The Cable

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(Barbados Today) When major hotel projects in the pipeline eventually come on stream, as many as 14,000 jobs could be created, driving the level of unemployment back down into single digits.    

In addition, policymakers believe the room stock should reach 9,000 to 10,000 to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors coming to Barbados.

Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy made those observations Sunday afternoon as he addressed the monthly meeting of the St Philip South constituency branch of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) at the branch office in Belair, St Philip.

He told the audience that the number of hotel beds had fallen from 6,600 in 1980, to 5,000 in 2008, the year that the DLP came to office.

But citing statistics to bear out his argument that the local tourism industry was doing well, Sealy said Barbados welcomed 592,000 visitors in 2015, and that number increased to 613,000 in 2016, with a five per cent increase projected for this year.

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(Jamaica Observer) Armed with data showing that just about half of the global demand for castor oil and its related products are being met, Jamaican stakeholders are laying the foundation to benefit from the industry that is expected to grow to over US$2 billion in another seven years.

According to Jamaica Castor Industry Association (JCIA) Interim President Joel Harris, while the association has only been formally registered since January 2017 it has been working since last year to sensitise stakeholders in the castor industry and recruit members.

“Last year we were hosting, with the help of Jampro as a facilitator, monthly castor meetings, where we had over a 100 persons who actually came to meetings at Jampro. Everything was booked out,” Harris told the Jamaica Observer a few weeks ago following the launch of the Jamaica Baptist Union’s ‘Grow Castor Bean’ project.

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(Reuters) A federal judge in Detroit on Friday sentenced Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) to three years' probation and independent oversight for the German automaker's diesel emissions scandal as part of a $4.3 billion settlement announced in January.

The plea agreement called for "organization probation" in which the company would be overseen by an independent monitor.

The sentencing was one of the last major hurdles to VW moving past a scandal that led to the ouster of its chief executive and tarnished the company's reputation worldwide.

"This is a case of deliberate and massive fraud," U.S. District Judge Sean Cox said in approving the settlement that required the automaker to make significant reforms. He also formally approved a $2.8 billion criminal fine as part of the sentence.

As well as accepting the agreement reached between VW and the U.S. government, Cox rejected separate calls from lawyers representing individual VW customers for restitution.

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) says the decision by the US-based international ratings agency, Standards and Poors (S&P), to lower the Long Term Sovereign Credit Ratings for Trinidad and Tobago from A- to BBB+ makes the need for proposals for economic diversification and growth of “paramount importance.”

While the agency maintained the country’s economic outlook as stable, it said the change was based on Trinidad and Tobago’s higher debt burden.

It added that at the same time it was affirming its “A-2” short term sovereign credit ratings and lowering its transfer and convertibility assessment to ‘A’ from ‘AA-’.

In a statement, the BATT said the discussions for proposals to debate economic diversification and growth  proposals between Government and private sector associations are also essential with Government soon to release its 2016/2017 mid-year review and as it prepares the 2017/2018 budget.

Government has said that the review will be presented sometime in the first half of May. 

In the statement, BATT said S&P highlighted the country’s rising debt and the associated interest burden over 2017 to 2020, which jointly constrain the government’s fiscal flexibility to adjust to adverse shocks. It said S&P has also noted that public finances are in a vulnerable state in light of a prolonged and substantial drop in energy revenues causing increased borrowing to fund budget deficits and worsening debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios.

“The New York-based international ratings agency (S&P) highlighted the country’s rising debt and the associated interest burden over 2017 to 2020, which jointly constrain the Government’s fiscal flexibility to adjust to adverse shocks.

“S&P has also noted that public finances are in a vulnerable state in light of a prolonged and substantial drop in energy revenues, causing increased borrowing to fund budget deficits and worsening debt-to-GDP ratios. As the Government will soon release its 2016/2017 mid-term budget review and indeed as it prepares the fiscal 2017/2018 national budget, their engagement with the private sector associations to discuss proposals for economic diversification and growth is of paramount importance, particularly in light of this S&P downgrade.”

BATT said ‘this is a critical time for our country and it is imperative that we collaborate to treat with the fiscal imbalances, while ensuring that appropriate policy measures are implemented to trigger a return to positive economic growth.”

In making the changes, S&P said the country’s debt burden increased sharply since 2014, amid the economic recession and while government introduced austerity measures to reduce fiscal imbalances, it expects budget consolidation to be slower than initially anticipated and interest costs to be higher.

In a report, the agency said that maintaining its stable outlook reflected its expectation that the local economy will recover modestly in 2017 – 2020 based on higher natural gas prices and production, supporting deficit reduction and the stabilisation of the debt burden.

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(Barbados Today) An across-the-board 10-15 per cent rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) with no exemptions, concessions or zero ratings for any industry or sector is among sweeping tax changes under consideration by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler as he prepares to make his much-anticipated Budget presentation next month.

The proposal is among the major recommendations contained in a 30-page document produced by a triparite committee, comprising representatives of Government, the private sector and labour, mandated by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart on March 3 to look at ways of reducing the country’s worrying fiscal deficit, with the island’s 2-to-1 peg with the US dollar already showing cracks, and an all-out balance of payments crisis now a possibility given that Government’s debt rose above 110 per cent of gross domestic product at the end of last year while international reserves fell to $682 million, the lowest level since 2009.

Barbados TODAY has obtained a copy of the detailed report, which sets out four areas for immediate action in order for the island to achieve a balanced budget by way of savings in the amount of $750 million.

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