Global ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has downgraded The Bahamas’ sovereign creditworthiness citing “failure of successive governments to implement timely and effective” fiscal reforms, even prior to COVID-19.
In a statement recently, the US-based credit agency joined its rival Moody’s, in plunging the country further into “junk” status by slashing its long-term and local currency rating to “B+” from “BB-“after the national debt increased by US$2.4 billion in two years.
However, S&P broke with Moody’s in simultaneously providing The Bahamas with a glimmer of hope by upgrading its “outlook” for this nation’s public finances from “negative” to “stable.”
It based this upgrade on its expectation that the economy’s post-COVID-19 will drive increased revenues and narrow the government’s annual fiscal deficit despite the absence of major reforms.
S&P also predicted that the Bahamian economy will expand by the equivalent of 3.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, a rate that is higher than projections by both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Central Bank or The Bahamas.
The Barbados government says it has established what is being referred to as the world’s first metaverse or digital embassy.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said that the virtual embassy will be at the center of activities to advance the growth of stronger bilateral relationships with governments globally.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade recently signed the agreement with Decentraland, one of the world-leading block chain metaverse platforms, in an effort to outline the baseline development elements for its metaverse embassy.
In the statement, the ministry said that the government will continue to establish and maintain physical embassies and will use the metaverse embassy as an opportunity to “pioneer the evolution of global diplomacy beyond the physical world.”
It is understood the concept will provide for the identifying and purchasing of land, architecting of the virtual embassies and the development of facilities to provide services such as e-visa and teleportation.
Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) President, Nicola Madden-Greig is predicting a strong winter rebound for regional tourism based on strong health protocols in place and the increase in air services to several destinations across the Caribbean.
Madden-Greig said the worst of it has been contained, basing her optimism on containing COVID-19 virus to sound health safety protocols under the guidance of local ministries and departments of health, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and other regional and international organizations.
Her optimism is backed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which recently reported that the Caribbean is recovering faster than any other region in the world with tourism’s contribution to GDP expected to rise more than 47 percent this year.
In contrast, the global economy is set to receive a 30.7 percent year-on-year increase from travel and tourism in 2021, representing US$1.4 trillion and mainly driven by domestic spending.
The Caribbean region’s forecast increase represents an increase of nearly US$12 billion, driven by both international and domestic travel spending.
Among the region’s protocols have been requirements for visitors to pre-screen and produce a negative test before boarding Caribbean flights, as well as the increased vaccination rates for tourism professionals.
The West African nation of Ghana will soon be lending technical support to Guyana in the areas of local content, the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) or oil money legislation, as well as the highly-anticipated gas-to-energy development.
President Irfaan Ali made this announced during a recent press conference.
He said the first phase of a technical team from Ghana that will soon be arriving will comprise chief executive officers (CEOs) and experts in the oil and gas field and will immediately begin to work with Guyanese counterparts.
He said it is also expected that the vice-president of Ghana will be visiting Guyana this year and the president of Ghana will participate in the oil and gas conference set for 2022.
In addition, the head of state indicated a team of investors will be visiting Guyana to establish partnerships with local counterparts in various investment opportunities.
Dr. Ali said the investors from Ghana’s private sector have various areas of interest including agriculture, mining, tourism and food production.
Last month, Vice-president Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo led a delegation to Ghana and met with President Nana Akufo-Addo and Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia aimed at fostering enhanced co-operation between the two oil producing states.
Haiti’s Prime Minister, Ariel Henry has pleaded with the Organization of American States (OAS) to offer technical support in the fight against organized crime in the country.
In a letter sent to the OAS earlier this month, the prime minister said Haiti faces problems that generate transnational crimes, money laundering and illicit trafficking in firearms, ammunition and drugs.
Faced with the innumerable situations which occur, the Prime Minister said he needs “an effective cooperation of the OAS.”
“My government wishes, as soon as possible, to explore with the OAS the concretisation of the aforementioned cooperation, which will undoubtedly allow the re-establishment of a security climate essential for the return to normal functioning of the republican institutions,” the letter stated.
The Jamaican government said it has no intention of reducing the measures put in place last year to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as it warned persons campaigning against vaccines will have to deal with the consequences going forward.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness in a statement in Parliament recently said the government continues to act in the best interest to preserve livelihoods as best as possible.
“The government will ultimately have no choice but to allocate a finite set of resources to managing COVID-19-related hospitalizations, including a fix number of beds,” he said.
Jamaica has recorded 2, 331 deaths and 90,342 positive cases linked to the virus since March last year.
Holness told legislators that it was unfair to many Jamaicans who have been waiting to undergo surgery for other types of chronic illness and have had to suffer because of the number of bed spaces occupied by persons who contracted the virus.
Announcing a relaxation in some measures under the Disaster Risk Management Act, Holness said his government has no plans to lockdown the country again, noting that schools are being reopened and instructions being given to follow the COVID-19 protocols.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on the Trinidad and Tobago government to remove restrictions on foreign exchange availability for current international transactions, even as the Washington-based financial institution predicted a strong recovery for the domestic economy.
The IMF call came in the concluding statement of its 2021 Article IV consultation with Trinidad and Tobago, the first such assessment since August 2018.
Under the rubric Modernisation Monetary and Exchange Rate Policy, the IMF staffers said the commission underscored the need for an appropriate policy mix up to support the exchange rate regime and called for the removal of restrictions on current international transactions.
“The authorities are encouraged to modernize foreign exchange and money market infrastructure to reduce inefficiencies and imbalance to support the sustainability of the existing arrangement,” the IMF said.
Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert said the government is “certainly prepared to heed” the advice of the IMF that “policy attention should focus on reducing public debt levels and rebuilding fiscal buffers” once the recovery is firmly in place.
— Compiled by Azad Ali