Caribbean Business Round-up

Barbados

Dr Marion Williams, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados,
Dr Marion Williams, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados,

• The Barbados economy officially entered recession following a 3% contraction in the first half of the year due mainly to a sharp reduction in tourist arrivals and manufacturing. The Central Bank Governor Marion Williams, however, insisted that there was no crisis, since the country still has Bds$1.3 billion (US$650m) in foreign reserves which should provide adequate cover for imports. Unemployment is expected to rise while inflation should decline to between 3 and 4 %.

• Barbadians got notice of a 60 per cent increase in water rates.

• For the second consecutive year, FirstCaribbean International Bank won the award for Best Bank in Barbados in the Euromoney Awards for Excellence 2009,  hosted by Euromoney magazine.

• Barbados signed a 10.13 million Euros (BDS$28 million) financing agreement with the European Union to assist with the modernisation of its International Business and Financial Services Sector.

Jamaica

• The Government of Jamaica has applied for a US$1.2 billion Stand-by Agreement with the International Monetary Fund in response to its deteriorating balance of payments. The decision has the backing of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).
Remittances to Jamaica fell by 17 per cent in the first six months of 2009. The World Bank predicted a 7.3 per cent decline in transfers to the Caribbean and other developing countries in 2009.

• The National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCB) posted net profits of $7.3 billion for its nine-month ended June 2009. This was a nine per cent year over year increase.

• The supply of LNG to Jamaica from Trinidad  and Tobago is back on the front burner after T&T says it can rekindle serious talks following last week’s discussions with Caracas on the exploitation of a new and rich natural gas field in the seabetween Trinidad and Venezuela.

Trinidad and Tobago

• Recession re-entered T&T’s vocabulary after the Central Bank reported a second successive quarter of negative growth  with a decline of 3.3% in the first quarter of 2009 following the 1.1% decline in the final quarter of 2008. Inflation continued to fall, moving into single digits at 8.4%, down from  10.30% in May.

• For the first half of the year, Trinidad’s two ports reported declines in volumes in excess of 30 per cent. Blame is being cast on the global recession and its effect on international and regional trade.

• A group of minority shareholders of defunct national airline BWIA rejected the Government’s offer of 20 cents per share, saying they had paid between $4 and $6-plus per share. Meanwhile, BWIA’s successor, Caribbean Airlines, is back on the hunt for a CEO after the incumbent, Phillip Saunders announced his decision to resign after two years in the saddle.

• The Unit Trust Corporation announced a total payout of $116.9 million to investors in its

 
Growth and Income Fund  who received 45 cents per unit.

• Local investors with common shares in the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) received a quarterly dividend of US50 cents per share, payable on August 24.

• RBTT Bank reduced its prime lending rate from 12.5 per cent to 12 per cent. State-owned First Citizens also cut its prime lending rate to 11.75 per cent.

• Petrotrin’s president, Kenneth Allum disclosed that the company had posted an after-tax loss of $600 million between October 2008 and May 2009.

• Energy Minister Conrad Enill said Trinidad and Tobago lost US$185 million (TT$700 million) in energy sector investment planned over a four-year period. This after three international companies decided not to follow through with proposals due to the global economic downturn.

• T&T signed production sharing contracts with Canada-based Voyager Exploration (Trinidad) Ltd and Centrica Energy, for the exploration of Guayaguayare Shallow and Deep Horizon fields.

• Flow announced a $1 million sponsorship deal with local television station, Gayelle, the Channel.

• Testimony presented to the parliament committee revealed that as at October 2008, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (TTEC) had more than $1 billion in outstanding debt to creditors.

• One Caribbean Media Ltd recorded a profit before tax of $34.8 million for its financial half-year ended June 30, 2009. This was 34 per cent less than the $53 million posted in the same period in 2008.

• NP chief executive officer Richard Callender said National Petroleum is expected to spend an estimated $48 million this year to upgrade the company’s service stations across the country.

• Minister of Tourism Joseph Ross pledged $20.7 million in grants to help upgrade small hotels and guest-houses.

Haiti

• Roughly two-thirds of Haiti’s total debt was cancelled when the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank announced the forgiving of US$1.2 billion of debt. Canada also forgave C$2.3 million in debt owed by Haiti.

• The Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) approved a programme that outlined its assistance strategy for Haiti for the period 2009-2012. The four-year “Country Strategy” programme involved an assessment of the development challenges confronting Haiti, as well as the government’s development agenda in response to those challenges.

Cuba

• Dutch giant Phillips was fined $128,750 by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control  (OFAC) for selling medical equipment to Cuba.

• Cuban workers got official permission to hold more than one government job. 

Other Regional
• The World Bank approved Guyana’s readiness plan (R-Plan).

• IMF Executive Board approved a disbursement in the amount of US $5.1 million to the Government of Dominica for assistance under its Rapid-Access Component of the Exogenous Shocks Facility (ESF). Several other Caricom countries have also accessed ESF funds this year, including St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and St Kitts and Nevis.

• Investors from four countries sued Antigua and Barbuda, alleging in court filings that the twin-island nation had  benefited from the operations of financier Allen Stanford. The Texan is currently in jail on charges involving $7 billion in fraud.

• “World’s Best Awards” August issue of Travel + Leisure Magazine named Jade Mountain in St Lucia as the number one resort in the Caribbean.

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