Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 2nd 2014 Contents JANUARY 2014 • WEEK ONE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG11
Former prime minister Owen Arthur suggested that the gov-
ernment consider cutting back on Cabinet portfolios as well as
social entitlement programmes, while Opposition Leader Mia
Mottley declared the island was in crisis.
"The decision to remove 3,000 public workers is the ultimate
betrayal of the mandate of this government. We have heard over
and over ministers say there will be no layoffs, there will be no
sell offs before, during or after the election, and the prime
minister led the chorus," she said, warning that the "storm is
still coming" and the measures being implemented would not
stop the free fall of the Barbados economy.
For its part, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW),
which represents the majority of the 28,000 public servants,
has submitted its own proposals to the government, including
a reduction in the value added tax (VAT) as well as a 30 per cent
cut in the salaries of government ministers.
The NUPW is also calling on the government to consider the
reintroduction of bus fares for school children as part of the new
economic strategy to revive the ailing economy.
But the despite the criticism, the government has found
support for its plan of action. Head of the Barbados Institute
of Chartered Accountants (ICAB), David Simpson, said apart
from the retrenchments, the government would still have to
outline a plan to stimulate foreign exchange earnings and improve
"I feel this is just the start," he said.
If the Barbados situation was worrying, Jamaica has had a
long relationship the IMF which continued in 2013.
The island signed a four-year US$958 million External Fund
Facility (EFF) with the IMF and Prime Minister Portia Simp-
son-Miller urged Jamaicans to remain focused as the country
goes through what is perhaps its most ambitious and far-reaching
economic transformation programme.
She likened the economic reform programme to working out
a business plan, saying, "I speak of creating a profitable enterprise
for all our citizens.
"I always speak of the importance of balancing the books
while balancing people's lives.' This requires, among other things,
placing emphasis on poverty alleviation and eventual poverty
eradication," she added.
By year end, the IMF was making public a letter submitted
by the Jamaica government with Kingston acknowledging that
while economic growth remained weak and unemployment
"much too high", it was nonetheless confident the benefits of
the economic strategy now being implemented would "become
increasingly evident over time".
The government had also urged nationals to accept the stringent
measures that would accompany the IMF agreement including
increases taxes and the launch of a national debt exchange offer.
The Simpson-Miller administration also had to reach wage
agreements with public sector trade unions and other stakeholders
in order to maximise the benefits of the IMF agreement and its
own economic programme and in its year end letter to the IMF
said it remained "fully committed to meeting the objectives of
the programme, as well as the specific targets set out in the April
2013 Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP),
and its September 2013 supplement.
"In the fiscal area, the government will press ahead with
implementing comprehensive tax reform, prepare and legislate
the fiscal rule, and adopt a range of measures to strengthen
public financial management."
The political configuration in the National Assembly in Guyana,
translated into economic problems for the Donald Ramotar
administration in 2013.
Blacklisted by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force
(CFATF) after it failed to approve legislation to combat money
laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT),
the Guyana government watched helplessly as the opposition
legislators used their one seat majority to block the multi-billion
dollar Amaila Falls Hydro Power (AFHP) project.
Government described the opposition vote not to support
measures aimed at raising the guarantee limit of loans for the
development of hydro-electricity in the country as a "travesty
against the people of Guyana".
Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh said that the passage of
Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill as well as the accom-
panying motion to increase the guarantee limit of loans, from
GUY$1 billion to $150 billion (one Guyana dollar = US$0.01 cents)
was necessary to ensure the continued development of the coun-
try.The economic problems of the Caribbean in 2013 provided
yet another opportunity for two of the world's super powers,
seeking to consolidate their relationship with regional countries.
On the heels of a visit to T&T by US Vice President, Joe
Bidden, China's President Xi Jingping came bearing a US$3
billion concessionary facility gift for eight Caribbean Community
"We did thank him for that very generous gesture. The three
billion dollars are for infrastructure projects...in the region," said
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, who hosted the Chinese and
the regional leaders.
Dominica's Prime Minister Skerrit said the facility comes at
a time when "the Caribbean and, indeed, the world is challenged
with all sorts of economic and fiscal issues.
Biden had described his discussions with Caricom leaders as
"frank and cordial" and pledged Washington's assistance on a
wide range of issues affecting the socio-economic development
of the 15-member regional grouping.
Not to be outdone, Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade
province, pledged support for its handful of Caribbean support-
ers.President Ma Ying-jeou, as he did in St Vincent and the
Grenadines and St Lucia, signed a joint communiqué with Prime
Minister Dr Denzil Douglas of St Kitts-Nevis praising the
Caribbean island for its friendship over 30 years and promising
to lend assistance in areas such as climate change, renewable
energy, tourism, education and infrastructural development.
A ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic
that had the effect of rendering stateless, thousands of Dominican
nationals of Haitian descent was roundly condemned by regional
and international agencies and Caricom took the unprecedented
decision to put on hold Santo Domingo's application to join the
15-member regional bloc.
By year's end, the leaders of Haiti and the Dominican Republic
were holding talks aimed at rectifying the situation, although
it seemed the road ahead would not be an easy one.
Crime continued to have a serious effect on the socio-economic
development of the region in 2013, as it has done over the past
Regional governments have complained about spending scarce
resources on having to beef up security for their nationals. In
Jamaica where more than 1,400 people were murdered this year,
National Security Minister Peter Bunting acknowledged that the
fight against crime seemed to be a futile endeavour.
"I am not embarrassed to say that right now as Minister of
National Security, I am going through a kind of a dark night of
the soul," he said, noting that despite the efforts of law enforcement
authorities "yet so little headway, such slow headway is coming
out in the statistics".
The opposition JLP demanded his resignation and by year
end renewed the call as the murder toll increased.
Murders continued to be a major headache for countries like
T&T, the Bahamas and Belize.
Death continued to stalk the Caribbean as the year came to
a close. In St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia, heavy
rains and winds associated with a slow moving low level trough
were blamed for at least 14 deaths in the two islands.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that St Vincent and
the Grenadines would need "hundreds of millions of dollars"
to fund the reconstruction effort, while in Dominica, which was
also affected by the weather system, Prime Minister Skerrit put
the cost at EC$45 million.
Prime Minister Anthony described the situation in St Lucia
as a "humanitarian crisis" and that the cost of reconstruction
would run into "tens of millions"
Dominica's deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie said the
damage caused in St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines
would impact heavily on the efforts by the sub-region to develop
its economic union.
"We, in the OECS region, have been attempting to make
strides in terms of improvement to our economies, improving
in the quality of lives for our people and these activities and
destruction only seek to reverse some of the benefits we have
made." PETER RICHARDS
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