Caribbean RoundUp

Barbados

American e-commerce giant, Amazon, has started applying a Value Added Tax (VAT) at a rate of 17.5 percent on goods shipped as of last month, Barbados Today reported.

Amazon Web Service (AWS) reported to its customers with Barbadian shipping addresses to inform them that the island’s VAT would be applied to goods shipped from March 1, 2020.

The Seattle-based company detailed its intention in an e-mail correspondence titled, “Important Announcement” in which it noted that the new measures are consistent with tax legislation which came into effect on Dec. 1, 2019. The company said that a tax compliant invoice would be issued to Barbadian customers from April 1, this year.

The correspondence was reportedly sent to all AWS customers whose records indicate that their billings address or contract address is in Barbados. It explained to customers that the website calculates taxes based on the customer location, which is determined by Amazon’s account location hierarchy.

To ensure compliance, Amazon has urged Barbadian residents whose accounts are not listed in Barbados, to update their details by visiting the billing address and contact address page of the AWS billing console.

In 2019, legislation introduced to allow the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) to outsource tax-collecting powers to an online third- party and the measure was to be introduced by July 1, but this also was unsuccessful.

Caribbean

The University of the West Indies (UWI) recently launched a task force to assist with the mobilization of the region’s public health providers to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) that has so far killed more than 40,000 people and affected more than 800,000 in 200 countries around the world.

The region’s premier educational institute said that the task force will be chaired by Professor Clive Landis, pro-vice chancellor for Undergraduate Studies and former director of the George Alleyne Chronic Disease, who has considerable experience in the field of Caribbean public health.

Professor Landis said the primary emphasis of the COVID-19 task force will be to provide accurate and reliable information through UWItv and other channels and other channels of communication.

The University is currently delivering a software engineering degree program at its joint institute in Suzhou, China and has a large registered cohort of Caribbean students. It is engaged directly with public health officials in Suzhou, Caribbean diplomatic corps in Beijing and the leadership of its partner university, the Global Institute for Software Technology (GIST).

The university said that the membership of the task force is drawn from the regional UWI medical facilities and external experts experienced in the laboratory and field deployment of an active scientific approach.

Haiti

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it is working “expeditiously” to honor a request from Haiti for urgent aid amid the coronavirus (COVIV-19) pandemic.

Managing director of the Washington-based financial institution, Kristalina Georgeiva said the IMF staff is working expeditiously to respond to this request so that a proposal can be considered by the fund’s executive board in the coming weeks.

“Our objective is to provide rapid support to help Haiti address the effects of a mounting health crisis and support spending on health and social benefits to limit the human costs of COVID-19,” she added.

She said the Haitian government is seeking to help protect the people of Haiti from the impact of this rapidly-evolving global pandemic and to prevent the further spread of the virus.

In light to the urgent need to step up action to protect the Haitian people and the economy, the IMF director said the Haitian government has requested the IMF’s financial support through the Fund’s Rapid Credit Facility.

Suriname

Suriname-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Competition Commission (CCC) says while the coronavirus pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge for the small economies of the region, it nonetheless believes those challenges to commercial and consumer welfare can be minimized.

CCC, which was established to help enforce CARICOM Rules of Competition and to regulate competition in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) said; “with member states closing borders, recommending social distancing and closure of main economic activities such as dining out and other community gatherings, it is fair to say that COVID-19 has not only impacted the very social fabric of member states, but also commercial and consumer welfare within the region.”

The CSME allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labor and services across the 15-member regional integration movement.

The CC said it is natural that small to medium businesses would be required to scale down their operations to protect employees, resulting also in disruptions in the delivery of services and products to consumers.

It said there have also been notable surges in the demand for groceries, personal protective equipment, and healthcare items in recent weeks across the region, leading to shortages in supplies of these products.

“These demand and supply shocks have invariably led to price increases throughout the member states, to the detriment of their most economically vulnerable consumers, mainly the impoverished,” it said.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia’s Acting Commissioner of Police, Milton Desir has warned criminals that law enforcement officials will take threats against their lives seriously after an escaped prisoner was shot dead on Dennery Bbeach, east of the capital, Castries.

Police said Markin Marquis, a murder suspect, was planning to leave the island by boat and was armed at the time of the confrontation with the lawmen.

“This is not what we want,” Desir told a news conference, making it clear, however that all other persons who claim to be “bad men” and openly threaten police officers will be dealt with “accordingly.”

He said from all indications, Marquis himself had claimed to be a bad man sending threats to police officers and members of the public who were witnesses in his criminal case as well of his friends.

Marquis was arrested in December last year in connection with the shooting death of Lyndon George, 27, who was shot in the head while at a dance hall in the southern town of Vieux-Fort a month earlier.

Trinidad

Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Trinidad and Tobago over the fall of oil prices.

While lowering T&T’s sovereign credit rating to BBB- from “BBB” it said this country’s economic outlook is stable, S&P cautioned that the rating could be lowered “should lower oil and gas prices, or the effects of covid-19 on demand, contribute to a larger economic contraction; a deterioration of external liquidity or debt beyond our current expectation.”

S&P made the statement in its March 26 research update on T&T. It said T&T’s rating could also be lowered, “should balance of payments outflows be larger than expected; or weaker fiscal position; and if we believe that the government will take longer to unwind the deterioration in public finances expected this year, causing larger increases in the net general governments debt or interest burden.”

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