The Barbados government is pleased with the latest ratings by the US-based agency, Standard & Poor’s, despite the devastating impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the island’s main economic earner, tourism.
S&P has maintained the island’s credit rating as B-/Stable/B and Prime Minister Mia Mottley said, “we are buoyed by the confidence that continues to be displayed in the work of the government and people of Barbados, in spite of us going through the most difficult times since the Great Depression.”
She said a delayed economic recovery will result in increased fiscal pressures during the outlook horizon noting that the country will face rising expenditures due to health-related spending in the face of lower revenues from tourism receipts.
In its assessment of the country’s performance, S&P attributed its decision largely to the success of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation Program, describing it as a key factor in allowing the country to weather the economic impact.
S&P said in a statement that the stable outlook reflects “our view that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on Barbados’ economy and that the recovery will be more subdued than anticipated.”
The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has acknowledged that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken a “major toll” on the sector as the region observes Caribbean Tourism Month in November.
CTO Acting Secretary General, Neil Walters said in a statement to mark the occasion: “We observe this year’s Caribbean Tourism Month with COVID-19 still affecting travel as the Caribbean and the rest of the world continue to wait a vaccine.”
“The impact on tourism has been immense — a 57 percent decline in arrivals during the first six months of 2020, an estimated 50 percent to 60 percent fall in visitor spending, and tens of thousands of jobs lost. Those still employed have in several cases, accepted reductions in working hours and wage cuts,” he said.
Caribbean Tourism Month is being observed under the theme “The Caribbean Awaits.” Walters said that this theme complements the region’s success in generally containing the spread of COVID-19 “which has taken a major toll on tourism along with other sectors of our economies.”
The CTO acting secretary general said that the resilience of the Caribbean is shown by the progress made towards the resumption of tourism activity.
Walters said currently, about 25 Caribbean countries have opened their borders to commercial travel, either fully or partially and others are putting the necessary measures in place to welcome visitors.
The Guyana Police Force (GDF) is offering a Guy$3million reward for information leading to the arrests of those responsible for the deaths of cousins Isiah and Joel Henry and Haresh Sing in September.
The GDF said in a statement the reward is being offered to any person or persons who can provide information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of these gruesome murders.
It added that the GDF assures the general public that all information received will be treated with the strictest confidence in these ongoing investigations.
The battered bodies of 18-year-old Joel Henry and 16-year-old Isaiah Henry, a pupil, were found on Sept. 7 in the Cotton Tree backdam, West Coast Berbice, resulting in widespread demonstrations by residents of the area.
Two days later, 17-year-old Singh, the grandson of one of the seven suspects who had been held in connection with the brutal murders of two cousins, was found murdered with a wound to the head.
Five investigators from the Regional Security System (RSS) based in Barbados visited Guyana in September to help the local police probe the brutal killings.
Last month, President Irfaan Ali told reporters the regional investigators had recommended that the GDF do more in their investigations into the murders.
Jamaica has welcomed the decision by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift its order for cruise ships in US ports as a step in the right direction.
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett said it will take some time for full normality to return the cruise industry.
He said the move by the CDC is a win for Jamaica and other Caribbean cruise dependent nations.
Bartlett said countries can now fast-track their preparations to meet all the expected protocols that will be required.
He noted that the cruise industry has been basically paralyzed since operation ceased in March amid the COVID-19 outbreaks at sea.
The tourism minister said the cruise sector will have to meet certain requirements to protect passengers and staff and also their destination of travel.
He said the CDC has put the onus on cruise companies to prove their covid protocols are working, with specific testing requirements and trial runs before passengers can return.
In addition, operators will have to enter into written agreements with the land-side medical facilities to treat any affected passengers.
Most cruise ship companies have canceled all cruises leaving US ports until at least Dec. 1, 2020.
The St. Kitts and Nevis government has announced an extension of the Value Added Tax (VAT) Day in a bid to further stimulate the economy in the twin-island Federation as it reopens following the closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris said during his weekly television program “Leadership Matters” recently that based on representation and consultation with the Chamber, it was decided that the government would extend VAT Day which was originally carded for Friday, Dec. 18 by another day to Saturday, Dec.19.
“We hope that the additional day will `help to further stimulate economic activity, assist small businesses with improved sales and help spread economic activity over the next two days,” he said.
Dr. Harris said the primary reason behind the Cabinet’s decision to add a second VAT Day is to minimize overcrowding on any particular day.
The government had said that on the discounted VAT Days, all tangible items currently subject to 17 percent VAT qualify for the discount.
It said that eligible items must also be available for sale and immediate issuance or delivery to the customer on the day and orders for items that are not in stock do not qualify.
The government said that for vehicle purchases, VAT is exempt on the first EC$500,000 with VAT at the standard 17 percent charged thereafter.
A government statement said throughout the entire month of December, persons will benefit from approved duty concessions on food, gift packages and passenger allowances.
St. Lucia has recorded about 900 confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne dengue fever. Health authorities said that cases were being reported all across the island.
Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Glensford Joseph in a statement noted that as Oct. 24, the island had recorded 888 confirmed cases and 365 suspected dengue fever cases.
He said, so far, three people have died from the disease, which is spread by the aedes aegypti mosquito. Dr. Joseph said the age range for reported cases was from three weeks to 94 years old.
Dr. Glensford said that the five of the 14-year group accounted for 35 percent of all cases.
The authorities said that 215 of the confirmed dengue cases were hospitalized and half of that all health regions continue to be affected by the occurrence of dengue.
The health ministry said to date, two strains of dengue viruses, DENV3 and DENV2 have been identified as being in circulation in St. Lucia during the outbreak.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said government will provide an additional TT$30 million in relief to people negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said $10 million will be given to displaced bar and restaurant workers and $20 million for self-employed people with families.
Dr. Rowley when making the announcement on Saturday at a news conference in Tobago said, since bars have been affected by the restriction of people congregating , “we need to bear a little bit of the burden they are bearing.”
He said Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert will find $10 million “specifically to treat with employees who work in bars and restaurants and who have lost their jobs or who have suffered a reduction of their income.”
Rowley said bars and restaurant owners who have lost or are losing their business, will be asked to “identify themselves to the money we have made available for small business support which is available to sustain their business going forward”.
No congregation is allowed in bars which are only allowed to sell liquor to customers and leave.
— Compiled by Azad Ali