CI News Round-up

Mitt Romney
Belize cuts a debt deal
The Caymans on the US campaign trail
Canada continues its immigration revamp
Belize goodwill payment saves debt default
CI logo Just after a 19 September debt default deadline expired, Belize has appeased its creditors with an $11m interest payment, giving itself a longer grace period to restructure its debt.
The Wednesday deadline had marked the end of a 30-day grace period for interest payments for Belize, formerly known as British Honduras.
The deal was brokered on the eve of the country's independence anniversary.
The tab, originally due on 20 August,  had amounted to $23m of interest owed on the country’s $550m sovereign debt, but it had continued to discuss a “goodwill” payment past the mid-week grace period deadline.
Although the partial payment accepted by creditors late on Thursday is half of the interest owed, bondholders had agreed to the payment alongside a restructuring of Belize’s debt package.
"We have been talking about the possibility of a partial payment," Prime Minister Dean Barrow had told reporters mid-week.
Belize’s creditors, led by New York and Canadian banks and capital management groups, had continued discussing the government’s offers to restructure the debt rather than go straight to debt default.
The chief negotiator for Belize, Mark Espat, told Bloomberg News: “The government’s view is that a fair and timely resolution is only possible through transparent and good faith negotiations.”
Although Belize’s debt is tiny in global terms, analysts say the underlying fear is that a country default in the region could trigger off even more uncertainty in an already nervous global financial market.
The Caymans on the US campaign trail

CI logo The Cayman Islands have become caught up in the rough and tumble of the US presidential campaign.

A Democrat ad from July shows Republican presidential Mitt Romney singing America the Beautiful and fades to a montage depicting his company's outsourcing of jobs to India and his own investments in "tax havens" in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

"The new ad from President Barack Obama's election campaign attacking Mitt Romney's Cayman Island investments underscores the difficulty of explaining tax-haven financial arrangements, even though they have become a standard feature of the standard equity world," wrote John D McKinnon for the Wall Street Journal in July.

The Caymans theme continued in the American media in August, as Mr Romney greeted donors ahead of the Republican convention on board a yacht flying the Caymanian flag. It was hosted by a Florida developer.

In the Caymans, they're not surprised.

"We have no problem with them talking about the hedge fund industry in Cayman, and the fact that apparently Mitt Romney has invested in certain hedge funds in the Cayman Islands,” the chairman of Cayman Finance, Richard Coles, told online newspaper Caribbean Journal.

"We have no problem with that — and we’re not particularly surprised about it. The only thing we are disappointed in is that once again the US press portrays that type of investment in hedge funds as being in some way illegal, in some way undesirable, in some way unpatriotic."
Immigration revamp

CI logo The Canadian government has accepted a committee report on streamlining its immigration processes.

In a 17 September statement on the country's Citizen and Immigration website, the government said it welcomed all the findings of a report on migration backlogs in recent times.

The committee report had said that "backlogs have occurred because for too long Canada has accepted more applications than it can process and admit in a given year."

The report had found that the annual surplus led to a backlog of more than a million applicants and processing delays of up to 10 years in some immigration categories.

Some of the committee’s recommendations included a two-year "super visa" for parents and grandparents of Canadian residents, which the report said had proven to be extremely popular.

There had also been a mid-year pause on new applications for Canada's Immigration Investor Program to allow the authorities to catch up on existing applications and reviewing the system.

“The economy and job growth remain the Government’s number one priority,” Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenny said in the statement.

“We continue to take the issue of immigration backlogs very seriously, and we will be doing even more in the future to transform our immigration system into one that is fast, fair, flexible and serves the interests of Canada’s long-term prosperity.”

Recently (put link here) Mr Kenny also penned a statement announcing the introduction of visas for citizens of St Lucia and St Vincent as part of the ongoing revamping of Canada's immigration process.
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