By 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 island.
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.