Compiled By NAN Business Editor
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. May 8, 2020: Here are some of the top business and finance news making headlines across the Caribbean this week.
The European Commission yesterday added three Caribbean countries to its Blacklist – a list of states that pose a financial risk to the bloc because of anti-money laundering and terrorism financing shortfalls.
The Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica are on the list of countries that the Commission says “pose significant threats to the financial system of the Union.”
Under EU law, banks and other financial and tax firms are obliged to scrutinize more closely their clients who have dealings with countries on the list.
The Commission said that the new list will now be submitted to the European Parliament and Council for approval within one month, adding “given the coronavirus crisis, the date of application of today’s Regulation listing third countries – and therefore applying new protective measures – only applies as of 1 October 2020.
“This is to ensure that all stakeholders have time to prepare appropriately. The delisting of countries, however, is not affected by this and will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal,” it added.
LOCAL REOPENING OF SOME COUNTRIES
Several Caribbean countries that have seen no new CVOID-19 cases in many days have opened locally, easing their lockdowns. But they remain closed to the outside.
Barbados, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda and the US Virgin Islands have all begun a phased reopening of businesses. With only three confirmed cases of COVID-19 to date and no current active cases in Anguilla, restrictions were lifted on April 29th. Churches, places of worship, all retail stores, hair salons and barber shops, accommodation suppliers, gyms and spas, recreational facilities, official lotteries, restaurants, and bars were allowed to reopen to serve locals.
In Belize, all government departments and all statutory bodies reopened on Monday, May 4. Hotels in Belize can also now reopen to cater to a Belizean clientele. Their restaurants will be limited, though, to providing room service and take-out meals. Lawyers, accountants, real estate brokers and professional service providers as well as local manufacturers such as carpenters, building contractors, plumbers, electricians were and even call centers allowed to reopen, particularly for training purposes.
Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley also lifted her country’s mandatory 24-hour lockdown on May 4th as a reopening of government and business operations as well as beauty supply stores, landscapers, manufacturers, liquor stores, pet services and supplies, educational suppliers and tradesmen were allowed to reopen. Among the other requirements for businesses are temperature checks to be conducted twice-daily on all large worksites, regular handwashing by all employees and staggered work hours as far as possible. Workers are encouraged to walk with their own meals and sit six feet apart while eating.
Beaches are now also open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. However, those venturing out are being urged to wear a mask and travel alone in their own vehicles. Buses are limited to 60 percent capacity with only one person allowed in a row.
The US Virgin Islands also relaxed restrictions on some businesses on May 4th including gyms, tennis courts and golf courses but the social distancing rule remains in place. Bowling alleys and movie theatres may also reopen if they practice social distancing, but they may not sell food and drink or host parties.
Personal services, such as barbers, massage therapists and hair salons, may operate by appointment only and must employ strict hygiene guidelines and frequent sanitization procedure for all contact services and tools, including hand sanitizer for patrons and face masks for the entire time as possible. Private offices may reopen, but all employees not critical to in-person services should be encouraged to work from home. Private health care facilities may resume procedures if they follow required safety protocols
All retail business could ply their trade between 6 am and 6pm but beauty salons, barbershops, spas, bars and night club remain are to remain closed for the time being. Retail stores may not allow more than 10 individuals into the establishment at any time and restaurants continue to be restricted to take-out, delivery or drive-thru service and bars remain closed. All patrons are required to wear a face mask when entering a business. Churches may conduct services providing they don’t exceed a capacity of 50 individuals and all, including the pastor, wear face masks.
PANDEMIC PASSPORT BUYING
Meanwhile, the Robb Report claims there is now pandemic buying of passports especially for Caribbean nations Antigua and St Kitts and Nevis. Avid the COVID-19 pandemic, many wealthy individuals are now fleeing Western nations, impacted by the virus, for safer smaller islands. “Investment migration’ has shifted from being about living the life you want in terms of holidays and business travel to a more holistic vision that includes healthcare and safety,” Dr. Christian Kalin, Henley & Partners, a London-based citizenship broker, is one of the biggest players in the nearly $4 billion-a-year “identity management” business, told the Report.
As Guyana began a recount of votes from its March 2, 2020 elections, he country’s by Head of the Department of Energy (DE), Dr Mark Bynoe, announced that Guyana’s Liza-1 oil field has produced over eight million barrels of oil since extraction started last December and its top projected capacity of 120,000 barrels per day is expected to be attained by early June 2020.
Guyana lifted its first cargo on February 19th under the entitlement regime that netted nearly US$55 million for its approximately first 1 million barrels of oil. The revenue from the first sale was deposited into the Natural Resource Fund (NRF) on March 11, 2020. Guyana’s second lift of approximately 1,000,000 barrels of crude is projected for the third week of May 2020.
Bermuda’s tourism industry has already been dealt a $95 million blow by Covid-19 according to figures released by the Bermuda Tourism Authority this week. Data published by the Royal Gazette show visitor air arrivals fell by 38 per cent in the first quarter while cruise ship arrivals plummeted by 41.8 per cent.
Glenn Jones, the BTA interim chief executive, also warned that those figures capture only the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. He said 67 cruise ship visits for 2020 had already been cancelled – 35 per cent of all scheduled cruises – and it was estimated that 36,600 visitor air arrivals had been lost since March 20th.
Jamaica was this week added to the European Union’s (EU) blacklist of countries that have been accused of being too soft on money laundering.
The European Union has blacklisted Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas.
Jamaican Professor Densil Williams attributed the country’s blacklisting to a weak antiterrorism and anti-money laundering framework.
Curacao like many are seeing a steep decline in tourism and hotel occupancy. The Curacao Chronicle reports that in March the island’s hotel occupancy dropped to 34.1 percent, a decrease of 54.2% compared to 2019 when it was 74.4%. As for the revenue per available room (RevPar), the numbers indicate a drastic decrease of 51%. The revenue per available room in 2019 was $130.83 and in 2020 it was $64.17.
USVI, Puerto Rico
The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved over $1 billion in loans to 20,414 Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands small business within five days of opening the second round of SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
First round: 3,096 loans for $720.5 million
Second round: 20,414 loans for $1,039,719,715 (as of May 1)
Small business owners seeking financial assistance under other SBA loan programs, as well as federal contracting support, should call (787) 766-5002 in Puerto Rico or (340) 473-7945 in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba is offering to lease oil storage after terminating an ill-fated refining project with PdV Holding (PDVH), the opposition-controlled US subsidiary of Venezuela’s national oil company PdV. The lease offer comes at a time of severe tightness in onshore and floating oil storage owing to a historic supply glut and a collapse in demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Aruba has 10 available storage tanks with capacity for 665,000 bl of clean products, 5.224mn bl of crude and 518,000 bl of naphtha, according to promotional material obtained by Argus.