Caribbean Round-Up

Barbados

The U.S.-based international rating agency Standard & Poors recently said it had lowered its long-term foreign-and-local-currency sovereign credit ratings on Barbados to “BB+” from “BBB-.”

“The downgrade reflects our opinion that Barbados’ economic fundamental continue to weaken,” said Standard & Poors’ credit analyst Olga Kalamina.

Standard and Poors said it had also lowered the short-term ratings from “B” from “A-3 and that the outlook is stable. In addition, Standard &Poors assigned to Barbados’ foreign-currency debt recovery rating of “3” and it has advised the transfer and convertibility assessment to “BBB-“ from “BBB”.

The US-Based rating agency said that in the short to medium terms, the difficult external environment will hamper the economic and investment outlooks.

“The resulting lower economic growth will hurt Barbados’ fiscal and external accounts and will likely lead to further debt accumulation.

Recently, another U.S.-based Washington international agency, Moody Investors Service, gave Barbados a negative rating outlook including that the island’s fiscal deficits would remain high for the next few years.

Barbados

Unemployment in Barbados has jumped to nearly 12 percent in the first quarter of 2012, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs said, pushing past the 10 percent mark recorded in the previous quarter last year.

The research unit in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs said unemployment from January to March reached 11.8 percent.

The jobless rate had reached 10.2 percent for the fourth quarter of last year, according to the Barbados Statistical Service.

‘Statistics derived from the Continuous Household Survey indicated that the rate of unemployment for the first quarter (January to March 2012) stood at a provisional 11.8 percent,” the statement said. “The unemployment rate among males stood at 10.5 percent and 13.1 among females.

Dominica

Retired public servant Eulid Williams is tipped to be Dominica’s next president. If confirmed, Williams will take over from ailing President Nicholas Liverpool who is expected to step down in August.

Leader of the Opposition Hector John said he has not been consulted on the new appointment.

Williams, a trained accountant, served as a permanent secretary between l987 and 2004. From 2004-2008 he served as managing director of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority based in St. Lucia. In 2009, he was awarded Dominica’s second highest national award the Sisserou Award during the annual National Day parade.

Haiti

Former United States President Bill Clinton recently visited Haiti to promote the impoverished Caribbean nation’s long-defunct tourism economy.

Clinton visited an island resort and a cinema school along the southern coast. He also took a walk through the French Quarter-like seaside city of Jacmel.

He later traveled to the north and visited a historic fortress, an international airport and a port for cruise ship passengers.

Haiti is still trying to recover from the 2010 earthquake and the government of President Michel Martelly hopes it can revive the economy by wooing first-time visitors.

Traditional tourists have avoided Haiti for several decades because of political instability and almost unmatched levels of poverty.

Jamaica

Two elected Jamaican officials have been accused of participating in a multi-million dollar lottery scam that has targeted elderly Americans.

Police Superintendent Leon Clunis said officers arrested Kingston Deputy Mayor Michael Troupe and St. James Councilor Sylvan Reid.

Clunis said that Troupe’s two sons also were arrested recently in a raid at the men’s homes where police seized more than US$13,000 and two guns.

The men have not yet been charged. Officials estimated that the lottery scam generate about US$300 million year, up from about US$30 million three years ago.

St. Kitts

Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas said he has been informed by the British government that his request for debt restructuring for St. Kitts and Nevis has been granted.

It comes less than two months after going to the Paris Club seeking support for his government’s bold economic transformation through the restructuring of debts owed by the government to the UK.

Confirmation came from Britain’s Minister of State for International Development, Alan Duncan who said he was pleased to announce the full cancelation of all of St. Kitts and Nevis debts to the Department for International Development.

Duncan informed the St. Kitts and Nevis prime minister that the case for debt relief was assessed under three criteria “sound management, good governance and commitment to poverty eradication.

The British minister of state hoped that the writing hoped that the writing-off debts to the Department for International Development “will help boost the chances of success and help free up resources to help protect the poorest and most vulnerable citizens of St Kitts and Nevis during the challenging time.”

St. Lucia

Shootings marred St. Lucia Carnival as rival gangs traded gunshots leaving a 27-year-old man dead.

The violence forced police to bring a premature end to carnival celebrations recently.

Police said that Levy Wilson was shot in the chest and died on the spot while a 20-year-old Yannick Sylvester sustained gunshot wounds to his right arm.

Police say both men were innocent bystanders watching the carnival celebrationsin the capital when the gunshots rang out forcing law enforcement officials to redirect carnival bands away from the area.

Wilson’s death was one of three which occurred over the long carnival week-end.

Trinidad

Newly-appointed National Security Minister Jack Warner announced that the government is moving to introduce technology which could help pinpoint the location of gunshots.

The technology would permit greater flexibility for the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service as it seeks to interface and interconnect with other prospective services systems in place thereby ensuring an optimal response from first responders to public safety issues. The “system’ would apparently link-up with infrastructure from many different law enforcement agencies.

Warner said when a shot is fired from a gun “you would know where it came from and know the area, you can pinpoint the house and if they have the squad cars in the area, as there will be, it will be a matter of seconds.”

Police recorded 35 killings in one week in July, pushing the murder rate to 228 so far for the year.

Turks and Caicos

The acting governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands has signed into law Value Added Tax (VAT) to boost the finances of the troubled British territory.

An ll percent tax will be levied on a range of goods in the island chain southeast of the Bahamas starting next April. A government statement said the rate is the second lowest in the Caribbean region, after Haiti.

The law signed contains several exemptions, including fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and hurricane supplises. The tax is intended to stabilize the finances in an island placed under direct rule by Britain in 2009 amid allegations that local officials had taken payoffs from developers. Elections making way for a return to local rule are scheduled for November.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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