Caribbean News Round-up
Turks & Caicos Islanders vote
End of banana trade war
Jamaica's debt challenge
World Travel Market
'The Beast' backs play project
Turks & Caicos “quality” election campaign
The people of the Turks and Caicos went to the polls on Friday 9 November to elect their first autonomous government in three years.
Governor Ric Todd has indicated that he hopes to appoint a new premier and opposition leader early the following week once the “electoral arithmetic” allows this.
“No one needs to remind people on TCI that the country endured a ‘perfect storm’ in 2008/9 of the breakdown of good governance, the consequences of the global financial crisis and Hurricane Ike,” Governor Todd said in a statement.
“But even as the economy grew strongly in the boom years, the country had increased its debt; investors turned away from these shores; and, as we know, there was an increasing absence of confidence in the Institutions of the TCI. The allegations of criminal activity related to this period are being dealt with through the island’s courts.
“Dealing with these issues and the consequences of economic and financial downturn in 2009 alone would be a tremendous challenge. To work together as we have done to introduce the most ambitious programme of public reforms in any UK overseas territory, and perhaps in the region, another.
“To do both together is simply a remarkable achievement by the people of TCI of which they can be rightly proud.”
The British governor has already signed into place financial and administrative packages aimed at putting clear guidelines to avoid the alleged corruption of the past.
“Equally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the TCI’s political parties and politicians for the quality of the campaigns that they have run for this election and the dialogue they have had with the permanent secretaries and myself to prepare for government,” he added.
“That they have been civil and focused on the positives of their own plans for the country is to their credit; one wise pastor recently told me that this was the calmest, most reasonable and orderly election that he could remember on the islands.”
Not everybody is happy about the poll, however.
“My disappointment comes from the fact that no arrangements were made to facilitate overseas students to exercise their democratic rights to vote,” wrote one UK-based TCI student in the TCI Post.
“We are a British overseas dependent territory. I cannot understand why, for the life of me, the relevant authorities could not arrange for overseas students to vote at a British embassy/consulate.”
End of banana disputes
Finally, an end to one of the longest-running trade disputes in the world – banana exports to the European Union.
On Thursday 8 November, the EU and 11 Latin American countries signed a deal concluding a dispute over tariffs on bananas which dates back to 1991.
The signing of the agreement in Geneva brings to an end eight separate cases at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The previous EU agreement which gave preferential tariffs to Europe’s former colonies in the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific (ACP) has been replaced with new partnership deals between the EU and the ACP as separate regional groups.
The new deal with the Latin American nations means a lowering of tariffs on banana imports to the EU from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
In return, these countries will drop their 10-year-old complaints against the EU, lodged at the WTO.
Witnessing the signing, the EU’s ambassador to the WTO, Angelos Pangratis, described the dispute as “an irritant that plagued EU bilateral relations with Latin American partners in the past 15 years”.
Jamaica credit squeeze
Debt default or delay by some Caribbean countries is now threatening to have an impact on neighbours, according to Bloomberg’s Businessweek.
The financial publication says that Jamaica’s borrowing costs are surging to their highest levels in nine months because of fear of defaults and debt payment delays by Belize and Grenada.
“Yields on dollar bonds due in 2019 from the island nation, which restructured $7.8bn of bonds almost three years ago, reached 8.31% on 31 October, the highest since February,” said Businessweek.
“Jamaican notes lost 0.9% in October, the worst performance among 15 Central American and Caribbean nations, according to JP Morgan Chase & Co. Bonds sold by Pakistan that carry the same B- rating from Standard & Poor’s returned 6.3%,” the report continued.
The publication pointed out that, while Jamaican yields are below the 13% reached before the country restructured its debts in 2010, some investors are now concerned about the country’s ability to struggle with rising borrowing costs as the entire Caribbean region faces slow economic growth prospects.
“How much longer can Jamaica muddle through this with virtually no growth?” Franco Uccelli, a senior economist for Central America and the Caribbean at JPMorgan in Miami told Businessweek.
Grenada missed its mid-September debt coupon payments, but did make payments within the 30-day grace period. Belize has been in talks with its creditors for some months about restructuring its debt.
Mr Uccelli is quoted by Businessweek as saying that, while he doesn’t forecast a default, investors “are starting to wonder if after Belize, Jamaica could be next”.
The publication said that tourism remained a potential source of growth for Jamaica, but another important revenue source, remittances from nationals abroad, had gone down in the global economic climate.
This week, Jamaica’s Finance Minister Peter Phillips sought to outline the challenge facing the country.
He spoke of government inheriting the debt and said it was one of the biggest challenges facing the current administration.
“This public debt, along with our salaries and wage bill, absorbs 80 cents out of every dollar and leaves us with just 20 cents to do everything else in the country," Peter Phillips told an audience in the south parish of Clarendon.
"We are, therefore, faced with a serious set of challenges. We have taken control of our finances by paying off our debt, and to desist from borrowing beyond our means to repay," he was quoted as saying by the Gleaner newspaper.
World travel under one roof
It was time to tour the globe under one roof again at the annual World Travel Market held at London’s Excel Centre in east London.
Sixty-one exhibitors from Caribbean and Latin American resorts with a presence on the Caribbean basin took part in the three-day event.
Once again, the Caribbean’s sporting stars were major assets at country stands as the British media gravitated to the likes of Sir Viv Richards and Brian Lara during the exhibitions.
During the events, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) held its annual British Media Awards reception, at which it handed out awards and commendations for coverage in the British media of aspects of Caribbean tourism.
Caribbean Intelligence was proud to see our story on how Caribbean tourism is dealing with the global recession get a “Highly Commended” mention in the new online feature category.
The CTO exhibition at the World Travel Market highlighted specialist tourism such as 50+ holidays, activity and adventure travel, walking and hiking holidays, weddings and honeymoons.
Let’s play with Yohan Blake
The world’s second fastest man, Yohan Blake, raced to encourage young Jamaicans to stay fit and play.
The Let’s Play initiative got the endorsement of the man known as “The Beast”, who took a stream of medals at the London Olympics this summer.
The initiative, sponsored by Coca-Cola and the Sandals Foundation, works to promote and enhance physical education for more than 5,000 students in Jamaica.
“Physical education and a healthy, active lifestyle are obviously very important to me,” Blake said on the Foundation website.
“I feel that the Let’s Play programme is an important and necessary one.”