Caribbean Business News Round-Up

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People take photographs at the Point Udall monument in Saint Croix, Virgin Islands, U.S., on Sunday, March 28, 2021. Across the Caribbean, the impact of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism industry has been very apparent. Photographer: Ivan Valencia/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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By NAN Business Editor

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. May 21, 2021: Here are the top Caribbean business news headlines making news this week.

REGIONAL

China, one of the Caribbean region’s and world’s largest creditors, has been flagged for using contract clauses that prevent countries they saddle with debt from seeking renegotiation and more specifically outside intervention. This damning revelation was made in a report titled, “How China Lends; A Rare Look into 100 Debt Contracts with Foreign Governments,” compiled by the Center for Global Development (CGD) in collaboration with other key organisations.The report noted that it is the first systematic analysis of the legal terms of China’s foreign lending. The contracts are between Chinese state-owned entities and government borrowers in 24 developing countries and are compare by the report’s authors with those of other bilateral, multilateral, and commercial creditors.

Three main insights emerged, according to the report. First, the Chinese contracts contain unusual confidentiality clauses that bar borrowers from revealing the terms or even the existence of the debt. Second, Chinese lenders seek advantage over other creditors, using collateral arrangements such as lender-controlled revenue accounts and promises to keep the debt out of collective restructuring (“no Paris Club” clauses); and third, cancellation, acceleration, and stabilization clauses in Chinese contracts potentially allow the lenders to influence debtors’ domestic and foreign policies.

TOURISM

Meanwhile, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says the extreme uncertainty surrounding the tourism recovery in the Caribbean highlights the importance of boosting innovation and supporting transformations that align tourism destinations and products with post-pandemic global demand trends.

The IDB in a new report noted that most global tourism reports predict a two to four year period for a full recovery to 2019 levels.

The new report titled “Imagining a Post-COVID Tourism Recovery: Regional Overview analyses key drivers of tourism demand in the short term, including the evolution of the pandemic and the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination roll-out, the economic environment of source countries, the split between business versus leisure tourism, and airline capacity, among others.

Of the world’s 15 most tourism dependent economies, eight are in the Caribbean, led by Aruba -ranked first in the world, with a score of 80 out of a possible 100 on the index -, with The Bahamas, Barbados, and Jamaica joining the list of most tourist-dependent economies.

CAYMAN ISLANDS

The Cayman Island Monetary Authority has imposed discretionary fines of $4.23 million on corporate services provider Intertrust for breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations, the Cayman Compass reported.

It is the largest-ever penalty handed down by the financial regulator for AML failings.

The financial regulator said the fines are the result of Intertrust’s “pervasive and protracted history of non-compliance” with the AML regulations and the company’s failure to remediate significant breaches.

The regulator also noted the failure to identify beneficial owners, to perform ongoing monitoring and to consider all relevant risk factors.

GUYANA

Will Guyana be able to beat the odds by overcoming the dreaded “resource curse” that has bedeviled so many other oil-rich developing nations? That’s among the core questions to be explored by an international panel of experts on Saturday, May 29th, 2021, when the Queens College of Guyana Alumni Association, New York (QCAANY) convenes a public symposium in Queens, New York under the theme, Navigating the Opportunities and Imperatives in Guyana’s Oil and Gas Economy. The free, two-hour event is set for 3 – 5 p.m. and will be held at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center (JPAC), 153-10 Jamaica Avenue in Queens, NY,USA.

A live stream will also be available but prior registration is required in order to receive the secure link. Registration details are accessible via the Symposium website https://guyanaoilsymposium.com/

Meanwhile, the 3rd Annual Guyana International Petroleum Business Summit and Exhibition (GIPEX), will be returning this year, from June 28-30 via a virtual platform hosted jointly by Valiant Business Media (VBM) and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) with support from the Guyana Manufacturers and Services Association (GMSA).

GIPEX 2021, which is being organised by Valiant Business Media (VBM), will comprise a virtual conference and exhibition and include private breakout rooms; facility for one-on-one virtual meetings; integrated chat and video conferencing, and the virtual exchange of business cards and brochures.

The exhibition will allow participants to interact closely with peers across the globe and conduct business, generate qualified leads and gauge instant market reaction with real-time engagement metrics.

JAMAICA

The Jamaica government says it will allow for  “limited” commercial fishery for sea cucumbers beginning on September1.

“Sea cucumber in the Asian market fetches US$385 per kilogram. We believe that we here in Jamaica can harvest up to 30 tonnes of wet weight per year which would give us up to US$30 million worth of export,” said Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Floyd Green.

Green, who was speaking in Parliament during his contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate said the establishment of the fishery, is based on the results of an assessment on the status of the sea cucumber fish population that was conducted by the National Fisheries Authority (NFA).

Sea cucumbers have been used as a food source and medicinal ingredient in Asian and Middle Eastern countries for centuries. The slug-like animals are used either fresh or dried in various dishes, though the dried form is by far, the most commonly used.

Meanwhile,  TechBeach Retreat, the Caribbean tech platform connecting the Caribbean with the global tech ecosystem, is launching TBR Lab, an accelerator program to support Caribbean corporations, governments and tech entrepreneurs and to connect global investors with local talent.

The TechBeach Retreat platform brings together tech industry professionals from all over the world to make international connections, and to promote Jamaica and its neighbors as tech hotspots.

TechBeach partnered with IDB Lab to create the two-year program in four Caribbean nations: Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the Bahamas. The USD $4 million project, seeded with $1 million from IDB Lab, will upskill 5,000 professionals, equip 500 SMEs with digital skills, immerse 250 executive and government leaders, and accelerate 250 tech startups to prime them for investments. The ultimate goal is to generate at least 10 stars of the new tech startup scene. The platform is also partnered with the DMZ, the number one accelerator in the world, to bring a wealth of global resources, knowledge and relationships to support the growth of technology and innovation-focused enterprises in the Caribbean at scale. For more info, visit https://techbeach.net

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES

The St. Vincent and Grenadines government says the loss and damage caused by last month’s explosive eruption of La Soufriere volcano could amount to 50 per cent of the island’s gross domestic product, (GDP).

Finance Minister, Camillo Gonsalves, said, “even without going to the full extent of the Red Zone, the Orange Zone and up the mountains, we know that clean-up costs will exceed EC$30 million (One EC dollar=US#0.37 cents).

Gonsalves added that hundreds of livestock, including sheep, goats, pigs, cattle and thousands of chickens have been lost. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines government says farmers, as well as other people, employed in the volcano Red Zone will get income support of either EC$500 or EC$400 (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) per month for the rest of the year to help cope with loss of income as a result of the eruption of La Soufriere.

TURKS & CAICOS

There are over $463 million in pending and conditional real estate transactions in Turks and Caicos Islands, according to industry officials and the TCI Sun.

This does not include another $100 million in new development sales at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, South Bank, Beach Enclave, Rock House, The Strand and other new development projects.

The combined total of $563million in transactions was contained in a Turks & Caicos Market Report and Update for the 1st Quarter of 2021, done by Sotheby’s International Realty.

According to the report, following a breathtaking fourth quarter of 2020, the Turks and Caicos Islands real estate market closed “an historical quarter of business” with nearly $128 million in closed transactions, up 60% over the same period last year with average price increases across each sector.

ST. LUCIA

The St. Lucia government is pressing ahead with plans for a home cruise port in the South of the Island.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet  made the announcement on Wednesday on his official Facebook page. He disclosed that the cruise industry is still ‘very excited’ about the project and is  committed to making it happen for Vieux Fort in Saint Lucia.

ST. MAARTEN

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs said on Wednesday that St. Maarten still did not receive the NAF39M liquidity support from the Netherlands neither the loan agreement even though St. Maarten has fully complied with all conditions set forth by the Dutch Government, said liquidity support since April 2021.

The country’s Prime Minister further stated that the goalposts are being moved for different reasons that have nothing to do with the conditions and agreements made between the government of St. Maarten and the Netherlands. She said in March the goalposts were moved due to the COHO law and Parliament’s stance on the matter, that issue she said is now off the table, but the latest issues raised in the State Secretary’s letter regarding issues at Princess Juliana International Airport has surfaced.

Jacobs said that while the NAF39M has been agreed upon and she has since responded to the letter sent by State Secretary Raymond Knops, the Dutch government is yet to live up to its end of the agreements. She said the issues at the Princess Juliana International Airport both Holding and Operating Companies have nothing to do with the agreements made with the Dutch Government for liquidity support.

Asked if St. Maarten has a plan B to secure finances the Prime Minister said there is currently no plan B in place. In response to the question as to whether, civil servants will be paid their salaries at the end of this month the Prime Minister assured that salaries will be paid, but the SSRP and unemployment support will be grossly affected. Jacobs further stated that creditors and other financial obligations that the government of St. Maarten has will not be met unless the liquidity support is released.