Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Feb. 1st
Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados
Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:
Barbados’ foreign reserves have slipped to their lowest level in 22 years, but Central Bank Governor, Cleviston Haynes sees no reason to press the panic button. Overall, Barbados has lost more than $1Billion in foreign reserves since 2012, the bank’s statistics showed. Yesterday, on the same day the International Monetary Fund (IMF) executive board urged Barbados to take action to “build adequate international; reserves”, Haynes reported that the island lost $274 million in reserves last year alone. According to the bank’s 2017 economic review, the stock of international reserves declined further to $410 mullion. Representing the equivalent of 6.6 weeks of imports (well below the accepted 12 weeks of imports benchmark) this was the lowest amount of foreign reserves since 1995. Haynes said the reserves “partly reflected the ongoing weakness in private sector capital follows and net public sector outflows, and the delay in the receipt of planned divestment proceeds that were intended to boost reserves.”
The Central Bank is warning that government and Barbadians have to tighten their belts even more. With the economy struggling to grow and the fiscal deficit and debt still major worries, Central Bank Governor, Cleviston Haynes yesterday said:”We need to strengthen the adjustment effort to reduce the fiscal balance to a sustainable level, facilitate a reduction in the debt to GDP ratio over time, and engender the investor confidence required for promoting an acceleration in economic activity over the medium term.” In other words, Haynes told the 2017 review Press Conference, that raising revenue through increased taxation would not suffice, so spending cuts were urgently needed.
A leading economist is warning that the island’s foreign exchange reserves will likely sink even further by the end of the fiscal year in March. Soon after Central Bank Governor, Cleviston Haynes announced that the reserves had fallen to $410 million or 6.6 weeks of import cover as at the end of December last year, University of the West Indies lecturer, Jeremy Stephen said the worst was yet to come. Stephen said in a video posted on Facebook that if the government did not quickly slashed its expenditure and if international oil prices continued to climb, come the end of March, the reserves could plummet to just five weeks of import cover. Stephen said another credit downgrade was all but certain and if inefficiencies in the public sector were not eliminated with the level of urgency required, then “we are going to be spinning top in mud.”
With a general election approaching and the island’s foreign reserves situation deteriorating further, fear is mounting within the private sector that the country will not be able to achieve an economic turnaround. Governor of the Central Bank, Cleviston Haynes confirmed yesterday that the island’s international reserves fell to $410 million or just 6.6 months of import cover at the end of December last year. Reacting to the Governor’s assessment, Chairman of the Barbados Private Sector Association, Charles Herbert, said it came as “no real surprise since it was broadly in line with our expectations and fears.” “The fiscal deficit report issued by a Sub Committee of the Social Partnership in March 2017, warned that the country’s foreign reserves would create the first financial crisis and would fall to $430 million by the end of 2017, and be depleted entirely by the end of 2019.” “The actual position at the end of 2017 was slightly worse at $410 million” said Herbert.
An Opposition Senator is questioning the current “rush” by government to give police enormous powers ti impose curfews and upend Barbadians’ constitutional rights. In a measured but highly concerning tone, Senator Wilfred Abrahams yesterday presented a strong argument to his Senate colleagues for an immediate halt to the pending legislation that would increase the powers of the police to impose up to a 48-hour curfew in any district or area in Barbados. In fact, Abrahams, a former President of the Bar Association, urged the Senate to “withdraw the bill for “consultation” and not to act with haste and regret it later.”
Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:
The provocative way some teachers dress leads to inappropriate touching by male pupils and the National Parent Teaher Association (NPTA) therefore says a conversation is needed about the manner in which some teachers dress for the classroom.
The Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee has made “strong recommendations” to Parliament regarding the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) buyout last year of Massy Communications. Presenting the PAC’s report on State Agencies in Parliament, committee chairman, Opposition Senator Wade Mark said the action of TSTT in acquiring one hundred percent of Massy Communications, at a cost of $255 million, was done contrary to the State Enterprises Performance Manual and warranted attention by the Parliament and the line ministry, the Ministry of Finance.
Dateline Georgetown, GUYANA:
Guyana is heading to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a final resolution on its long-standing border dispute with neighbouring Venezuela. Guyana’s President David Granger says Guyana remains confident in the correctness of its case and looks forward to the reaffirmation of the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award before the International Court of Justice.
Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:
The State of Public Emergency declared in the Jamaica Parish of St. James where the island’s tourist capital Montego Bay is located, will stay in place for another three months, until May 2nd.
Stefano Manservisi, Director General for International Cooperation and Development in the European Commission, based in Brussels, is lading a high level European Union team to Jamaica starting today for regional and bilateral talks with high level government representatives from Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
Dateline Kingstown, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES:
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonzalves says he is confident his ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration will defeat a motion of no confidence by the opposition when it comes up for debate on Wednesday. “I would wish this motion to be heard speedily. We do not, like some other places, duck and run from motions of no confidence because I am quite sure that the eight members on this side are more than the seven members on the other side and all eight members have confidence in the government.”
Dateline St. Georges, GRENADA:
Hard on the heels of prediction of a Chinese takeover of Grenada if the Grenada government adopts a multi-billion dollar Chinese development blueprint, comes a new report suggesting that the promotion, export and exploitation of Grenada’s iconic nutmeg production may now be in Russian hands.
And finally, this story from Cardiff, WALES:
A Welsh accountant who worked for the Bermuda government, has admitted to transferring nearly US$2.5 million from his employer to his own bank account and then spending it on gambling, Mercedes, homes and flats. Jeffrey Bevan, 50, admitted to three counts of transferring criminal property and 10 counts of converting criminal property. According to the prosecution, Bevan began illegally taking taxpayers’ money after moving to the island to start the job as payments manager in the office of the Accountant General of Bermuda in January 2011. He quit his job in May 2013 to move back to Wales, citing his mother’s poor health and the children’s schooling as the reasons for his resignation, after having bought luxury Mercedes cars and making a series of property investments around Britain. Bevan left the island before an investigation subsequently uncovered 52 bogus payments that were made to his and his wife’s account in Bermuda before being transferred to Britain. Prosecutors said Bevan gambled away some of the cash, spent some on a Mercedes and used some to pay off the mortgage on his family home.