction of cruise berthing facilities for Grand Cayman would have to be extended for a few more months.
Bush said the government was looking into the terms of the “definitive agreement” with the Chinese-owned developer, which has proposed to build cruise berthing facilities in George Town as well as constructing cruise facilities in West Bay and making improvements to the Spotts dock area. The proposal also seeks a study a Cayman Brac cruise tourism.
However, the premier said government is awaiting the completion of a financial review by KPMG and would have to present the proposal for the definitive agreement to cabinet members, the central tenders committee and the auditor general.
Grenada’s Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Mitchell says he is deeply concerned that, in addition to the high rate of unemployment, those who are lucky enough to have full time or part time employment are often forced to work for starvation wages, while a very select few continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor and the fat of the land.
Mitchell noted that under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, public workers are now being forced to live on 2006 wages in 2012, while workers in the debushing program had to suffer the indignity of seeing their daily rates significantly reduced.
He said that these actions can only be described as unconscionable at a time when so many people are finding it difficult to make ends meet and are suffering the effects of increasing levels of poverty.
Mitchell said that while all this is happening, the government continues the practice of awarding highly paid contracts to members of a small privileged group, many of who do not produce in accordance with the level of their salaries and perks.
More companies and investors are showing interest in investing and expanding their operations in Guyana.
The Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. (BCGI/RUSAL) has invested more than $21 million in additional equipment for its operations at Aroima, Region 10.
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds was on site recently to join the management and staff of the company as they commissioned more than 130 pieces of heavy-duty and light machinery, adding to its current fleet. The equipment was brought in from the company’s Jamaica operations.
Hinds said the government is committed to working with the company to ensure that a profitable bauxite operation continues in the area.
The company plans to expand its operations into new areas and mining and this the prime minister said will definitely be a plus for Guyana, since it will create more economic opportunities and jobs.
A flight by Suriname’s national air carrier recently touched down in Guyana for the first time in six years.
The flight by Suriname Airways stopped in Guyana enroute to Miami and was welcomed by Guyana’s President Donald Ramoutar and a team of government officials.
On board the flight was Suriname President Desi Bouterse, who met with Ramoutar after the plane arrived at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.
The flight marks another step in improved interaction between the two South American neighbors, with 33,000 visitors from Guyana to Suriname in 2011.
The president said more access to regional destinations is as important as travel between Paramaribo and Georgetown.
Guyana is currently building a 14,000-square-meter, multiple-terminal complex at its airport.
Ramoutar and Bouterse also held bilateral talks at CARICOM headquarters in Georgetown.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recently announced the approval of a US$2 million subordinated loan to Alternative Insurance Company (AIC), the leading locally based insurer in Haiti.
This is the first IDB non-sovereign guaranteed operation approved for a Haitian corporate borrower.
The financing, arranged by the IDB’s Opportunities for the Majority Initiative (OM), will catalyze resources for the Haitian-owned AIC to carry out a visionary strategic growth plan that will expand its services to low-income clients.
Haiti’s insurance industry suffered devastating losses due to the 2010 earthquake. AIC, however, honored all its claims. That effort solidified the company’s reputation and prompted stronger demand for its traditional products, which include auto, property, commercial, health and life insurance.
At least 27 people were killed in a major road accident recently in Haiti when a truck carrying people overturned on a highway south of Haiti’s capital, hospital officials said. About 40 others were injured.
The accident occurred when a truck carrying small retail traders, many of them women, tipped over on National Highway 2, near a community known as Morne Tapion.
In addition to passengers, the vehicle was overloaded with bags of food and other merchandise, a typical way to transport goods in Haiti.
A local judge who witnessed the accident said the truck was climbing a steep incline when it lost balance and went tumbling down.
Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington says the significant reduction in criminal activities in Jamaica that has been achieved over the past few months, particularly in the Corporate Area, is due to the ongoing efforts by the police to dismantle criminal gangs and other criminal organizations.
He noted that the Kingston Central division, which averaged about l00 murders per year in the recent past and completed last year with under 20 murders, year to date, has recorded just three murders.
He noted that this trend has been replicated across the Corporate Area divisions, noting that the divisions, which had accounted for over 70 percent of all violent crimes, have now moved to about 30 percent.
“We achieved those results in Kingston and elsewhere in Jamaica because we are focusing on dismantling the gangs and organized crimes. In downtown Kingston there were very significant criminal gangs that controlled the community,” he said.
The commissioner said although divisions such as St. Catherine North and Clarendon “have not reached the level where we want them to go,” they too are achieving significant successes against gangs.
He noted that although the first week of January recorded 40 murders, the weeks of March averaged under 15 killings.
“In fact, we completed the month of March with the lowest murder count for any single month in the last nine years,” he added.
The government of St. Lucia will introduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) from Sept. 1, 2012.
A release from Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony’s press secretary said the government in introducing VAT will fulfill undertakings given to international institutions by the previous government to introduce such a measure.
The St. Lucia Labor Party’s Manifesto for the 2011 General Elections had also indicated that St. Lucia had no choice but to introduce VAT.
However, consistent with its manifesto promises the government will maintain a basket of goods that will be zero rated, meaning that no VAT would be imposed on these goods; and delay the introduction of VAT on the payment of bills for electricity and water until the government is satisfied that the public is reasonably protected from arbitrary increases by the companies that provide these services.
The VAT implementation Unit is currently finalizing arrangements for the introduction of VAT.
St. Lucia remains the only country in the Eastern Caribbean which has not introduced VAT.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was among several Caribbean leaders who recently attended the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.
Some 34 heads of state and government addressed the theme “Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity.”
The theme focused on the role of physical integration and regional cooporation as a means to achieve greater levels of development and to overcome the hemisphere’s challenges in several key areas, including poverty and inequalities, citizen security, disasters and access to technologies.
The two-day Summit, which occurs every three years, offers the opportunity for countries to jointly define a hemispheric agenda at the highest level to address urgent challenges and propel positive change.
The last Summit of the Americas was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 2009.
After the summit,Persad-Bissessar visited Panama for key bilateral discussions with Panamanian officials.
The talks centered on reinforcement efforts for greater South-South cooperation in economic investments and trade through her participation in this year’s summit.
Compiled by Azad Ali