Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News October 6th

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

Government’s newest cash cow may result in not so merry a Xmas for some Barbadians.  President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Eddy Abed said that while government may be earning big bucks due to the 400% hike of the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL), businesses battling with increased operation costs had already begun to lay off employees with others set to follow in the coming months.

The island’s most powerful public sector labour union is holding Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to his word on the controversial National Social responsibility Levy, in view of the performance of the tax.  The National Union of Public Workers which has been agitating for a 23% rise or subsidy for its members to help them cope with the levy, said now that Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler has reported that the NSRL raked in $50 million in the three months since it was increased to 10% from 2%, Stuart has a duty to keep his promise and pay up.

The recent downgrade of Barbados by the international ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, will likely take a bite out of the island’s international business, according to a senior official of the sector.  President of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), Marlon Waldron, told the media launch of International Business Week that some companies that were considering Barbados would probably have second thoughts about setting up shop in the country.

Barbados has not closed its mind to the medicinal properties of the marijuana plant.  In fact, according to Attorney-General, Adriel Brathwaite, there were opportunities under the present legal regime to write to the head of the Drug Service for permission to get a doctor to provide a prescription so the capsule or oil could be sourced.  He made the comments as he delivered the opening remarks at the regional consultation on marihuana, hosted by the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA), in collaboration with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, the office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

One day after he was called out for his callous behavior at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce annual post-budget forum by a woman, Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday turned his ire on another, this time, economist Marla Dukharan.  And that’s because, at that same forum, Dukharan couched her criticism of his third budget as being akin to that of calypsonian David Rudder’s “Madness Rant.”

Dateline Georgetown, GUYANA:

The historic widespread devastation of several CARICOM member states by Hurricanes Irma and  Maria, has highlighted the urgency for the region to advocate for meaningful assistance to mitigate the effects of extreme weather events.  Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque stressed the point recently, as he accredited Austria’s new Ambassador to CARICOM, Marianne Feldman, stating that there was no doubt “climate change is here””.  LaRocque noted that the unprecedented scale of destruction wrought by recent weather events, placed a demand for more concerted and aggressive global action to address global warming.



IMF Chief Christine Lagarde says a worldwide economic recovery is taking hold, opening a window for countries to enact reforms aimed at attaining broader and lasting prosperity.

President Donald Trump says he will ask Congress for a bumper $29 Billion package of emergency relief for Puerto Rico in the awake of Hurricane Maria.

Facebook is investing $1 Billion in Virginia to build a data centre and “multiple” solar facilities.

US employent fell in September for the first time in seven years as Hurricane Harvey and Irma left displaced workers temporarily unemployed and delayed hiring, the latest indication that the storms undercut economic activity in the third quarter.


French carmaker Renault says half of its models will be electric or hybrid by 2022 and it’s investing heavily in “robo-vehicles” with increasing degrees of autonomy.


Chinese business has come to a standstill as half the population travels over a one-week public holiday.  But that quietude is expected to last several more weeks.  Although the Chinese will head back to work and school on Monday, their country is expected to remain in a holiday pattern ahead of a pivotal Communist Party Congress set to start later this month.


Japanese advertising firm, Dentsu, has been fined 500,000 Yen (US$4,400) for making employees work excessive overtime, a practice that is widespread in China.


Uncertainty over Theresa May’s future as Prime Minister sent Sterling down nearly 1% against the dollar.  The Pound fell 0.9% against the green back at $1.3127 and declined 0.45% against the euro.  The fall reflected concern about the Conservative Party leadership and investors are also questioning whether the Bank of England will raise interest rates.  But Theresa May has hit back at her critics saying that what Britain needs now is “calm leadership” and that’s what she “provides.”


German companies with a presence in the UK, should be planning for a “very hard Brexit”, Germany’s biggest industry body has warned.  German industry looked “with concern” at the progress of the Brexit talks, said boss of the Federation of German Industries, Joachim Lang.



Finance Minister Colm Imbert says Trinidad and Tobago will become a poorer country, in terms of what poor people can afford, and the cost of living will increase if there is a substantial depreciation of the Trinidad and Tobago dollar.  “It is easy for people who are well off to say depreciate the dollar.  It’s easy to say that when you’re earning $100,000 a month, but when you’re earning $5,000 a month, every dollar counts,”: he said.

The Association of Trinidad and Tobago Insurance Companies (ATTIC) says that while “insured” losses within the Caribbean for the 2017 hurricane season are in excel of US $50 Billion so far, initial regional feedback suggest a high percentage of policyholders’ property and valuable assets in islands devastated by hurricanes were “uninsured.”

“Insured “ losses of the magnitude of $50 Billion are expected to wipe out more than 15 to 20 years of profits of reinsurers and insurers who do business within the affected islands.  There is also an expectation that for some regional insurers, the loss will result in a capital event.”  ATTIC said that reinsurers who do business within the Caribbean have been issuing advisories to the regional insurance industry to plan for much higher rates during the upcoming renewal of their reinsurance programmes.


There is estimated to be two million credit cards issued in Jamaica, yet high level sources have disclosed that only 16,0o00 cards are actually used.  This has created a highly competitive market[lace and forced the two newest entrants to the commercial banking sector, JMBank and JMMB Bank, to push for even higher engagement in the less than one percent of the population that actually consider credit cards as part of their financial plan.  That said, according to the Bank of Jamaica, credit card debt is valued at $40.2 Billion at May, 2017.  And so, if only 16,000 cards account for so much value to banks, the race is on for share of wallet.

The opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has raised concern over the negative growth recorded in Jamaica’s economy for the second quarter of 2017.  The party, in a release, said its concern is that after having set the platform, for growth by successfully implementing important reforms of the Jamaica economy, resulting in nine consecutive quarters of positive growth, from January 2015, the positive trend has been broken.  Opposition spokesperson for finance and planning, Senator Mark Golding said this was very disappointing for all Jamaicans.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says the business environment in Jamaica has improved significantly with investors now more willing to take risks.  The Prime Minister who was addressing the grand opening of an Itclbpio Smart Solutions facility in Freeport, St. James,  said he has been attending several similar openings and ground-breaking ceremonies in recent times.  “I do this because it drives home the point that great things are happening in Jamaica.  I am doing two or three per week.”


Grenada-based fresh fruit juice business, Summer Ltd, is targeting expansion into other Caribbean and international markets.  This after successfully applying for a Co-Investment Grant (CI grant) from the LINK-Caribbean programme, a joint initiative between the World Bank and the Caribbean Export and Development Agency (Caribbean Export).


United States oil giant Exxon Mobil has announced a fifth new oil discovery after drilling the Turbvot-1 well offshore Guyana.


The United States gun lobby, which has seldom embraced firearms control measures, expressed a willingness to support a restriction on the rifle accessory that enabled a Las Vegas gunman to strafe a crowd with bursts of sustained gunfire as if from an automatic weapon.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Kolke’s new party has unveiled an election platform that seeks to distance her “Yurionomics” policies from, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aggressive stimulus by cutting reliance on fiscal spending and monetary easing.

Japan’s public broadcaster has revealed that one of its reporters died from overwork.  NHK said that labour officials had concluded that the 31 year old political reporter died from heart failure by spending long hours on the job.  Japan, known for its “salaryman” culture and punishing work hours, has struggled for years to tackle the impact of overwork on employees’ health.  A government study, published last year, found that one in five workers was at risk of working themselves to death.

Australians turned in 51,000 illegal guns, ranging from 19th century weapons to a rocket launchers, during a three-month amnesty that ended Friday, and which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said had helped avert Las Vegas style mass shootings in Australia.

Rivaling prototypes of Donald Trump’s US-Mexico border wall are being built near San Diego, California.  The President says he will pick the winning design next month.