Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Alphonso Browne addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters Friday, Sept. 27, 2019.
Associated Press / Kevin Hagen; File

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda government has reiterated its position that it is prepared to acquire the shares of financially-strapped Irish-owned telecommunications company Digicel if it is unable to provide a service in the island in the future.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne noted that Digicel is in trouble at the moment, “we will buy it provided we get a good price and by doing so, tens of millions of dollars repatriated to Ireland on an annual basis could stay here creating more opportunities for the people of Antigua and Barbuda.”

Recently, Digicel Group One Ltd. The Bermuda-based holding company, announced that it had gone into provisional liquidation there and has also filed for Chapter 15 recognition at US bankruptcy court in Manhattan.

But a spokesman for Digicel, which operates in more than 30 markets in the Caribbean and South Pacific, said the moves would not impact regular operations of the company and were aimed at strengthening the balance sheet.

The Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel Hurst, said he is confident that the government would be interested in acquiring the local shares of Digicel if “at some point” it indicates it could continue the function normally in Antigua and Barbuda.

Digicel is going through a major restructuring of some of the approximately US$7.4 billion of debt it carries so that it can continue operating as a going concern.

Barbados

Former Barbados Central Bank Governor, Dr. Lisle Worrell has made some suggestions for the revival of the country’s travel and tourism industry.

In his June economic letter recently released, Worrell pointed to the need for collaboration between Barbados and other regional governments and hotels, airlines and other tourism interests and their representative bodies.

He said the essential element needed for the revival of travel and tourism is restoration of confidence of visitors that their health is well protected, while they enjoy a pleasurable holiday.

Worrell said tourists must first be able to travel and socialize safely within their own countries and they must be assured that they can travel and socialize in the Caribbean as safely as they can be at home.

Worrell, who presided over the Barbados Central Bank from November 2009 to February 2017, said the order is a tall one, “but is the challenge for countries everywhere, not just for tourism or tourist destinations.”

He added that none of the measures currently being undertaken for the reopening involves the collaboration of all the relevant international players.

Caribbean                                                                

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) said many Caribbean countries will experience a general decline in economic activity in the coming months in light of COVID-19’s impact.

In a release, the CDB said many of these countries, including those, which will be supported with emergency loans, will fall into recession this year.

It indicated that Caribbean countries are especially vulnerable to the global outbreak due to their heavy dependence on tourism for income and employment.

The institution has already approved and is making available US$66.7 million for seven Caribbean countries to finance the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also noted that the bank’s board of directors has approved financing for Antigua and Barbuda (US$13 million), Belize (US$15 million), Dominica (US$2.5 million), Grenada (US$5.9 million), St. Lucia (US$10.8 million), St. Vincent and the Grenadines (US$11.3 million) and Suriname (US$8.2 million).

CDB President, Dr. William Warren Smith said the provision of support to the seven countries to respond to COVID-19 and keep critical government services and operations running are urgent to halt the economic decline and minimize social hardship, while giving focused attention to the most vulnerable.

Grenada

The Grenada government has announced the relaxation of the curfew hours put in place as part of the measures to stem the spread of the virus.

It said freedom of movement is now allowed between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm daily and beaches will now be open for 10 hours  staring from 5:00 am.

The Ministry of Health in a statement said businesses that have already been authorized to operate may do so until 7:00 pm daily, adding that new establishments permitted to operate as of a week ago include gyms and fitness centers, operators licensed under the Gambling Act, as well as food vendors and restaurants with in-dining services.

The statement added that the new establishments must adhere to a specific set of reopening protocols and only after receiving authorization from the Ministry of Health.

They must also undergo an inspection by health officials to obtain their clearance certificate in order to operate.

Grenada is the latest CARIOM country engaged in the reopening of their local economies that had been shut down in March as a result of the virus.

Grenada has reported 23 cases of the virus so far.

Jamaica

Jamaica is reporting an 11 percent reduction in major crimes for the first five months of this year as compared to the same period last year. Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in charge of Crime, Fitz Bailey said that 2,325 major crimes were recorded between Jan. 1 and May 31, 2020, as compared to 2,621 last year.

He said this represents a reduction of 269 or 11 percent, of major crimes are down.

Bailey noted that that gang activity, as well as domestic-related and interpersonal violence, played a significant role in the number of murders committed.

The DCP reported that the clear-up rate for major crimes for the period was 41 percent due to better prepared cases, more arrest and more convictions.

Over the period, 3,304 persons were charged for 5,082 incidents of serious crimes, with 805 charged with category-one crimes, including murder, shooting, larceny, robbery, rape, and burglary.

So far this year, more than 550 people were murdered in Jamaica, but Police Commissioner Antony Anderson said the states of public emergency (SoE) continue to be an effective strategy in reducing crime.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he remains satisfied that the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping “will not stand by idly and watch the recount, which is properly done for the results to be set aside” in the disputed March 2 regional and general elections in Guyana.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is yet to officially announce the winner of the polls after the recount exercise was concluded last week in the presence of observers from CARICOM and other international observers.

Both the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), led by President David Granger and the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic, headed by opposition leader Bharrath Jagdeo have claimed victory.

Gonsalves speaking on state-owned Radio St. Vincent and the Grenadines said; “We expect the CARICOM observer mission to deliver its report and we expect that what is the recount would be honored and the Guyana Elections Commission would honor that recount and declare a winner in accordance with this recount.”

“Anyone who wants to challenge anything afterwards can go to court but you have to declare the winner in accordance with the recount,” he said.

Gonsalves said he is aware of several opposition parties when they lose an election to make a number of complaints.

Trinidad

A United States official has cautioned the Trinidad and Tobago business community to comply with sanctions against Venezuela “to the fullest extent possible.”

Principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs US Department of State, Julie Chung said “ the purpose of our sanctions is to identify those entities that are providing material support to the illegitimate (Nicholas) Maduro regime.”

She was speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago’s virtual annual general meeting last week.

Chung’s statement came weeks after T&T Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Minister, Dennis Moses indicated that T&T was not bound by recent decisions made in relation to the Rio Treaty, including the resolution, which imposed travel restrictions against Venezuela Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez, who visited T&T and met with Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley in March.

Moses said T&T recognized the Nicholas Maduro government as the legitimate government of Venezuela.

But Chung argued the Maduro regime, according to the Venezuelan constitution, was illegitimate.

“This is not an ad hoc US government policy decision, Venezuela’s 2018 national election was illegitimate and left the presidency vacant,” she said.

She said according to the Venezuelan constitution, next in line was the president of the National Assembly.

— Compiled by Azad Ali

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