Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News Nov. 2nd

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Barbados Light & Power Company (BL&P) latest public hearing has sparked a controversy involving intervenors and the Fair Trading Commission (FTC).  The electricity company recently applied to the utility regulator for approval to recover the costs associated with its commissioning of a five megawatt energy storage device via the Fuel Clause Adjustment.  The Daily Nation learnt the FTC notified individuals and organizations granted intervenor status that the application would be considered via a “written hearing” and they would have to meet their own costs of participation.

The President of the Small Business Association (SBA) Dean Straker, says his members are currently walking on “thin ice” after hearing the grim economic news delivered by Acting Governor of the Central Bank, Cleviston Haynes yesterday.  Of grave concern to the SBA is the state of the country’s foreign reserves which have plummeted well below the 12 weeks benchmark to reach just 8.6 weeks of import cover or $549.7 million at the end of September, putting more pressure on the stability of the Barbados dollar.

Government’s controversial National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) has been identified as one of the main reasons for Barbados’ steep drop in the World Bank Doing Business 2018 Report, in which the island is ranked 132nd, down from 119th in the 2016 report.  Barbados was not ranked in the 2017 report.  “Barbados made paying taxes more difficult by introducing a new National Social Responsibility Levy of two per cent on the value of products before Value Added Tax” it said in its summaries of doing business reform in 2016/2017.  That tax was drastically increased as at July 1 this year to ten (10) per cent.”

The region is observing Caribbean Tourism Month in November amid the “significant” economic impact caused by the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria through the Lesser Antilles last month.  Secretary General of the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) Hugh Riley said that the regional tourism sector in 2017 can be described as a “tale of two situations” as result of the Category 5 hurricanes that devastated countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, St. Martin and to a lesser extent, The Bahamas and St. Kitts and Nevis. Riley said that during the first half of the year, the region performed at new record pace, welcoming 16.6 million international tourist arrivals at a healthy growth rate of 5.2 per cent, when compared to the same period last year.  However, following the passage of the hurricanes, the growth was severely impacted with the revised forecast for 2017 now at one to two percent, down from 2.5 to 3.5 per cent.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Minister of Tourism, Dionisio D’Aguillar has expressed frustration over Baha Mar’s low occupancy level, noting that it is the plan of the resort’s management to keep occupancy at 25 per cent.  “As minister of tourism, I want occupancy at 100 per cent” said D’Aguillar. “And it is mildly frustrating to me that it is taking as long as it is to get the property up and running.  But we have questioned them and we have talked to them.  They say this is their plan and other than me stepping in and taking over the day to day running of the hotel, which I have no intention of doing, I must rely on them to execute their plan.”

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

A High Court judge has cleared the way for contractor Emile Elias to enforce a $55 million judgement against Finance Minister Colm Imbert.  Elias can now move to recover the money which is being owed to him by a company owned by the minister, stemming from work done on the Grenada National Stadium project 20 years ago.

The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce is about to survey the business community to get a greater insight into the “precise nature” of the challenge of accessing foreign exchange faced by many businesses.  In a statement yesterday, the Chamber said it has noted the “heightened” frustrations among members of the business community, spurred on by general uncertainty about access to foreign exchange and its limited local availability.

Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:

A grim report revealed that Jamaican children faced substantial risks, including violence, sexual abuse and death.  The report, launched yesterday by the Jamaica UNICEF office, entitled:”A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents”, urged the country’s authorities to take strong action to improve the safety, well-being and security of its children.  UNICEF’s Jamaica representative, Mark Connolly, said the global organization was alarmed by the number of Jamaica children who die violently and who are regularly subjected to sexual violence and violent discipline in their homes, schools and communities.