Caribbean Business And Finance Report

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A farmer wearing a face mask carries milk at his farm in Mayabeque Province, Cuba, on June 11, 2020. The Cuban government announced on Wednesday a gradual opening of trade, transport, tourism and other activities, after considering that the new coronavirus pandemic is under control. (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)
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Compiled By NAN Business Editor

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. June 12, 2020: Here are some of the top business and finance news making headlines across the Caribbean this week.

Regional

A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, (PwC) claims a whopping 71 percent of Caribbean businesses are expected to be more agile and resilient after COVID-19. PwC’s COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey on May 11th involved 867 chief financial officers (CFOs) in more than 24 countries and territories in the region. It found that 63 per cent of CFOs in the region are planning to accelerate automation and new ways of working, compared to 43 per cent globally.

Over three-quarters of those surveyed said work flexibility will benefit their company in the long run. Additionally, the survey found that more than half or 54 per cent of CFOs in the region are considering making remote working a permanent option where feasible.

Tourism

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is calling on one of the world’s largest leisure, travel and tourism companies, TUI Group (Touristik Union International), to reimburse Caribbean hotels and resorts for services received.

In April, CHTA appealed for a response from those tour operators that had failed to reimburse hotels for first quarter (Q1) stays by travelers who had made their payments to the tour operators well in advance of their travel.

In a letter to Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI’s United Kingdom and Ireland operations, Comito said he wanted the company to join its competitors in settling debts to Caribbean hotels whose survival is under threat.

The CHTA chief executive also described efforts by Touristik Union International to advance amendments to payment terms for future contracts — which are even more onerous for hoteliers — and would be tied to receiving the Q1 payments that are contractually owed, as “unreasonable and untenable.”

By failing to pay, it appears to be in breach of existing contractual obligations, Comito said, noting that these distressed hotels have been longstanding loyal partners, directly contributing to the build of Touristik Union International’s Caribbean book of business.

Comito said that despite numerous requests to publicly identify tour operators that were withholding reimbursements, the association had refrained from doing so in the interest of long-standing, mutually beneficial relationships. However, Comito charged that the failure to act expediently left CHTA with no choice but to shine further light on the matter. He advised that in addition to Touristik Union International, the Canada-based tour operator Sunwing has also been cited by Caribbean hoteliers as still withholding payments.

Comito reported that he received a response from Touristik Union International (TUI) which, regrettably, provided no immediate redress for financially impacted Caribbean hotels.

TUI Group is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic this week scored3.26 out of 10 and ranked at 13 out of 15 on the   “2020 Capacity to Combat Corruption (CCC) Indexto assesses Latin American countries’ ability to “uncover, punish, and deter corruption.” The Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA) and consulting firm Control Risks compiled the list that evaluates and ranks 15 Latin American countries based on how effectively they can combat corruption. Countries with a higher score are deemed more likely to see corrupt actors prosecuted and punished. 

The index looked at 14 variables, including the independence of judicial institutions, the strength of investigative journalism and the level of resources available for combating white-collar crime. These variables are divided in three sub-categories: legal capacity; democracy and political institutions; and civil society, media and the private sector. Countries’ overall scores are a weighted aggregate of these three sub-categories.

Cuba

The Trump administration has ordered Marriott International to wind down hotel operations in Communist-run Cuba, a company spokeswoman told Reuters. Starwood Hotels, now owned by Marriott, four years ago became the first U.S. hotel company to sign a deal with Cuba since the 1959 revolution amid the normalization of relations pursued by former President Barack Obama.

But the administration of President Donald Trump has unraveled that detente, tightening the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and saying it wants to pressure the island into democratic reform and to stop supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Barbados

A top Caribbean economist wants the Barbados government to take its bonds offer to public officers a step further by allowing these workers to buy ownership in state-owned profit-making entities like the air and seaports.

Dr Justin Ram, a former Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), was quoted by Barbados Today as saying that the Barbados Optional Savings Scheme (BOSS) was a good  but it should also include the option to allow holders of the bonds to convert them to equity in operations such as the Grantley Adams International Airport for which the Mia Mottley administration is now seeking private investors.

The BOSS is designed to redirect almost $100 million to capital works projects to create jobs for some of the 41 000 who lost their employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to help maintain employment levels in the public sector.

Puerto Rico

E-commerce giant eBay will invest $150,000 in Puerto Rico in a development program for local micro, small and medium-sized businesses to use its platform to sell products in different markets around the world.

With its new acceleration program, “Mi Negocio 24/7 en eBay,” the company seeks to support these companies to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their sales.

The selected companies will be able to open an eBay store at no cost and have access to exclusive benefits to start exporting its products to different parts of the world.

“For the past 25 years, eBay has helped develop hundreds of thousands of small businesses around the world and now, due to this unprecedented situation, we created ‘Mi Negocio 24/7 en eBay’
so that companies in Puerto Rico can set up their online store quickly and with the necessary assistance, reaching up to 174 million buyers in 190 markets,” explained Xavier Aguirre, senior business development manager for eBay in Latin America.