Caribbean RoundUp

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis seen here visiting High Rock after the area was hit by Hurricane Dorian, in East Grand Bahama Oct. 6, 2019.
REUTERS / Gabriella N. Baez / file

Bahamas

The Bahamas government is putting plans in place to secure a mandatory quarantine facility to accommodate several Bahamians in the United States to the island of New Providence.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, who made the announcement last week, said there are approximately 200 Bahamians who want to return home.

He was at the time giving an update on the national response to Covid-19.

“We know from other jurisdictions how rapidly Covid-19 spread in other countries or locals because individuals who were Covid-19 positive returned to their home countries without being quarantined,” he said.

The prime minister also emphasized the quarantine facility for returning residents will be properly secured.

According to Minnis, his administration is working to try and resolve this matter in the best interest of all concerned and in the best interest of the country.

To enforce quarantine protocols in general, the prime minister announced that the Emergency Orders will be amended to enforce a fine of up to US$20,000 or five years in prison, or both.

He said that in order to optimize the intent of the quarantine and isolation period and to simultaneously enhance the support and monitoring of those in quarantine, the Ministry of Health has started to explore a number of solutions.

Barbados

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley has unveiled an “unprecedented” Bds$2 billion economic plan over the next two years to stimulate the economy.

She said a $400 million stimulus package for businesses to keep staff on the payroll had never before seen in Barbados and was designed to “fill the holes in spending in the economy.”

Mottley announced an economic plan that would focus on a public and private capital works program, increasing the island’s self-sufficiency, the creation of a Barbados Tourism Fund and $210 million would be spent on families affected by the shutdown.

She said the program will focus on supporting those who have lost their jobs in the shutdown and to keep those as far as possible who have their jobs.

The prime minister said this is the biggest package of spending initiatives ever rolled out over a two-year period on a supplemental basis from what otherwise has as core activities.

Mottley said it was hoped that businesses would be inclined to keep their staff.

She said the private sector was expected to contribute $800 million in investment due to the start of six major projects in the next two years.

Caribbean

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved US$65.6 million to Dominica, Grenada and St. Lucia following countries’ request under the Rapid Credit Facility (RFC) mechanism to help cover their balance of payment needs stemming from the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic.

Disbursements to all three countries are set at the maximum available access 100 percent of the funds available, or US$22.4 million and US$29.2 million, respectively.

Dominica has accessed 89.4 percent, or US$14 million.

These countries are small states that are very vulnerable to shocks, including large natural disasters, the IMF said, Dominica in the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

IMF emergency support under the Rapid Credit Facility will help fill balance of payments needs and create fiscal space for essential health expenditures, income support to workers and cash transfers to households.

The pandemic has hit these largely tourism-dependent countries very hard. Tourism inflows essentially came to a halt in mid-March, 2020, with ripple effects across other sectors.

The closure of the borders, coupled with the curtailment of commercial activity, has had a debilitating impact on these economies, the IMF said.

Guyana

A high-level Caribbean Community (Caricom) observer team has been tasked with scrutinizing the national recount of all the votes in the disputed March 2 regional and general election arrived last week in Georgetown.

In a statement, it said approval had been given to a request from the 15-member regional grouping for officials to travel to Guyana for the “purposes of overseeing the recount of ballots by the Guyana Election Commission (Gecom).

The elections body said it aims to have the entire process completed within 25 days.

However, this will depend on the pace of operation, which it said will be determined after an observation of the first week.

Gecom intends to carry out the recount, utilizing 10 hours per day time frame.

Arrangements were made for the members of the team who will be tested in their respective countries, using the World Health Organization-approved PCR Covid-19 test.

Both the ruling coalition, the Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) are claiming victory in the elections that were observed by regional and international teams, including one from CARICOM.

Grenada

More than 700 Grenadians have so far benefitted from the Covid-19 Economic Stimulus Package announced by the government, to provide some measure of relief from the impact of the current pandemic.

The Ministry of Finance has so far up to last week processed payroll support payments to benefit 538 employees and income support payments for 196 individuals.

To date, the newly established Covid-19 Economic Support Secretariat has received 1,000 applications for income support and 294 applications for payroll support.

Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell said it is commendable that within one month of the initial announcement of the stimulus package that government has been able to start delivering on its promise of bringing relief to the people of the country.

Under the stimulus package announced by Prime Minister Mitchell on March 20, 2020, one of the measures is intended to avoid layoffs and loss of livelihoods in the tourism sector.

The income support is intended for public bus operators, taxi drivers, tourist vendors and other such identified hospitality-based business persons, while payroll support is provided to hotel, restaurants, bars and small travel agents.

Trinidad

The Opposition United Congress (UNC) is calling for a probe into the shipment of 150,000 barrels of fuel to Aruba, which may have ended up in Venezuela in defiance of US sanctions imposed on the South American country.

The shipment of fuel came from the State-owned Paria Fuel Trading Company that left T&T’s shores for Aruba last month.

The Aruban refinery is linked to Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela state-owned oil company PDVSA and there are reports that the fuel cargo was shipped to Venezuela after it arrived in Aruba.

As these reports continue to make the rounds, a US State representative told the T&T Guardian media that the United States warned other nations against assisting embattled Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro and his regime.

It said that T&T can face sweeping sanctions imposed by the United States if it was found that the shipment of oil was intended for Venezuela.

On April 21, a shipment of excess fuel left Point-a-Pierre in South Trinidad and was sold and shipped to Aruba.

The Aruban refinery has been mothballed since 2012 and was only recently transferred from PDVS to the Aruban government after US sanctions dried up credit lines for the Venezuelan company.

The US Embassy in Port of Spain said the “US government was aware of reports indicating that a shipment of gasoline from Trinidad and Tobago may have gone to Venezuela.”

The Embassy said that the US government will also take “appropriate action” against those determined to be engaged in sanctionable activity as well as those found violating US sanctions.

Chairman of Paria Fuel Trading Company Newman George confirmed a shipment of excess fuel left Trinidad on April 21 and was shipped to Aruba.

He said due diligence was done and everything was above board.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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