Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

The International Monetary Board (IMF) has completed the eighth and ninth reviews of Antigua and Barbuda’s economic performance under a program supported by a 36-month Stand-by Arrangement (SBA).

The completion of the reviews allows the immediate disbursement of about US$10 million, bringing the total disbursements under the arrangement to about US$76.2 million).

In completing the review, the executive board approved the authorities’ request for a waiver of nonobservance of the continuous performance criterion on external arrears.

This waiver was granted on the basis of the temporary and minor nature of the deviations from the program objectives and the corrective measures undertaken by the authorities.

Naoyuki Shinohara, deputy managing director and acting chair of the executive board said; “Antigua and Barbuda’s economy is recovering gradually after three years of recession brought on by the international financial crisis. Tourism arrivals increased in 2012 and government programs provided incentive for housing investment.

Barbados

The Central Bank of Barbados recently said the Barbados economy contracted by 0.4 percent in the first three months of 2013 and urged the authorities to “put back on track” the fiscal consolidation strategy as well as a new medium term adjustment strategy to turn around the island’s economic fortunes.

In its review of the Barbados economic performance for the first quarter of this year, the Bank said that on current trends there may be no real increase in the contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) from tourism or international business sectors in 2013.

It said that the forecasts for the rest of the economy are no better, with overall GDP expected to be virtually flat.

The Central Bank said that investment currently underway or recently completed in increasing capacity in the luxury tourism segment and enriching the visitor experience, are elements in the foundation for growth of the economy in 2014 and beyond.

But it said more investment is needed, covering specialist niches such as eco, sports and cultural tourism, as well as to cater for the more discriminating middle income visitor, who values the distinctive Barbadian experience.

The Bank said that growth tourism output that was experienced in the first quarter of 2012 has not been sustained this year, and as a result Barbados’ overall GDP is estimated to have contracted by 0.4 percent in the first quarter.

However, spending on imports slowed down, and there was no substantial erosion of foreign exchange reserves.

Guyana

The Guyana government says the decision by the speaker of the National Assembly to allow cuts to its budget estimates leaves it in a precarious position and could affect the country’s future development.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall said: “On one hand we have the court ruling in a particular manner specifically to say that in accordance with the Constitution of Guyana the National Assembly has no power to cut. That institution call the judiciary under our constitutional construct is the final arbiter on what the constitution says and what the constitution means.

“On the other hand, you have the National Assembly pronounced that it has to power to cut. So now we have a situation of utter and complete confusion.”

Nandlall said he was convinced that there was a “serious conceptual difficulty” in understanding the role of the National Assembly and that the situation would further be compounded when acting Chief Justice Ian Chang gives his final ruling on the challenges to last year’s budget cuts.

Recently Minister for Finance Dr. Ashni Kumar Singh presented a historic Guy $208.8 billion budget that the government said would continue with the social-economic development of the country, but which the opposition claimed did not deal with issues such as poverty.

Haiti

Haiti has launched an ambitious vaccine campaign against tetanus and the rotavirus that causes severe, fatal diarrhoea in children under the age of five.

The campaign comes a year after the Michel Martelly administration launched a similar campaign against childhood diseases, including measles and polio.

“To protect children against rotavirus is extremely important, especially in a place like Haiti where we also are seeing not a lot of high access to water and sanitation,” said Dr. Carissa Etienne, the Dominica-born newly-appointed director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Etienne said she was among several medical professionals who joined Haiti’s health minister in launching the nationwide vaccination effort. This year’s campaign is coinciding with the World Health Organization’s /PHAO immunization Week in the Americas.

Jamaica

Jamaica’s energy officials say the government plans to sell off the Caribbean island’s petroleum marketing company.

In his budget debate presentation, Minister for Energy Philip Paulwell announced that the Cabinet had decided to divest the Petroleum Company of Jamaica, usually referred to as Petcom.

Paulwell says a valuation of the state-owned company is being done and a team has been established to move the privatization plans forward.

He is encouraging local investors to bid on what he describes as an “important Jamaican asset.”

In recent years, Jamaica has sold off several state-owned businesses. These include money-losing entities such as national airline Air Jamaica and sugar factories.

Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago government is negotiating with authorities in Canada for the purchase of two long-range Multi-Mission Aircraft to assist in the fight against crime.

This was revealed in a joint release by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper following a joint news conference in Canada recently.

Persad-Bissessar was on an official four-day visit to Canada.

The statement said Canada and T&T shared a common interest in improving security throughout the Americas.

With a view to achieving this, they welcomed the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between T&T’s National Security Ministry and the Canadian Commercial Corporation. The MoU relates to the development and implementation of projects in the field of defense, security and related infrastructure.

The MoU will facilitate closer ties between the two countries, including the provision by Canadian companies of technology and services to enhance the capacity of defense and security institutions in T&T.

The prime minister also noted that Canada’s Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program was supporting T&T in modernizing criminal investigations.

Jamaica

Jamaica’s National Security Minister Peter Bunting is admitting the fight against crime seems to be a futile endeavor in Jamaica.

“I am not embarrassed to say that right now as minister of National Security, I am going through a kind of dark night of the soul.

“We are trying very hard as a ministry; I see the men and women of the security forces are trying very hard, I see the leadership both of the police and the military working hard and so much effort is being made and yet so little headway, such slow headway is coming out of the statistics,” he said, days after the wife of the Governor General, Lady Patricia Allen express growing frustration with the level of crime in the country.

Bunting speaking at the recent annual appreciation service for policemen at the Northern Caribbean University in the central parish of Manchester, reflected on his 15 months in the job and offered a frank assessment.

“I am convinced that the best efforts of the security forces by itself will not solve the crime problem in Jamaica, but it is going to take a divine intervention, touching the hearts of a wide cross-section of the society,” he said.

Trinidad

A high-powered meeting of government officials within CARICOM and South America will take place in Port of Spain this month to create sustainable forms of tourism, with the understanding that the efficient air-links would be crucial to achieving this objective.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran said sustainable tourism for Trinidad and Tobago is one of the seven pillars through which the State aims to diversify the local economy away from energy.

Dookeran said the meeting was being held to better understand the commercial requirements of the airlines, as governments move to improve inter-Caribbean trade and visitor arrivals.

The meeting follows concerns raised at an Association of Caribbean States congress in Panama recently. There, it was agreed the time has come for regional leaders to deal directly with the question of connectivity.

Colombia’s Foreign Minister, Maria Angela Holguin, undertook the responsibility to co-ordinate the effort to have serious discussions on the air-links between the Caribbean and South America.

Jamaica

Police have charged three persons, including an activist with the main opposition party in Jamaica, in connection with the multi-million dollar robbery at a jewelry store last month.

Police said they have charged Kayon “Treasure” Campbell, a political activist with the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), businessman Donald Ho and Norman Robertson from Spanish Town, St. Catherine.

Campbell and Robertson were charged with robbery with aggravation, illegal possession of firearm and conspiracy to commit robbery, while Ho is charged with receiving stolen goods, illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Campbell and Ho have been in custody since April 18, eight days after the daring daylight robbery on April 10 when a gunman walked into the jewelry store and made off with more than Jam$7 million worth of Rolex watches.

Police said they recovered all the 23 watches stolen and also seized US$150,000, two licensed shotguns, one illegal firearm and a quantity of ammunition.

Compiled by Azad Ali

More from Around NYC