Caribbean Business News Round-Up

Montserrat
Montserrat is the latest country to institute a work from the beach program.
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By NAN Business Editor

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 19, 2021: Here are the top headlines making Caribbean business news this week:

REGIONAL

Two more Caribbean islands have launched Remote Work Programs for high-end international workers.

Curaçao and Montserrat are the latest Caribbean destinations to get in on the action, which was started by Barbados.

The new “@HOME in Curaçao” program is designed to “extend the length of stay on the island for remote workers,” and other long-stay candidates including investors.

Travelers may stay in the Dutch Caribbean country for up to six months under the program. To qualify for the @HOME in Curaçao program, Curaçao travelers must complete an online digital application form and provide materials including a copy of the applicant’s passport photo page, proof of payment for $294 in fees and international insurance including COVID-19 coverage where available. Local insurance is also available, add Curaçao government officials.

Montserrat has announced its Remote Workers Stamp. The 12-month, long-distance work visa will give professionals and entrepreneurs an opportunity to trade in a routine at-home workplace for black sand beaches and cultural offerings.

Application fees for the stamp are $500 for individuals and $750 for those accompanied by a maximum of three family visitors. Details are here. Candidates must show proof of full-time employment, an annual income of minimum $70,000 and up-to-date health insurance coverage.

SEE ALL OTHER ISLANDS WITH SMILIAR PROGRAMS HERE

DIGITAL READY?

Almost fifty per cent of businesses in the Caribbean have not been able to meet their digitisation goals.

This was revealed by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in its Caribbean Digital Readiness Survey 2021. In the survey, 42 percent of respondents believed they were on target to meet their goals while 28 percent said they were ahead.

Only 15 percent believe that their digital fitness is on a par with or ahead of the leaders in their industry.

Respondents in the survey included 92 senior executives from leading businesses, in a variety of industries across the Caribbean, including The Bahamas, East Caribbean, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Some key findings of the survey included:

More than 80 percent of businesses in the survey are focusing their digital strategy on modernising their brand with new capabilities ahead of doing what they’ve always done faster and more efficiently.

Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents believe that use of digital technologies and behaviours has boosted workforce productivity. And over half (57 percent) believe it has increased employee satisfaction.

Well over half (56 percent) of companies expect at least 30 percent of their employees to work remotely more than one day a week a year from now.

Nearly half of respondents (46 percent) believe their organisation is behind in training workers with skills for the digital era. They cited lack of time and budget as the top barriers to upskilling their workforce with the lack of alignment/clarity on roles and responsibilities relating to digital ownership, and inflexible or slow processes as the biggest challenges to their overall digital transformation.

GUYANA

An independent report commissioned by CGX Energy Incorporated says that the company is potentially sitting on 4.9 million Barrels of Oil Equivalent (BOE) in the Demerara and Corentyne, Guyana oil blocks.

However, there is no certainty that the company can recover the oil or that it is even commercially viable. CGX, which has a joint venture with Frontera Energy Corporation, had contracted McDaniel and Associates in September of last year to evaluate its holdings in the Corentyne and Demerara Blocks. According to a press release distributed by MENAFN-Newsfile Corp, an independent prospective resource study has since been completed into CGX’s holdings.

According to the report, there are a total of 32 prospects in the two blocks, inclusive of 27 in the Corentyne Block and five in the Demerara Block. These prospects or potential wells potentially have 4.940 million BOE un-risked and 884 million BOE in them.

The news comes as Rudolf Elias, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director of Suriname’s state oil company Staatsolie, has posited that Guyana and Suriname should work together with the objective of bringing its natural gas to shore.

THE BAHAMAS

The Bahamas is moving to make its national digital currency more accessible by launching a prepaid card for the “sand dollar.”

The Central Bank of The Bahamas has partnered with global payment giant Mastercard and local payment startup Island Pay to create a card that supports the sand dollar central bank digital currency.

According to an announcement, the card is running under a new program from Mastercard and Island Pay, allowing users to convert the digital currency to traditional Bahamian dollars and pay for goods and services. The new card will be accepted for payments across the Caribbean region and other locations supporting Mastercard, the companies said.

The new solution is based on technology from Island Pay, a digital payment startup mainly operating across the Caribbean region. The company holds a license from the Central Bank of The Bahamas to operate as a payment service provider and electronic money institution.

The Bahamas is known as one of the first countries in the world to ever launch a CBDC. The sand dollar launched in pilot mode in late 2019 and became available across its entire archipelago in October 2020.

SINT MAARTEN

Moody’s Investors Service has placed the Government of St. Maarten’s Baa3 issuer ratings on review for downgrade.The key driver for the review for downgrade is the decision by the Netherlands, the sole funding source for Sint Maarten’s government, to withhold certain liquidity payments which in turn resulted in payment delays on bilateral loans owed to the Dutch Treasury. The Netherland’s decision to temporarily deny liquidity support resulted from an ongoing political disagreement between the two governments on the pace of domestic policy reform in Sint Maarten.

The delays in providing liquidity support also highlighted Sint Maarten’s limited funding options and amplified the challenges posed by Sint Maarten’s growing funding requirements. The review may result in a repositioning of the rating to incorporate Sint Maarten’s growing funding needs and high dependence on a single source of financing.The local and foreign currency country ceilings remain at A3 and Baa1.

ANTIGUA & BARBUDA

Antigua Cruise Port has completed the construction of its fifth berth, the newest pier at St John’s Port. The USD 30 million investment was started before the pandemic and finalized in November 2020, despite “minimal interruption created by the unwelcome virus.”

The pier work was part of the $80 million agreement signed in 2019 between Global Ports Holding and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to redevelop the cruise complex. Global Ports Holding has successfully delivered on its commitment to complete the fifth berth and has repaid $21 million of debt on behalf of the government, which was tied to the construction of the Nevis Street Pier.

BERMUDA

American Airlines is to ground its service between Miami and Bermuda, it has been revealed, according to the Royal Gazette

The airline will instead fly to the island from Charlotte, North Carolina. Glenn Jones, the interim CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said the move from the Florida airport could be a good one for the island’s tourism industry. He claimed the Charlotte market was “likely more attractive” for leisure travellers.

SURINAME

Meanwhile, American Airlines will begin a nono-stop Miami to Paramaribo flight on July 1st. The announcement come as the South American CRICOM nation is set to benefit from its new found oil riches.