Caribbean RoundUp

Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley.
Photo by George Alleyne

ANTIGUA

Antigua and Barbuda is seeking forgiveness of more than US$100 million owed to the Paris Club, an informal group of creditor nations whose objective is to find workable solutions to payment problems faced by debtor nations.

The Paris Club has 19 permanent members, including most of the western European and Scandinavian countries, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the weekly cabinet meeting last week that the coronavirus (COVID-19) will have a serious impact on the socio-economic future of the region, especially among tourist dependent crisis.

A statement issued after the cabinet meeting, noted that Browne had informed that Antigua and Barbuda is continuing to seek forgiveness of debt and that “the Paris Club is owed about US$150,000 and this is the opportune time for the country to press for forgiveness.”

BARBADOS

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders met last week in Barbados to consider proposals for a common public health policy and a common border policy as they seek ways to limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Barbados Prime Minister and Chairman of CARICOM, Mia Mottley gave no in-depth details of the meeting, which was held virtually and came after regional governments have implemented several initiatives, including lockdown of their borders, curfews and social distancing.

In a Facebook message, Mottley said, “we discussed the regional response to COVID-19. We receive an update from CARPHA (Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency), an economic analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on regional economies from the CDB (Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank) and we considered proposals for a common policy and a common border policy.”

CARIBBEAN

The European Union (EU) is providing a grant of eight million euros to help the Caribbean fight the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement the EU said the funds will be used to purchase COVID-19 test kits, masks and other personal protective equipment, testing reagents, and other material required for coronavirus testing.

It will increase the capacity of regional countries to carry out laboratory testing for COVID-19, support coronavirus quarantine and isolation procedures, as well as contract tracing.

The EU added that its assistance will also support laboratory testing and epidemiology training, strengthen surveillance at ports of entry and support and promote the use of COVID-19 guidelines and protocols among health professionals.

The grant will be implemented by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and is expected to improve the detection, surveillance, prevention, control and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, it will finance treatment and vaccines when they become available and allow CARPHA to hire three additional laboratory technologists to deal with the anticipated surge in demand for testing of new and existing equipment.

GUYANA

Guyana is expected to see an overall economic growth of 5.1 percent for this year, with further projections for the next two years.

The World Bank, in its recent semi-annual report of the Latin America and Caribbean region, titled “The Economy in the Time of COVID-19,” said the South American country will in 2021 and 2022, see and 8.7 percent and 2.6 percent GDP (gross domestic product) growth, respectively.

The report stated Guyana’s economy had expanded by some 4.7 percent in 2019, with anticipated oil revenues spurring expansion in non-traded sectors.

It said oil production is projected to boost the country’s GDP growth to an unprecedented level this year.

The report said, however, while this could transform Guyana, there are risks as illustrated by a “still incomplete election outcome and compounded by falling oil prices and the COVID-19 epidemic.”

GRENADA

Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has got a commitment from the Grenada’s Bankers Association (GBA) to reopen banks to provide limited services to the public during the state of emergency.

It is reported that the prime minister initiated the meeting with executive members of the association to discuss the resumption of banking hours.

The discussions ended with an agreement that banks will open on Thursday and Friday of the week, from 9 am to 1 pm.

At the end of the meeting, the prime minister commended the banking sector representatives for recognizing the need to provide this much needed service.

The procedure to give effect to this service requires the Cabinet to advise the acting police commissioner of the need to grant and exemption to the bankers to operate as provided for in Section 5 (1) of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) regulations.

The Bankers Association has given the assurance that senior citizens and special needs persons, including pregnant women, will be given preferential treatment throughout the opening hours on Thursday and Friday.

TRINIDAD

Venezuela-based Development Bank of Latin America, also known as CAF, has approved US$50 million to Trinidad and Tobago to mitigate the COVID-19 health crisis in the country.

In a statement last week, CAF said the US$50 million in loan aims to strengthen T&T’s capacity to respond to and prevent the crisis caused by COVID-19, through direct financial resources and the recognition of expenses and investments aimed at reducing risk or mitigating the impact of the pandemic in the health of the population.

In addition to the loan, CAF said, it made a US$400,000 donation to T&T on April 3 to bolster its fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

CAF said the monies approved so far will be complemented by further anti-cyclical support to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on economic activity. Anti-cyclical policy refers to strategy by governments to increase spending during economic downturns and decrease spending during booms.

On March 3, CAF announced that it had approved a US$200 million loan to T&T to support the management, planning and investment of the country’s tourism infrastructure through better institutional.

Those funds are to be managed by the Ministry of Finance and will support different initiatives such the upgrade of the National Tourism Policy, the strategic plan for Trinidad and Tobago Airports Authority and the development of a National Maritime Policy and Strategy.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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