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(Barbados Today) The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is again warning that Government needed to urgently implement a “sizeable and credible” fiscal adjustment programme in order to get a grip on the stalled economy.

This latest recommendation came on the heels of mounting calls for the Freundel Stuart administration to enter into an official programme with the Washington-based lending institution to avoid possible devaluation of the Barbados currency.

Although the now fired Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell warned last month that the dollar was at risk due to the dwindling reserves – which had fallen to a 14-year low of 10.3 weeks of import cover – Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has repeatedly assured that there will be no devaluation.

The latest assurance came today at a news conference during which Sinckler admitted the fiscal deficit was still “too high”, but said the island was not facing a “doomsday” scenario.

However, sticking to the position issued in its staff report of May last year, an IMF spokesperson told Barbados TODAY while the economy appeared to have turned the corner last year, fiscal adjustment and public sector reforms were necessary to drive down public debt, preserve external sustainability and improve investor sentiment.

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(V.I Consortium) ST. THOMAS — Members of the 32nd Legislature will gather on Tuesday morning at the Earl B. Ottley Legislative Hall for a session that includes a final vote on the sin tax bill, before sending the measure to its author, Governor Kenneth Mapp.

But regardless of any back and forth discussion on the matter that Senate Democrats may engage in on the bill during the session, they are expected to approve the legislation, and Mr. Mapp is expected to sign the new taxes — including taxes on rum, tobacco products, beers and sugary drinks, as well as internet purchases and timeshare unit owners — into law, which the administration is projecting will raise some $250 million over five years. This includes a new measure that creates a base of $360 for property taxes.

Time and time again, business leaders and community members have voiced their opinions on the new taxes, contending that the effects on the economy will be negative if the measure becomes law.

“Any which way you want to look at these revenue enhancements, the local private sector is going to be hit hard; our ways of life will change. Yes, charitable and nonprofit contributions will be reduced across the board and there will be a severe impact on the tourism sector,” said Attorney David A. Bornn, who testified against the measure when it was being heard a second time in the Committee on Finance on February 15.

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(V. I. Consortium) ST. CROIX — With 2,400 rooms on this island alone being rented on Airbnb, according Department of Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the Government of the Virgin Islands — which is strapped for cash and facing a budget deficit of over $100 million — has targeted the growing segment as a source of new revenues. Mrs. Nicholson-Doty revealed during a Thursday Senate hearing that the growing segment already outnumbers actual hotel rooms on St. Croix.

Speaking at his Wednesday press conference at Government House here, Governor Kenneth Mapp said that the government was in the process of negotiating with Airbnb the current USVI hotel occupancy tax of 12.5 percent, to be deducted from every unit in the territory that rents through Airbnb. The company is an online marketplace and hospitality service that enables people to list or rent short-term lodging including vacation rentals, apartment rentals and homestays.

According to the governor, Mrs. Nicholson-Doty has already negotiated with Airbnb to deduct the 12.5 percent, and the government is working towards implementation.

“The commissioner is out signing the contracts,” Mr. Mapp said at the press conference in response to a question posed by a Consortium reporter. “We’ve done the negotiations, we’ve done all those issues, we’re now going to implement this process. And then the entity will then transmit to the Bureau of Internal Revenue the amounts, and they’ll give them the spreadsheet of what it was assessed on, and they will remit that money Bureau of Internal Revenue.”

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(CNN) Two streaming services and one television network went home with Oscar statuettes on Sunday night.

The historic wins for Amazon, Netflix and ESPN showcase the evolving and expanding shape of the movie business.

Netflix (NFLX, Tech30) and Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) have been investing heavily in feature films and documentaries to retain and gain subscribers.

With Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in the audience at the Kodak Theatre, the Amazon Studios film "Manchester by the Sea" picked up the Oscar for best original screenplay, and the film's star Casey Affleck won the lead actor prize.

Amazon also has U.S. distribution rights to "The Salesman," from the Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, which won best foreign-language film. Farhadi boycotted the Oscars to protest President Trump's attempted travel ban.

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(Reuters) Department store operator J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) said on Friday it would close 130-140 stores over the next few months, and reported a bigger-than-expected drop in same-store sales for the holiday quarter.

Shares of the company were down 2.6 percent in premarket trading on Friday, after initially rising 3 percent.

The company said it would also initiate a voluntary early retirement program for about 6,000 employees from among its home office, stores and supply chain personnel.

J.C. Penney also said it would sell a supply chain facility in Buena Park, California to "monetize a lucrative real estate asset" and close a distribution center in Lakeland, Florida.

J.C. Penney's store closures come after larger rival Macy's Inc (M.N) said in November it would shut 100 stores, as department stores struggle with weak demand for apparel and growing competition from online retailers.

"We believe closing stores will also allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers," Chief Executive Officer Marvin Ellison said in a statement.

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