Jagdeo says 2009 was ‘a tough year for the Caribbean’

GEORGETOWN: President Bharrat Jagdeo, the Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), says 2009 was a tough year for the Caribbean, as most countries suffered from the global economic crisis, leaving many of them cash-strapped.

During a Guyana Defense Force (GDF) Christmas luncheon last week, Jagdeo said it can be concluded that 2009 was the toughest year for the region in decades. Most countries suffered from the crisis and many of them are still trying to recuperate from it.

Using Antigua and Barbuda as an example, the CARICOM chairman said despite its high per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the country cannot pay wages and salaries in its public sector, while Jamaica is seeking a bailout from international financial institutions and was forced to close its aluminum plants due to the effects of the financial crisis.

“We saw around the Caribbean, the collapse of CLICO (Colonial Life Insurance Company {Trinidad} Ltd.); we saw the tourism industry reeling from the impact of the global crisis because people don’t have money to spend so they cut back on their vacation,” said Jagdeo, adding that almost every country in the region is having financial problems, except oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago.

“Every country in the Caribbean has had problems with making payments…so it has been a rough year for the world, a rough year for the region,” Jagdeo said.

Turning his attention to Guyana, Jagdeo said there was some deviation from the country’s original projected growth rate, just above four per cent.

“But, fortunately, because of accumulated work that we have done for a very long time in getting rid of our debt, creating more fiscal space and because of our creative approach to the taxation on fuel, we have not seen any major shrinkage on our revenue, so our economy has managed to stay afloat,” said Jagdeo.

Jagdeo noted that Guyana has experienced an expansion of the housing sector, instead of a crash in prices.

Jagdeo – a Russian trained economist – also said that quite a few major projects to transform the country’s economy have come to fruition, including the Takatu Bridge and the hydropower project.

During his February presentation of the national budget, Finance Minister Ashni Singh had projected the economy to grow by about 4.7 per cent, with an inflation rate of 5.2 per cent.

But after the financial crisis worsened, the projection was revised to about 2.5 per cent, which is similar to estimates given by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank last October.

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