The Inter-American Bank (IDB) says Caribbean countries continue to be affected by the global economic downturn of 2008 and some have still not recorded pre-2008 growth rates.
The IDB, which held a two-day meeting recently in Washington DC, for its Caribbean regional governors, noted that throughout the Americas, the region’s economies registered a mix of good and poor economic results, with some nations suffering sharp declines in commodity prices and others experiencing increases in tourism during 2015.
The IDB said the meeting provided the opportunity to exchange ideas, discuss regional economies and what role the IDB can play
It said the delegates also discussed responses to the effects of climate change, specific initiatives to diversify the region’s matrix and promote sustainable development.
A statement issued by the bank said the meeting also gave senior IDB managers an opportunity to explain the impact of the recent reorganization of the various departments of the bank that work with private-sector operators.
According to data presented during the meeting, the ICB registered significant growth in its 2015 loans to its member countries, which include The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
The IDB also approved US$17 million in grant financing to its Caribbean member countries.
Barbados has announced a 12-month ban on the importation of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), also known as an unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, which will take effect from April 1, 2016.
The ban will allow authorities to complete a legal framework to govern the use of these devices and determine the number in operation in Barbados.
Customs officials say that during the past two years in particular there had been a significant increase in the number of RPAS for commercial and recreational use being allowed entry into the country.
This, one official said, has contributed to the unregulated growth of drones and the inability of the regulatory authorities to ascertain the numbers in operation.
Concerns has been raised in Barbados and internationally about the potential for their misuse and the risks posed to safety, security and privacy by their unregulated use.
Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie has announced a $16 million to CLICO policyholders- seven years after CLICO (Bahamas) Limited went into liquidation.
During his mid-term budget communication, Christie said the policyholders who are still current will begin to receive payouts by the end of the month.
He said the liquidator of CLICO has proposed and the government has agreed to a plan which involves the creation of a special purpose vehicle to assume the insurance operations of CLICO and to pay out the policyholders who have been unable to receive the full payout of their benefit, subject to the policy not lapsing during the period of liquidation.
The prime minister said under the plan, surrendered policies, death benefits, medical claims and staff pensions will be paid in full.
Over the years CLICO policyholders have held several demonstrators as they agitated for government action.
Oil exploration efforts have intensified following the discovery of commercial quantities of oil in Guyana’s Maritime Zone.
Esso Exploration and Production Guyana Ltd (EEPGL) recently commenced a meteorological and oceanographic survey in the Stabroek Block, which is scheduled to be completed by May 2018.
Seismic survey within the Canje block has started and will continue for a period of six months.
This was disclosed by Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman who told the National Assembly recently that there is growing interest in Guyana’s hydrocarbons and as such, Exxon Mobil will also undertake further exploratory drilling another well.
The Ministry of Natural Resources will be placing significant emphasis on capacity building in 2016, with the development of a framework for a Petroleum Agency and the conceptualization of an institute in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.
International Development partners have signaled a willingness to train young Guyanese to assume responsibility to lead the petroleum industry in the decades ahead.
BedyEasy-Sky, a merged tour operation and air transportation service between Bedy Travel in Grenada and Easy Sky, an airline with 36 years of experience in Honduras plans to offer flights and tours to Cuba from a number of Caribbean countries from next month.
Easy Sky will be operating a fleet of 737-500 planes with a capacity of 120 passengers from Honduras to Cuba via Grenada and St. Lucia.
Bedy Travel director Diana Ross said objective of the plan is to connect the Caribbean to Cuba, delivered in a differentiated way from regular everyday regional flights, in that the service is tour-related for regional and international tourists that would be uniquely packaged as well as individual tickets that would be available to travel to Cuba, Honduras and other Caribbean destinations on the route to Cuba.
During April, flights will leave Grenada to Cuba at 7:30 am on Fridays and beginning in May, on Mondays and Thursdays. The route will consist of Grenada, St. Lucia, Honduras and Havana.
The flight would take approximately five hours to the final destination compared with 15 to 22 hours using other flights that have to go through Panama, Venezuela and other destinations.
Jamaica has recorded four H1N1 (swine flu) deaths — the latest a woman pregnant with twins who died at the University Hospital on March 1, 2016.
In a news release the Ministry of Health said all four patients had severe complications, including heart and lung-related illness.
The first patient to die from the virus was an elderly woman and a medical doctor as previously reported.
Swine Flu also led to the death of a 49-year-old woman. According to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winston De La Haye, the ministry recently received results confirming the death of the first patient.
Since January, there have been 28 confirmed cases of H1N1 across the island.
Meanwhile, as of last week, tests for the Zika virus will be conducted at the Virology Laboratory at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus.
Dr. De La Haye said this is a big step for Jamaica and will result in a quick turnaround time for the results.
The Ministry of Health has been sending samples for tests to the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) Caribbean office will convene the fourth meeting of the Caribbean Development Roundtable (CDR), which will take place in in Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis on April 1, 2016 to explore possible options for debt relief for heavily indebted countries in the sub-region.
Senior policymakers from governments of the Caribbean, officials of the United Nations system, representatives of regional civil society organizations, academia, regional development institutions and international partners will meet to address the Caribbean’s debt obligations and consider practical solutions for current debt projection.
The CDR will be followed by the 26th session of the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC) on April 22, 2016, where participants will take stock of the outcomes of the CDR and review implementation of the work program for the ECLAC sub-regional headquarters for the Caribbean for the biennium 2018–2019.
The CDC was created as a permanent subsidiary body of ECLAC to promote the economic and social development of ECLAC member states and associate members. ECLAC Caribbean acts as the secretariat of the CDCC.
St. Lucia’s banana industry is recovering following several natural disasters over the past decade. Currently St. Lucia is the only Windward Islands country exporting bananas to the UK.
Apart from gale force winds and flooding, Black Sigatoka disease has affected St. Lucia’s banana industry and the ministry of agriculture is aiming to bring Sigatoka under control and stabilize banana production.
Martin Satney, project coordinator of the Black Sigatoka Management Unit, announced that the first phase of the Black Sigotak project ended in 2013 and the second phase in 2015.
“We can now boast right now that within the Windward Islands, St. Lucia is the only country that is exporting bananas to the UK,” he said. Satney said recovery mode for the banana industry is in full effect.
Multinational steel giant ArcelorMittal, which built an empire at the Point Lisa Industrial Estate, South Trinidad, has closed operations and fired more than 800 workers recently.
The closure has been blamed on more than TT$1.4 billion in losses over the past few years.
The shutdown came days after the Industrial Court in Port of Spain ruled that the company was wrong in temporarily dismissing several workers last December without proper consultation with the union.
The company was fined a total of TT$24,000 and was ordered to pay the workers for the period they were laid off service and that they should be paid one month salary and for their vacation leave.
In a statement the ArcelorMittal group says it is considering whether workers could benefit from the liquidation proceeds that the group is entitled to as a creditor. The group said a liquidator will be appointed after April 5, 2016.
— compiled by Azad Ali