NAN Business Editor
News Americas, BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Fri. Aug. 2, 2019: Here are the top business stories making news from the Caribbean for this week of Aug. 2, 2019:
Economic activity in
Latin America and the Caribbean remains sluggish. Real GDP is expected to grow
by 0.6 percent in 2019, the slowest rate since 2016 according to the International
Monetary Fund. The weak momentum according to the Bank, reflects negative
surprises in the first half of 2019, elevated domestic policy uncertainty in
some large economies, heightened US-China trade tensions, and somewhat lower
global growth. However, according to the IMF’s Alejandro Werner, growth in
tourism-dependent economies is expected to strengthen to around 2 percent in
2019-20, supported by still strong U.S. growth – the main market for tourism in
the region – and continued reconstruction from the 2017 hurricanes.
Antigua & Barbuda
India’s Central Bureau of
Investigation (CBI), has recently written to the International Criminal Police
Organization (Interpol), requesting it to explain how it defined elements that
constituted human rights violation, people in the know of the development said.
This, after Interpol inquired with the CBI about certain “human rights
violations” listed by Mehul Choksi, an accused in the Punjab National BankNSE
3.44 % scam, as he sought to scrap a red corner notice (RCN) issued by the
international police organization against him, the people said. An RCN is a request to law enforcement
agencies worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending
extradition, surrender, or similar legal action. The CBI, which had sought
Interpol’s help to arrest Choksi, is awaiting its response. Choksi is believed
to be in Antigua. Antiguan PM Gaston Alfonso Browne had recently talked about
extraditing Choksi once all his legal remedies were exhausted.
Barbados’ Prime Minister
has thrown up a challenge to the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) to find a new
way to raise capital to help member countries fund projects. Mottley, speaking
at the eighth meeting of contributors and development partners of the CDF at
the Accra Beach Hotel and Spa, said it was time for reflection within the
region on how to better put the billions of dollars in savings accounts in
commercial banks across the Caribbean to use.
“I raise [this suggestion] against the
background that the savings within the Caribbean Community is on or about US$49
billion,” she said. “We need to ask ourselves whether our citizens are happy to
have those level of savings attract rates of return in the form of savings rate
that hover at about 0.1 per cent.”
The Guyana government
says a Qatar oil company partnership deal with Total is “substantially unclear”
for the country’s Department of Energy. Qatar Petroleum, the national oil and gas company
of the Middle Eastern oil producer, is looking to get in on the action in
Guyana’s oil blocks by partnering with French company Total for a share in the
exploration and production of its blocks. Total wants to sell Qatar Petroleum
40 per cent of its existing interests in the Orinduik and Kanuku blocks.
Guyana’s energy Department head, however, said while they have “received a
transaction letter from Total, which the Government is currently studying ….
this is not a normal farm in, we’re not about to pronounce thereon.”
Trinidad and Tobago
Moody’s has maintained
its Ba1 (speculative/junk) rating on Trinidad and Tobago in its Annual Credit
Analysis on the Government of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT). Meanwhile, on July
9, 2019, S&P Ratings downgraded T&T’s sovereign credit rating to BBB
from BBB+ (one notch above speculative/junk) on economic and fiscal stress with
a stable outlook.
Jeremy Allaire, founder
and chief executive officer of fintech firm, Circle, that is to set up Bermuda,
this week told a US Senate Banking Committee that the regulatory approach taken
by the Bermuda Government “can and should be emulated by other countries.”
Allaire was the only
crypto industry executive to testify before the Senate committee. He said an
uncertain and restrictive regulatory environment has led many digital asset
projects and companies to domicile outside of the United States and to block US
persons and businesses from accessing products and technologies. “Bermuda’s
forward-looking Digital Asset Business Act provides a comprehensive regulatory
framework for companies offering this new type of financial service,” he
testified. “We believe that the approach the Bermuda Government has taken can
and should be emulated by other countries.”
The minimum wage in the
Cayman Islands, currently set at $6 an hour, will undergo a review process,
Premier Alden McLaughlin has said. The Minimum Wage Advisory Committee, with
assistance from the International Labour Organization, will reconvene to
determine if the current minimum wage is still effective and make
recommendations for reforms. Service workers who make gratuities earn even lower in CI –
a minimum hourly rate of $4.50, while special calculations apply for live-in
household domestics, as well as for employees earning commission.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
A Canadian consulting group that is said to have twice recommended a Vincentian construction company for a project for which the Caribbean Development Bank, (CDB), declared misprocurement and withdrew financing, is coming under scrutiny.
On Monday, Peter Spal, a
representative of IBI Group, the consultants, told iWitness News via telephone
that his company had no comment to make to the media about whether his company,
in fact, recommended Reliable Construction Service Ltd., for the project.
Spal’s comments came two
weeks after Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said his government was in talks
with the CDB about the development. The CBD conducted its own review and
concluded that Reliable Construction Services Ltd. should not have been granted
the contract for the “Yarabaqua River Defence” project on the basis that the
construction company did not have the experience.
Cuba’s Ministry of Energy
and Mines together with the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) and
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), recently inaugurated a new 10
megawatt (MW) solar PV project in the country. The grid-connected project was
financed by ADFD under the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility and will deliver enough
electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 7,000 Cuban homes and contribute
to the government’s national objectives to reduce the use of fossil fuels for
electricity generation and increase the share of power from renewables to 24
per cent by 2030.
The news comes as Cuba
recently expanded Internet access to private homes and businesses on the
Developers in the USVI looking
to open or even revive hotels and resorts in the territory may soon hurl a
higher tax on guests. On Monday, the islands’ Senate Finance Committee advanced
a bill that will allow developers to increase their Hotel Room Occupancy Tax.
This is a tax levied on guests – from 12.5% of the gross room rent to up to
20%, with hotels using the difference as a so-called Economic Recovery Fee to
fund structural improvements and expansions.