The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) recently predicted that visitor arrivals to the region this year will surpass the pre-coronavirus pandemic figures as the Caribbean recorded a significant increase in tourist arrivals last year.
CTO acting Secretary General Neil Walters said in a news conference that nearly 90 percent of the region’s travel demand for 2019 has already been recovered and some destinations have already passed their pandemic levels.
“When compared to 2022, it is expected that overall arrivals to the region will increase by between10 and 15 percent. This means that between 31.2 and 32.6 million tourists can be expected to visit the region this year thus arrivals this year might surpass pre-pandemic levels,” he told reporters.
Walters said in 2023 the cruise industry is also anticipated to continue recovering and expanding ” as more ships are deployed, the capacity for cruises will rise and demand will stay high.”
“All ports in the region have re-opened and some have started home-porting. In the region there should be between 32 million and 33 million cruise visits overall, which is a 5 to 10 percent increase over the pre-covid base line figure,” he added.
Walters said that the tourism industry worldwide was characterized by strong recovery and according to data from the World Tourism Organisation, (UNWTO) approximately 917 million tourists traveled internationally.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments have reiterated the resolve to continue efforts to encourage dialogue among Haitian stakeholders and to support efforts at finding solutions to the multi-dimensional crisis facing the French-speaking CARICOM country.
A statement issued by the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat noted that regional leaders with responsibility for Haiti met recently under the chairmanship of Bahamas Prime Minister Phillip Davis, to receive the report from Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who led the CARICOM Special the Mission to Haiti on Feb. 27. It said that the mission met with a broad range of Haitian Stakeholders to hear their views on the way forward to a Haitian-led solution and demonstrate CARICOM solidarity with Haiti.
“The leaders agree that there must be follow-up meeting with the stakeholders to chart a path to consensus building in order to bring peace and stability to the country,” the statement said. It noted also that the regional leaders have agreed “to support the Haitian National Police (HNP) in their efforts to address the security situation. The focus of the Community will be the provision of training for the HNP and the provision of humanitarian assistance to HNP and the wider Haitian society, taking into account the challenging humanitarian and security situation in Haiti.
The Grenada government recently said that more than 21,000 low- income households are to benefit from lower electricity rates as it implements an EC$10 subsidy for the next 12 months.
In a statement, the government said customers will begin to see the subsidy on their February bills from the Grenada Electricity Services Ltd. (GRENLEC), and that the relief measure forms part of its efforts to ease cost of living expenses for citizens.
The statement said, low-income households that consume less than 100 kWh per month will not meet the threshold for the payment of the Values Added Tax (VAT) nor the Environmental Levy, resulting in additional savings.
It said all GRENLEC customers who do not qualify for the subsidy will pay VAT at the rate of 7.5 percent instead of the previous rate of 15 percent.
This relief will result in significant savings for all categories of GRENLEC customers and will cost the government EC$176,140 for February.
In a quest to access lifesaving vaccines without relying on supplies from developed countries, the government of Guyana has reached out to the nations of Rwanda and India to strengthen its healthcare services and potentially, manufacture vaccines in the Caribbean.
This was disclosed by Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo during a press conference recently. He noted that if the talks bear fruit, they will ensure regional security for lifesaving vaccines. “This has been an old issue here about the safety of our people and given what happened in the pandemic, we have been exploring the possibility of regional security with vaccines.”
President Dr. Irfaan Ali previously said that Guyana will be seeking to develop a facility like BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine factory in Kigali, Rwanda. He also encouraged investors on medical research and development to consider developments in the Caribbean.
Engagements were already being held between Guyana and Barbados to work with researchers and developers with the aim of acquiring pharmaceutical equity for global public health.
Jagdeo explained that these efforts are in response to the challenges encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic. That global crisis highlighted the importance of not only having access to vaccines but in ensuring that every region is vaccine secure, he said.
India has already assured Guyana of its assistance in establishing a vaccine treatment plan and in building Guyana’s capacity through the training of healthcare professionals.
A new United Nations report says increasingly sophisticated weapons are being trafficked into Haiti mainly from the United States and especially form Florida worsening the lawlessness in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
The report by the Vienna-based Office on Drugs and Crime said a network of criminal actors, including members of the Haitian diaspora, “often source firearms from across the US” and smuggle them into Haiti illegally by land from neighbouring Dominican Republic, by air including to clandestine airstrips, but most frequently by sea.
Weapons are purchased in the US where there’s fewer purchasing restrictions and then transported to Florida where they are concealed inside consumer products, electronic equipment, garment linings, frozen food items and even the hull of freighters, the report said.” On arrival in Haiti, including major hubs such as Port-de-Paix and Port-au-Prince, cargo is off-loaded and passed on to end-users via host of intermediaries.”
The report entitled “Haiti’s Criminal Markets: Mapping Trends in Firearms and Drug Trafficking “, cites the challenges of patrolling 1,771 kilometres of Haiti’s coastline and a 392 kilometre border with the Dominican Republic with national police, border and coastguard operations that are severely under-staffed, under-resourced and “increasingly targeted by gangs.”
The heavily-armed gangs are also targeting ports, highways, critical infrastructure, customs officers, police stations, court houses, prisons, businesses and neighborhoods, the report said. And throughout 2022 and 2023 they have expanded their control over key access points to cities including the capital Port-au-Prince.
The government of Trinidad and Tobago signed loan contract agreements with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) aimed at improving the efficiency and quality of T&T’s water supply.
The agreements were signed by Minister of Planning and Development, Penelope Beckles and IDB President Ilan Goldfajn at the Diplomatic Centre, St. Ann’s recently.
A statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said the agreements were a US$315 million loan through Conditional Credit Line for Investment Projects (CCLIP) and US$80 million loan contract for the First Individual Operation for the National Water Sector Transformation Programme under the CCLIP.
The OPM said, ” The IDB financing will be used to enhance the efficiency and quality of our water supply.”
The specific objectives of the loan program are to improve the operational efficiency and reliability of water supply services, improve the he quality of water services for underserved communities in T&T, develop capacity and provide institutional strengthening to the Public Utilities Ministry and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
The prime minister witnessed the signing of these agreements. Also present were Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzals and the IDB’s country representative for T&T, Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica, Robert Le Hunte.
— Compiled by Azad Ali