Caribbean Business News Round-Up

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GraceKennedy is set to take over the operations of Scotia Insurance Eastern Caribbean Limited (SIECL).
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Compiled By NAN Business Editor

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Mar. 12, 2021: Here are all the top headlines you can use, making Caribbean business news this week:

REGIONAL

The Word Bank this week  suggested that there would be a “degree of recovery” in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries this year despite the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but warned also that it would not be enough to make up for the downturn in 2020.

World Bank President David Malpass, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) during a 45- minute round table discussion with journalists from Latin America and the Caribbean, that while he would not want to agree with the 3.8 per cent figure projected by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Washington-based financial institution would shortly be releasing its own figures.

Last month, the CDB said the average gross domestic product (GDP) for the Caribbean this year will be 3.8 per cent, but warned also that the projection is clouded by the ongoing uncertainty, caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“We will be coming out with our own forecast for the region, but your general point is right that we expect there to be a degree of recovery in the Caribbean but not enough to make up for the down turn in 2020.

IDB

Meanwhile, a new study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has urged Caribbean countries to build sound fiscal, monetary and financial institutions in order to boost growth.

It recommends that the region strengthen its institutions to promote economic growth in line with sustainable fiscal management, effective monetary policy and resilient financial systems.

The analysis lays out specific reform agendas for the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, which are borrowing member countries of the Washington-based IDB. The study says that economic growth in six Caribbean countries has lagged Latin America.

Small Business

The European Union and the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) has approved funding to provide much-needed financial support to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across 15 countries from the region. Support was provided to SMEs engaged in vital sectors such as agriculture, agro-processing, manufacturing and creative industries.

More specifically, it has awarded some US$1.1 million in grant funding to SMEs in the Caribbean via its Direct Support Grant Programme (DSGP) to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

This initiative is driven by the results of a survey conducted in partnership with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on firms’ operations, ascertain the level and areas of support required to assist SMEs during the crisis, and better position businesses to cope with the economic fallout.

GUYANA

With the recent surge in petroleum prices, Guyana has earned US$61m for its fifth lift of a million barrels of oil – its highest price to date – taking its total earnings inclusive of royalties to US$267.6m. The payment was received into the Natural Resources Fund Account. Inclusive of Royalties the total in the Natural Resources Fund Account now stands at US$267,668, 709.12.

The news comes as U.S. oil major ExxonMobil is set to drill another well in the Canje Block, offshore Guyana, after it was last week announced that the first well drilled -the Bulletwood-1 – failed to strike commercial oil volumes.

ExxonMobil has now moved Stena Drilling’s Stena Carron drillship to the Jabillo-1 well location in the same block and is expected to start drilling on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, Westmount Energy said this week.

The Jabillo-1 is the second of 3 exploration wells scheduled for drilling the Canje block in 2021. According to Westmount Energy, an indirect partner in the block, previously published information indicates that Jabillo-1 is a circa 1,000 MMbbl oil prospect targeting a Late Cretaceous, Liza-age equivalent, basin floor fan.

The Canje Block is operated by ExxonMobil  (35%), with Total (35%), JHI (17.5%), and Mid-Atlantic Oil & Gas Inc. (12.5%) as partners.

ExxonMobil expects to drill 10 exploration and appraisal wells in 2021 in the Stabroek block.

JAMAICA

Jamaica’s Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr. Nigel Clarke announced on Tuesday that the Government will not be introducing any new taxes to fund the J$830.8-billion (US$5.6 billion) Budget for 2021/22.

Turning to calls for an increase in the US$50 limit for items that may be imported duty-free, he informed that the Government will not be able to do so at this time. He noted that the effect of the threshold increase would be that Jamaicans could import higher-value items without duties and taxes being levied on them.

The Finance Minister further noted that such a move could make the domestic and retail trade uncompetitive, threatening jobs and economic growth. Meanwhile, he told the House that the Government will be abolishing the Customs Administrative Fee (CAF) for permanent exports of a value less than or equal to US$500.

Meanwhile, Margaritaville Caribbean Group plans to raise up to US$6 million (J$853 million) through a bond placement to refinance its debt, amid plans to expand.

The offer will initially seek out US$4 million, with the option to upsize to US$6 million.

Mayberry Investments will act as the arranger, lead broker and selling agent of the offer. The notes are being offered at 6.5 per cent and will mature in 2025. The JCSD Trustee services will act as the trustee and registrar for the bond, which is to be issued in March.

Mayberry Investments CEO Gary Peart said the bond transactions was the latest in a line of financing arrangements for Dear’s company.

GraceKennedy

GraceKennedy is set to take over the operations of Scotia Insurance Eastern Caribbean Limited (SIECL).

The life insurance company, which operates in seven Eastern Caribbean countries, to acquire 100 per cent of its shares, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

SIECL operates in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, offering credit protection regionally to customers on personal loans, residential mortgages, personal lines of credit, personal and small business credit cards.

HAITI

The World Bank has approved a US$75 million grant that will support Haiti’s efforts to establish an adaptive safety net system to respond to shocks, including COVID-19, and to reduce vulnerability to food insecurity and future disasters.

The ASPIRE project will provide immediate support to poor and vulnerable households while increasing their resilience through regular unconditional cash transfers and measures to improve health, nutrition, and financial inclusion.

The project is designed to enable the scale-up of the cash transfer programme in the case of emergencies, such as natural disasters or health crises. In addition, the project will help build the capacity of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MAST) to improve management and governance of social protection programmes.

DOMINICA

Dominica’s Cabinet has approved several banking orders giving the National Bank of Dominica (NBD) ownership of all Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) operations and assets here.The National Bank of Dominica was among a consortium of banks in the Eastern Caribbean Union (ECCU) – the others being 1st National Bank in St. Lucia, Antigua Commercial Bank, Bank of Montserrat, and Bank of Nevis – that last December signed sales agreements with RBC to acquire its branch operations in their respective countries, subject to the approval of the regulators.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), through its Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services Network, has committed US$140,000 to a two-year agro-processing project being executed in collaboration with the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in partnership with Dominica Youth Business Trust.

The project seeks to strengthen the capacity of agro-processors in key areas, namely, production, costing and pricing, nutritional analysis, and packaging and labelling. This is to enable agro-processors to meet the requirements of both local and external markets. It also includes a feasibility study for the establishment of a rotating processing facility, primarily for those who are not able to purchase the required equipment to set up their own processing facility.