Caribbean RoundUp

Caribbean

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is projecting that the growth in the tourism dependent economies in some Caribbean countries in 2017-2018 to be 2.4 percent, up from 2.1 percent last year.

In a report titled “Latin America and the Caribbean” the Washington-based financial institution said the baseline projections reflect data available before the impact of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which hit the Caribbean recently.

It said that the data do not therefore, reflect the devastating impact of these three hurricanes on several countries in the region and the risk they pose to their growth outlook, at least in the short term.

But in the report, the IMF noted that for commodity exporters, growth is projected to rise in 2017-2018 to 1.3 percent, from 3.3 percent in 2016.

It said that in several cases, weather swings and hurricanes are expected to take a toll on overall growth this year, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Haiti, which is still rebuilding from the effects of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

Antigua

The Antigua and Barbuda government said it wants to re-negotiate a US$40 million World Bank loan which was approved for re-building Barbuda which was devastated by Hurricane Irma last month.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the terms and conditions of the loan were not in the best interest of the island.

He said the term is too short for $40 million and “we have asked them to reconsider and perhaps consider up to 20 years with a five-year moratorium.”

Browne said his government was also seeking to get the World Bank to reduce the interest rate from the 3.5 percent to four percent to one percent.

The prime minister said the loans would be for funding projects for the rehabilitation of Barbuda that was declared inhabitable following the passage of the Category 5 storm last September.

He said the funds would also be going into non-revenue earning projects adding that US$100 million would be required to rebuild Barbuda.

Guyana

The cash-strapped state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysoco) said it plans to be profitable by 2020 as it is undertaking measures to reduce its dependency on government’s subvention as it begins reorganizing for down-sized operations.

Guysoco deputy chief executive officer, Paul Bhim said profitability at the end of 2020 may not be.

“What we are looking to do is to become cash positive. By 2020 we are hoping to stop our dependence on government for these subventions we’ve been asking for,” he said.

The government has provided financial support to Guysoco to the tune of Guy$32 billion over the last three years and is still expected to continue providing funds to the sugar company.

However, Bhim said Guysoco will be relying on value-added sugar productions to achieve its cash neutrality target.

He said at the Albion Estate will focus on bulk sugar, plantation white sugar, co-generation, and molasses.

Guysuco is also hoping to supply the local market which consumes approximately 20,000 tons of bagged and packaged sugar

Grenada

Public workers in Grenada have ended their two-day strike in support of their union’s demand for the government to conclude negotiations for the 2013-2016.

Public relations officer of the Public Workers Union (PWU) Brian Grimes said the next time around the strike action will be much more impactful based on strategic changes that will be made going forward.

Grimes warned that the unions are not prepared to accept government’s officer of a $650 figure for the structural adjustment period.

Recently, the Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) and the PWU both announced plans for the industrial action over the failure to pay compensation for workers during the period when the island was implementing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) sanctioned package.

The workers then walked off their jobs recently.

The unions had originally sought EC$2,000 as a one-off payment for the period 2013 / 2016, but reduced their demand to EC$1,500 after they accepted a payment of EC$1,000 earlier this year with an assurance from the Keith Mitchell government of a possible increase in July.

Jamaica

The Jamaica government will soon see an injection of more than US$20 billion of new investments that will help to drive the economy and increase job creation. This was revealed by Finance Minister Audley Shaw while addressing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Bank States Forum at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington D.C recently.

Shaw said that his large investment is not a loan from the bank or the IMF but direct investment in Jamaica from the private sector and overseas investors.

He noted that the government is on a drive to move Jamaica forward by attracting large investments into the country, which is one engine to spur the economy.

The finance minister told participants that the government has targeted a series of infrastructure development projects that will drive the economy towards growth.

These include reopening of the Alpart alumina plant with an investment of more than US$3 billion to expand the facility, divestment of the country’s main container terminal, construction of the North-South Highway and the redevelopment of downtown Kingston.

Shaw said that Jamaica intends to work with the World Bank and other multinational agencies to develop the country’s human capacities and capital to grow the economy.

St. Lucia

A poll conducted by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Research Services (Cadres) has found that most St. Lucians are either in support or partial decriminalization of marijuana.

Cadres said it conducted the poll between Sept. 8-11 and interviewed approximately 1,000 people across the island.

It said respondents were asked their “views on the decriminalization of marijuana in St. Lucia” and provided three response options as well at the option not to respond.

According to Cadres, which also conducted similar polls in several Caribbean islands, including Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the results of the survey tell an important story that is likely to be applicable across the region, which is that public opinion is generally moving in the direction of greater support for decriminalization and an increasing opposition to the status quo (illegal).

But Cadres noted the critical statistic, however, is in support for partial decriminalization which is the route that is being pursued in Antigua and has already taken in Jamaica and in this regard “all islands surveyed report a similar level of support.”

Trinidad

The Trinidad and Tobago PNM government is taking legal action against former Housing Minister Dr. Roodlal Moonilal, under the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration for alleged bid-rigging and collusion to defraud the country through the awarding of contracts by the Estate Management and Business Development Company (EMBD).

Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Stuart Young told a press conference recently that Dr. Moonilal is among three contractors who are being sued by the State over alleged bid-rigging.

Young said there was a “cartel” operating during Moonilal’s tenure as housing minister which led to over TT$200 million being paid to five hand-picked contractors for work, including upgrading and building of roads, which were later found to be “worthless.”

Moonilal has being accused of “breach of fiduciary” duty and Young said the former minister had an obligation via his oath of office as a minister, to protect the interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

– Compiled by Azad Ali

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