Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) has recorded a $10 million loss for 2016.

ECCB Governor Timothy Antoine who was speaking at a press conference following the 85th meeting of the ECCB Monetary Council in Antigua and Barbuda recently said there is “no immediate concern” over the $10 million in losses, arguing that yearly losses are reducing.

He said the ECCB is not a profit making institution and therefore the losses are not as alarming as they seem at first glance.

Antoine said the Central Bank has made losses for the last three years -$18 million in 2014, $12 million in 2015 and $10 million in 2016.

“The good news is that we’re actually seeing a reduction in those losses. There is no immediate concern,” the governor said.

According to Antoine, the “principal reason” for the losses was because of the “low interest rate environment” in the global market.

Barbados

Travel demand to Barbados increased by 30 percent in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.

This is according to Expedia group, one of the world’s leading travel companies, which said additionally, 20 percent of travel demand to Barbados during this timeframe is based on package bookings.

These bookings, Expedia said are extremely valuable for hoteliers as they generally feature twice the length of stay, are booked two times further in advance and have half the cancellation rate of a standalone (1.e. hotel only) booking.

New data from Expedia also indicates that the United States continues to be the top feeder market for Barbados making up more than 40 percent of travelers to the island.

Other top feeder markets include the United Kingdom with 25 percent of travelers and Canada with nearly 15 percent.

Expedia said Barbados has always been an important Caribbean destination for the group adding that it will seek to continue to add more properties to its portfolio in 2016 and to support tourism growth in Barbados and the Caribbean region as a whole.

Bahamas

The Central Bank of the Bahamas (CBB) has denied reports of a possible devaluation of the local currency.

In a statement, the CBB said it wanted to assure the public that “contrary to speculation” in the local media “there is no imminent or medium-term threat of devaluation of the Bahamian dollar.”

It said that “adequate support and mechanisms remain in place to protect the value of the currency, despite conjectures about the impact of economic growth, fiscal consolidation prospects or governance institutions.”

“The Bahamian dollar’s value continues to be supported by the foreign reserve holdings of the Central Bank and the tools at the bank’s disposal to regulate the demand for foreign exchange,” the statement said.

The CDB said that the Bahamian public continues to have comfortable access to foreign exchange to fund their external transactions.

Guyana

The Guyana government has no immediate plans to abolish the death penalty. But it is not ruling it out at some stage, according to Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman, but the people would have to be consulted.

He said the government has found itself in a situation where credible international organizations, like the Financial Action Task Force, were calling on it to enact certain laws while others were urging that those laws be abolished.

Guyana recently introduced laws against the financing of terrorism, which list the death penalty as punishment.

There has been a moratorium on the death penalty in Guyana since the early 1990s.

President David Granger made it clear that if government wanted to go a step further to abolish capital punishment, there would be widespread consultation.

The call to review the death penalty came from Assistant Secretary-General of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN, Ivan Simonovic, during a meeting with President Granger.

Jamaica

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye said that the Ministry of Health has received increased reports from doctors of patients with symptoms that could cause paralysis and even death.

He said that in terms of neurological complications there is a total of 67 notifications that appear to be Gullian Barre Syndrome (GBS).

Dr. La Haye said there are nine suspected cases, within that only one has been confirmed Zika positive, three of them negative and “we are still awaiting results from about five.”

He said the ministry is in the process of preparing a special facility at the National Chest Hospital to treat persons with GBS.

To date, health officials are investigating 2,800 suspected cases of the Zika virus.

The health minister said the island will participate in several clinical trials in the drive to find a vaccine to treat the mosquito-borne virus.

He said that the island’s participation forms part of an international study to fight against ZIKV and is being supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr. Tufton said the vaccine could become available within a year.

St. Vincent

A 63-year-old Vincentian man was jailed for 12 years for raping his 12 year-old foster daughter.

Benjamin “Ben” Roberts from the west coast community of Mahoe, Lowlans was found guilty on three counts of rape and one count of indecent assault against the teenager.

He had been accused of the offences at his home between 2004 and 2006. Roberts was sentenced by a high court judge to 12 years on each count and one year on the indecent assault charge but the sentences are to run concurrently.

The court heard that Roberts’ wife had operated a business, leaving the house early on mornings.

Benjamin used the opportunity when the older of the two girls was getting ready for school to sexually assault her.

The court was told that Roberts had threatened to kill the girl if she reported the sex acts.

The matter only came to the attention of the police in 2012, after the girl became an adult and years after she reported the abuse to her pastor and Social Welfare Department.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, Sarah Flood-Beaubrun has been appointed minister of Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and the Public Service.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister, said that Flood-Beaubrun, who previously served as health minister in the 1997 St. Lucia Labor Party (SLP) government was sworn into office last week.

The parliamentary representative for Castries Central was earlier this month sworn in as deputy speaker of the House of Assembly.

Flood-Beaubrun, who served as a diplomat under a United Workers Party (UWP) administration, is expected to also take up the Foreign Ministry portfolio.

The UWP won the June 6 general elections when it won 11 of the 17 parliamentary seats.

Trinidad

The Development Bank of Latin America or Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF) has announced a grant of US$300 million (TT$2 billion) to be disbursed to the Ministry of Finance for use in a special program for 2015-2020.

The ministry’s program called the “Support Program for the Medium-Term Fiscal Consolidation Strategy” is designed to bolster tax revenue and to cushion reductions of subsidies.

A media release from CAF said it will “represent an important input in strengthening tax revenue in the non-energy sector, increasing efficiency in public spending, promoting the optimization of States assets, and progressively reducing subsidies for fuel and private transportation”.

CAF said the measure will complement the efforts made by the government to increase efficiency in public spending and prompt economic diversification.

The release added that the program tackles the negative impact that falling energy prices and other changes in the global and regional economy have had, and the fiscal balance and it considers the supply of freely available resources for the 2016-2017 tax year.

-compiled by Azad Ali

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